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Paris is, quite possibly, my favourite city in the entire world. I’ve been to Paris five times in the last five years and each time I fall in love with the city of lights a little more. From the cobblestone streets and the classic architecture, to the wonderful food and endless sights, I am totally and utterly enamoured with la belle Paris.
Another reason I love this beautiful French city is that there’s an endless array of free things to do in Paris, which means a visit here doesn’t have to break the bank! Not only that but Paris is the perfect city for solo travel! City breaks, though, are notoriously expensive, when you factor in the food, drink, museums and paid attractions. And Paris has its fair share of all of the above.
However, if you’re looking to get away for a few days and don’t have a wad of cash to spend, look no further than this guide to the 10 best things to do for free in Paris, France.
10 Free Things to Do in Paris
1. Chill out in Le Jardin du Luxembourg
I managed to finally visit Le Jardin du Luxembourg on my fifth trip to Paris and I wondered why I’d waited so long. Built by Marie de Medici from 1615 to 1627, The Luxembourg Palace sits as the beautiful centrepiece and crowning jewel of the stunning manicured gardens that enjoy brightly coloured flowers in the summer and a large open grassy space perfect for lounging in the sun on a hot summer’s day.
Grab a baguette, a box of macarons and a punnet of raspberries before heading to the park (as I did) and chill out on the grass, or grab one of the iconic green metal chairs with a view of the grandiose palace. Or, if you’re in a group, why not pull up a pew at one of the many free chess tables scattered throughout the park and watch the chess pros at work.
The gardens are located in the 6th arrondissement between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter. Other features of the gardens include several spectacular fountains, over 100 sculptures, the orangery and the apiary, as well as a beautiful greenhouse collection of orchids.
Access to the garden is free for the public. Opening times vary according to season.
2. Enjoy the view from Sacre Coeur and Montmartre
There’s no better view in all of Paris than the view from the steps beneath Sacre Coeur, in the arts district of Montmartre. Perched on a hillside above Paris, you’ll enjoy a birds-eye view of all the major sights, including the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and Les Invalides.
Be sure to arrive early as the steps outside Sacre Coeur get increasingly busy throughout the day. So, grab a bag of pastries for breakfast, plonk yourself down on a step and enjoy the city of Paris before you.
Alternatively, you can enjoy a 360 degree panoramic view of Paris from the Dome of Sacre Coeur, which is accessible for a very small fee – €6 when I visited (which I know is not free, but for €6, you really can’t complain). Or, head inside the Sacre Coeur Basilica itself, which is free of charge.
After enjoying the view, wander behind Sacre Coeur and marvel at the atmospheric streets of Montmartre. With its cobblestone streets, cute cafes, artists and pretty little houses, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a picturesque French village.
3. Visit Victor Hugo’s House
Any lover of literature will instantly recognise Victor Hugo as the author of highly-esteemed classical novel Les Miserables, which is now a world-famous musical.
Situated in the trendy Marais District, in the beautiful Places des Vosges square (which is worth a visit in its own right), is the house where Victor Hugo himself resided for 16 years and in which he wrote a large portion of Les Miserables. The house is now open as a museum from Tuesday to Sunday and is free to enter.
4. Wander down the Champs Elysees and through the Jardins des Tuileries
Combining these two popular Parisian activities makes perfect sense due to their close proximity to each other. While the Champs Elysees isn’t as beautiful as it once was (think chain stores and McDonalds), it’s still a must-do activity, especially if you’re looking for things to do for free in Paris. Once you reach the Place de la Concorde, continue walking straight ahead and enjoy the beautiful gardens that lead directly to the Louvre.
The wonderful thing about Paris’ public gardens is that you’ll always find a bunch of green metal chairs scattered throughout, usually situated around fountains and along pathways, which means you can easily wile away an afternoon chilling out and people watching.
5. Take a free walking tour of Paris
Walking tours are something I’m yet to try for myself but after hearing so many rave reviews, I’ll definitely be adding one to my list for my next city break. Not only are walking tours a great way to see and learn more about the city on a budget, but they’re also a great way to meet people if you’re travelling alone. Check out this 3-hour free walking tour of Paris.
6. Admire the art deco architecture of Galeries Lafayette
Galeries Lafayette’s flagship department store has serious wow-factor when it comes to art deco architecture. One of my favourite things to do for free in Paris is to wander around the store, gazing up at the epic ceiling and perhaps stopping for a coffee at one of the balcony cafes to enjoy the building in all its glory.
7. Enjoy the view from the rooftop of Galeries Lafayette or Printemps
After enjoying the architecture of Galeries Lafayette, head up to the rooftop terrace to take in the stunning view over the city, the Eiffel Tower and the Opera Garnier. Another great vantage point, which often gets overlooked, can be found on the rooftop of the Printemps department store, which has a cafe to grab a bite to eat and drink while enjoying the vista.
8. Enjoy the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadero
Watching the Eiffel Tower at dusk from the Trocadero is one of my absolute favourite things to do for free in Paris. Sitting on the steps of the Trocadero at sunset while the Eiffel Tower lights up never gets old. Don’t forget to stick around for the show that occurs every hour on the hour, starting at dusk – for a full five minutes, the lights twinkle, ramping up the magical factor another notch!
9. Visit a museum on the first Sunday of each month
On the first Sunday of every month, you’ll find an astounding amount of Paris’ top attractions are completely free. If you time your trip right, you’ll find yourself wandering into museums such as Musee d’Orsay, Musee National Picasso and the Musee National d’Art Moderne, among others, absolutely free of charge. Even better, you’ll find that from November to March some of Paris’ most visited attractions are also free on the first Sunday of the month, such as the Arc de Triomphe, Sainte Chapelle, and even the Chateau de Versailles! For full details, check out this list of free museums and monuments in Paris.
10. Wander along the Seine with a baguette in hand
As quintessentially Parisian and as cliched as you can get, a trip to Paris isn’t complete unless you wander down the Seine with a baguette in hand simply soaking in the atmosphere. Some of the most wonderful things to do in Paris are totally free and not to be missed, and this is one of them. From the banks of the Seine, you’ll be able to take in your surroundings at your own pace, wandering past iconic landmarks such as the Pont des Arts, the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, Pont Alexandre III, Notre Dame and even the Iron Lady, the Eiffel Tower, herself.
Paris really is a wonderful city and doesn’t need to cost the earth if you plan your trip carefully. Be sure to research the days that you can enjoy free entry to certain attractions and don’t forget to wander, get lost and take in the beautiful architecture and magical atmosphere of one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. Paris will always have my heart! I can’t wait to return.