It might be one of the world's most expensive cities, but if you're looking to stick to a budget during your visit, Paris offers plenty of free activities from public parks, little-known canals, and even museums.
The River Seine
The city of Paris revolves around the River Seine. With long walkways for strolling and many romantic bridges for crossing, you can spend a lot of your time in Paris enjoying the river. One of the best places for people-watching, the river is a great place to soak up the atmosphere of the city.
Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral
A must-see in Paris, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame has been an icon of the city since it completed construction in 1333. A quintessential gothic cathedral with carved doorways and flying buttresses, Notre-Dame is located in the middle of the River Seine on the Île de la Cité, one of the oldest parts of Paris. On April 15, 2019, Notre Dame suffered a devastating fire, and the reconstruction after the fire may impact visiting hours and accessibility; contact local authorities for the most up-to-date information.
The Eiffel Tower
It costs money to travel to the top of Paris' most famous icon, and the line can get very long during the busy tourism season. Instead of paying to spend hours on line, you can enjoy the tower from the ground at any of the many good viewing points. Try viewing from the Parc du Champ de Mars, located at the base of the tower, or from the steps of Trocadero, where you'll find many people gathering to enjoy the picture-perfect views of the tower.
Although the city's most famous museums, like the Louvre and Musée d'Orsay, are only free on the first Sunday of the month, Paris has many museums that are free no matter when you visit. At the Musée Carnavalet, you'll find a free collection dedicated to the city's history housed in two Renaissance mansions. Other free museums worth visiting are the Fragonard Perfume Museum, which explores the history of perfumes, and the Musée Bourdelle, which displays the work of Antoine Bourdelle, a sculptor who was the assistant of Rodin and the teacher of Giacometti.
Running from the Port de l'Arsenal Marina to an underground tunnel at the Bastille, the Canal St-Martin is one of the lesser-known but most charming attractions in Paris. Located in the 10th arrondissement, here you'll find a scene that invokes an older version of Paris with footbridges that pass over the canal and barges that travel through the locks. Lined with cafes and bistros, this is a wonderful spot to pick up a little breakfast and enjoy a stroll along the canal.
It might not be easy, but it is possible to walk through a Paris street market without buying anything. The colorful stalls offer everything from fruit and vegetables to the odd flea market find or rare antique. For the best antiquing in the city, visit the Saint Ouen Flea Market, a sprawling market located in the village of Porte de Clignancourt in the 18th arrondissement. If you're more interested in food markets, you could also head to the old covered market at Place d'Aligre.
Parks and Gardens
It won't cost you anything to wander through the fabulous parks and gardens of Paris and when you walk enough of them, you'll eventually find your favorite. Some popular ones include the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, which was created by Baron Haussmann in the 19th century to cover up an unused quarry. Located in the 19th arrondissement, the park is a little out of the way, but it has a quiet and romantic air thanks to the large lake and grotto that features an artificial waterfall. As you explore the parks of Paris, make sure to visit gardens too, like the Jardin des Plantes, which was once a royal medicinal garden and menagerie.
A popular church for weddings, La Madeleine is both picturesque and domineering with an exterior made up of 52 Corinthian columns. You can enter for free and marvel and the grand interior, which is filled with murals depicting the history of Christianity. Originally intended as a monument to Napoleon's army, you'll also find France's former emperor prominently featured inside. Occasionally, free concerts are offered at the church, so check the church website ahead of your visit and plan accordingly.
Pere Lachaise Cemetery
Even before the Doors' Jim Morrison was buried here, Père Lachaise has always been one of the world's most famous cemeteries. It's a half-day trip to visit, but entry to the cemetery is free. One of the most interesting places in Paris, it's easy to spend hours walking among the graves and monuments of the cemetery, looking for famous names like Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Amedeo Modigliani, and Maria Callas.