One of the most romantic and beloved cities in the world, Paris is a top destination for many travelers. Between baked goods, great wine, and high fashion costs can quickly add up — all the more reason to take advantage of these free and budget-wise activities (including some croissant-calorie torching long walks) and sights around the City of Light.
While adult lift tickets to the top of this iconic landmark cost 25 euros apiece, visitors can opt to go as high as the second level for 16 euros (8 for ages 12 to 24). The rewards are stirring circular views of the city and access to installations such as a transparent floor on the first level. Advance tickets are available online, though summer dates can fill up fast, especially on weekends, so be sure to plan accordingly.
FIRST SUNDAY AT THE MUSEUM
A trip to Paris is not complete without a visit to the Louvre. Visitors can avoid the 15 euro entrance fee (17 euro if bought online) to this repository of spectacular art (as well as the Musée d'Orsay and other museums around the city) on the first Sunday of the month from October to March, when access is free. Go early to avoid lines. Admission is also free every day for visitors under 18.
PARC DE LA VILLETTE OPEN-AIR CINEMA
During July and August, Parc de la Villette in the 19th arrondissement hosts an outdoor cinema with nightly screenings of films that explore the summer's chosen theme. Seating on the grass is first come, first served. Arrive early, in the late afternoon, to enjoy an open-air picnic and claim your seats.
JARDIN DU LUXEMBOURG
The gardens of the French senate offer an impressive array of lush plants and beautiful sculptures. This garden park in the 6th arrondissement is large enough to be the main attraction on a sunny afternoon, with plenty of great places to take pictures next to expertly manicured flowers and intriguing sculptures (bring your selfie stick).
One of the most impressive architectural sites in Paris, the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur is open to the public daily at no charge. The first stone was laid in 1875, but the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris wasn't finished until 1914. Smartphone users can download an app with a free audio tour of the magnificent Romano-Byzantine structure.
WALL OF LOVE
Of course Paris would be home to a wall that boasts "I Love You" written in beautifully diverse script in 300-plus languages. Displaying more than 1,000 declarations of love, this site in the Montmartre neighborhood in the 1st arrondissement is the site to visit with a sweetheart.
NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL
Perhaps the most iconic cathedral in France, if not all of Europe, Notre Dame is a stunning architectural site. Open daily at no charge, it is not to be missed. Enjoy the musicians who set up just outside the entrance, creating a truly Parisian scene.
PÈRE LACHAISE CEMETERY
Thanks to the number of famous people buried here, Père Lachaise is a place of interest even for those creeped out by cemeteries. With stars such as Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde in residence, this site in the 20th arrondissement is the most visited cemetery in the world.
This elevated garden trail used to be a train line through the 12th arrondissement in east Paris. Converted in 1993 to a garden, it's similar to the High Line on Manhattan's west side, which opened six years after the Promenade Plantée. A stroll here provides beautiful views and a nice break from the bustle of the city streets.
GALERIES LAFAYETTE FASHION SHOW
The well-known department store Galeries Lafayette hosts fashion shows every Friday afternoon (12 euros for adults, 9 euros for visitors under 12). Fashionistas on a budget can watch professional models strut the runway showing off clothes and accessories from the store's collections. Register online to reserve a seat.
MARCHÉ AUX PUCES DE SAINT-OUEN
This market straddling the 17th and 18th arrondissements is the perfect place to "window shop" for antiques and oddities. Find anything and everything as you wend your way among the stalls, which number more than 2,500. Walking along and taking it all in is a cultural experience — no purchase necessary.
For foodies who love French cuisinevisiting Paris, a visit to Rue Mouffetard in the 5th arrondissement belongs at the top of the agenda. The crowded street is lined with vendors hawking artisanal breads and cheeses, a mouthwatering adventure heightened on Saturdays, when it functions as a market with even more food stalls. Just inhaling the aromas is indulgence enough.
CHAMP DE MARS
This public park in the 7th arrondissement, near the Eiffel Tower, is a completely free and notable spot for a picnic. Bring along a baguette and bouteille du vin just before dusk and enjoy the views of the tower lighting up. This is a romantic alternative to scaling the tower for anyone on a budget and/or afraid of heights.
Perfect for history buffs, this museum in the 3rd arrondissement catalogs the history of Paris and charges no entry fee to peruse its permanent collection. The collection is large enough to easily fill a few hours.
Paris is a fashion and design capital of the world and home to renowned fashion houses as well as discrete secondhand stores. Look for the latter hidden away on side streets. The 11th arrondissement is the sweet spot for ogling high-end duds and retro décor at secondhand prices in stores such as Vintage Désir.
Discover Walks offers seven free walking tours of the city. Spend an afternoon soaking up the sites under the umbrella of knowledgeable guides. Themes include exploring the Latin Quarter, Paris landmarks, and more. (A tip at the end is expected.)
Work up an appetite while taking in views of the city as you cross some of the many bridges that span the Seine, the river running through Paris. Pack a light dinner of bread, cheese, and wine and enjoy a romantic picnic on the banks.
MAILLE MUSTARD SHOP
One of the best-known gourmet mustards, Maille has a boutique in the 8th arrondissement (along with two other Paris locations). Visitors can fill a crock with one of the numerous flavors on tap. The price may seem like a lot for mustard but includes discounted refills, so keep the stoneware jar as a souvenir. Alternatively, sample the line of traditional and experimental mustards for free and call it a day.
MAISON DE VICTOR HUGO
A visit to this famous writer's home, now a museum, on Place des Vosges in the 4th arrondissement, provides a glimpse into the life of the author of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (and his taste in home decor) for between 6 and 8 euros (and visitors 26 and under are free). First editions of some of his works, including parts of "Les Misérables," are on display.
HÔTEL DE VILLE
This site in the 3rd arrondissement has been home to the Paris City Council since the 14th century. Today, the neo-Renaissance building also serves as a showcase for art exhibits that are open to all for free. Visitors can see a replica of the Hall of Mirrors from the palace at Versailles.
A short train ride from Paris, Versailles itself is well worth the excursion and minor expense. Train tickets run about 7.1 euros round trip, and once there, a stroll through the stunning gardens where French royalty once ambled is free. This former residence of French kings from the time of Louis XIV is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
PARC DES BUTTES-CHAUMONT
This public park, the fifth-largest in Paris, was opened late in Napoleon's reign. Get lost in the park's 61 acres and be sure to visit the Temple de la Sibylle, a miniature version of the Roman Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, Italy before you go.
An open-air market on Place d’Aligre in the 12th arrondissement, this is yet another great stop to check out what the locals buy in Paris (even if you don't have the kitchen for cooking it yourself). Pick up a sliver of cheese and a baguette, or maybe some flowers, for a romantic picnic on the go.
CIMITIÈRE DU MONTPARNASSE
While not as high profile as Père Lachaise, this cemetery is wonderful for a stroll and a chance to visit some beloved authors and playwrights. Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Samuel Beckett are just a few of the occupants.
MUSÉE D’ART MODERNE DE LA VILLE DE PARIS
While the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay get all the attention, don't miss the opportunity to visit this modern-art gem for free. While the museum is undergoing renovations, it's still open to the public and has a collection that includes Matisee, Dufy, and other famous artists.
While it may not feel quintessentially Parisian, consider stopping by this municipal Asian art museum located at the entrance of Parc Monceau. It's located within a stately mansion once owned by banker Henri Cernushi, and best of all, entrance is free.
Get a taste of Parisian history by visiting Parc Monceau in the 8th arrondissement. In addition to seeing statues of Chopin and celebrated writer Guy de Maupassant, you can also see why the English-style park was once Monet's favorite painting spot. Visit the Egyptian pyramid, Chinese fort, and Dutch windmill, too. There are also play areas for kids and, as an added perk, free Wifi.
An exact recreation of the studios used by artist Constantin Brancusi during his years in Paris, the atelier is considered a work of art in its own right. However, 137 sculptures, 87 bases, 41 drawings, two paintings and over 1,600 glass photographic plates and original prints are on display, and entry to the atelier (located outside the Centre Pompidou) is free.
PLACE DE LA BASTILLE
Straddling the 3rd, 4th, and 12th arrondissements, the Plae de la Bastille will be interesting to any fan of "Les Miserables" and French Revolution history buffs. While all that remains of the Bastille prison is one tower of the fort that was discovered during excavations for the Metro, the square is also home to an open-air market on Thursdays and Sundays. Walk the outline of the Bastille by following special paving stones on the ground.
At just over 2.8 miles long, this canal is a quiet spot that allows visitors to stroll through neighborhoods, have a relaxed picnic, and people watch. Check out the cast-iron footbridges, or just watch barges and tour boats float by.
ARÈNES DE LUTÈCE
Take a step back in time by visiting these arenas in the Latin Quarter, which were built between the 1st and the end of the 2nd century. Able to hold up to 15,000 people, the arenas are mostly demolished, but it's still possible to see the stage platform where actors once performed.
MUSEE DE CLUNY
For 5 euros (and free for teenagers), visit the largest ancient remains in northern Europe, the Gallo-Roman Thermes de Cluny, or baths. The frigidarium, or cold room, is a large, vaulted space that still has some of its original decor. The museum itself is a Medieval castle and was once where Mary Tudor was held. It's also a highlight for its collection of artifacts and tapestries.
Feeling homesick? Visit the Abbey Bookshop in the Latin Quarter. to peruse its collection of 35,000 English-language tomes. While there are countless rare texts and some that date back to the Middle Ages, check out the paperbacks on the front patio while sipping on a complimentary cup of coffee.
LE CIMETIÈRE DES CHIENS
While this pet cemetery in a suburb of northwest of the city was established in 1899 to honor dogs, all manner of animals are here, including sheep, monkeys, and horses. There are also many living cats wandering the grounds among the more permanent residents.
THE SMALLEST BUILDING IN PARIS
At just 3.3 feet wide and 16.4 feet tall, 39 Rue du Chateau d'Eau in the 10th arrondissement is about as wide as a queen-sized mattress. The former shoemaker's studio, which is now an apartment, was originally built to settle a property dispute.
JARDIN DES COLONNES
The Jardin des Colonnes is a public lavender garden in the 14th arrondissement tucked away behind a set of imposing iron gates. A rare example of futuristic architecture, the circular building around the garden is filled with glass mirror panes. If it looks familiar, the location was filmed as part of "The Hunger Games" trilogy.