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Top 24 Free Things to Do in Paris

October 8, 2015

Gertrude Stein once wrote, “America is my country, and Paris is my hometown.” It’s almost impossible not to be swept away by the city of romance, and all too easy to find yourself longing to stay in Paris as long as possible. Unfortunately, the city is just as well known for its splendid art, culture, and beauty as it is its incredibly high prices.

But if you find yourself wanting to stretch your budget as much as possible to prolong your stay in Paris, you’re in luck. The city is filled with free citywide attractions, things to do, and historical monuments. You can soak up plenty of Parisian culture, charm, and beauty without opening your wallet, and enjoy the city even on the tightest budget.

 

1 Visit the Eiffel Tower

It costs quite a bit to catch a ride to the top of the famous Parisian landmark, but you can enjoy its beauty and enrapturing architecture for free. You can walk around the Parc du Champ de Mars and admire the Eiffel Tower from a variety of angles and areas, and still get pictures in front of it without spending a dime.

 

2 Learn about the History of Paris at the Carnavalet Museum

Located in two adjacent mansions in the heart of the city, the Carnavalet Museum houses thousands of works of art, photographs, and artifacts from over hundreds of years of Paris’ history, dating back to the 4th century. The architecture of the building itself is well worth the visit, but admission is completely free, so don’t miss out touring the inside as well.

 

3 Tour the Shoah Memorial

On the second Sunday of every month, the Shoah Memorial hosts a free guided tour in English. The tour leaves at 3:00 pm, and gives you a first hand historical account of the experience and lives of the Jewish population living in Paris during WWII. The memorial is haunting and sad, but a beautiful memorial to the thousands of Parisians that lost their life for their faith.

 

4 Hike to a Waterfall at Parc de Buttes-Chaumont

Think that Paris is all urban splendor? One hike at the Parc de Buttes-Chaumont will leave even the most urban lover in awe. A former quarry turned park, the 61 acre park has been opened for free to the public since the mid 19th century. Elements of the old quarry still remain and have been incorporated into beautiful natural wonders, like the gorgeous waterfalls and grottos. There’s plenty to explore, and the park is a little sanctuary inside the hustle and bustle of the city’s landscape.

 

5 Visit the Cathedral Norte Dame de Paris

While climbing up to the famous towers at the Norte Dame Cathedral will cost you an admission fee, you can visit the rest of the Cathedral for free and still get to enjoy the famous gargoyles and Gothic era architecture.

 

6 Escape the Crowds at Canal Saint-Martin

 

For one of the best riverwalks in Paris, head to the Canal Saint-Martin, easily one of the most romantic and blessedly remote areas in Paris. While there are plenty of places to walk alongside the Seine, the Canal Saint-Martin is much less crowded and more of a trendy, local neighborhood.

 

7 Visit the World’s First Elevated Park at the Coulée verte René-Dumon

Ever dream of walking in the air, high above the crowds? For nearly 3 miles you can stroll through the Promenade Plantee or the Coulée verte René-Dumon, and enjoy walking through the middle of the city without dealing with traffic. The park was built on an old railroad viaduct, and is filled with beautiful plants and trees.

 

8 Attend a Fashion Show

As the seat of the world’s fashion industry, attending a Paris fashion show is a bucket list type activity that can be done even if you can’t afford to buy anything other than thrift store clothes. The Galeries Lafayette, an elite shopping and beautiful department store, puts on free fashion shows on Monday and Fridays at 3:00 pm.

 

9 Stroll the Tuileries Garden

Embrace the royal side of life in Paris by walking through the Tuileries Garden, which for most of its history was only for French Royals and the Parisian upper class, such as Napoleon or Marie Antoinette. The gardens are free and open to the public, and a must see for anyone visiting Paris. It’s the perfect spot for an afternoon picnic, and there’s plenty of public benches and tables to use.

 

10 Visit the Ruins at Arènes de Lutèce

The Roman Empire’s influence in Paris can be best seen by visiting the Arènes de Lutèce, site of the largest Roman amphitheater of that style. The ruins date back to the first century, and it’s one of the hidden gems in Paris that often gets overlooked by the tourist crowd. Finding the ruins can be kind of a challenge, but chances are you’ll get to enjoy the almost 2 thousand year old historical site all by yourself.

 

11 Tour the City

Want to learn more about Paris? You can hire a local to give you a tour of the city for free, and introduce you to the best and often, unseen side of Paris. The group is called Paris Greeters, and you can visit their website to book a tour. If there are areas in particular you’d like to see and learn more about, make sure let your guide know.

 

12 Visit the Museum of Modern Art

Paris is overflowing with art, and has been home to some of the greatest artists in the world throughout the centuries. Luckily you can visit some of the works of the masters for free, including Picasso and Matisse, without paying the high admission prices that are usually required to view such famous pieces of artwork. The Museum of Modern Art charges no admission, and is a bright, beautiful building filled with an amazing collection of paintings, sculptures, and statues.

 

13 Visit Maria Curie’s Lab

While many of Paris’ museums and historical sites focus on the artistic side of Paris, the Musée Curie is a fantastic museum that focuses on the scientific side of history in Paris. The museum if focused around the Curie family accomplishments and scientific accomplishments, and even houses the Nobel Prizes Maria Curie won throughout her life.

 

14 Hit the Beach

During the hot summer months, you can still enjoy a beach day without leaving the city! Thanks to a city wide initiative, the Seine riverbank is transformed into a temporary beachside oasis, complete with sand, beach chairs, and huge, bright beach umbrellas.

 

15 Visit the Père Lachaise Cemetery

The largest cemetery in the city of Paris is a perfect place to spend an hour or two walking among the tombs. You can pay your respects to plenty of famed figures from throughout history, such as Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison. The tombstones are symbolic of nearly every age of architectural design, and is one of the most beautiful parks in Paris to enjoy a stroll through.

 

16 Go Ice Skating

In the winter months, the city of Paris places several skating rinks around the city for locals and visitors alike to enjoy throughout the day and evening. There’s no fee for using the ice rinks, and you can stay as long as you like! The ice skating rinks are often placed in some of the most gorgeous places in Paris, like the Eiffel Tower and Hôtel de Ville. There are rental ice skates available for a small price, but if you bring your own you don’t have to spend a dime!

 

17 Walk Around the Parc Monceau

Paris has its fair share of beautiful green spaces and urban parks, but Parc Monceau is quite possibly the most charming and natural feeling one. The park’s walkways twist and turn, and the gardens don’t feel as formal as a traditional Parisian garden. The best part of walking around the park is discovering the hidden architectural features scattered around the park, like the Grecian style rotunda and the Egyptian style pyramid. As a bonus, the park offers free WiFi access to visitors as well!

 

18 Attend a Free Concert

Paris is filled with beautiful music venues, and many of them offer free concerts throughout the year. In the summer, the city hosts free concerts in the park, and in the winter months you can still enjoy free concerts at some of the museums and churches. The Conservatoire de Paris puts on plenty of free student concerts that are open to the public throughout the school year. No matter what time of year you visit, there are always a few concerts of all styles that charge no admission price; feel free to check with the tourist information before you travel to get an up to date schedule.

 

19 Musée du Parfum

Although it’s the focus at the Fragonard Scribe Museum is almost more about the store than the museum, you can still learn plenty about some of the world’s best perfumes and soaps. The museum offers free guided tours, and you can sample some of the store’s selection for free as well.

 

20 Visit the Basilique du Sacré Coeur

Paris’ famous basilica is more like the visiting a Parisian version of the Taj Mahal than visiting a church. The building is stunning from the outside, but the inside has just as much gorgeous architectural details, including huge glass stained windows and the famous gold mosaics. Certain parts of the church charge admission, but you can view most of it for free.

 

21 Go Clubbing

If you’re into the nightlife scene, you can’t ask for much better than clubbing in the heart of Paris. The best place to go after dark is a rooftop club located at the f La Cité de la Mode et du Design. There’s no cover charge, so you can get in for free, and the views over the city lights are easily some of the best nighttime vistas of Paris you can get while dancing your heart out. Or check out the nearby Wanderlust for a no cover charge clubbing experience with some serious European techno music. 

 

22 Visit the Museum of Romantics

Of course it makes sense that in the most romantic city on earth there would be a Museum of Romantics. The setting of the museum, located in the heart of the Parisian neighborhood “New Athens”, is romantic enough, with quaint beautiful gardens and charming architecture. The museum is small, but holds a lot of information and historical artifacts about George Sands, as well as several other curiosities and displays.  It’s off the beaten path, but a fun museum with no admission that’s worth an hour or two to visit.

 

23 Maison de Victor Hugo

Author of the famous Les Miserables, Victor Hugo is easily considered one of the greatest French writers of all time. You can tour his home for free at the Maison de Victor Hugo, where the writer and his wife lived for almost two decades in the heart of the city. Admission is free, and the museum is open every day of the week except Mondays.

 

24 Walk Along the Banks of the Seine River

If you have a few hours or even half a day to spare, a stroll along the Seine River is one of the best ways to experience Paris. It’s one of the most iconic and gorgeous urban riverways in the world, and you can stumble into the heart of Paris culture at almost every corner. There’s plenty of bridges, upper and lower level sidewalks, and streets to explore along the way, as well as plenty of opportunities for window shopping along the flea markets, street vendors, and shops that dot the streets that run along the river banks. While many people cruise the river on a boat, you can still enjoy it for free by walking the route instead, and see the same sights without spending a dime.

There’s plenty of other ways to enjoy your time in Paris and experience the city for free. Check out Trekeffect to find cheap places to stay and other free things to do in Paris!

London is a riddle. Paris is an explanation. –Ernest Hemingway

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Bryn Wied
Bryn Wied is an outdoor enthusiast and serious travelaholic. She explores every inch of the globe in her Sanuk flip flops with her favorite travel buddy/hubby Matt. Matt and Bryn live in California where they blog, surf, snowboard and raise kids in between road trips and camping adventures.