Paris is a tourist sanctuary sought out by jet-setters from across the globe. The sizable city has a never-ending amount of things to see, do, try and experience, so many that you probably have to pick and choose in order to save your wallet. We have a guide for travelers that want to experience Paris’s best attractions without paying a premium price.
Right now, anywhere in the US, flights to Paris can cost as little as $350 roundtrip. The pricing is obviously determined by peak seasons, specific dates and other factors but if you plan your trip accordingly you can travel across the globe to this renowned destination for that lil price of $350.
For all of our Minnesotans, you can fly direct to Paris from MSP on Delta / AirFrance for close to $600, while Icelandair can get you there for that $350 price point with a short layover in Iceland.
Skyscanner is a favorite of mine, it is a booking tool that offers you the cheapest fares from all airlines. Be sure to check duration, some of the cheaper flights can trick you with long flight times and layovers. I also use Scott’s Cheap Flights email subscription which sends direct emails about rare deals happening for a limited time. Hopper is another great site that will tell you best times to fly for the best deals.
Getting around Paris is pretty simple, the city has a solid transportation system with the metro, bus, and tramway services offered. It seems that Parisians despise using cars, the downfall of the public transit system in the City of Lights is how many people use it. The overcrowded, steamy rides can cause a lot of discomfort and unpleasant experiences, but I recommend it if you want to save money.
Take the RER from the airport to the city, this will cost you around 10 EUROS, do not take a cab.
TICKETS TO BUY
This ticket is good for one ride on the RER, Metro or bus within Paris (in zones 1-2), this also includes transfers. Unless you are transferring from one type of transport to the other, the transfer can be used on the same ticket. These tickets will not work on transport services to and from the airports.
TICKET COSTS: 1.65 EUROS for one ticket, 13.50 EUROS for ten tickets
PARIS VISITE PASS
This pass allows unlimited travel in Paris, it is great if you are planning to stay in Paris between 1-5 days and will be taking trips outside of the central area. That would include airport travel and Paris’s greater regions. As mentioned before, you can also receive discounted rates into museums and hot attractions. Tickets for Zones 1-5: if you want to travel to Versailles or Disneyland Paris Tickets for Zones 1-8: extends to all regions of Paris.
COSTS: prices vary
These can be purchased for a day pass or week pass. The passes for these will vary between zones but a one day pass will range from 6.50 EUROS to 16 EUROS while weekly passes range from 20-40 EUROS. These allow unlimited travel in and around Paris.
There is plenty to see in this city and exploring it on foot is the best way to see it all. This is the most cost-efficient way to travel throughout Paris but is obviously not ideal. Paris is huge and you will learn that quickly on your first trek across it. My tip is to do this on days you are just meandering around the city, it will give you the chance to see more of Paris and fall upon some unique spots. If you stay on the main drag, it typically isn’t too hard to find your way around. We would map out our destination before leaving the hotel and take screenshots, makes for a little guided map in case you do lose your way.
UBER / CAB
Always a good option for going out or traveling to un-walkable places. Also a good option for groups of 4 or more, splitting Uber rides will cost you a minimum throughout the city.
MOST BUDGET FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOODS
CHOOSING A LOCATION
Paris is comprised of 20 Arrondissments, each offering something unique. Some host luxury accommodation and upscale shopping, while others thrive in the action close to everything with unique cafes and bake shops. Going to Paris without any idea what to expect or where to stay can be stressful as hell, on top of it you might get stuck in a neighborhood that isn’t so budget friendly. Out of the 20, these are the most budget friendly neighborhoods to consider when selecting where to stay.
1ST & 2ND ARRONDISSMENTS – NEAR THE LOUVRE & TUILERIES GARDEN
Paris’s staples, the famous Louvre Museum is found in the 1ST and the entirety of this area takes claim to your typical Parisian scene. From the French architecture to the luxury gardens and river Seine, everything looks straight out of an ad for Chanel. And honestly the ad was probably shot here.
RECOMMENDED HOTELS: Hôtel Des Grands Boulevards, Hôtel Grand Amour (closer to 9th but still in the area), Hôtel Royal Madeleine (between 1st and 8th), Hôtel Therese, Hôtel Adèle & Jules, Hotel Providence, The Hoxton
4TH ARRONDISSMENT – LE MARAIS
RECOMMENDED HOTELS: Hotel du Petit Moulin, Saintonge, Le Pavillon de la Reine – Place des Vosges, Hôtel Emile
5TH ARRONDISSMENT – THE LATIN QUARTER
This area is heavily populated by students and is a centrally located budget hub. Not only is the accommodation cost incredibly low here, the neighborhood features budget friendly food options as well as youthful bars with great deals.
RECOMMENDED HOTELS: Hotel Europe Saint Severin, Hotel Monge, Hotel des Grand Hommes,
6TH ARRONDISSMENT – SAINT-GERMAIN-des-PRÉS
RECOMMENDED HOTELS: Hôtel de Lille, Hotel Verneuil Saint Germain, Millésime Hôtel
7TH ARRONDISSMENT – THE EIFFEL TOWER
The neighborhood that will get you the closest to Paris’s main attraction is Arrondissment 7. Hotels range from $75 USD to $200 USD.
RECOMMENDED HOTEL: Hôtel Eiffel Turenne 3 étoiles
8TH ARRONDISSMENT – CHAMPS ELYSÉES
RECOMMENDED HOTEL: Hôtel La Maison Champs Elysées, Hôtel Pastel, Hôtel du Rond-Point des Champs-Elysées – Esprit de France
14TH ARRONDISSMENT – MONTPARNASSE
RECOMMENDED HOTELS: Hôtel Okko, Hôtel Henriette
18TH ARRONDISSMENT – MONTMARTRE
The 18th Arrondisment is considered the busiest and most ideal location to stay in Paris. What causes the heavy attraction? The pricing, local artisan vibes and fun activity. From cozy cafes to live street performers, there is a great deal of things to enjoy and do here. And you are close to pretty much everything you want to see.
RECOMMENDED HOTELS: Hôtel Basss, Le Regent Montmartre
Paris is the perfect destination to experience some of the most cultural activities at a low cost or even no cost. Any street you stroll or corner you turn will be perfectly artistic, historic and authentic to France. Here is a short list of ideas for free or budget friendly activities in Paris.
1. Take a stroll through Marais Neighborhood
Located in the 1st ARR., this is one of the oldest and chicest districts in all of Paris. A friendly tip that on Sundays this area is closed to cars on Sundays which makes for a very busy area. While here visit Place Des Vosges, one of the few squares you can sit in the grass and hang with the locals.
2. Travel up the hill to Montmartre
Located in the 18th ARR. the north section of the city you will see a church on top of the hill. In this area you will find a quaint neighborhood with local shops, restaurants and stunning views overlooking Paris. A must SEE!
3. A green walk through Promenade Plantee
This is an unusual recommendation to many, but this walk is extraordinary and is not your typical park. This park is elevated through trees, vines, and visually appealing elements. If you have been to Paris before and are looking for something different this is a place to check out.
4. Picnic in Champs de Mars
In between the Eiffel Tower and École Militaire you will find a large green-space where everyone hangs out and picnics before the tower lights up at night. A place where you can walk, relax, hang out and watch everything happen in front of you. During the Summer Months this is lively filled with locals, tourists and vendors selling you everything from souvenirs, a new outfit and even wine/beer for your date.
5. Go inside the Notre Dame (CLOSED)
Although this may seem like a tourist trap to most, if you have never been here, it is a must see. And if you are looking for ways to get there, I would highly recommend the walk. Located in the 4th ARR. you can find flower markets, street vendors and amazing crepes stands on your way. The music fills the streets and you truly get a feel for Paris Gothic Architecture.
Sadly, since writing this post and as many of you know, Notre Dame caught fire in April 2019 and will be closed for the next five to six years. It is devastating news, but supporting the landmark is encouraged by locals so stopping by can still be on your list.
6. Visit the Opera House
Again, I am not a huge fan of “tourist traps” so they say, but going back to Paris for a second time, this was one of my favorite attractions. You have to pay to get in, but seeing the inside of the theatre, the art on the walls and architecture was all worth it. I am a fan of history and story-telling, so when our guide told us the plays and show that went on was not the main reason people attended I was intrigued.
Back then it was a matter of who came, who they came with, where they sat and what they were wearing. The history and story of “The Phantom of the Opera” truly ties everything together and made the visit all the better.
7. Shop in the authentic second hand stores of Paris
There are many shops and department stores throughout the city, but as we know it, these stores are expensive for the traveler. For a unique experience you can shop in Chine Machine and Voiture Simone. Both of these boutique stores offer second hand authentic French clothing. Something different for your shopping experience in Paris.
Of course there is more for you to do and see in Paris, but we imagine you know or have seen the main attractions. For those that haven’t, we have a full Guide to Paris. Here are Paris’ main attractions that you can also do for little to no cost.
1. Eiffel Tower
To see this world renowned structure is free, to go up in it is not. It is also super crowded and the lines are ridiculously long. I recommend grabbing a bottle of wine at sunset and hunkering down near its base, the view will leave you astonished
There are also many streets and viewpoints for you see her light up at night. Some of these include: Trocadero, a Seine River Cruise, Pont De La Concorde (a bridge that crosses over the Seine River), Avenue de Suffren (a nice road with a clear vantage point, great for photos).
2. Arc De Triomphe
Free to see and an easy walk from pretty much anywhere. To get underneath the arch, find the stairs to the train station along the sidewalks on the roundabouts, you will be lead to the bottom for an incredible view and experience.
3. Galleria Lafayette
Whether you are fond of “tourist traps” or not, this place is absolutely amazing, especially during the Christmas season. The French department store has over 6 floors with a rooftop restaurant overlooking the city for a cheap rate (free).
4. Bastille Square
A meeting point for many young adults looking for something cheap to eat. More specifically and historically the location of the Bastille Prison of French Revolution fame. The square, like in many big cities, is full of cafes, bars, restaurants, an Opera House, transportation options and nightlife.
5. The Louvre
As many know, even those who have never been to Paris, the Louvre is a ‘tourist attraction’ for not just those that have a particular interest in Art and History. This is the central landmark in the city, the world’s largest art museum and a historic monument surrounded by beautiful architecture. If you don’t know an appreciation for art and world history, I’m sure you will find some in that. A site that needs to be seen.
Last is our cheap food guide to Paris, see here for our full list.