It’s no secret that the City of Lights is also one of the most expensive in the world. Never fear, frugal travelers.
With a bit of creativity, it’s possible experience all of what Paris has to offer on the cheap. Here are some suggestions.
Where to stay:
In addition to checking out alternative discount lodging options (housing swaps, vacation rentals, couch surfing), here is a very abbreviated list of reasonably priced places to stay in Paris.
Hôtel Séjour Beaubourg, 36 Rue du Grenier St-Lazare, has clean, bright rooms with private bathrooms and showers starting at 60 euros a night. Hôtel du Commerce is a cross between a hotel and a hostel (only 3 of the hotel’s 32 rooms have a private bathroom and shower). Rooms here go for as little as 40 euros per night. Absolute Hotel Paris is another hotel/hostel hybrid located at 1 Rue de la Fontaine au Roi. There are quad, triple or double rooms for as little as 30 euros per night. Each room has its own bathroom and shower. Hôtel du Nord et de l’Est, 49 Rue De Malte, is a cozy 2-star hotel with rooms starting at 50 euros a night.
What to do:
There are a variety of free, interesting things to do in Paris. Keep in mind that most museums offer free or discounted admission prices for children and students (as is the case in other European countries, most museums are closed on Mondays). Here are a couple of suggestions for interesting (free) ways to spend an afternoon.
One of my favorite “budget activities” to do in Paris is to pick a neighborhood and simply wander around. This is one of the best ways to really get to know a city’s history and culture. Paris’ oldest neighborhood, Le Marais, is located on the Right bank of the Seine river. This is where you’ll find the oldest private residence in Paris (from the early 15th century), located on the Rue de Montmorency. It’s a wonderful area to stroll around and relatively easy to navigate.
History buffs will love the Arenes de Lutece, 47 rue Monge et rue de Navarre (Métro: Place Monge, Jussieu, Cardinal Lemoine), located in the 5th arrondissement. Hours: Daily 8AM – 5.30PM (winter), 8AM – 10PM (summer). This impressive ancient Roman theater is one of two that have survived over the years in Paris (the other being Thermes de Cluny). Spend the afternoon in this lovely archeological park to get away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the city. Admission is always free.
Located in Paris’ 6th arrondissement, the 55-acre Jardins de Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens) is free and open to the public. Amidst the impressive landscape architecture comprised of gravel walkways, grassy expanses, and large pools and fountains, you’ll find the French Senate, which is housed in the luxurious Palais du Luxembourg. It’s not just tourists who flock to the Jardins de Luxembourg. You’ll see many Parisians strolling around or enjoying a picnic here as well. Admission is always free.
Where to eat:
No doubt that Paris is a haven for foodies. See: eating cheaply in Paris. However, you don’t need to fork over the big bucks in a Michelin star restaurant to have a great culinary adventure in Paris. Street vendors selling crêpes, gaufres (large waffles), and long sandwiches made of baguettes are ubiquitous. One of my favorite “foodie on a budget” activities in Paris is buying fresh fruit, cheese, baguettes and a bottle of wine at a local open-air market (or at one of the specialty shops along Rue Mouffetard) and going on a picnic along the banks of the Seine river.