These days, many people are hesitant to travel to Paris because they fear a high price tag on every activity they want to do. But like any metropolitan city, Paris boasts tons of things to do, see, eat and drink that are cheap or even free. From music and movie festivals in the summer to cheap cultural goodies when the weather doesn’t behave, you can rest assured that traveling to Paris does not have to break the bank. Here are some of my favorite low-price things to enjoy around Paris.
I’m a foodie, yet I’m also constantly watching my wallet. What’s a girl to do? Besides the ever-cheap and glorious baguette (perfect for pas cher picnics along the Seine or at a park), don’t neglect the diverse ethnic food options in Paris. Some of your cheapest meals can come from non-French gourmet, like the 5.50 euro falafel special at L’As du Fallafel, or two delicious and authentic tacos at Candelaria for 6 euros, or spicy veggies and chai tea at one of the many authentic Indian restaurants in the Goutte d’Or (my favorite is Sri Lankan nook Muniyandi Vilas).
I’m pleased to assure you that even Paris has happy hour. There are plenty of cafés (especially in the 11th Arrondissement and near Saint-Michel) that offer half-price cocktails, beers and wine, some starting as early as 4 p.m., some going as late as midnight. An intimate and little-known wine bar in the 18th Arrondissement called Jeanne & Marcelle has a daily deal: a glass of the daily selection of red, white or rosé and a plate of saucisson or Cantal cheese for just 4 euros. I also love the free wine tastings at Les Caves Augé, which occur every month when the weather is nice. Stop by, say hello, get a free glass or two and learn something about the vin du mois.
Believe me, I’ve been there: walking along the boulevard Saint-Germain or in the Marais, looking in store windows and feeling absolutely hungry for a new dress or shoes. But you don’t have to go broke buying new threads. There are tons of thrift stores (friperies) in Paris that are packed to the gills with vintage dresses, skirts, shirts and pants for both men and women, most of which go for less than 15 euros. Many of these little hot spots are in the Marais, but I love Chinemachine in Montmartre, a little thrift boutique that plays great oldies music and sells both designer and handmade duds for a fraction of what you’d find at a typical vintage store.
Paris travel is never lacking in variety, cultural treasures are the reason many of us travel there.
In the summer you can enjoy the Paris Jazz Festival, Cinéma en Plein Air and Paris Plages, the city’s free music, movie and beach events, respectively. Year-round, the permanent collections at a handful of museums (like the Musée d’Art Moderne and the Maison de Victor Hugo) are free each day. I love to get lost in the Musée Carnavalet, the former mansion of Madame de Sévigné, where you can wander through room after room of historical French paintings and objects. Don’t miss authentic re-creations of Marcel Proust’s bedroom and Alphonse Mucha’s stunning art nouveau bijouterie Fouquet.
In the spring and fall you can walk around one of Paris’s many Portes Ouvertes (free browsing through artists’ studios), and every month a performance-art party called Dimanche Rouge takes over a hip venue (free entry, cheap drinks).
For a more interactive shot of culture, check out salsa dancing at La Peña. This tucked-away Latin club stays lively well into the night, and though the drinks aren’t cheap, the dancing is free and fun. If you’re traveling to Paris alone, this is the perfect spot to make some new friends—you won’t be left sitting on the sidelines for longer than 90 seconds.
Whenever traveling on a budget, creativity is key. It’s often the simplest things in life that cost the least and give us the most pleasure. If you’re traveling to Paris, you can always consult Le Figaro, Paris.fr or my site, Paris Cheapskate, for up-to-the-moment happenings that will help you enjoy Paris for less.
Ethnic food in Paris
L’As du Fallafel
Jeanne & Marcelle
Les Caves Augé
Paris Jazz Festival
Cinéma en Plein Air
Musée d’Art Moderne
Maison de Victor Hugo
Editor’s note: What could be more affordable than our DIY walking trips? Some of them start at just $2.