Paris is a beautiful city. It is no wonder that it is on everyone’s bucket list and it gets so many visitors every year. There are so many big attractions to see and the city itself is so elegant and impressive.
Here are my tips to get the most out of Paris on a budget.
Make sure you look beyond the major sites. Paris is full of secret squares, courtyards and gardens. Whilst most of the tourists are focused on Jardin des Tuileries near the Louvre, not far away is the beautiful and quite hidden, Place du Palais Royale. It’s extremely pretty and a real treasure to find such a garden in a big city. Here is another example, check out this picture of a lovely backgarden behind some flats in Marais.
Many of the museums are free on the first Sunday of the month. If you are there, take advantage of it. We checked out the Lourve and Musee Rodin. Whilst the two big name museums, the Lourve and Musee d’Orsay in Paris are astoundingly beautiful and on the “must do” list, the smaller ones can be real gems too. We went to Musee Rodin and found that the sculptures of Rodin are displayed in a beautiful garden setting. It made a lovely change from having rooms packed full of masterpieces bombarding the eye. Wandering about the gardens and coming across Rodin sculptures has a different kind of magic to it.
Take advantage of the large number of free museums. We went to three and I would recommend all of them.
- Musee Curie which covers the life, work and legacy of Marie Curie, a physicist and chemist with two Nobel prizes to her name.
- Musee Carnavalet which is dedicated to the history of Paris. Whilst the displays are interesting, the building and gardens are something to behold too.
- Le Petit Palais, which houses the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts. It houses many beautiful artworks but it was the building that was really special. The stunning Le Petit Palais building would be jewel of another city, yet in Paris it is the baby sister to the Grand Palais next to it which is bigger and more grand.
Take a “tips only” walking tour. These walking tours are advertised as “FREE” but really, at the end, you should really tip the guide if he/she wasn’t utterly terrible. They are never really awful because their incentive is to maximise your tip. We often find the guides are incredibly knowledgable, enthusiastic and have a true love for the city. It’s a good value way to learn some history and get taken to some unexpected places you would never have known existed.
Stroll around Paris and don’t forget to look up! Paris is a very walkable city. Go for a stroll, and even though it is important to look at where you are going to avoid cars and the inevitable Parisian dog poop, look up too! There seems to always be a stunning building down the street or ornate balcony railings or some architectural detailing which catches the eye.
Don’t come to Paris during peak season. Even in October, which is the end of shoulder season, the main attractions have a lot of people. I still had to stand in line to get into the Musee d’Orsay for more than an hour. I shudder to think how long the line would have been in July or how hot it would have been to stand for hours in the sweltering summer sun.
Don’t miss Musee d’Orsay. Even if you have to wait an hour and pay to get in! Visit it!
Keep your wits about you and watch your stuff at the big attractions. We encountered groups of youths at all the big sites with fake petitions trying to separate tourists from their hard earned money. The way it works is they end up pressuring you for a donation (which they will keep) or just pickpocket you when they get a chance.
It really astounds me how the authorities let such blatant scams persist out in the open at such a major tourist destination.
Stay a few extra days. There are so many worthwhile sites to take in. If you rush through Paris in 3 days or less, you won’t get a chance to relax and enjoy the beauty of this city.
Self cater to save money in Paris. The cost of food can add up in Paris if you are eating out all the time. Where possible, self cater from a local supermarket to save some money. How about grabbing some delicious fresh baguette and French cheese and enjoy a picnic in one of Paris’ many delightful parks? Other cheaper options for food include ethnic food, crepes and falafel. The falafal pita that I had from the L’As Du Fallafal was delish! The fallafal balls were so fragrant and beautifully spiced! Bites of heaven! Swoon!
If you do decide to eat in a restaurant, look for the ‘Formule‘ (two or three course set menu) which is a much better deal than ordering a la carte.
Don’t follow the herd. Paris is a city full of tourists but if you “zig” when other people are “zagging”, you can hopefully minimise these annoying crowds. For example, whilst everyone else is trying to get a photo of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, go to some other wing of the museum to find a masterpiece that delights you.
Paris is an enchanting city with plenty to do and see. These photos really don’t do it justice. I hope you have found some of these tips helpful and you have a chance to make your own cherished memories in this handsome city.