Thrifty Paris

Posted in Shopping

Here’s the good news: the economy may be looking up. Still, a lot of us continue to feel the losses from the fall of 2008. If you have a job and are still above water financially, consider yourself lucky. We still think a trip to Paris is doable and affordable if you are careful with your euros.

Here are our tips for having fun and spending less:

  1. Rent an apartment, not a hotel room. An apartment will run you about 100–150 euros a night for a one bedroom, which is the same price as a very cheap small hotel room. If you are sharing with another person or more (some one bedrooms sleep four people), then you’ll see a real savings. Plus, you’ll have the option of going to the market and cooking your own dinner, and breakfast at your apartment will be infinitely cheaper and better than breakfast at a hotel. Consult our Hotels page.
  2. Opt for lunch instead of dinner at the fancier restaurants you want to try. For example, Christian Constant’s prix fixe menu for lunch at Le Violon d’Ingres is 45 euros, compared with 80–110 euros per person for dinner.
  3. Find affordable restaurants: consult our dining guide. You’ve come to Paris for the culture, but mainly for the meals. Let’s face it—food, along with shopping, is the MAIN attraction here, but you don’t need to spend a fortune. The trend now in Paris for many talented chefs is to open up a neighborhood bistro. Alain Ducasse did it and so has practically everyone else. This means you can get great food for very reasonable prices. There are countless restaurants offering 25 euro prix fixe meals at dinner, and often you’ll find bottles of wine for under 30 euros, or you can just order a glass of wine. Look for the “V” (for value) in our restaurant listings—although many of the spots in the Get Local category and elsewhere may also be affordable.
  4. Shop during the sales. Go to Paris in January or July, when all the stores have their biannual sales. This year the January sales began on the 7th and lasted through early February. You’ll see 40 to 70 percent off all the winter merchandise. While the big department stores like Galeries Lafayette are a zoo, the neighborhood stores are only slightly more crowded than usual, and you can get remarkable deals.
  5. Ride the metro. Cabs are hard to find and expensive in Paris, and you can get anywhere you need to go via the metro. Keep a metro map on you at all times, as well as a good map of the city.
  6. Visit the free museums and others that are free at certain times. Here is a list. In addition, the city of Paris opens its museums for free one night in May. Check out this website if you are traveling to Paris in May. Plus, there are always special deals for students, seniors and, often, teachers. We don’t recommend the museum pass unless you plan on visiting several museums a day, which for our taste tends to be too many.
  7. Eat on the cheap. Eat falafel. We love falafel, and the best can be found in Paris. Chez Marianne and L’As du Fallafel are our favorites, and both can be found on rue de Rosiers, in the 4th Arrondissement. Also, there’s always the time-honored tradition of taking a picnic of wine and cheese and sitting on the bank of the Seine. During the summer you’ll see huge groups of people doing this, especially on the islands (Ile de la Cité and Ile St.-Louis). Another favorite picnic spot is Pont des Arts.
  8. Stay at a bed-and-breakfast. This company offers chambres d’hôtes, which are rooms for rent in people’s apartments, beginning at 75 euros per night for one person. If you have two people, prices are approximately 88 euros and up. Often your hosts will offer you a gourmet meal at a reasonable price. This is a great way to meet the French and get a good deal.
  9. See our list of cheap but lovely hotels, on our Sleeping page.
  10. Consult our must-do list. Many of our top destinations are free, including the Shakespeare & Co. bookshop, the city’s bridges (see our guide), the place Dauphine, the place des Vosges and St.-Sulpice. You can also enjoy a reading at the Village Voice Bookshop or at Shakespeare & Co. for free. Guests at Village Voice have included Jhumpa Lahiri, Christopher Hitchens and Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Díaz. The store suggests you buy a book, but you don’t have to. This is a great way to meet other travelers. Shakespeare & Co. offers readings on Mondays at 7 p.m. and writing classes and critiques on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.