There are so many ways to break the bank while in Paris, why not give your wallet some time off and enjoy these cheaper options, while still getting the best of this city?
Sure, there are amazing places to stay in Paris, and there are even less-than-amazing places that can still cost a small fortune. By opting for a week in Paris, the rates on Airbnb can be reasonable, especially for two. For just over $250CDN we had ourselves a room. This is not luxury accommodation, and the apartment was teeny tiny, shared with a Parisian business student. But remember – Paris is not where you come to stay inside. If you can get a place with a fridge and a hot plate or microwave, you’ll be able to cook, saving big on food costs.
If you haven’t seen enough art in your life, by all means check out some of the many galleries in Paris. If you’re like us, though, maybe one is enough. Some Paris museums and galleries are free all day, all the time, like author Victor Hugo’s house, or the Musée Curie (Institut du Radium), home to Marie Curie’s laboratory and chemistry lab. In the off season (Oct. 1-Mar. 31), the Louvre offers free entry on the first Sunday of the month. The Musée d’Orsay is open for free the first Sunday of the month, all year round. A whole list of free entry times for Paris museums and galleries is availablehere.
If you want to get inside the Louvre but are not loving the massive line, try entering via the Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre Metro stop. You may need a Metro ticket to get in, but it’s much cheaper than the entrance fee for the gallery. Once inside, there is a beautiful tiled mall leading to the museum, and you are able to see some art, purchase postcards and people-watch from indoors.
The Pompidou Centre is also accessible without paying a cent, and although you won’t be able to view any of the exhibits, the building itself is fascinating (all of the internal workings are on the outside of the structure, colour coded for plumbing, electricity, etc.). The gift shop is full of interesting books and home decor, you can see some art in the lobby. The grounds outside are often filled with buskers, and just around the corner is a little music themed water feature.
(3) Restaurant meals
Main entrées in Paris restaurants can be a huge drain on finances. Not that they aren’t delicious, and if you’re feeling flush, by all means eat away. But if you’re feeling strapped, skip the entrée, and go straight for shared appetizers. Oeuf mayonnaise (hard boiled eggs with French mayo), soupe à l’oignon (French onion soup), salads, and other specialties are all a fraction of the cost of a main dish, and perfect for sharing. Bread is often included with the meal, and coffee at a restaurant is a special treat, so sharing starters saves not only money, but room for dessert.
Our favourite stopping place is L’As du Fallafel at on Rue des Rosiers, in the Marais. The falafels are excellent, and if you eat in, not only is it super speedy, but the atmosphere is really something to see. We took our dinner to go – even though it was raining – and ate them under a tent at a market. The falafels are massive, so sharing is definitely possible. Vegetarian friendly! Of course, picnicking is always an option, either in your AirBnB as we did, or in one of the many parks of Paris.
(4) Eiffel Tower
For me, the Eiffel Tower is no match for the Arc de Triomphe. The view isn’t as good, the crowds are bigger, and the touristy-ness doesn’t do it for me. But if it’s on the top of your list, save by taking the stairs the first two floors, visit at the end of the day as the sun goes down, and really make sure you want to go all the way to the top (not for those who are remotely afraid of heights).
Once you’re up, take your time. There is no limit on how long you can stay, and make sure to ask a fellow tourist to take your photo. Sure, selfie sticks are great, but if you’ve gone all the way up, get a proper photo. Seriously.
The entrepreneurial Parisians would love to sell all you English tourists cheap souvenirs for triple their worth. Instead of indulging in a plastic Eiffel Tower model, try grocery stores for chocolate, funny snacks, and drink mixes to bring back (check your customs policies first – usually animal products, fruit and veg, and other related items are not allowed back into your home country). The department store Monoprix has everything from groceries to clothing to colouring books and stationary, and for kids especially has loads of fun activities to entertain on the plane, and they are guaranteed to be different from what you’d see at home. Outside of the touristy neighbourhoods, dollar stores are common, and have similar offerings, perfect for bringing back for a large group of family or friends.