Paris in France is one of the finest cities in the world to visit for culture, food, art and history buffs alike. But while the destination has a reputation for many things, it is not exactly known for being budget-friendly; however, while Paris can be expensive, all it takes is a little creativity and insider information to explore it on a shoestring, without missing any of its beauty and unique character. The following is an example of the perfect Paris day, all for 25 Euros (€) or less.
Stop 1: Paris On A Budget Breakfast
Price: 2 Euros (about $2.50 USD)
Start off your day the way the Parisians do: with a flaky, melt-in-your-mouth croissant and piping hot espresso from your local boulangerie. There are authentic bakeries everywhere across the city, and odds are that wherever you’re staying, there’ll be one within a stone’s throw from your accommodation. Look out in particular for those with signs reading artisan boulanger; this means they’ve been verified as making all their products on-site and using the best ingredients, like pure butter.
Stop 2: Rodin Museum Garden
Price: 2 Euros (about $2.50 USD)
With its incredibly rich artistic history, Paris is perhaps the finest city in the world for museums. There are countless lesser-known, small museums to be found off the beaten path, but one of the greatest, and most hip pocket-friendly, is the decadent Rodin Museum in the regal 7th arrondissement. The museum is housed in a stunning hôtel originally used by the sculptor himself, to showcase his rough-hewn masterpieces to buyers and fellow artists.
Entry to the house, which includes much of Rodin’s smaller works, some pieces by his talented partner Camille Claudel and his most classical sculpture Le baiser (The Kiss), costs between 7 and 9 Euros (about $9 to $11.50). But entry to the museum’s true highlight, its rambling green garden, is only 2 Euros (abut $2.50 USD). And the garden includes Rodin’s greatest works: the monolithic Balzac, the sinister Portes de l’enfer (Gates of Hell) and his best-known piece, the iconic Le penseur (The Thinker), bent over in contemplation. Wandering around the gardens, you’ll find figures hidden among trees, emerging from fountains and reflected in ponds. All this, plus the view of the golden dome of the nearby Invalides and the Eiffel Tower looming over the museum’s stone walls, makes the Rodin Museum Garden one of the most picturesque spots in Paris.
Stop 3: River Walk
Exit the Rodin and pass by Invalides to reach the Seine river, Paris’ main artery which cuts horizontally across the city. Head right along the river for a walking tour peppered with monumental sights. Pass by the gilt angels that stand vigil over the Pont Alexandre III, the Musée d’Orsay (the world-famous Impressionism museum located in an old train station), the seemingly never-ending palatial structure of The Louvre, the Pont des Arts with its encrusting of multi-coloured love locks and the city’s oldest bridge, the Pont Neuf (which confusingly means “New Bridge”). Your Seine walk will lead you right past the Conciergerie, the historic court house where Marie Antoinette was detained and beheaded, and up to arguably the most famous cathedral in the world: Notre-Dame de Paris.
Stop 4: Cathédral Notre-Dame de Paris
Price : Free
While you can pay (and wait) to climb the bell towers of Notre-Dame, entry to the cathedral’s ground floor is free. Marvel at the soaring ceilings, morbid gargoyles and beautifully intricate stained glass. Make sure to take in the beauty of the rosaces, the gigantic, rose-like stained glass centre windows. Keep in mind that the building is 850 years old as you crane your neck to take in the tiniest details far above you. Admire the exterior too, but be careful with your camera and other valuables; this spot tends to draw a lot of pickpockets.
Stop 5: Paris On A Budget Lunch
Price: 5 Euros (about $6.40 USD)
Cross over the river and head in the direction of the gothic Saint Jacques tower, looming over the rooftops. Not far from the tower lies Julien, a bakery which has won the covetable Best Paris Baguette prize multiple times. Julien’s camembert baguette is my favourite sandwich in Paris. A filled baguette and drink will set you back a mere 5 euros, though for 7.90 euros you can also get a formule, with a tart or éclair for dessert. Take your lunch to the park around the Tour Saint Jacques and relax on the tower’s smooth stone benches or, if the weather is fine, lounge on the lush green grass (yes, this is one of the rare Paris parks that lets you sit on the grass!).
Stop 6: Le Marais And Carnavalet Museum
After lunch, you can either walk up the rue de Rivoli or take the metro from Châtelet to Saint Paul to explore the historic Medieval district of the Marais. Le Marais (translated somewhat less prettily as “the swamp”) is one of the city’s most fashionable and atmospheric areas, with independent boutiques, tiny cafés, quirky bars and vintage shops galore. The streets can be quite labyrinthine here, and it’s fun to just wander and get lost in the cobblestoned laneways. If you want to be a little more systematic with your meanderings, you can seek out such highlights as the Place des Vosges, once a royal residence, or the beloved Éclair de génie, which serves the best éclairs in Paris (think pistachio with fresh raspberries and mint, or dark chocolate with hazelnuts and gold leaf). Wherever you wander, make sure you end up at the lovely Musée Carnavalet, the surprisingly quiet Paris History Museum, where general admission is free.
Stop 7: Père Lachaise
Have a couple of hours to spare before dinner? Make the most of the waning Paris light to explore one of the city’s most beautiful, if haunting, spots: Père Lachaise. Catch the metro up to this North East cemetery to seek out the resting places of some of your favourite artists and musicians. There is a map at the main entrance that locates the famous graves, which include those of Edith Piaf, Eugène Delacroix, Frédéric Chopin, Oscar Wilde and, most infamously, Jim Morrison. But Père Lachaise is very large, and some of its wildest and most captivating areas are those that don’t feature any big names at all. Watch out for the strict sunset closing time, but also allow yourself to get lost in this rambling forest-like space. As the afternoon winds down, take a moment to sit on a quiet bench and soak up the tranquility of this quiet spot in the heart of Paris.
Stop 8: Paris On A Budget Dinner
Price: 9 Euros (about $11.50 USD)
Splendid, traditional French fare doesn’t have to burn a hole in your pocket. That classic Breton culinary icon, the crêpe, is far more than a delicious street food snack; it can be a veritable meal in itself. There are many esteemed French crêperies in Paris, perhaps the most famous being Breizh in the Marais, but my absolute favorite is the Crêperie bretonne fleurie, its full name being La crêperie bretonne fleurie de l’épouse du marin (The Sailor’s Wife’s Floral Breton Creperie!) in the Ledru Rollin area, not far from Bastille. Bretonne Fleurie is decorated like an old boat, full of dark wood, nautical artworks and old clocks. Nine euros or so will get you a savory galette plus either a dessert crêpe or a glass of Breton cider. My personal recommendations are the chèvre miel (goat’s cheese with honey) to start, then the salidou (homemade salted caramel) for dessert. Magnifique.
Including metro ticket, details below: 24.80 Euros (about $32 USD)
*Accommodation: it won’t surprise you to hear that Paris is not a cheap place to sleep. To keep to a shoestring budget, you’ll need to get creative and either Couchsurf or find an arrangement to house sit or — and yes, this is quite a common thing — cat sit. House/cat sitting is often free, but it can be difficult to find a deal. An insider’s tip is to check the Anglos-in-Paris magazine fusac.fr for individual listings.
*Love free activities? Every first Sunday of the month, Paris’ myriad museums have free entry. Beware the crowds at the popular ones though.
*Public transport: a “Mobilis” daily metro ticket (zones 1-2) gives you unlimited access to the Paris metro for 6.80 Euros (about $8.75 USD).
Author: Gemma King
Gemma King is an Australian francophile living between Paris, Melbourne and Richmond Virginia. A PhD student in French cinema at Melbourne Uni and the Sorbonne, she’s also an eternal nomad, a film buff, a French lecturer, a coffee reviewer, an English teacher and a travel writer. As la muséophile, She spends her Sundays exploring and reviewing the lesser-known museums of Paris at www.lesmuseesdeparis.com.