The 43 Best Things To Do In Paris For Under €20 | Budget City Guide
Updated: Dec 1, 2020
I went to Paris in 2016 on a spur of the moment trip and like most people, fell in love. My best friend was turning 21, so what else were we to do other than book tickets to the Moulin Rouge and jump on the Eurostar for a spontaneous Parisian weekend? The city of love, landmarks and the Louvre, Paris is famous for so many different reasons; but what you might not know is that there are a lot of things you can do for free/ on a tight budget while you're there (which as always we had to do because we'd booked so last minute and had no time to save).
Usually when I do these free/ cheap posts my upper budget is £20, or the equivalent in which ever currency we're using, but after researching the exact costs of everything we did, as well as the stuff we didn't get the chance to do, it seems as though pretty much everything is below €20. (The one thing I couldn't find at a below €20 rate was the Catacombs of Paris) How amazing is that?
As great as this is for our bank accounts, it makes things a little harder to list in blog form. And so today we have a new layout: I've broken down everything worth doing in Paris into sections of similar activities. These sections are going to be listed from the free options, up to the more expensive (but still in our budget) options, in hopes that it will help you decide which areas to spend that bit more money on. Anyway, enough rambling, let's get started!
First off, let's talk about the most famous things to do in this beautiful city:
The Eiffel Tower
Adult Tickets From €10.40, Youth Discounts Available. Ah yes, the most recognized landmark in the whole city. Considering how famous it is, tickets for the Eiffel Tower actually start at very reasonable prices. For €10.40 you can go up to the second floor viewing platform, but be aware that for this price you have to hike up the 674 steps to get there. A ticket to use the lift will cost you considerably more at €16.60. If you want to go all the way to the top, expect to pay almost double this price at €19.70 to do the stairs + lift, or €25.90 to get the top via lift alone. Obviously there are lots of factors that may affect which ticket you go for, whether it be fitness level, time restraints or budget, but another thing to note is that 'young people' aged 12-24 can actually get each ticket at nearly half price. Check out these prices or book your advance tickets here.
The Arc de Triomphe
€13, Free Entry Options Available. While a lot of people tend to visit this famous archway just to marvel at it from the ground, you can actually go up to the top of it for beautiful panoramic views of Paris. Tickets to do this will usually cost €13, however, and that's a big however! If you are a European resident under the age of 25, you can get a ticket completely for free (booked ticket still needed)! Also note that proof of age AND residency will need to be shown at the gate or they will flat out refuse entry. The Arc de Triomphe is also completely free for everyone on the first Sunday of the month, for the months between and including November- March. Find out more or book your tickets here.
€17 Online/ €15 At The Door, Free Entry Options Available. If you've ever been to Paris before, you'll know why door tickets are so much cheaper: it's because you'll likely be in the queue for hours just to get one. If you're choosing between these two prices, I would definitely spend the extra €2 on an advance ticket if you can, however, there are more great budget options to look at too! The Louvre has a whole list of exemptions that can be used to get free tickets. Some of the reasons that I reckon are the most viable for you lot are: If you are 18-25 years old and from an EU country, Norway, Iceland or Lichtenstein, you can enter for free (booked ticket still needed). It's also free entry to everyone on Bastille Day, or between 6-9:45pm on the first Sunday of every month, all year round. To find out more info or book your tickets, visit their website here.
The Palace of Versailles
From €18, Free Entry Options Available. If you have a cheeky look at photos of this place, it's easy to see why it's one of the most visited attractions in all of Paris. This beautiful palace can be visited for €18 for a timed entry ticket, or €20 for non timed. It will cost you €27 if you want to see a musical fountain show or the musical gardens. However yet again, the youngens can get a great deal. EU citizens under the age of 26 can enter the palace AND the Estate of Trianon for completely free (booked ticket still needed), and so can all visitors under the age of 18. To read more or book tickets, browse their website here.
From €18. You may not know the tower, but you'll know the view. All the famous photos taken of Paris from a height, with the Eiffel Tower in the centre, are taken from right here. A ticket to up to the observation deck here will set you back €18, or €15 for under 18's and students (booked ticket still needed). Book your tickets here.
Free Tours By Foot
Free. If you want to see all or at least most of the famous landmarks from the outside only, why not do it on a walking tour. Free Tours By Foot is a great website that I've mentioned on here before, as they list all of the free tours you can do in various cities around the world, Paris included. Tours are a great way to meet people, get your bearings and learn more about the city all at the same time, so make sure you check out the options for Paris on their website here.
Now, how about some general areas that you need to visit during your trip:
Free. Famous for its artistic history, Montmarte is a bohemian dream. Here you can find the Sacré-Cœur, the famous Wall of Love, Place du Tertre or "Painters' Square", streets filled with incredible graffiti and the Moulin Rouge, as well as various other sex shops and night clubs. It was also one of the main filming locations for the film Midnight in Paris, so any fans of the classic RomCom will surely love it here.
Wander Through La Marais
Free. This is the most fashionable area of Paris; the whole neighborhood is just gorgeous and filled with hip boutiques, galleries and gay bars. The area also used to be known as the Jewish Quarter, and most of the restaurants and bars still serve lots of Kosher options if you need it!
Discover The Latin Quarter
Free. This quaint corner of Paris is filled with cheap cafes, independent bookshops and hidden squares, all entangled within it's medieval maze of winding streets. Spend an afternoon here exploring the St Michel District and the Old Sorbonne University. Famous landmarks such as the Pantheon and Arènes de Lutèce can be found here too, but more on those later..
Museums & Galleries
Musée de la Vie romantique
Free. Translating to the "Museum of Romatic Life", this beautiful museum and gardens sits at the very bottom of Montmarte. It's housed within the former residence of the famous painter Ary Scheffer, and displays various exhibitions from the romantic period. Entry to the permanent exhibitions is completely free, but note that the museum is closed on Mondays. Browse their website here.
Free. This unique museum is based inside the former Radium Institute and focuses on the history of radiological research and the life of the "family of five Nobel Prizes". If this is something you'd love to see then the good news is it's completely free, however the opening times can be a little hard to work around as it's only open between 1pm-5pm, Wednesday-Saturday. Learn more via their website here. .
Petit Palais (Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris)
Free. The Petit Palais is the fine arts museum of Paris, and it's one of the most beautiful buildings you'll find in the city. It's filled with the City of Paris' collection of paintings and sculptures from as long ago as 1870. Access to permanent exhibitions is completely free, but take note that they are closed on Mondays and public holidays. To learn more, buy temporary exhibit tickets or support the museum, browse their website here.
Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris
Free. The Museum of Modern Art or 'MAM Paris' is dedicated to the contemporary art in Paris that was created in the 20th and 21st Century. Similarly to a lot of museums and galleries in the area, access to permanent exhibits is completely free but they are again closed on Mondays and public holidays. To learn more, you can go to their website here.
€14, Free Entry Options Available. This beautiful museum is built inside an old Beaux-Art train station, and holds French artwork of all kinds from photography to paintings and sculptures. They house work by many famous artists including Monet, Cézanne and Van Gogh, and the view through the clock face on the fifth floor has become one of the most iconic things you can see in Paris. A ticket here will cost you €14, but if you are under 25 and a resident of an EU member state you can access the museum for free (booked ticket still needed). The museum is also free to everyone on the first Sunday of each month. To browse exhibitions, find out more or book tickets, you can view their website here.
€14, Free Entry Options Available. Formally Hôtel national des Invalides. this complex of museums and monuments is dedicated to France's military history, and is famous for being the resting place of Napoleon, whose sarcophagus is buried below the main dome. Entrance to the military museum will cost you €14 but like most others, is free for EU nationals under the age of 26 (booked ticket still needed). Les Invalides is also free for all military personnel. To find out more or book your tickets, check out their website here.
Churches and Monuments:
Free. This beautiful Basilica sits at the top of Montmartre hill and offers incredible panoramic views over Paris. Visits here won't cost you a penny, and you can access the viewing platform in the main dome completely free too (be aware that there is no lift available and it's 300 stairs to the top). To learn more visit the website here.
Free. Although this iconic cathedral is currently closed for repairs after the 2019 fire, I thought I'd pop it on the list, as when it is back up and running it will be free to visit just like before. For now you can still contemplate the beauty of the building or take a photo from the streets of the Ile de la Cité. To learn more or to donate to the Cathedral, visit the website here.
L'église de la Madeleine
Free. This incredible Greek-temple inspired catholic church stands proud on the famous Place de Concorde. It's 52 Corinthian Columns make it very unique and much more majestic than the other churches of Paris, and so is a great one to take some time to visit. For more info browse their website here.
€11.50, Free Entry Options Available. This jaw-dropping Gothic chapel is one of the most stunning sights in all of Paris. Over 1,000 bible stories are depicted across the 15 stained glass windows inside the monument, which is a scene that definitely needs to be seen in real life. A ticket for Sainte-Chapelle will set you back €11.50, however EU Nationals under the age of 26 can enter for free (booked ticket still needed), and the chapel is free to enter for everyone on the first Sunday of the months between and including November-March. To read more or book your ticket, visit the website here.
€11.50, Free Entry Options Available. Modelled after the monument in Rome with the same name, you can find The Panthéon on the top of Montagne Sainte-Geneviève in the Latin Quarter. Initially a church, this monument's use was changed after the French Revolution into a place to honour the French fighters who passed away. You can now visit this historical institution for €11.50, but again EU residents under the age of 26 can enter for free (booked ticket still needed). The Panthéon is also free for all visitors on the first Sunday of the months between and including November- March. Find out more or book your tickets here.
Arènes de Lutèce
Free. This open air theatre was built during the Romans' time in Paris, all the way back in the first century AD. It was used as an amphitheatre and for gladiatorial combat shows, once holding up to 15,000 people. It's completely free to visit today. You can find this incredible piece of history in the heart of the Latin Quarter or visit their website here.
Cimetière du Père-Lachaise
Free. This cemetery is the largest in all of Paris, and is the burial place of world famous names such as Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison. This beautiful yet haunting place is the most visited necropolis in the world, and it's clear to see why. You can wander through the cemetery and pay respects there without spending a penny to enter. Visit the website here for more information.
Cimetière du Montparnasse
Free. Similarly, this cemetery follows closely behind as the second largest in Paris. Great names such as Samuel Beckett can be found buried here, and again it is completely free to visit. You can read more about the cemetery via the website here.
Markets & Shopping
Avenue des Champs-Élysées
Free. Probably the most famous street in Paris, this bustling, shop filled avenue runs from Place de la Concorde up to Place Charles de Gaulle where the Arc de Triomphe stands. You can find stores such as Cartier, Harley Davidson, Louis Vuitton and Sephora here.
Free. This upmarket french department store sits inside one of the most beautiful and over-the-top buildings that you'll ever see. At 3pm every Friday the Lafyette holds free fashion shows on their fourth floor, showcasing the latest trends from world renowned designers such as Coco Chanel, Givenchy and Christian Dior. You can also enjoy a spectacular view of Paris from the 7th floor roof terrace here too. Read more on their website here.
Free. Rue Mouffetard is a street in the 5th arrondissement, Paris' oldest and liveliest neighbourhood. Here you will find a variety of boutique shops, cafes and restaurants, as well as a famous street market every Saturday and Sunday morning. Read more here.
Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen
Free. This brilliant flea market fills out a stretch of alleyways and warehouses on Rue des Rosiers. Here you will find a whole world of antiques, from furniture to prints and fascinating trinkets. Rummaging through here is the perfect way to spend an afternoon, but make note that the market is only open from Saturday-Monday. You can read the TripAdvisor page for the market here.
Shakespeare & Company
Free. This pairing of two independent English-language bookstores is famous around Paris, as well as around the globe. When it first opened it was a Bohemian dream where you could stay over and drink wine out of old cans, and it now serves as the perfect place to buy a memento to take home. All books purchased here will be stamped with the official Shakespeare & Co seal. Find out more via their website here.
Free. Locals and foodies alike flock to this authentic Parisian food market, filled with vendors of all kinds from cheese to spices to flowers. You can find this market on Place s'Aligre near the Bastille. Read more on the TripAdvisor page here.
Marchés de Noël
Free. Aka- the Paris Christmas Markets! This winter wonderland is filled with everything from food vendors and mulled wine, to ferris wheels and live music, with the largest, village-like set up located at the bottom of the Champs-Élysées. The stalls here are unlike anywhere else I've seen with beautiful scenes depicted in each roof, it's a truly magical place to be. Make sure you get yourself over there if you're visiting the city between mid-November and mid-December.
Gardens, Parks & Outdoor Activities
Eiffel Tower Light Show
Free. The Eiffel Tower puts on a public light display every hour, on the hour, from sunset to sunrise. Each light show lasts around 5 minutes, with the whole tower shining like a beacon over all of Paris. It really is a must see during any visit. To find out more, visit the website here.
Place de la Bastille
Free. This square is famously the location of the former Bastille Prison, which stood here for many centuries until it was attacked and destroyed during a violent uprising of the French Revolution. The date of the attack is what is now celebrated as the national day of France, and gives the day it's nickname 'Bastille Day'. The square is a huge part of Parisian history and a great place to visit during any trip.
Promenade des Berges de la Seine
Free. This public park and promenade runs along the left bank of the Seine and boasts five floating gardens as well as performance spaces, cafe's, sports grounds and exhibition areas. The promenade runs between Pont de l'Alma and Musée d'Orsay and is a lovely place to take a stroll after a busy day of sightseeing.
Free. This beautiful waterside space is lined with quirky boutiques and independent cafes, and is where all the locals head on a warm summer day. You can usually find people here playing music, having picnics and sunbathing on the grass, it's the prefect place to relax on a sunny afternoon. There are also water boarding activities and barge tours available on the canal itself.
Promenade Plantée (The Coulée verte René-Dumont)
Free. This linear, elevated park was built on top of the old Vincenne railway bridge back in 1993. You can see many famous sights from the park such as the Bastille Opera House, and it also offers a great panoramic view of the city as a whole. It's a really unique way to experience the city and something I highly recommend doing if you can! Find out more via the website here,
Bois de Buologne
Free. Previously a hunting ground for Parisian royalty, Bois de Buologne is now the largest park in Western Paris boasting 850 hectares of land. Here you can find children's playgrounds, the Jardin d'Acclimatation amusement park, Parc de Bagatelle park and chateau, Jardin des Serres d'Auteuil botanical garden and the Michelin star Pré-Catelan restaurant.
Free. Parc Monceau is in the 8th arrondissement and is the most elegant park in Paris by far. This beautiful botanical world is where you can find the famous Roman style colonnade, as well as other monuments such as the Egyptian Pyramid. I recommend sitting by the pond of water lilies on a clear day and trying to take in the fact that you can be somewhere so peaceful while in one of the busiest capitals of the world.
Champ de Mars
Free. This vast public green space sits directly in front of the Eiffel Tower and is the best place to sit and marvel at the famous landmark. People often gather here to picnic or watch the aforementioned Eiffel Tower Light Show. You can also find the Mur pour la Paix (Wall of Peace) here.
Place de la Concorde
Free. Sitting at the bottom of the Champs-Elysées is the largest square in Paris: Place de la Concorde. Surrounded by prestigious hotels and with great views of Musée d'Orsay from across the Seine, this incredible square is home to the 2 most famous fountains in the city as well as the Luxor Obelisk.
Free. These beautiful gardens take their name from the former tile factories that resided here before the Palais des Tuileries was built in 1564. This luscious area of park is the perfect area to spend an afternoon, as it's tucked away between 3 of Paris' most famous areas: The Louvre, Place de la Concorde and the banks of the Seine river.
Free. Originally built as the gardens of Luxembourg Palace, this quaint public park is now famed for its tree-lined walkways, hectares of lawns and flowerbeds and the Medici Fountain. The gardens are some of the most picturesque in all of Paris and definitely worth a visit.
Jardin des Plantes
From €5. This collection of gardens and galleries is one of the best ways to spend an afternoon in Paris- there's even a zoo! It would take an age to discuss prices for all 11 gardens and the 6 places you can visit within Jardin des Plantes, but tickets start from around €5 for areas like the greenhouses and various museum galleries, and €10 for the Ménagerie zoo. Find out more or buy your tickets here.
The Estate of Trianon
€12. This château and garden estate are located within the grounds of the Palace of Versailles. This rustic, neoclassical-style estate is most famously linked to Marie Antoinette, who commissioned many of the landscapes in the garden. You can explore this charming area of Paris on a separate, cheaper ticket to the one that allows entry to Versailles itself: the ticket for Trainon only will cost you just €12. You can read more or book your tickets via the website here.
And there we have it, a whole list of things you can do in Paris for less than €20. Whether you're into climbing monuments, eating at food markets or lazing around parks in the sun, there's a budget version of Paris fit for everyone. Do you have cheap city options that aren't on here? I'd love to know!
Make sure you follow my Instagram to see my adventures as they unfold in real time, and I'll see you in the next one! Meg x