Top 7 Free Things to Do in Paris

Budget Sights and Attractions in the French Capital

As a capital of luxury, designer fashion and champagne-drenched soirées, Paris may seem inaccessibly expensive for travelers on a tight budget. But behind the opulent veneer lies a city that offers scores of free attractions and activities, no matter the season. It's true that you can easily spend a fortune in Paris--  but it's also true that you can get away with spending a reasonable amount and still head home having seen quite a lot. Without further ado, here are our picks for the top free things to do in Paris. Bookmark these ideas, and you'll likely find it far easier to keep your budget in check.  

  • 01 of 07
    Rue Mouffetard is a lovely old neighborhood to explore
    ••• Rue Mouffetard is a lovely old neighborhood to explore. Greg Elms/Lonely Planet Images/Getty

    We can confidently say that Paris is the world's best city for walkers-- not only because most neighborhoods are built for pedestrians (with some caveats-- see Paris Safety Tips) but because the city of light's neighborhoods are dizzyingly varied and fascinating.

    Just when you think you know the place back to front, some undiscovered corner beckons you to come explore it. So pack a good pair of walking shoes, gear up with a Paris city street map or comparable smartphone app, and hit the streets for a zero-Euro adventure you won't soon forget. 

    Popular Neighborhoods to Explore:

    Get Off the Beaten Track:

  • 02 of 07
    The Petit Palais is a free Paris museum whose permanent collection is a gem.
    ••• The Petit Palais is a free Paris museum whose permanent collection is a gem. ©2006 Claude CF. Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons License.

    In French, the word "culture" means more than it does in English: it has a broader sense that refers to the universal right for all to be exposed to the arts, sciences, and humanities. To that end, the government funnels significant funds into making "la culture" accessible to all. Many Paris museums offer entirely free admission at all times, while others, including the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay, are free for all every first Sunday of the month.

  • 03 of 07
    Paris Plages is a free event that transforms the banks of the Seine into a beach boardwalk
    ••• Paris Plages is a free event that transforms the banks of the Seine into a beach boardwalk. ©2007 Courtney Traub.

    Paris hosts scores of fun, inspirational and entirely free annual events, from arty affairs like all-night public art installations to artificial beaches implanted on the Seine River each summer. Many of these are concentrated in the spring and the summer months, but each season hosts at least one or two of these festive, budget-friendly happenings.

    Related: Summer Festivals in Paris

  • 04 of 07
    The Rose window at Notre Dame is world-famous.
    ••• The Rose window at Notre Dame is world-famous. Ed Webster/Creative Commons

    Paris houses many of history's more stunning spiritual relics-- cathedrals and chuches that stand today as breathtaking testimonials to a complex heritage of Christianity that dominated in Paris from the fall of the Roman Empire to the French Revolution. Many of these majestic cathedrals and churches fell into near-ruin in the wake of the Revolution, but revived interest in the 19th century brought about their restoration. Many of these are must-see sites no matter your budget-- but the fact that entry is free doesn't hurt.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07
    The Jardin des Tuileries is an elegant park adjoining the Louvre.
    ••• The Jardin des Tuileries is an elegant park adjoining the Louvre. Tomoyoshi/Creative Commons

    No matter the season, a long stroll or picnic in one of Paris's many distinctive, elegant parks and gardens is an essential element of any trip to the city. Also check out old-fashioned amusement parks like the Jardin d'Acclimation, which kids and parents alike will love.

  • 06 of 07
    A dramatic panoramic view of Paris.
    ••• A dramatic panoramic view of Paris. ©2006 Andrew C. Parnell. Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons License.

    Getting a good bird's eye view of Paris can be an exhilirating experience-- and is in many cases free of charge. Whether you head to the top of Montmartre or the little-known Parc de Belleville, there are plenty of ways to get panoramic views without paying a Euro cent. 

  • 07 of 07

    Take a Free Walking-- or Running-- Tour of the City

    Companies like Discover Walks offer free tours of Paris, including in Montmartre.
    ••• Companies like Discover Walks offer free tours of Paris, including in Montmartre. Courtney Traub

    Last, but not least-- go take a free tour of the city by foot. Discover Walks  is a company offering several good walking tours of Paris for no charge. You are, however, encouraged to tip the friendly docents.

    Are you more of a jogging aficionado? If so, RunParis is the free tour for you. There's a tour organized every Friday morning at 10:00 am, starting from the Pont Neuf bridge. See here for more details and instructions on how to join the tour, and more info on what you'll see.