Ah, Paris - the French capital high atop many a bucket list.
There’s a handful of things we usually associate with the City of Lights: freshly baked crepes, world-class museums, stereotypical beret-wearing striped-shirt artists, the iconic Iron Lady, endless cobblestoned-streets, and - generally - a pretty painful bank balance post-trip. However, just because Paris can be expensive, it doesn’t mean that it has to be.
Sure, a splurging afternoon along the high-end fashion boutiques on the Champs Élysées will send a dagger into any wallet, yet with a touch of guidance and a willingness to stroll around on foot, Paris can be equally beautiful and frugal-friendly.
10 Visit the Jardins du Trocadero
If you didn’t take a photo to make all your friends back at home severely jealous in front of the iconic ‘Iron Lady’ - the Eiffel Tower, then did you actually even go to Paris? In reality, probably not. While hordes of tourists make the (expensive) trip to the top of the Tower, the downfall is that there’s no view of the actual icon itself - why? Because you’re standing right on it!
Some of the prime views are from just across the Seine from the base of the Eiffel Tower at the Jardins du Trocadero. Best of all, heading there is completely free.
9 Stroll through Le Marais
The entire city is lined with picturesque (although sometimes rather uncomfortable) cobblestone streets, so visitors are always in for a treat when strolling the various arrondissements. One particular area that shines above the rest, however, is Le Marais.
The historic inner-city area is lined with a number of impressive building facades, some of which boast both historic and architectural importance. The real attraction here though is the ambiance - with plenty of quaint cafes, unique boutiques, and exciting restaurants ready to take your order. Le Marais is simple to reach, an easy stroll away from the main touristic areas, and, of course, is free of charge to explore.
8 Explore the Jardins du Luxembourg
In a city that seems like it never ends, a spacious area full of greenery provides a much-needed breath of fresh air. At the iconic Jardins du Luxembourg, time appears to pass a little slower, as locals and tourists alike kick back on the provided chairs in front of the fountain, take a nap, read a book, or have a little picnic on the grass with their nearest and dearest.
Considering that most visitor’s Parisian itineraries are jam-packed like no tomorrow, a quick visit to this inner-city park will not only provide plenty of Insta-worthy snaps but will also offer a deserving chance to relax.
7 Stroll through the Jardin des Tuileries
Smack-bang in the middle of the city, and connecting the ever-popular Louvre with Place de la Concorde - the gateway to the Champs Élysées, the beautiful Jardin des Tuileries welcomes thousands of tourists every day. Make sure the camera’s charged because every step is dotted with top-notch photo opportunities, from flowers to fountains, street performers and eccentric locals.
A stroll along its sandy paths is a great way to burn off the three or four Nutella-drenched crepes you’ve probably already chowed down before heading to the infamous Champs Élysées shopping area.
6 Wander down the Champs Élysées
After wandering down the through the Jardin des Tuileries, the next logical location worthy of a couple of hours is the illustrious Champs Élysées shopping avenue. With high-end fashion boutiques, famous pastry shops, and a number of welcoming restaurants spread across the street, there’s plenty to see and do before eventually ending up at the Arc de Triomphe.
You might have the “oh, Champs Élysées” tune stuck in your head, but that doesn’t mean that a stroll down the infamous street shouldn’t sit high atop your bucket list. While roaming through the area is completely free, a high-end Louis Vuitton bag, for example, is not.
5 Take in the views at the Sacré Coeur
While it might cost a few hard-earned bucks to scale the Eiffel Tower or witness the Champs Élysées from above atop the Arc de Triomphe, the prime vistas on offer from the Sacré-Cœur Basilica won’t cost you a dime. The Basilica sits at the top of Montmartre, one of the two highest points in all of Paris.
Aside from the views, the Montmartre area, in general, is a tourist attraction in and of itself, One of the best ways to explore the hilly locale, spotting old artist hangouts, is to take a free walking tour (but keep a few bucks on hand for a tip).
4 Visit the Père Lachaise Cemetery
From high above ground, we’re heading somewhere were the main attractions are, in fact, buried below it. With infamous names like Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Jean Valjean (from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables) and the medieval couple Heloise and Abelard, sprawled across headstones, there’s more history to be found at the Père Lachaise Cemetery than arguably anywhere else in the city.
The Père Lachaise attracts around three and a half million visitors annually, making it easily the most-visited cemetery in the world. It might seem a little strange to have a necropolis sitting on a bucket list, however, this one markets itself worthy of a quick stop.
3 Stop in at Galeries Lafayette rooftop terrace
We’ve talked about the famous views from Montmartre and the Jardins du Trocadéro, however, there’s another stellar viewpoint that’s been kept well and truly as a hidden gem, until now. From the rooftop terrace at the flagship Galeries Lafayette department store over on Boulevard Haussmann, visitors and locals alike can take in the unmatched vistas while sipping on a glass of local red and nibbling on a soft wheel of brie.
The terrace generally closes at 8pm, so make sure to get there earlier, especially if you want to catch the dazzling sunsets views over the City of Lights.
2 Stroll along Canal Saint-Martin
Compared to the Canal Saint-Martin, the Seine might be grander and certainly more famous but it’s also exceptionally more tourist-oriented and, to be honest, a little dull. Instead, the Canal Saint-Martin is booming with trendy street art, a bunch of funky bars, and quirky restaurants and shops. There is plenty of picturesque bridges crossing over the shimmering waters just beckoning to be featured on your social stories as well.
Tourists flock to the Seine and hop aboard crowded, overpriced river cruises. For something more authentic, do as the locals do and head to Saint Martin.
1 Just walk!
Just like New York, Paris is a city that is full of surprises around every corner. From the tantalizing wafting smell of freshly-baked crepes that suck you in like a cartoon pie sitting on a windowsill to piano accordion-playing street performers, beret-donning local artists and pop up fashion stalls, you never know what you’ll come across as you turn down the next rue.
While the cobblestone streets are evidently picturesque, they can take their toll on your feet after a couple of hours, so make sure to sport a pair of comfortable walking shoes.