Paris is one of my favourite European cities – I usually try and spend a few days out there most years, and was lucky enough to spend an autumn house-sitting there. But even though I had somewhere to stay, Paris is an easy place to spend money – with fantastic restaurants, shops and wine bars on every corner, and the entrance fees to all those world-class museums and attractions which soon start to add up.
So can you enjoy Paris if you’re trying not to spend too much? Here are some of the tips I picked up to help keep my Paris travel costs down, and this time of year is one of the best times to try them out, with the low season between November and April having the lowest prices for travel and accommodation.
Paris has so many world-famous buildings and monuments – like Sacre Cœur, the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower – and going to look at them won’t cost a penny. You can also go and watch the artists at work in Montmartre, browse the book stalls on the banks of the Seine and look around Notre Dame Cathedral for free. And if the weather’s good, there are lots of parks and gardens around the city – like the Promenade Plantée on an old elevated railway line, the botanical gardens at the Jardin des Plantes, and even the atmospheric cemeteries, like Père-Lachaise and the Cimetière du Montparnasse.
If you want to learn a bit more about Paris, Fast Travel offers free walking tours with local guides. They cover a range of different areas – from the Left Bank and the Marais to Notre Dame and Montmartre. Walks take about 90 minutes and off-season groups are usually small. In November, our group of three ended up with our own private guide on one of their Marais tours, who showed us some great local restaurants and bars as well as telling us all about the area’s history, all for the price of a tip.
There are also plenty of free festivals and events going on in Paris throughout the year – including the fireworks and military parades for Bastille Day on 14 July, the Paris Plages riverside beaches in August, the Nuit Blanche all-night arts festival, the Fête des Vendanges harvest festival in Montmartre in October and the Christmas markets in December. Check out the Bonjour Paris and About.com Paris websites for the latest information about what’s going on where and when.