A trip to the French capital certainly doesn't have to break the bank. You may well fear that the city is not especially welcoming for travelers who don't have oodles to spend — but luckily, these concerns are unfounded. Sure, the luxury industry does big business here — but that doesn't define the whole place and what it has to offer. There are tons of inexpensive and alluring places to see and ways to keep yourself occupied, if you know where to find them. Here are ten great things to do in Paris for around €10 or less. Keep in mind that prices can change at any time, and that while the prices quoted in this piece were accurate at the time of publication, they are always subject to change.
Little is more Parisian than the art of loitering in a cafe with a newspaper or book, or simply indulging in epic conversations while nursing a coffee, tea, or a half-pint of beer. Whatever the season, cafe-going is probably the most locally authentic way to spend a few hours soaking in some local culture in the Gallic metropolis — and all for just a few Euros. Most cafes in the capital are accustomed to people lingering after ordering only one or two drinks — but do be aware that if they serve lunch and dinner, they may ask you to move or leave if you're not dining in.
City-run museums are a source of budget-friendly fun and culture in the capital. While temporary exhibits at coveted museums and cultural centers like the Grand Palais, the Centre Georges Pompidou or the Louvre generally sell show tickets well over €10 a pop, the city's humbler (but almost uniformly excellent) museums host their own temporary shows that generally fall below that mark, currently in the €6-€8 range.
Museums like the Petit Palais, the Modern Art Museum of the City of Paris, the Musée Carnavalet (dedicated to Parisian history), and the Musée Cernuschi (focusing on East Asian arts and cultures) offer entry to temporary exhibits at much lower rates. The best part? Their permanent collections are entirely free, so if you still have the energy after seeing one of the paid shows, you can soak in the excellent free ones.
While it's true that many visitors prefer the convenience and minimal mental effort required by popular hop-on-, hop-off bus tours of Paris, there's a cheaper option: the city public bus system. Run by the same company as the Paris Metro, you can use metro tickets and passes for the buses, and many lines take you straight through some of the most scenic areas of the capital. If you've got an intrepid spirit and a desire to save cash, try hopping on one of these lines (and hopping off at whatever stops grab you):
- Line 28 affords great views over sights and attractions including the Seine River, the Ecole Militaire, the Assemble National, the Avenue des Champs-Elysées. and the Grand Palais exposition hall, with its stunning Belle-Epoque facade.
- Line 38 wends southward from the city center, offering riders photo ops of sites and places such as Notre Dame Cathedral, the Quartier Latin and the St-Michel district, and the Seine.
- Line 68 gives you an overview of sights including the the Opera Garnier and its elegant, eponymous avenue, the Musee d'Orsay, the Saint-Germain des Pres neighborhood, the Seine and The Louvre Museum.
- Line 96 winds through some gorgeous areas around the right bank: hop on to get a first glimpse of landmarks including Hotel de Ville, the medieval Marais neighborhood, and the Place de la Bastille.
See a Matinee Movie at an Old Cinema
One of the most charming things to do when you're on a limited budget is go spend an afternoon haunting an old arthouse cinema somewhere in the capital. The matinee rates are almost invariably under €10 at theatres around the city, and at esteemed, old-world outfits like the Champollion, the Reflet Medicis, or the Cinema du Pantheon in the Latin Quarter, tickets tend to be very inexpensive before early afternoon.
Don't make it all about munching mindlessly on popcorn and peanut M&Ms, though: Parisians get predictably cranky about the noise such snacking produces, especially in artier venues where the "7th art" is taken very seriously. You've been warned. Besides, your outing will keep you closer to your lean budgetary goals if you skip the treats...
There are many decent restaurants in Paris that remain budget-friendly — but unless you go for a lunch special or a cheap n' cheerful eatery specializing in fare like noodles for dinner, getting a full meal in for under €10 can be a tall order. The solution, especially in spring and summer when it's blissful to spend most of your time outside, anyway? Nosh on some delicious street food.
From falafel that many agree is the world's best (somewhat puzzlingly) to sweet and savoury crepes, to new pop-up street markets offering cuisine from around the world, street food in the capital has grown up. Find out where to find the good stuff — and fill up for very few Euros.
In the balmier months, who needs restaurants? Stock up on some delicious baguettes, cheese, fruit and raw veggies, biscuits and sweets and head to the banks of the Seine or one of the city's beautiful parks, and have a gloriously Parisian picnic.
Drinks, and especially cocktails, can be shockingly expensive in the French capital, so there's an obvious but important workaround: go to happy hour. Not all establishments have them, so it's important to check ahead — or be adventurous or walk around in your neighborhood of choice somewhere between 5 and 8 p.m. and lookout for happy hour signs.
If you're itching to get out of the city for a bit but assume your budget can't handle the costs, think again: several great day trips within an hour or so from the Parisian city limits will cost you less than €10 in round-trip train fares. If you pack a lunch and opt to mostly walk around places like the medieval town of Provins or the Fontainebleau forest with its extensive hiking trails, you can manage an outing that's economical indeed.
Also falling in the day trip category — albeit one much closer to Paris proper — is the remarkable St-Denis Basilica Cathedral, whose elaborate "necropolis" houses the stunning recumbent effigies and remains of dozens of French monarchs. The St-Denis crypt and inscription honouring Joan of Arc, who came on pilgrimage here, is also worth making the short detour north of Paris for. The entry price is very modest considering the cultural riches that await here.
Guided tours can be out of reach when you're on a narrow budget, but companies such as Discover Walks offer a series of tip-only tours that make them affordable. From the Latin Quarter and the Left Bank to the Montmartre neighborhood and the Marais, these guided walks offer visitors traveling on a shoestring to meet knowledgeable docents and learn more about city history and important landmarks. It is crucial in all cases, however, to tip your hard-working guides as much as you can manage to.