This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, we may receive a commission at no additional cost to you.
As the adage goes: Paris is always a good idea, unless you’re broke. Okay, I might have made that up. But it’s true nonetheless. Paris is of course a beautiful city. But it is a difficult place to live or visit on a shoestring budget. It is, after all, an expensive city – one of the world’s most expensive cities in fact. That being said, it’s not impossible have a great time in Paris without much money. You just have to know where to look and what to avoid – especially if it’s your first time here.
Since coming to live in the city, I’ve taken the (financial) hit on behalf of everyone (including, but not limited to, 11€ pints, 20€ salads and 100 € taxis). So here is the list I’ve compiled of my Top 30 tips for enjoying Paris on a budget. These are some of the cheapest and best ways to avoid making the same mistakes as me on your next Paris trip.
Our Top 30 Tips
1. Book travel early
Obvious, perhaps, but one of the expenses when visiting the City of Light is getting here. If you leave it too late, ticket prices can skyrocket. Reasonable prices for flights, Eurostar journeys and regional trains can be had too. More so if you plan ahead and are flexible with your dates. For regional travel (within France and Europe, including Eurostar) we are big fans of Omio which offers a range of booking options via train, bus and flights. For international flights we have had a positive experience with cheapoair.
2. Book accommodation in advance and consider a range of options
Reasonable accommodation can be found. Consider staying in a hostel. Gone are the days where hostels were reserved for the budget backpacker and gap year students willing to bunk in a room of ten. Private rooms are available. Paris is home to a handful of chichi hostels that won’t break the bank and offer a good deal. Generator Paris, The People, and Madrigal are all brilliant options for cutting the our cost of accommodation.
Housesitting or couch surfing can save you even more money. Check out our guide to temporary accommodation in Paris for a range of options.
3. Avoid hail-and-ride taxis (especially from the Airport, where they’ll often try to charge you more if they notice you don’t speak French)
Make sure you go to the official taxi stand or book in advance with a reputable firm like G7. Uber works well too. For one of the cheapest ways to travel from the airport into the city, take the RER trains (but as always on public transportation, watch out for pickpockets!)
4. Opt for a Velib – the City’s bike rental program.
A Velib, the city’s bike rental, costs 5€ for a 24-hour pass, where the first 30 mins are free and 2€ every half an hour after that. Getting around on 2 wheels is a great way to see the sites. It might just be the best way to beat traffic and enjoy the beauty of Paris.
5. Buy a Navigo Weekly Pass to use on public transportation.
If you’re hesitant to cycle, purchase a Navigo weekly pass instead: an unlimited Monday to Sunday ticket for the entire Paris region costs 30€. It allows you to travel on the metro, all RER and Transilien train lines, all bus lines (except Orlybus and Roissybus) and Tram lines in the Paris region, and the Montmartre Funicular. If you only need to go in certain areas you can choose the 2 zones you want to travel between and the price will be cheaper.
You can purchase a Navigo pass online. Especially during the high season, this will save you having to wait in long lines at the ticket office in your local metro station.
6. Make the most of free admission to Paris museums.
Many museums offer free access on the first Sunday of each month, including major museums like the Musée National Picasso, Centre Pompidou, Musée d’Orsay, the Petit Palais and Louvre Museum. There are also a number of smaller free museums, that offer free entry year-round, not only on the first Sunday of the month. These include:
- Musée de la Vie Romantique
- The Carnavalet Museum
- Petit Palais
- Museum of the Liberation of Paris – Museum of General Leclerc – Museum Jean Moulin
- Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris
- Musée Bourdelle
- Musée Cognacq – Jay – the 18th century museum of the City of Paris
- House of Balzac
- Memorial of the Shoah
- Curie Museum
- Museum of the Legion of Honor
- Musée Cernuschi – the museum of Asian arts of the City of Paris
For an up-to-date list, check out the Paris Tourist Office website for more information.
In addition, if you’re under 26 years of age, a student or a teacher, you’ll be able to gain free entry to many museums including the following:
- Musée d’Orsay
- The Gustave Moreau Museum
- The Petit Palais
- Musée de l’Orangerie
- House of Balzac (make sure to visit the secret garden overlooking the Eiffel Tower!)
- The Cluny Museum
- Hôtel de la Marine
- Grande Galerie de l’Evolution
- The Louvre Museum
- Eugène Delacroix National Museum
- Rodin Museum
- Guimet Museum of Asian Arts
- Quai Branly Museum – Jacques Chirac
- City of Architecture and Heritage
- National Museum of the Histor of Immigration
- Museum of the Middle Ages of Cluny
- Picasso National Museum
- Centre Pompidou
- Musée des Arts et Métiers
7. Get a Paris Museum Pass
Not visiting on the first Sunday of month, nor are you a student, teacher, or under 26? You could still save on your trip to Paris by getting the Paris Museum Pass. A 2-day pass is 55 euros. There are also passes for 4 and 6 days. It offers free admission to many major museums. You can also gain entry to sites such as the Arc de Triomphe, Sainte Chapelle, Hôtel del Marine (emblematic place of the Place de la Concorde), the Panthéon and more. Perfect for history buffs!
8. Head to the flea markets and vintage stores
Fancy a spot of shopping? Dodge the large department stores and head instead to Paris’s best flea markets and vintage stores. Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen, Super Vintage, Vintage Désir, and Relique Paris are some of my favourite spots.
9. Take the Batobus and see Paris by boat on the river Seine
See the main tourist attractions of the French capital from the Batobus. This Seine river-trip has nine stops that take you to the best neighborhoods and landmarks in the city, including the Eiffel Tour, Notre Dame, the Louvre, and Hôtel de Ville. Enjoy the city’s historic architecture by boat. A day pass (hop-on-hop-off) will set you back 19€ for adults, or 9€ for kids.
10. Take a free walking tour
There are hundreds that take place all across the city, covering different arrondissements including ones by Discover Walks.
11. Spend a sunny day at the city’s parks and green spaces.
Some of the most well-known include the Jardin du Luxembourg, Parc Monceau and Jardin des Tuileries. My personal favorites include the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, the Bois de Boulogne and the Coulée Verte (Promenade Plantée).
12. Don’t forget the graveyards!
It’s easy to while away some time wandering around one of Paris’ grand cemeteries such as Père Lachaise or the Cimetière du Montparnasse, where many famous playwrights, poets and singers are buried.
13. If the weather’s decent, take part in some outdoor games
There are always chess matches to be joined in the Luxembourg Gardens, or people willing to let you join in a game of petanque on the banks of the Seine.
14. Workout for free
Boutique fitness studios have recently shot up in popularity in Paris, and if you fancy trying out a trendy yoga class or spinning to some cool tunes, download the ClassPass app. They offer a 14-day, commitment-free, trial where you can book onto a whole range of classes.
Or, enjoy the beauty of the City of Light by taking a run along one of our favorite routes.
15. Conduct your own street art tour in Belleville
Often referred to as an ‘open-air museum’, this quartier is home to all manner of street art. Rue Denoyez, Parc de Belleville, Rue de la Fontaine au Rois and Rue Oberkampf are brilliant spots to see the highlights.
16. Enjoy happy hour
Stick to Happy Hours (around 5pm to 9pm) where drinks are usually three-quarters of the price.
17. Have a drink (or two) by the Seine or Canal St. Martin
But steer clear of touristy bars in the city center (even for soft drinks which can be extortionately priced). Instead head to the grocery store for a bottle of wine (you can get great ones for between 5-10 €) and nibbles and sit along the banks of the water. It’s the perfect place and way to rub shoulders with locals.
18. Download the Mr Good Beer app
Perhaps you’re a beer drinker? If so, use the Mr Good Beer app, which shows you where the cheapest beers can be had near you.
19. Get to know your local boulangerie
No free breakfast at your hotel? No problem! A croissant and a coffee for breakfast at a local bakery will set you back max 2.50€. Lunch items (homemade quiches; freshly filled baguettes) usually come in under 5€, and often you can add on a drink and dessert for a meal deal costing around 7€.
20. Have a prix-fixe gourmet lunch
Treat yourself to lunch at a restaurant offering a formule. Formules are set-priced menus that cost much less than ordering à la carte. You can try some of the best places in Paris for a fraction of the price by eating this way. Great formule deals include Elmer (31€ for three courses), Le Cyrano (18€ for three courses) and Café du Coin (19 € for three courses).
21. Head to a boullion for dinner
Dinner can be an especially expensive affair in Paris – bargain formules don’t really exist at this time of day. For a brilliantly priced dinner out, head to one of the city’s boullions – spectacular dining halls that serve up traditional French fare like steak frites. At Boullion Chartier, starters hover around the 4€ mark, main courses around 10€, and desserts around 4 or 5€. Wine here is also extremely cheap — just over 5€ for a carafe of red.
22. Have some street food
Alternatively, opt for some tasty street food, which isn’t just limited to crepes (though these are never a bad idea!). Think flavourful bánh mìs, Chinese-Vietnamese pastries, Neopolitan pizzas, and smash burgers — Paris has them all. These tasty treats rarely cost more than 10€. A few options include
– Pâtisserie de Choisy in the 13th arrondissement for great banh bao & other inexpensive items.
– Pâtisserie Saison (in Les Olympiades) does a good Banhi mi for under 5€.
– Lebanese flatbread wraps from Man’Ouché
– Delitaly does good/big slices of Roman pizza for around 4€
Find out about a few of our other favorite street food picks.
23. Hungry but on a tight budget? Pack a picnic.
Greengrocers and markets are where you’ll find the cheapest (and best) produce. They only sell you what’s in season. Head to an open-air market towards closing time – the best time for great deals. Vendors will often sell you stuff at a reduced priced, or even hand things out for free.
24. Go to a free festival
One of our favorite free things to do in Paris? Have fun at one of Paris’s festivals. A full, up-to-date list of free festivals can be found on the Paris Tourist Office website. Highlights include the La Défense Jazz Festival, the Fête de la Musique, and the Classique au Vert Festival.
25. Catch a free film
In summer, head to Parc de la Villette to catch a free film at France’s biggest open-air cinema. Films range from indie numbers to Hollywood blockbusters, and – bonus – most French films are subtitled in English.
26. Venture outside the city center
Spend time exploring the lesser-known districts where the prices are lower than central Paris. Less touristy parts of town such as the 19th and 17th arrondissements and the Butte aux Cailles all offer fantastic restaurants, parks, and places of cultural interest. Visit a Paris neighborhood off the beaten track and you appreciate the City more fully.
27. Guard your belongings!
Be super vigilant with your belongings and save money by, er, not having to purchase a new phone. Like many capital cities Paris has, unfortunately, its fair share of pickpockets. Don’t leave phones or wallets on tables; don’t get them out on the metro, and make sure your bag is zipped.
28. Enjoy the view
Climbing to the top of the Eiffel Tower costs about 30€ per person, which is pricey. The best views of Paris are actually free — the rooftop of the Printemps Haussmann department store, The Institut du Monde Arabe’s panoramic terrace and the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont are a few of my favourite spots. And don’t forget the magnificent views from the top of the steps up to the Sacre Coeur. The best things are indeed free.
29. Have a Moroccan Tea
Sip on Moroccan mint tea in the gorgeous open-air courtyard at the Grand Mosque for just a couple of euros. The atmosphere is convivial, and the mosaics, plants, and water fountains are stunning.
30. Snag cheap theatre tickets
Last-minute (on the day) theatre tickets can be purchased at Kiosque Théâtres, at around a 50% reduction. These usually cost between 15 and 24€ for shows. There are two of these kiosks in Paris — the Madeleine Kiosque on Place de la Madeleine, and the Montparnasse Kiosque located next to the Montparnasse tower.
- Want to know where to eat in Paris on a budget? We’ve done the research so you don’t have to!
- Another way to save is through temporary accommodations in Paris: 8 options for any budget.
- Cooking at home is a good way to save too. With the weather warming up there is no more perfect food to recreate at home than a French salad.
Written by Rachel Naismith for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Plum Guide and our Marketplace for fabulous vacation rentals in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long or short term, or buy in France? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates or click here. Looking to bring France home to you or to learn online or in person? Check out our marketplace shop and experiences.