Navigating Paris on a Budget (+Photos)

As a self-proclaimed off-the-beaten-path traveler, Paris was never high up on my list of places to visit. After hearing nothing but bad reviews, I was quite skeptical, to say the least, but with a few spare days in Western Europe, I decided to take the plunge.

Armed with the preconceived notion that everything would be overpriced and dirty, I set off to the City of Lights expecting the worst and hoping for the best. Spoiler alert: it was the best!

But I made it my mission to still do Paris my way, i.e. on a budget. This meant foregoing shopping trips down the Champs-Élysées or entry tickets to the Eiffel Tower. I wouldn’t be entering my Marie Antoinette era with Versaille-esque accommodation or gold-dusted pastries every day.

Instead, I annoyed locals by walking slowly, sat on every bench overlooking a landmark, and ate my body weight in fromage from Carrefour. So if you want to visit the most popular tourist city in the world while staying true to your penny-pinching roots, I am here to help!

Mastering the Art of Frugal Sightseeing


Let’s kick things off with everyone’s favorite word: FREE. Yes, you read that right. Believe it or not, there are ways to soak up the rich culture and history of Paris without spending a single euro. One of my top recommendations is to take advantage of the numerous free museum days scattered throughout the city. If you are under 26, you are also in luck because there are many more of the big-name museums on offer but sadly, that does not apply to me anymore.

Some of the most popular museums that are free on the 1st Sunday of every month include the Orangerie Museum, the Picasso Museum, and the Museum of Arts and Crafts, although the latter is also free on Thursday night from 6 pm to 9.30 pm.

I planned for one full-price museum ticket in my budget and sadly I made the wrong choice. I booked to see the Louvre but I now know I should have opted for Museu d’Orsay. The Mona Lisa is every bit as overrated as you might think and the rest of the museum is simply too big to appreciate any one exhibit in its entirety.

On the other hand, Orsay has a more manageable size and features many more works by masters like Van Gogh and Matisse. It might be a matter of taste but when on a budget, you want to get as much juice for the squeeze as possible.

Free Attractions

Free Attractions

One of the most amazing places I saw in Paris was Sante Chapelle with its explosion of stained glass windows that simply takes your breath away. This usually costs €13 per person which is pretty steep considering you only enter one room but it is also free on the first Sunday of January, February, March, November, and December.

That being said, there are free attractions too! One of my favorites was Père Lachaise Cemetery, a piece of land larger than the Vatican where you can go on a hunt for famous graves like Chopin, Jim Morrison, and Edith Piaf. This might also be the quietest spot in Paris so if you are a bit travel-tired, take a break in its shady lanes.

Sacré Coeur, the iconic monastery atop Montmartre is also free and the steps in front of the church offer a great spot for sunset but run when you see the bracelet people coming! IYKYK…

Al Fresco Dining Done Right

Fresco Dining

Forget overpriced tourist traps and mediocre chain restaurants (although McDonalds in France has some of the best sorbet in the world)—some of the best culinary experiences in Paris can be found right on the streets.

Instead of splurging on fancy sit-down meals, I opted for a budget-friendly al fresco lunch sourced from local shops and markets. I wanted nothing more than to break open a baguette on the banks of the Seine and this was every bit as romantic as I had imagined.

Supermarkets in France are a pretty magical place for charcuterie lovers like me with fridges overflowing with cheese and meats, dips, and breads. For under €5, you can easily assemble a lunch of champions, and enjoy it in some of the most idyllic spots.

Père Lachaise Cemetery

Find a spot on the lawns of the Eiffel Tower, find a riverside spot overlooking Notre Dame, or dine with the ghost of Edith Piaf in Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Let’s also talk about everyone’s favorite topic: wine. This lifeblood of France flows freely and abundantly throughout the land. While it’s no secret that Paris is home to some of the world’s finest wines, you don’t need to break the bank to enjoy a glass or two (or three).


Instead of splurging on pricey bottles at fancy wine bars, why not channel your inner bon vivant and partake in the time-honored tradition of drinking next to the Seine?

Grab a bottle of budget-friendly wine from a local grocery store or market and head to one of Paris’s many scenic spots for a leisurely riverside rendezvous. Just be sure to familiarize yourself with the city’s public alcohol consumption laws to avoid any run-ins with the gendarmes.

But for the most part, public consumption (not intoxication!) is allowed and the scores of locals gathering on the river banks is a vibe like no other.

Navigating Public Transport Like a Parisian Pro

Public Transport

The Paris metro is a labyrinthine network of tunnels and trains that can either be your best friend or your worst enemy, depending on how well you navigate it. While purchasing a tourist ticket may seem like a convenient option, savvy travelers know that local tickets often offer better value for money.

That being said, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking you NEED a transport ticket, but in Paris, that was not the case. With the majority of Paris’s attractions within walking distance of each other, you’ll find that pounding the pavement is often the most economical and enjoyable way to explore the city.

Public Transport

A Paris Visite travel pass costs just under €7 per day but if you buy the Navigo Liberté +, for example, it grants unlimited access to buses, trams, and metro lines within certain zones at a fraction of the cost of its tourist-oriented counterparts.

One ride on this ticket costs only €1.73 per ride with a cap of €8.65 and I rarely took public transport more than once or twice a day. It was always a last resort when my feet completely gave up or I was drunk on cheese and bread.

There is one train ride you simply HAVE to take though. When you visit the Eiffel Tower for the first time, take Line 6 to Bir-Hakeim station and sit on the left side of the train. You will be treated to a fantastic first glance of the tower which is the kind of core memory I live for.

Sign up for Fun and Free Events

Free Events

In the age of digital connectivity, harnessing the power of event discovery platforms like Eventbrite and Meetup can be a game-changer for budget-conscious travelers exploring Paris.

With just a few taps on your smartphone, you can unlock a treasure trove of free events, ranging from cultural workshops and language exchanges to outdoor yoga sessions and guided walking tours.

Whether you’re looking to immerse yourself in the local arts scene, connect with like-minded individuals, or simply discover hidden gems off the tourist trail, these apps offer a convenient and cost-effective way to enrich your Parisian experience without spending a dime.

So why not expand your horizons, broaden your social circle, and uncover new adventures waiting to be explored?

These are also great for solo travelers as there are frequent meetups for English speakers, comedy nights, open mic concerts, and more. These events put a much-needed local spin on your experience and you might even walk away with a new friend or five!

Paris Plage

Paris is also teeming with free events during the summer, especially open-air music programs. This city takes culture seriously and you will always find an event to sink your teeth into. Look out for the Cinéma en Plein Air, Paris Jazz Festival shows, and Kiosques en fête concerts in the parks.

Another favorite amongst locals is the artificial beaches that pop up next to the Seine. They are every bit as out of place as you might think but this oddity is a must-try if you enjoy the European summer sun.

There’s Always Free Walking Tours

Free Walking Tours

There probably isn’t a better money-saving tip than taking a free walking tour. These tours are led by locals and my favorite part is when they give recommendations at the end of the tour because these are the kind of things you won’t read about in Lonely Planet.

They will teach you to skip the 5 for €2 Eiffel keychains and rather scavenge thrifty markets, they will tell you where the best local eateries are, and which tourist traps to avoid. Although you are expected to give your guide a little tip at the end, it is still a nominal fee compared to other pre-booked and private tours.

Free Walking Tours

There are several free walking tours to choose from too! Are you an architecture lover or a history nerd, or perhaps you want to see all the Emily in Paris filming locations?

If you are a group of people I would suggest buying a Paris mobile scavenger hunt for a great time. These hunts are less than €10 and the whole group can play with one purchase.

You will be sent on a scavenger hunt around the city with clues and riddles, sending you to the most famous monuments and sites. These games are designed to entertain and inform you and you can pause it any time you want to spend some more time at one of the stops.

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