Romantic strolls along the Seine River. The Eiffel Tower aglow at night. The priceless treasures at the Louvre. Galleries and museums. A fashion show. Touring a famous perfumery–just some of the free things and stuff to do in Paris.
A free or budget-friendly tour is the perfect way to get oriented upon arrival in Paris, or to make the most of a short visit. Prepare yourself to walk ‘til you drop when you join New Europe Tours on their free – gratuity encouraged –3½ hour walking tour. You’ll meet your friendly and entertaining guide by the fountain on Place St Michel (at 11 A.M. or 1 P.M.), and from there you’ll see everything from stuff like Notre Dame Cathedral to Napoléon’s Tomb, complete with fun facts and informative commentary. Local residents volunteer to guide the 2-3 hour Paris Greeter Tours, offering an insider’s glimpse of their day-to-day world, escorting you around the markets, cafés and points-of-interest of their favorite neighborhood.
If you prefer wheels to walking, grab a free copy of “Carte Vélo à Paris,” – this bicycling map will help you navigate the city’s bike lanes and plan your self-guided, scenic tour. For a free, 2½ hour, guided bike tour, spend your Friday evening with Paris Rando Vélo. While the tour pace is suitable for all ages and abilities, it leaves the Hôtel de Ville at 10:30 P.M., perhaps best left to night-owls. For roller skate enthusiasts, the Pari Roller is a popular free thing to do in Paris–a skate party through the streets of the city. It starts every Friday at 9:30 P.M., the 30 km route changes weekly, and it moves at a brisk pace most appropriate for skilled skaters. And finally, to those for whom thoughts of all that walking, riding and skating seems too tiring to contemplate, may we suggest the city’s public buses – for only 1.60€ you’ll travel some of Paris’s most scenic streets – route no. 29 is sure to please.
Now that you’ve completed your tour de Paris you’ll want to do some exploring on your own – and there are certainly a lot of free things to do that are worth checking out in Paris. Built in the French Gothic style and centrally located on the Île de la Cité, Notre Dame Cathedral is a beautiful and imposing structure, sure to delight both architectural and religious history buffs. Fans of free music will enjoy the organ recitals on Sundays at 4:30 P.M.
Celebrity spotting is a sport at the Pere-Lachause Cemetery where Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors found his final resting spot. The tombstones in the Montparnasse Cemetery read like a who’s-who of theParisian artistic and intellectual community, among them existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, novelist Simone de Beauvoir and painter Georges-Pierre Seurat. To further indulge your curiosity of French writers long deceased, try a visit to the apartment of Victor Hugo, author of the epic novel Les Misérables. His home is now a free museum. After visiting Victor, linger in the Place des Vosges – this picturesque square is the oldest in Paris, tree covered and lined with stuff like shops and cafes.
The homage to the arts continues at Parc Monceau, known as a favourite painting spot of Monet, and site to many statues honouring the likes of composer Frédéric Chopin and writer Guy de Maupassant. It’s worth checking out Place de la Concorde, the largest square in Paris. Here, a statue representing a French city stands at each corner of the octagon, while Cleopatra’s Needle, the towering obelisk, is said to date back 3200 years, originating in Egypt at the temple of Ramses II. Or, just pick a neighbourhood to explore – Montmartre, The Latin Quarter, St Germain or Le Marais– each have their own charm.
With its many parks and gardens, resplendent throughout the seasons, it’s easy to understand why Cole Porter wrote his famous lyrics, “I love Paris in the spring time, I love Paris in the fall”. Gracing these grounds is a wonderful free thing to do in Paris. Le Jardin des Tuileries, is an orderly and immaculate delight of gardens, statues and fountains, its formality forgotten during the annual fun fair in July and August. The Jardin du Luxembourg is perhaps the most popular park in Paris, a 55-acre garden where people come to stroll its pathways, sun themselves on the expansive lawns, or keep the children entertained at the free puppet theatre. Park de la Villette, largest of the city’s parks, boasts a variety of stuff such as gardens, attractions and activities and is the site of an ever-popular, summer film festival–-pack a picnic, pull up a chair or blanket and enjoy a free nightly movie. Promenade Plantee is an excellent place for a walk–-an ambitious revitalization project turned 4.5 km of decaying railway into this wondrous display of foliage, giving way at times to artist’s studios or excellent city views. Further out of the city, the spectacular Versailles Gardens, landscaped in the classic French style, are worth the 12 mile pilgrimage–they ‘re free to the public every day of the week except Sunday. As expected, a tour of the Chateau de Versailles will cost you, but as you’ve probably trekked half-way around the world to get there you might decide to splurge.
Walking has always been an enjoyable free thing to do in Paris, and there are so many reasons why. Winding its way through the heart of Paris, the Seine River is hard to miss, and who would want to. Steeped in history and alive with activity, it has always been central to life in this city–-its banks are home to many of Paris’ most famous landmarks, stuff like the Eiffel Tour and Notre Dame Cathedral, among others. Enjoy a leisurely jaunt along its shores or a restful respite on a park bench, all the more spectacular by night when the city is alight. For a glimpse back in time to the bohemian culture of the impressionist’s era, take in Montmartre’s Place du Tertre, a delightful square where artists work and sell their wares to tourists. One cannot live on sightseeing alone, so be sure to take a break at one of the cafes along the famous, tree-lined Avenue des Champs Elysees. It’s worth spending a few euros to enjoy a café au lait while people watching and soaking in the atmosphere – the tables and chairs of the sidewalk cafes face the street for a reason. When you’ve regained your energy, proceed along the avenue and partake of some leisurely window shopping. With luxury shops such as Cartier and Hugo Boss, mixed with more modest offerings at GAP and Zara, it’s always a fun, free thing to do– it’s the buying that can hurt you in the wallet.
If fashion is your passion you won’t want to miss the free fashion show at Galeries Lafayette, held every Friday at 3:00 P.M.-–but be sure to book your seat in advance.The hotspot is the new nightspot, Le Showcase, and if you arrive before midnight it’s a free spot – so come early and enjoy the live jazz and rock! Another alternative? La Fleche d’Or rocks with electro, groove and funk, or punk concerts. Late nights and loud music not your thing? Classical music aficionados will appreciate the free classical concerts on Sunday afternoons at the Petit Palais auditorium. Tickets are distributed 30 minutes before concerts. Or enjoy the heavenly voices from on-high–the choir at Sacre-Couer rehearses each Sunday morning at 9:45 A.M., and given its lofty vantage point the view itself is worth the trip. Be dazzled nightly by the spectacular Eiffel Tower Light Show–find a vantage point at dusk and enjoy the show–it’s a breathtaking free thing to do in Paris and indeed the pièce de résistance.
As Paris is a feast for the senses, its many art galleries are a feast for the eyes. Most famous, the Louvre, is home to the Mona Lisa and her mysterious smile. Stop by on the first Sunday of the month, and the Louvre becomes a free thing to do. Likewise, the Musee d’Orsay, popular with fans of the expressionist painters, and the Musee Rodin, for those more inclined to the statuesque, and the ever modern Pompidou Centre are also free on the first Sunday.Beware, you’re not the only bargain hunter in town, expect long lines and lots of company–everyone wants to see this stuff! If you still haven’t seen enough of Monet or Renoir, the Petit Palais, home of the Musée des Beaux Arts de la ville de Paris is for you. This art gallery is a free thing to do daily and anything but petite. When your eyes are ready for a rest, follow your nose to the Fragonard Museum for a free tour of one of France’s most famous perfumeries. Take a journey through time at the Musee de Histoire de Paris-–first designated as archives by Napoleon in the early 1800s, it contains some fascinating historical documents and artifacts.Three centuries of fashion evolution are on display at the Musee Galliera. With 70,000 items in the collection it is a must see for any fashion enthusiast visiting the fashion capital.
FREE FOOD–another thing to do. Now that we have your attention, free couscous is offered at several Paris clubs and cafes–including Le Grenier, Le Tribal Cafe, La Chôpe du Château Rouge, Les Trois Frères and Le Taïs (check for weeknight and time)–to be accompanied, of course,with the not-so-free beverage of your choice. Wordsmiths, and other brave souls who take to the stage to recite a poem or text, will receive a free beverage, on special nights at L’Atelier du Plateau and L’Abracadabar, or Tuesdays at L’Entrepôt. Ode to the Tourist, anyone? Why have one Happy Hour when you can have two and a half– the wine shop, La Derniere Goutte, offers free wine and cheese sampling, every Friday from 5:00 to 7:30 P.M.
No Parisian adventure is complete without a trip to one of the city’s many markets, where browsing all the stuff and people watching are irresistible free things to do. The cobblestoned Rue Mouffetard, perhaps the oldest street in Paris, is home to a wide variety of shops and vendors, from artisan bakers and fromageries to fish mongers and wine merchants. The street, busy with pedestrian traffic, is home to buildings dating to the 1700s and lined with great, inexpensive cafes and restaurant. The businesses are mostly closed on Mondays, plan your visit accordingly. The Marche d’Aligre is a wonderful hybrid of food and flea markets, where shoppers can find everything from fish and cheese, to flowers and vintage treasures–it is more authentic and less touristy than some of the other markets. Thought to be the largest in Europe, Le marche aux Puces de St. Ouen, is a spectacle not to missed, where the weird and wonderful can be had for a price. Haggling is best left to those who know their stuff, and know their French, while the rest of us remain content to enjoy an entertaining and inexpensive afternoon of taking in the oddities.
Be thrifty and practical! This information was accurate when published, but can change without notice. We recommend you confirm all details with the provider in question before planning your excursion.
Photo Credits: Juanedc, y.caradec, christine zenino, Christoph Derndorfer, New Europe Tours, JPC24M, funkyflamenca, HarshLight, marsupilami92, dany13, Tilemahos Efthimiadis, Matt Biddulph, trix0r, zoetnet and Davide “Dodo” Oliva.