Paris can be an incredibly expensive city. It is, after all, renowned for its luxury goods, gourmet restaurants, opulent palace hotels, and the like. Because of this, you may (logically) assume that seeing Paris on a budget isn't realistic, or would amount to a miserable experience that'd leave you feeling like a pauper.
Luckily, however, that's all a myth: a visit to Paris really doesn't have to break the bank. It's entirely possible to eat well, find clean and decent accommodations, and enjoy discounted and free attractions while still having the sense that you're living it up in one of the world's most gorgeous cities. A (fun) budget Paris vacation doesn't have to belong to the realm of fairy tales, after all: read on to find out why.
No, Finding Cheap Flights or Trains to Paris Isn't Impossible
Transatlantic airfare has skyrocketed in recent years, and haven't really gone back down despite dropping fuel prices. Train tickets to Paris can also be very expensive.
But don't despair. You can still snag excellent deals as long as you book several months ahead of your trip. Especially if you're traveling from overseas, planning at least six to eight months ahead can be crucial if you want to secure a good fare. It's generally easier to find inexpensive flights and trains from other European destinations in shorter time-frames, however.
When booking a flight, you should also explore airfare/hotel package deals, as these can sometimes offer significant savings.
Taking the Train? Find current deals at Rail Europe (Book Direct)
Finally, need to book an affordable place to stay? Read reviews, find deals, and compare prices on hundreds of hotels at Trip Advisor.
Click through to see Tip #2 and beyond.
Travel During Low Season to Beat Sky-High Rates
Nearly everyone fantasizes about visiting Paris in the spring or summer months. But low season has its charms and advantages-- namely much lower air and train fares and cheaper accommodations.
Consult our detailed, season-by-season tips on when to go to Paris for more information on the pros and cons of traveling to the city of light in a given time of year.
Use Public Transportation to Sightsee — and Consider Buying a Pass
Paris has an excellent public transportation system, and tickets and passes are relatively inexpensive. Hop-on, hop-off bus tours are also fairly accessible options for getting around and touring the city.
But when on a tight budget, public transport can be a fantastic alternative for sightseeing. I recommend using the Paris public bus system — many of the lines have very picturesque routes, and more autonomous travelers may do well this way.
In addition, the city has been bolstering its tramway routes, offering more above-ground options for travel and sightseeing. Consult these resources for budget transport and tour options:
Budget Sightseeing: Free and Affordable Things to See and Do in Paris
Despite its reputation as a center for luxury, Paris actually prides itself on being accessible. Dozens of free museums, annual events, and other attractions are in store for the budget-conscious Paris visitor. Not to mention that many of the city's most impressive monuments and sites, including Notre Dame Cathedral, Sacre Coeur, or even the banks of the Seine, can be visited free of charge.
You can take in opulent settings without spending a fortune. Try reserving tea at the Ritz Hotel or at the nearby Angelina-- it'll set you back a few dollars to order tea or hot chocolate at these hallowed places, but in exchange, you can soak up a little luxury and still stick to your budget.
Discount cards like the Paris Museum Pass, bus or boat tours and using public transport intelligently can also help immensely.
Browse These Complete Guides to Affordable or Free Attractions:
Find Affordable Places to Eat, Without Sacrificing Quality
Paris may be known for its unusual number of Michelin-star gourmet restaurants, but it also offers plenty in the way of delicious, inexpensive fare. The trick is knowing where to go, since quality and price don't necessarily line up in Paris as you'd expect. You can afford to splurge on one or two nice meals if you manage to nosh on cheap and delicious Paris street food for a few meals, or even stock up on goodies at a local Paris food market and stage a picnic or two. Also check out our guide to student-friendly cafes in Paris for a list of cafes and brasseries offering inexpensive coffee, food and drinks, and, often, free wi-fi to boot.
Resources for Budget Gullets
Budget Shopping: Learn How to Get Paris-Style Chic, For Less
It may be one of the world's reigning fashion and style capitals, but this doesn't mean shopping in Paris has to cost an arm and a leg!
Consult our at-a-glance-guide to budget shopping in Paris to find out how to make a steal, Parisian-style, on clothes or home items. You might also make time for a pleasant whirl at a Paris flea market-- and come up away with a couple of unexpected treasures in the process.
More Essential Features for Budget Shoppers:
Open Your Mind When it Comes to Accommodations
Paris has hundreds of hotels, and in the budget to mid-range, many are just as comfortable and pleasant as more luxurious counterparts (minus the glitz). Apartment rentals in Paris have become another popular option-- and will save you a lot of money on eating out assuming the apartment comes furnished with a kitchen. If you're really cash-strapped, you might even consider a stay in a Paris hostel or find accommodations by Couchsurfing.
Need to shop around? Read reviews and compare prices on hundreds of Paris hotels at Trip Advisor.
Be a Night Owl, Without Going Broke
15-Euro cocktails are not uncommon in the French capital-- but if you know where to look, you can enjoy drinking, dancing, and lounging on terraces for much less. Check out our guide to the top Paris nightlife districts to find info on where to head for inexpensive drinks and reveling in the city of light. I especially recommend going out in areas such as Belleville, Menilmontant, Oberkampf and Gambetta for budget-friendly nights.
If you're feeling adventurous and willing, you can also forgo bars and clubs altogether and have a nighttime picnic along the Seine (pictured above)-- this is a wildly popular activity in the summer.