Paris is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Numerous iconic spots benefit from the huge number of tourists that flock to the city each year by increasing their rates without improving the quality of experience. However, budget-conscious travellers can find happiness. The city is like an open-air museum so the wisest thing to bring along is a comfortable pair of shoes. Walking around is the perfect way to discover the City of Light. Our magnificent Paris locals Magali and Jade have shared their list of the top 10 free things to do here.
1. Stroll along the banks of the Seine
Whatever the hour of the day, it’s worth taking the time to discover the Seine. This river is like the soul of the city – seeing it is an absolute must. The colour of the water changes throughout the day. The best time to explore it is at sunrise, sunset or at night. The 37 bridges that cross it are great spots to take pictures. Bir-Hakeim bridge and Pont des Arts bridge are amongst the most famous. You’ll be surprised by the number of Parisians living on boats!
Photo credit: gnuckx
2. Have a picnic at Champs de Mars
When spring arrives, it’s time for Parisians to begin picnicking at Champs de Mars. It’s ideally located at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower with stunning views. People get very excited at sunset as they wait for the tower to being sparkling. Helpful tip: it glitters every night on the hour until 1 am. Even though locals are used to seeing this spectacle, they still say “wow” and take pictures with their cell phones.
Photo credit: Juanedc
3. Escape the city hustle & head to Promenade Plantée
This charming elevated park is truly unique. You might recall it from the romantic American movie Before Sunset. The 4.7 kilometre pathway is a former railway line that was abandoned and subsequently renovated in the 1980s. The elevation gives you the chance to enjoy great views over the neighbourhoods and to get up close and personal with Parisian buildings. It’s the perfect place to escape the traffic and relax.
Photo credit: Sharat Ganapati
4. Read a book at Luxembourg Gardens
Many locals flock to this park (it’s actually the garden of the French senate) during the warmer months. It’s a quiet and relaxing place spanning 23 hectares. There are many chairs around the central pool – a popular spot loved by locals and visitors alike. If you plan on coming here on a weekend, remember to come early to find a chair. Once you’re done reading, don’t forget to visit the 300-year-old orange trees.
Photo credit: Francisco Anzola
5. Get lost in Montmartre
Montmartre is a neighbourhood known for the Sacré Coeur Basilica, Place du Tertre where you can have your portrait drawn by artists, and for the stunning views from the top of the hill. However, the best and least common thing to do is to explore the surrounding narrow winding streets that are far less frequented. Many Parisians would like to live in this area as it’s like living in a village.
Photo credit: Fabrizio Sciami
6. Become a Parisian history expert at Carnavalet Museum
This museum is ideally located in the Marais neighbourhood. The permanent collections are free which is quite rare for French museums. Those who are passionate about history will be happy to discover the history of the city from Neolithic through to modern times. If you’re particularly interested in the French Revolution, this is the place for you. Some rooms feature objects that belonged to the French royal family and to revolutionaries. On top of all this, the museum is housed in a beautiful historic building.
Photo credit: Carles Tomas Marti
7. Step back into the Middle Ages in Le Marais
Le Marais is a neighbourhood in the city centre known for its Jewish and LGBT communities. It’s a great place to wander on the weekends. As it was spared from Baron Haussman’s great 19th century renovations, you can get a sense of what Paris might have looked like in the Middle Ages. Just stroll along the narrow streets and keep your eye out for old stones in the walls of buildings – these are the witnesses of the past.
Photo credit: Borya
8. Admire the recently renovated Saint-Sulpice Church
While Notre Dame Cathedral is world famous, there are other gorgeous churches in Paris that deserve to be seen and Saint-Sulpice is one of them. Located in the fancy Saint-Germain neighbourhood, this architecturally unique church stands on the beautiful Saint-Sulpice square. It became famous through the mystery-detective novel The Da Vinci Code. Even though most of the information given in the book is incorrect, its success brought so many tourists that the church began clarifying certain facts suggested in the story. These days there are far fewer tourists making this magnificent renovated edifice all the more enjoyable.
Photo credit: Charlie Phillips
9. Enjoy a 360° view of the city from Printemps Rooftop Terrace
On top of the grand Printemps shopping centre, there’s a secret café offering amazing views that you won’t get anywhere else in Paris. To get here, take the elevator to the top floor and then take the escalator to the final level. You’ll be rewarded with one of the most special views you’ll ever see – 360° from Montmartre to the Eiffel Tower, and everything in between. There’s plenty of room to stroll around and soak up the breathtaking beauty that Paris is so famous for.
Photo credit: Harshil Shah
10. Rue Denoyez & Parc de Belleville
Rue Denoyez is an urban art lover’s dream with so much street art packed into one little street. Take a wander up and down, and then explore the rest of the Belleville neighbourhood which is much more urban and gritty than other parts of Paris. If you wander up the hill you’ll find Parc de Belleville (also free). At an elevation of 108 metres, it’s the highest park in the capital. With panoramic views across Paris, it’s another great place for taking in this beautiful city.
Photo credit: Groume
Magali is a project manager in the luxury hospitality industry. She was born in Nice, France. She worked in Paris for six years and recently moved to San Francisco, California. The City of Light is still in her heart and she never misses the opportunity to wander its streets and discover new spots each time she returns to France. She also lived in Italy when she was a student. One of her dreams is to travel the entire country in a single month by car.
Jade is a Paris local and co-founder of TripShooter, which offers amazing vacation photos across Europe. She loves photography, writing, and everything about French history. She also really likes taking jumping photos.