People tend to say that Paris is an expensive city but it all depends on how you go about things. Of course, help from a local is ideal to know the best places to see and where to go out for a nice meal and avoiding the tourist traps. I've put together a list of 10 wonderful things that you can enjoy in Paris for free and which will leave you feeling as though you've really connected with the city.
1. Admire the view from the top of the Galeries Lafayette
In addition to being such a beautiful department store, the Galeries Lafayette offers a spectacular panoramic view over Paris from its large rooftop with you can freely access. From my picture alone you can already see the Eiffel Tower, Madeleine, Grand Palais, Invalides... There's even a bar if you want to enjoy the view with a drink. Another free thing to do at the store is to watch a fashion show on their 4th floor on Fridays, however you do need to reserve in advance as places are limited - start by registering here.
2. Find a secret covered passage
There are several stunning covered arcades in the heart of Paris for you to discover for free. Many of them are quite close to each other by the Palais Royal and on the Grands Boulevards. My favourite one of all is the Galerie Vivienne, as pictured above and built in 1823, because the decor is so luxurious and I love the mosaic floor. It makes you think of how shopping must have been a different type of event back then compared to how we shop today... Find the list of Parisian passages here.
3. Enjoy a walk in the Jardin du Luxembourg
Located in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens should be on the top of your list of places to visit in the French capital. The gardens are always in immaculate condition regardless of the season and the flower beds are simply out of this world. You can enjoy a peaceful walk through the French and English gardens and the forest, past the large pond and admire all the statues that are dispersed around the gardens. You can also go to the Organgerie or to the Pavillon Davioud for temporary exhibitions (free entrance).
4. Go inside Notre-Dame
Notre-Dame is THE cathedral of Paris and one of the largest and most visited in the world for its spectacular gothic architecture. Both the outside and the inside of the cathedral are beautiful and are free to visit. If you're feeling in top shape then you should climb the 422 narrow steps to admire the panoramic view over Paris from the top (Adult - 10€ / Under 18- free - more info)
5. Walk the Coulée Verte
Also known as the Promenade Plantée, this elevated parkway (4.7km long) in the 12th arrondissement of Paris used to be the Vincennes railway line. It will probably remind you of the High Line in NYC if you've already been although the Coulée Verte was built first. I suggest going from the elevated west side next to Bastille towards the Jardin de Reuilly and continuing on the street level towards the Bois de Vincennes park if you're feeling up for it.
6. Get a glimpse of the colourful shops along the Canal Saint-Martin
The Canal Saint-Martin is the young and trendy neighbourhood in Paris. You can stroll along the canal, enjoy an aperitif there amongst the Parisians, go shopping at the quirky boutiques and have some great meals at the restaurants run by young locals. I particularly love the colourful front of the Antoine & Lili shops.
7. Discover the Père-Lachaise cemetery
I must say, I'm not someone to generally visit cemeteries but the Père-Lachaise in the 20th arrondissement of Paris is rather unique. It's very calm and is beautifully laid-out. These pictures were taken during the Autumn so you can see how lovely it is with all the colourful leaves on the ground. It's so peaceful and once you're there you do forget that it's actually a cemetery. It's a popular place to visit in Paris as famous people, such as Oscar Wilde and Edith Piaf were buried there - more info
8. Go window-shopping on the rue Saint-Honoré
Despite being one of the most expensive streets with all the top designer shops (Dior, Chanel Gucci, etc.), you can still enjoy walking along the rue Saint-Honoré and admiring the pieces displayed in the windows. I go down this street every day on my way to work so I have a personal soft spot for it. In addition to the designer shops, there are some lovely churches, patisseries and small boutiques to discover.
9. Visit a museum
There are so many amazing museums in Paris and the great thing is that on the 1st Sunday of every month many of them offer free entrance, such as the Musée de l'Orangerie, Musée d'Orsay, Musée Picasso, Centre Pompidou, Petit Palais, and the Musée du Quai Branly. For the Louvre, this is only from 1st October to 31st March. Many also offer free entrance on any day to EU nationals under 26 and teachers – more info
10. Stroll along the Seine
There's nothing better than just strolling along the Seine river. There are so many important landmarks on the way that you will probably be stopping a lot to admire them or to take pictures. On nice sunny days people make the most to go out for picnics somewhere along the river so keep that in mind if you want to blend in.
And to think that all of these things are for free... Who said Paris had to be expensive?!
Do you know of any other cool free things to do in Paris?
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English and French wanderer. Based in Paris. Tasting the world through one escape to another...