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20 Super Cheap and Free Things to do in Paris

Enjoy the best things to do in Paris without spending a fortune

by Michele
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Top 20 Cheap and Free Things To Do In Paris
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Paris has been an itinerary-topping destination for generations of travelers. But the glittering City of Light can be expensive, especially if you’re lured by the charming boutique hotels and gastronomic restaurants.

With a little inside knowledge though, it is possible to save a few dollars without skipping the best of this timeless city. To give you a helping hand, I’ve pulled together 20 cheap and free things to do in Paris. I’ve included something for every interest, from great experiences that won’t cost a penny to a handful of city gems worth every euro.

Top tip: there is one way to save money in Paris which I strongly recommend. I do this in every major city I visit and it always pays dividends. Are you ready? My secret weapon is always getting a city pass. In this case, I got the Paris Pass. With access to over 60 attractions, the Paris Pass is available as a 2, 3, 4 or 6-day pass. If you’re unsure which one to get, just round up!

20 Super cheap and free things to do in Paris

1. Enjoy stunning views from La Basilique du Sacré Cœur de Montmartre – Sacré Cœur Basilica

Free Things To Do In Paris - Sacre Couer in Montmartre Free Things To Do In Paris - Plaza Dalida - MontmartreWhere better to start a visit to Paris than overlooking the city from its most magical vantage point. Sitting 426 ft (130 m) above Montmartre, Sacre-Coeur is an arresting landmark visible from across Paris. Remarkably, it is free to enter and marvel at the striking interior.

A trip inside the relatively modern church (completed in 1914) is rewarding enough. But Sacré Cœur is merely the crowning glory to what could be a memorable day out in one of Paris’s most popular quartiers, Montmartre.

The Montmartre neighborhood radiates energy, and you can easily spend a day exploring this atmospheric quartier. Cobbled streets, a rich artistic heritage, and aromatic bistros add to the sensual feast of Montmartre.

Comfortable walking shoes are advisable to roam the hilly neighborhood. But with commanding views over Paris, the payoff is worth it.

If you have the energy, you can pay €6 and mount the 300 steps of the Dome for even better views. To save energy for Sacré Cœur, use the local funicular railways (the only ones in Paris and included in the Metro Pass.)

Another money-saving recommendation is the local Montmatrobus, which includes the red lights of the Pigalle quartier (home to the Moulin Rouge) on its winding and sight-filled route.

Budget: €0-6 | Join this expert-led tour of the basilica before enjoying an amazing walk around the village of Montmartre.
Where? Start in the Butte Montmartre (Abbesses Métro, line 12)

2. Cimetière du Père Lachaise – Père Lachaise Cemetery

Free Things To Do In Paris - Pere Lachaise CemeteryA tour of Paris’s largest cemetery might sound macabre, but ambling around the crypt-lined lanes of Père Lachaise Cemetery is one of Paris’s most absorbing experiences. It is why around 3.5 million people visit every year.

Part of the enduring appeal is the imposing but lavishly designed tombs lining the cobbled lanes. But the real draw is the famous names etched on many of them.

Opened in 1804, the necropolis is the final resting place for many of the city’s illustrious residents. Celebrities like Édith Piaf, Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, and Frédéric Chopin share a space with around 250 luminaries who made their home in Paris, ensuring there is a famous personality for every interest.

Sprawling over 110 acres, exploring the final resting place for a million former Parisians will readily fill an afternoon. And if walking among the ghosts of Paris fires your interest, consider adding the cemeteries in Montparnasse and Montmartre to your plans. There you will find the tombs of other notables. Entry to all the cemeteries is free and guaranteed to leave an impression.

Budget: €0 | Join this affordable walking tour and let your guide fill you in on the ins and outs of the cemetery and some of its famous residents.
Where? 16 Rue du Repos, 75020 (Père Lachaise Métro, lines 2 & 3)

3. Musée Carnavalet – Carnavalet Museum

Free Things To Do In Paris - Carnavalet MuseumThe cemeteries of Paris deliver a unique perspective on the history of Paris. But for a more rounded view of what makes the capital special, the Carnavalet Museum is the place to go.

This fun museum is free (along with a surprising number of other city museums) and has an eclectic collection of exhibits spanning the capital’s history.

Housed across two handsome 17th-century hôtel particuliers (stately townhouses), the collection includes art, artifacts, and objets d’intérêt stretching back to neolithic Paris.

Charmingly haphazard, Carnavalet Museum is the only place to see Roman relics, Renaissance art, and Belle Epoque mementos in one collection. Reportedly holding 618,000 items (not all displayed), it feels like wandering through the home of a wealthy hoarder that was present at every period in Parisian history. Don’t worry, a free app helps make sense of the expansive collection.

Budget: €0
Where? 23 rue de Sévigné, 75003 (Montparnasse–Bienvenüe Métro: lines 4, 6, 12, 13)

4. Take in the views atop the famous Arc de Triomphe

Free Things To Do In Paris - Arc de Triomphe at sunsetThe Arc de Triomphe is Napoleon Bonaparte’s reminder of his martial legacy. It is also one of Paris’s most iconic landmarks. From the top, you can view many of the city’s other notable landmarks.

Towering 164 ft (50 m) over the Champs-Élysées boulevard, the viewing platform offers 360° views in the heart of Paris.

Honoring France’s fallen soldiers (including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier), this historic monument is an arresting sight viewed from below. But the views from the top are something else entirely.

Skip-the-line tickets will help you dodge the ticket office crowds, giving you extra time to fill your camera’s memory card with dramatic images.

Budget: €13
Where: Pl. Charles de Gaulle, 75008 (Charles de Gaulle – Étoile Métro, lines 1, 2, 6)

5. Hit the streets of Paris on a hire bike

The Paris bike-share scheme is now firmly embedded in city life. Early teething problems have been ironed out, and you can now access nearly 15,000 bikes and e-bikes parked at over 1,400 docking points all over the city.

Along the Seine riverbank, through the parks, or around neighborhoods like the Latin Quarter and Le Marais, the bikes are the ultimate way for adventurers to discover hidden corners of the city. They are also one of the most exciting and affordable things to do in Paris.

A pass for the classic pedal bicycles starts at just €5 for the day (€10 for e-bikes.) Amazingly you can take 5 bikes on the same pass, meaning an entire family can hit the road for no extra cost.

Using the Vélib’ bikes is straightforward. Buy online, get a code and username, and enter the details to unlock any bike. Built-in locks give you the freedom to stop at a charming café or grab a baguette to put under your arm to really feel like a local for the day.

Budget: €5-10 for a day pass, €20 for 3 days. Find out more here

Where? Wherever you see a cycle station (this map details them all.)

6. View Monet’s colossal Water Lilies at Musée de l’Orangerie

Free Things To Do In Paris - Musee-de-l'OrangerieSimply known as the Orangerie, this elegant building is best known for huge panels painted by Claude Monet shortly before his death.

Continuing his extended Nymphéas (Water Lillies) series, Monet finished the paintings at the request of the French state. The panels — measuring 6.5 ft (1.9 m) in height and covering 328 feet (100 m) of wall space — are designed to immerse you in the impressionist’s work.

The Orangerie was built for Napoleon III to house citrus trees from the adjacent Tuileries Gardens. Realizing the building was a touch excessive for a potting shed, the museum was later converted into an art gallery dedicated to Claude Monet. The museum has since changed its name and scope to house a diverse collection of world-class art from illustrious figures like Picasso, Cézanne, and Matisse.

Like all museums in Paris, booking reserved access tickets can be a real timesaver. Book your tickets here (includes Seine River cruise).

Budget: €12.50
Where? Jardin Tuileries, 75001 (Concorde Métro, lines 1, 8, 12)

7. Savor the panoramic views from Tour Montparnasse

Free Things To Do In Paris - Montparnasse Tower - SunsetOnce France’s tallest skyscraper, this 689 ft (210 M) office building has divided opinion in France since it was completed in 1973.

Considered an eyesore by many, this lonely monolith rises forlornly against the Paris skyline. But what the tower lacks in personality, it compensates for with arguably the finest views in Paris.

The viewing deck on the 56th floor offers unbroken views that stretch for miles. On a clear day, you can see planes arriving at Orly Airport 11 miles away.

A clever free app helps you make sense of what you’re viewing. Book ahead to save time (includes Seine River cruise).

Budget: €35
Where? 33 Av. du Maine, 75015 (Bréguet Sabin Métro, line 5 / Saint-Paul Métro, line 1)

8. Enjoy the kaleidoscopic light show through the stained glass windows at Sainte-Chapelle

Free Things To Do In Paris - Sainte ChapelleWith respect to Gustave Eiffel, the Notre-Dame cathedral is the city’s defining symbol. Which explains the despair when the venerable building was partially destroyed in the fire of 2019. You can still view the building as it is restored, but just nearby is another iconic landmark, Sainte Chapelle.

The soaring stained-glass windows in this former royal chapel are simply breathtaking.

Consecrated in 1248, Sainte Chapelle is the pinnacle of gothic architecture. The church was deconsecrated during the French Revolution, even though French kings had forsaken it long before 1789. Yet restoration works between 1840-48 restored its former glory. Today, it is a shimmering monument to the majesty of France’s early monarchs.

Situated on the Île de la Cité (City Island), there is much to see nearby: including the world’s oldest functioning hospital, Hôtel-Dieu, and Paris’s oldest bridge, Pont Neuf. A visit to Sainte-Chapelle is the perfect finish to a tour of the island where the kingdom of France began.

Budget: €11,50 (free for under 18s, people with disabilities, EU citizens under 26) Get skip-the-link tickets here
Where? Île de la Cité (reach via Pont au Change or Pont Saint-Michel)

9. Gain a fresh perspective of the City of Light from the Seine

Free Things To Do In Paris - Seine river cruiseThe glass-topped boats ferrying tourists along the Seine are a common sight in Paris. With so many of the city’s best-known landmarks visible from the river, it is easy to understand the appeal.

Passing wonders like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, and Paris’s resplendent city hall, Hôtel de Ville, it is a journey laden with photo opportunities. With informative English audio guides, you also get more than one perspective of the city.

With so many boat services, this unmissable experience is also one of the more affordable things to do in Paris. Book ahead to save time and money.

Budget: €16-18
Where? Round cruises start under the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. Port de la Bourdonnais, 75007

10. Cocktails and night views at Le Perchoir BHV, Marais

Some of the best views in Paris are free and easy to access. Some would recommend the views from the upper floor of Galeries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussmann. But discerning locals know there is another department store that offers better views. And this one comes with a decent cocktail bar.

Le Perchoir is a rooftop bar above the beloved BHV store in the Marais quartier. Cocktails are pricey, starting at around €14. But included in the bill is one of the best nighttime panoramas in Paris.

The bar directly overlooks an architectural gem, the Hôtel de Ville (city hall.) In the distance, the Eiffel Tower rises against a twinkling cityscape, making a cocktail at this bar worth every centime.

Budget: €14+ (see the menu
Where? BHV Le Marais, 52 Rue de Rivoli, 75004 (Hôtel de Ville Métro, line 1)

11. Lose yourself in the Louvre

Free Things To Do In Paris - LouvreThe world’s largest museum is a magnet for visitors. Opened in 1973, nearly 3 million annual visitors head through the doors to marvel at approximately 35,000 paintings, sculptures, and other decorative arts. With acclaimed works such as the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, it is easy to forget the collection contains art from every historical age.

The museum itself is also a work of art. Once a royal residence, it started life as a 12th-century fortress (remnants are still visible in the basement.)

Packing everything in one visit is a challenge, and queuing at the distinctive Pyramid entrance of the world’s most-visited museum can be frustrating. Avoid disappointment and book ‘skip-the-line’ tickets in advance to give yourself as much time as possible in this remarkable museum.

Budget: €17-20
Where? Rue de Rivoli, 75001 (Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre Métro, lines 1 & 7)

12. Cinema and live events at Le Centre Pompidou

Free Things To Do In Paris - Centre PompidouGoing to the cinema might not have been your first thought when in Paris. But this unusual experience lets you catch live performances and arthouse films from aspiring artists for under €20. Some shows are even free.

The Pompidou Center is a modern art museum that opened in 1977. Formally named the Centre national d’art et de culture Georges-Pompidou after a former French president, it is always worth a visit, even if you just go to view the unconventional (and controversial) post-modern exterior.

With an ever-changing program of shows and events, this is one of those affordable things to do in Paris that flies under the tourist radar.

Budget: €0-20 | Book your skip-the-line tickets here
Where? Pompidou Center, Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 (Hôtel de Ville Métro, line 1 / Rambuteau Métro, line 11)

13. Immerse yourself in the Atelier des Lumières

In a city filled with world-class museums and theatres, it is challenging to find affordable things to do in Paris that are fresh and original. Atelier des Lumières (meaning ‘Lights Workshop’) fits the bill. Fusing music, video, and inventive lighting, the exhibition brings artworks vividly to life.

Each visit is scheduled to last one hour, and you need to book ahead to get the best prices. But that hour is deeply immersive and will transport you far from the bustling streets outside.

Budget: Starting from €11
Where? 38 Rue Saint-Maur, 75011 (Rue Saint-Maur Métro, line 3 / Père Lachaise Métro, lines 2 & 3)

14. View world-class French art at Musée d’Orsay

Free Things To Do In Paris - Musee d'OrsayWhisper it, but some locals will claim that Paris’s finest museum is the Orsay, not the Louvre. The majestic former rail station hosts a wonderful art collection, mainly from artists with French roots, like Monet, Degas, Renoir, and Van Gogh.

Aside from the unrivalled collection of treasures from France’s rich artistic heritage, visitors find inspiration in the cavernous and elegantly decorated former Gare d’Orsay. The views from the immense clock face are spectacular and probably one of the most striking images in Paris.

Budget: €16 | Book your skip-the-line ticket here if you want to get the most out of your visit.
Where? 1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007 (Solférino Métro, line 12)

15. Stroll the Coulée verte René-Dumont

Free Things To Do In Paris - Coulee verte Rene-DumontGrabbing a jambon beurre and heading to one of many beautiful city parks is a great way to save money and experience tranquility in Paris. But if you fancy gaining a novel perspective of Paris, the Coulée Verte René-Dumont is a compelling alternative.

Better known as the Coulée Verte (green belt), this 2.9 miles (4.7 km) walk opened in 1993 and follows the abandoned Vincennes rail line. Lined with trees and flourishing greenery, the route is designed to make Parisians forget they live in a city. Its most vaunted section climbs 32 ft (10 m) above the streets on the Viaduc des Arts, which crosses an area filled with artisans and craft workshops.

If you have the energy to burn, this walk is a contemporary alternative to the more elegant and formal parks that Paris is known for.

Budget: €0
Where? Start on Avenue Daumesnil, 75012 (Bastille Métro, lines 1, 5, 8)

16. Take selfies with celebrities at Musée Grévin

The Grévin museum has been on the Paris tourist trail since it opened in 1882. Inspired by Madame Tussaud’s in London, it is an eclectic waxworks housed in an evocative baroque building.

Charting the history and culture of France via its leading personalities, the exhibits are wide-ranging, encompassing infamous political figures and modern-day superstars. For non-residents, it offers a snapshot of the people that matter in France.

Kids will love the exhibits, which include a gruesome tableau depicting the murder of revolutionary firebrand Jean-Paul Marat, complete with the actual bathtub he died in. But visitors are also drawn to the famous hall of mirrors and the tiny, ornate Théâtre Grévin.

As an added bonus, you exit the museum onto the famous Passage Jouffroy, a historic covered alley.

Budget: €25/€18.50 (adults/kids) if booked in advance. Book yours here
Where? 10 Bd Montmartre, 75009 (Grands Boulevards Métro, lines 8 & 9)

17. Marvel at France’s royal monument to opulence at Château de Versailles

Free Things To Do In Paris - Chateau de Versailles Free Things To Do In Paris - Chateau de Versailles - Hall of MirrorsThere are many lavish and sumptuous chateaux dotted across France, but all live in the shadow of Versailles. Effectively France’s capital during the celebrated reign of the Sun King, Louis XIV, Versailles had become a symbol of regal excess during the French Revolution. And it is hard to disagree with the assessment when you view the dazzling palace and its equally magnificent gardens.

Dripping in gold and history, the interior is exceedingly extravagant. Everywhere you look, there is something to take your breath away.

Sitting on the outskirts of Paris, France’s most visited attraction warrants a full-day visit to appreciate its grandeur. Booking full access tickets before you go is advisable.

If there is one place to spend any Euros you saved from our list of affordable things to do in Paris, it is here. Joining a private tour led by experts reveals all the intriguing backstories of France’s most glittering chateau. I recommended the Skip-the-Line Tour of Palace with Gardens Access, which offers great value.

Budget: From €20
Where? Place d’Armes, 78000 Versailles (Versailles Rive-Gauche, RER C train service)

18. Popcorn and a movie at the legendary Le Grand Rex cinema

Free Things To Do In Paris - Le Grand Rex CinemaIf the arthouse movies of the Pompidou Center don’t interest you, consider catching a Hollywood blockbuster at Le Grand Rex cinema. Renowned for its Art Deco design, Europe’s largest cinema opened in 1932 and is a registered historical monument. Home to films and concerts, the star attraction is the cavernous 2,700-seater grand concert hall.

You can catch popular movies in English here, making it one of the most affordable things to do in Paris on a rainy day. Worth going, if only to soak up an atmosphere redolent of cinema’s golden age.

Budget: €6-12 for standard cinema screenings
Where? 1 Bd Poissonnière, 75002 (Bonne Nouvelle Métro, lines 8 & 9)

19. Go deep underground in Les Catacombes de Paris – Paris Catacombs

Free Things To Do In Paris - Les Catacombes de Paris - Paris CatacombsIf you’re looking for offbeat yet affordable things to do in Paris, the city’s underground ossuaries are sure to leave an impression. The dimly lit tunnels are filled with the — alarmingly visible — skeletal remains of Paris’s deceased.

Once a surreal day trip for the well-heeled citizens of Paris and, more recently, a location for (literal) underground parties, the catacombs have grown in popularity. In 2013, it was officially designated a city museum and today welcomes around ½ million visitors annually.

If the thought of exploring tunnels that hold an estimated 6 million remains makes you squeamish, give it a miss. Otherwise, a visit to the catacombs is one of the most extraordinary things to do in Paris on a budget.

Budget: €15 (with audio guide) if purchased on the day. Ticket availability is limited. Full price advance tickets cost €27 for adults (without an audio guide) and €5 for children under 18. Book your tickets here. Alternatively, I recommend this excellent tour (Hurry! It’s likely to sell out)

Where? 1 Bd Poissonnière, 75002 (Bonne Nouvelle Métro, lines 8 & 9)

20. Poke around Marché Bastille for some gourmet delights

Street markets are the heart and soul of towns and cities across France, and Paris is no exception. The only problem is choosing which of the many markets to visit. And while the ancient Marché des Enfants Rouges and the vast flea market of Saint-Ouen should not be overlooked, Bastille Market is a local favorite.

Produce heavy stalls showcase the best of French food, from the freshest bread to the funkiest cheeses. Marché Bastille is an authentic French market that opens for just a few hours of colorful energy twice a week.

Don’t expect to find any bargains, but the quality is first-rate, and the atmosphere is warm and welcoming. It is the perfect place to load up on picnic goodies before discovering more amazing and affordable things to do in Paris.

Bon Appétit!

Where? 13 Bd Beaumarchais, 75004 (Bastille Métro, lines 1, 5, 8)

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Top 20 Cheap and Free Things To Do In Paris

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