12 Inexpensive Things To Do in Paris

Michele Frolla is the ‘guide’ behind The Intrepid Guide, a travel and language learning site offering detailed destination guides and online language courses that use her unique 80/20 method. Find out more

Paris has been an itinerary-topping destination for generations of travelers. But the glittering City of Light can be expensive, especially if you’re lured by the charming boutique hotels and famous fine-dining restaurants.  

With a little inside knowledge, it’s possible to save a few euros without skipping the best of this timeless city. To give you a helping hand, I’ve gathered 12 affordable things to do in Paris. I’ve included something for every interest, from great experiences that won’t cost you a penny to a handful of city gems worth every dime.    

Enjoy stunning views from the Sacré-Coeur Basilica

Sacre Coeur Basilica

Where better to start a visit to Paris than overlooking the city from one of its most magical vantage points? Sitting on the peak of Montmartre, one of Paris’ most popular quartiers, 426 ft (130 m) above sea level, Sacré-Coeur Basilica is an arresting landmark visible across the city. 

A trip inside the relatively modern church (completed in 1914) is rewarding enough, but it’s the crowning glory to what could be a truly memorable day out in the city. Entry to the basilica is free, making it a brilliant inexpensive thing to do in Paris. Still, if you have the energy and a few euros to climb the 300 steps inside the basilica’s dome, you will see all of Paris and the countryside for 30 miles on a clear day. 

If stairs are an issue, or you just want to conserve energy for the day ahead, use the funicular to climb the last few meters of the Montmartre hill. It’s the only one in Paris and included in the Metro Pass (the same as a single Metro journey ticket). You’ll avoid the 270 steps from Place Saint-Pierre to the basilica itself.

The Montmartre neighborhood radiates energy, and you can easily spend a day exploring the cobbled streets, rich artistic heritage, and bistros. Wear the right shoes to roam the hilly and often cobbled neighborhood.

Another money- and energy-saving recommendation is the local Montmartrobus, which includes the red lights of the Pigalle quartier (home to the Moulin Rouge) on its winding, sight-filled route. Regular public transportation passes and tickets cover it. Running from Pigalle Metro station to the front of the basilica, it avoids even more hills and steps than the funicular. 

Budget: €0-15. It’s free to enter the Sacré-Coeur Basilica and around €6 to climb the dome. I recommend joining this expert-led guided tour to appreciate this iconic church and its charming neighborhood fully. 

Where? Start in the Butte Montmartre (Abbesses Métro, line 12) or Pigalle (lines 2 and 12) for the Montmartobus.

Get panoramic views from Montparnasse Tower’s rooftop

Montparnasse Tower Viewing Platform

Once France’s tallest skyscraper, this 689-foot (210 meters) office building has divided opinion in France since it opened in 1973.

Considered an eyesore by many, this lonely monolith rises against the Paris skyline and boasts arguably the finest views of Paris. 

The viewing deck on the 56th floor offers unbroken views that stretch for miles, and the Eiffel Tower stands in center focus. Particularly spectacular at golden hour when you can catch the Eiffel Tower’s first hourly night show of the evening. 

A clever free app helps you make sense of what you’re viewing. Book your ticket in advance and avoid queueing on arrival.

Budget: €17 

Where? 33 Av. du Maine (Bréguet Sabin Métro, line 5 / Saint-Paul Métro, line 1)

Gain a fresh perspective from the Seine

Seine river cruise

The glass or open-topped boats ferrying tourists along the Seine are a common sight in Paris. With so many of the city’s best-known landmarks visible from the river, it is easy to understand the appeal.

Passing architectural wonders like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, and Hôtel de Ville, Paris’ resplendent city hall, the journey is laden with photo opportunities. You get a new perspective of the city with informative English and multi-language audio guides. 

With so many boat services, this unmissable experience is also one of the more affordable things to do in Paris. Save time and money by booking your spot on this highly recommended and popular cruise

Budget: €16-18 

Where? Port de la Bourdonnais, near the Eiffel Tower.

Lose yourself in the Louvre (without losing your mind in a line)

Louvre Museum at sunset

The world’s largest museum is a magnet for around 3 million visitors every year. Visitors marvel at approximately 35,000 paintings, sculptures, and other decorative arts. The most renowned works are the “Mona Lisa” and “Venus de Milo.” 

Packing everything into one visit is challenging, and the ticket lines at the distinctive Pyramid entrance of the world’s most-visited museum can be frustrating. I recommend booking these skip-the-line tickets in advance to give yourself as much time as possible in this remarkable museum. 

Budget: €15-20 (free for under 18s and EU residents under 26).

Where? Rue de Rivoli (Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre Métro, lines 1 & 7)

Marvel at the royal opulence of Château de Versailles

Explore the romantic Gardens of Versailles

Many lavish and sumptuous chateaux are dotted across France, but all live in the shadow of Versailles.

Effectively France’s capital during the celebrated reign of the Sun King, Louis XIV, Versailles became a symbol of regal excess during the French Revolution. And it is hard to disagree with the assessment when you view the dazzling palace and its equally magnificent gardens. 

Dripping in gold and history, the interior is exceedingly extravagant. Everywhere you look, there is something to take your breath away. 

On the outskirts of Paris, France’s most visited attraction warrants a full-day visit to appreciate its grandeur. Booking these special full access tickets before you go is advisable. 

If there is one place to spend any euros you saved from our list of affordable things to do in Paris, it is here. Joining a tour led by experts reveals all the intriguing backstories of France’s most glittering chateau. I recommended the Skip-the-Line Tour with Gardens Access, which offers great value. 

Budget: From €20, but access to the Gardens is free on days without fountain shows. General admission is free for under 18s and EU residents under 26.

Where? Place d’Armes, 78000 Versailles (Versailles Rive-Gauche, RER C train service)

Take in the views atop the famous Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe is Napoleon Bonaparte’s reminder of his military legacy. It is also one of Paris’ most iconic landmarks. From the top, you can view many of the city’s other notable landmarks. 

Towering 164 feet (50 meters) over the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, the viewing platform offers 360-degree views of the heart of Paris. 

Honoring France’s fallen soldiers (including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier), this historic monument is an arresting sight viewed from below. But the views from the top are something else entirely. 

Getting these skip-the-line tickets are a must if you want to dodge the endless lines at the ticket office, giving you extra time to take in the views.  

Budget: €13 

Where: Pl. Charles de Gaulle (Charles de Gaulle-Étoile Métro, lines 1, 2, 6)

View Monet’s colossal “Water Lilies” at Musée de l'Orangerie

Musée de l’Orangerie

Simply known as l’Orangerie, this elegant building is best known for its huge panels, painted by Claude Monet shortly before his death. 

Continuing his extended “Water Lillies” series, Monet finished the paintings at the request of the French state. The panels — measuring 6.5 feet (1.9 meters) in height and covering 328 feet (100 meters) of wall space — immerse you in the Impressionist artist’s work.

Musée de l’Orangerie was built for Napoleon III to house citrus trees from the adjacent Tuileries Gardens. Realizing the building was a touch excessive for a potting shed, it was later converted into an art gallery dedicated to Claude Monet. The museum has since changed its scope to house a diverse collection of world-class art from illustrious figures like Picasso, Cézanne, and Matisse. 

Like all museums in Paris, booking timed-entry tickets in advance can be a real timesaver. 

Budget: €12.50. Free for under 18 and EU residents under 26. Free for all visitors on the first Sunday of each month, with an obligatory reservation required. 

Where? Tuileries Garden (Concorde Métro, lines 1, 8, 12)

Go deep underground in the Paris Catacombs

Paris Catacombs

If you’re looking for offbeat and affordable things to do in Paris, the city’s underground ossuaries are sure to leave an impression. The dimly lit tunnels are lined with an estimated 6 million skeletons. They were moved here when the city’s overflowing cemeteries became a public health problem in the early 18th century. It might be one of the more expensive options on this list, but a visit to the Paris Catacombs is one of the most extraordinary things to do in Paris, so it’s worth splashing out.

Budget: €29. Ticket availability is limited. Avoid disappointment and book your ticket here (includes audio guide). 

Where? 1 Bd Poissonnière (Bonne-Nouvelle Métro, lines 8 & 9)

Père Lachaise Cemetery: one of the best inexpensive things to do in Paris

Père Lachaise Cemetery

A tour of Paris’ largest cemetery might sound macabre, but ambling around the crypt-lined lanes of Père Lachaise Cemetery is one of the city’s most absorbing experiences. It is why around 3.5 million people visit every year, making it the most visited cemetery in the world. 

The imposing but lavishly designed tombs lining the cobbled lanes are part of the enduring appeal, but the real draw is the famous names etched on many of them. 

Opened in 1804, the cemetery is the final resting place for many of the city’s illustrious residents. Édith Piaf, Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, and Frédéric Chopin share space with around 250 luminaries who made their home in Paris.

Sprawling over 110 acres, exploring the final resting place of a million former Parisians will quickly fill an afternoon. 

Budget: €0-21. While entry is free, this small guided walking tour tells the story of the cemetery and its famous residents better than googling as you go.

Where? 16 Rue du Repos (Père Lachaise Métro, lines 2 & 3)

Enjoy the kaleidoscopic stained glass at Sainte-Chapelle

Sainte Chapelle

You can still view Notre-Dame Cathedral’s exterior while it’s being restored following the devastating 2019 fire, but nearby is another iconic landmark — Sainte-Chapelle.

The soaring stained-glass windows in this former royal chapel are simply breathtaking. 

Consecrated in 1248 and deconsecrated during the French Revolution, restoration works between 1840-48 restored its former glory. Today Sainte-Chapelle is the pinnacle of gothic architecture. 

Situated on the Île de la Cité (an island on the Seine), there is much to see nearby, like the world’s oldest functioning hospital, Hôtel-Dieu, and Paris’ oldest bridge, Pont Neuf. A visit to Sainte-Chapelle is the perfect finish on a tour of the island where the city began.

Budget: €12 (free for under 18s and EU residents under 26). Spaces are limited, so book your tickets in advance.

Where? Île de la Cité (reach via Pont au Change or Pont Saint-Michel)

See a movie at the Pompidou Center

Centre Pompidou

Going to the movies might not be your first thought when in Paris, but this unusual experience lets you catch live performances and arthouse films from aspiring artists for under €20. Some shows are even free.

The Pompidou Center is a modern art museum that opened in 1977. Formally named the Centre national d’art et de culture Georges-Pompidou after a former French president, it’s always worth a visit, even if you just view the unconventional (and controversial) post-modern exterior. Inside, it features works from Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, and Frida Kahlo, among other greats. And don’t miss the rooftop terrace where you can admire the city’s iconic skyline.

With an ever-changing program of shows and events, this is one of those affordable things to do in Paris that flies under the tourist radar. 

Budget: €0-20. Book your skip-the-link tickets here.

Where? Pompidou Center, Place Georges-Pompidou (Hôtel de Ville Métro, line 1 / Rambuteau Métro, line 11)

View world-class art at Musée d'Orsay

Quality time at the Orsay Museum

Whisper it, but some locals will claim that Paris’s finest museum is the Orsay, not the Louvre. It has a wonderful art collection that spans 1848-1914, mainly from artists with French roots, like Monet, van Gogh, Degas, and Renoir. 

The views from the former train station’s immense clock face are spectacular and probably one of the most striking images in Paris…

If you want to get the most out of your visit, book your tickets in advance to avoid queuing on the day…

Budget: €16 (free for under 18s and EU residents under 26)

Where? 1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur (Solférino Métro, line 12)

Michele Frolla is the ‘guide’ behind The Intrepid Guide, a travel and language learning site offering detailed destination guides and online language courses that use her unique 80/20 method. Michele helps you learn the local language so you can travel with confidence, have more authentic experiences, and avoid being treated like a tourist. Check out her French travel phrase guide on essential phrases to learn, as well as her ultimate 4-day Paris itinerary.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *