With streets filled with haute couture, Michelin-starred restaurants and famously pricey attractions, Paris hardly stands out as a top pick for money-conscious travellers.
However, with some lucky timing and our insider knowledge, the City of Lights can be surprisingly, well, light on your wallet.
From its renowned art galleries and historic landmarks to the expansive green spaces and winding streets to explore, our round-up of Paris’ best free attractions makes seeing the French capital on a budget easy.
Paris opens the majority of its museum doors to the public entirely free of charge on the first Sunday of every month.
On these ‘Free First Sundays’, you can marvel at modern art at the Centre Pompidou, admire Monet’s larger-than-life Water Lilies at L’Orangerie, and stroll through the Musée d’Orsay – all without spending a cent. Just note that you’ll need to reserve a ticket and time slot online in advance.
You can also enter the Louvre for free on the first Friday of the month after 6pm (excluding July and August) and Musée Rodin on the first Sunday of the month between October and March. Entry to the Carnavalet Museum won’t cost a thing any time of the year.
Free-to-visit Père Lachaise Cemetery is the resting place of big names including Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde, while famous Parisians Jean-Paul Sartre and Edgar Degas are buried at the Montmartre and Montparnasse cemeteries respectively.
Paris’ beautiful churches are also worth a visit. Both the white-domed Sacré Coeur in the north and the fairytale-esque Notre-Dame Cathedral on the Île de la Cité are free to enter year-round, although entry to the crypts and towers are ticketed (note that the Notre-Dame is currently closed for renovation, due to reopen in December 2024). The gothic Sainte-Chappelle, meanwhile, is included in the ‘Free First Sundays’ line-up between November 1 and March 31.
IIt wouldn’t be a trip to Paris without visiting the icon of all famous icons, the Eiffel Tower. Getting to the top always requires a ticket, but there are plenty of places to glimpse the tower for free. After all, being on the tower means it won’t appear in the photos!
The Trocadéro is the most popular option to see the landmark, though it quickly fills with busloads of tourists by mid-morning. Instead, view the Eiffel Tower from the rooftop café at the Printemps Haussmann department store or from the Bir Hakiem Bridge. Specific locations aside, even wandering the streets in the area will yield some surprise and snap-worthy views of the Eiffel Tower.
In the off-season (between November 1 and March 31), you can visit the city’s other iconic landmarks – including the Arc de Triomphe, the Conciergerie (excludes December) and the Panthéon – for free on the first Sunday of the month.
Further afield, you can also score free entry to Versailles if your visit coincides with an off-peak first Sunday of the month. Pre-booking a time slot is essential.
Back in town, the medieval Marais district is a hotspot that can’t be missed. While the cobblestone streets are packed with enticing eateries and bad-for-the-bank-account boutiques, exploring the neighbourhood is completely free if you can resist temptation!
Nearby is the Latin Quarter. Similarly cobblestoned and medieval-esque, this district was a favourite of many artistic icons, and you’ll soon see why. Wander the streets to find Shakespeare and Company, an English bookshop favoured by Ernest Hemmingway or hunt down Rue Mouffetard, a Tuesday-to-Sunday street market loved by chef Julia Child.
Paris is filled with gardens galore, most of which are free to explore. For first-timers, the ever-popular Luxembourg Gardens, a quiet oasis in the heart of the city, won’t disappoint. As loved by locals as it is by visitors, the gardens are filled with over a hundred statues, stunning fountains and colourful flower beds.
If you’re visiting the Louvre, make time to stop at the Tuileries Garden nearby. The Jardin des Plantes is also worth a look in during spring when the gardens are in full bloom. It’s free to enter, but there is a fee for the zoo (it’s Paris’ oldest) and the Natural History Museum.
For a green space without the pomp, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont on the outskirts of the city is a great half-day out. Follow its winding paths to uncover hidden temples, artificial waterfalls and gardens of statues. Don’t forget to bring a baguette or two for a picnic by the lake.
One of the joys of city break to Paris is uncovering its hidden treasures, so allocate an hour to get lost in a new neighbourhood. Free walking tours offer something more structured. Companies such as Sandemans and FreeTouroperate a range of tip-as-you-feel tours, while Paris Greeters will match you with a local volunteer who will take you on unique, up-to-three-hour treks of their favourite parts of Paris for free.
Markets are perfect for a taste of local life, and Paris has plenty that are free to explore… if you can resist the bargains on offer.
For foodies, the aforementioned Mouffetard Street markets are still loved by many residents, but if you’re looking for more variety, the bi-weekly Bastille Market will hit the spot.
Elsewhere, visit the sprawling Puces de Saint-Ouen flea market for a mish-mash of knock-off brands and antiques; the Vanves market for bric-a-brac and vintage fashion; and the Bouquinistes along the Seine for first and second-edition books alongside touristy trinkets.
On the more authentic end, Marché du livre ancien et d’occasion is a book market that attracts more collectors than tourists, while serious fashion-lovers should keep an eye out for Hotel Boheme, an eclectic vintage and new clothing pop-up market held only a couple of times a year.
Please note: All information was correct as of the time of writing. Always check with the attraction regarding terms of admission.
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