Paris can be a very pricey city in terms of hotels, food and entertainment. What a better way than getting a few great ideas of free things to do in Paris to keep your budget intact. These tips are simple from visiting any of the popular neighborhoods and streets of Paris along with some of the major attractions and actual free times that are open to the public for visit. You definitely need to splurge on some of the highlights, but here’s my recommendations on the top 25 free things to do in Paris.
When is the best time to visit Paris?
Paris is very popular to visit year-round but most of the popular time frames to visit is Spring and Summer time when the weather is great and average temperature is in the mid 60s or 20s Celcius in spring and mid 70s to 80s during summer periods. Winter is also popular during the holidays up to the New Years change but it definitely is very cold to visit in winter. The nice thing about visiting in Paris during spring time is the outdoor spaces and gardens are freshened up with colorful annual plantings that makes the visit and hang out times in the public parks joyful. All the shopping venues and attractions are also geared towards spring time colors, gardens and enjoying the outdoors with all the visuals you’ll see from the placards in the metro, street signs to boutique stored livened up with spring displays and merchandise.
Here’s what to see and do in Paris for free
1. Walk around the Arc de Triomphe
The massive Arc de Triomphe sits in an important crossroads of the main boulevard at Champs Elysees and symbolizes Napoleon’s many victories over Europe and his wish to enter Paris through these Arches of Triumph. You can check out the tomb of the unknown soldier and climb to the top (Additional fee of 8 Eur) for the magnificent views of the boulevard and other major landmarks of the city. Driving around the Arc de Triomphe is a very scary experience unlike doing a road trip around France which is an easier effort traveling around the country.
Tip – best time to visit is at night when the Champs Elysees, Eiffel tower and the entire city are lit up magically and are perfect for photo ops. For more information about visiting the monument, check out their website here for more details. If you want to learn some interesting facts about Paris, check out this link.
2. Stroll the Champs-Elysses
The grand boulevard of Paris, the Champs Elysses is a fantastic place to see all the latest car designs, fashions or fun window shopping and just pretend that you have a unlimited budget to blow (Its free if its only window shopping) There’s also the typical fast food joints and cafes selling prix fix meals to the tourist crowd, hungry for something relatively moderate in price for food but scales up to better fine dining establishments. Stretching from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, the tree-lined street is an easy walk from end to end.
Tip – just like the Arc de Triomphe, best time to visit is at night when the streets and store fronts are wonderfully lit up and open for late night visitors to window shop. It’s a flat an easy walk all the way to the end at Place de la Concorde.
4. Free visit to Maison de Victor Hugo
France’s greatest 19th century poet’s home is open for visitors free courtesy of the City of Paris. Located at 6 Place des Voges in the 4th Arrondisemont.
4. Free Museum days in Paris
Each first Sunday of the month, many of the French and Parisian museums are open to the public for free. You can visit the Louvre, Musee Rodin, D’Orsay, Centre Pompidou and others. The national museums are also free any time for EU citizens visiting Paris. For more information on free museum days, check out the Paris museum website here for more details.
5. The love lock bridge across the Seine – a replacement
One of the more famous lock bridges in Europe, the Pont des Arts bridge overlooking the Seine is the most famous lock bridges in Europe but unfortunately it is now closed for business and not allowing anyone to place more locks on the bridge. In its place is a rotating show of rotating public art shows that are placed on the bridge walkways. Now there are no more distracting locks with views of the beautiful Seine and riverfront areas while allowing more large-scale public arts venues along the Seine river.
6. Free entrance to Notre Dame De Paris (Being reconstructed so closed indefinitely)
Free entrance to the grand gallery main hall of the cathedral to see this gothic wonder in the center of Paris and all the stained glass and beautiful interior details. You should try to get to the cathedral as early as possible in the morning to avoid crowds especially, if you want to get photos without the hordes of tourists visiting during the popular hours. If you are energetic, climb up the 387 steps up to the bell towers for a magnificent view of the surrounding area, scary gargoyles and other Paris monuments. (Additional fee of 8.50 Eur)
(Image of Notre Dam when it was still intact and a popular attraction to visit, no tours allowed inside the church for the time being)
7. Paris Flower Market
Just close by to Notre Dame on the Isle de la Cite is the Paris Flower market which is bustling early mornings. The flower market is affectionately called “Marché au fleurs reine Elizabeth II” to commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Paris and the market 1n 2014. This is a nice respite with colorful plants, exotic flowers and potted plants to see along with some fun people watching or photography in this market. For more information on visiting the Paris flower market, check out this link for more details on visiting.
8. The covered shopping arcades of Paris
These unique covered 19th century shopping arcades of Paris are a unique to Paris with these glass covered passages and lined with cool galleries, food venues and other shops. Located in the 9th and 2nd arrondisemonts, you can visit the more popular ones with rich facades and architectural details – some of the best to visit include the Passage des Panorama and Passage du Grand Cerf.
9. Stroll the Latin Quarter
The popular Left Bank of Paris is where you will find the Latin Quarter filled with narrow streets filled with bustling cafes, cute bistros and wine bars, book shops and antique stores that are all fun to explore in this district. Walking through the old streets and window shopping or stopping by some of the nice bistros is a great way to experience this fun and lively area of Paris
Tip – the Latin Quarter really kicks up at night-time and feels like a festival happening every night – it’s fun to just sit in a café and people watch or stroll the many narrow streets of the district.
10. Enjoy Paris views from the base of Sacre Coeur
The view from the base of Sacre Coeur overlooks the entire city with wonderful views and photography opportunities. You can spot many of the popular monuments and landmarks around the city and just enjoy the wonderful scenes from hanging out the top. Afterwards a visit to the basilica and surrounding Montmartre district is a fun area to explore both attractions in this popular spot to visit in Paris.
11. Visiting Sacre Coeur inside for free
Located on top of a butte in Montmartre, Sacre Coeur is one of the most iconic attractions to the city. Not only is the basilica site spectacular with amazing panoramic views from the base lookout point, but the interior is stunning to visit with Roman Byzantine influence and architectural details and lovely chapels on the perimeter. You can also see the largest decorated mosaic in France on the in ceiling or climb all the way up to the top of the dome with even more panoramic views of the entire city.
Sacre Coeur is located at 35 Rue du Chevalier-De-La-Barre, 75018 Paris, France. For more information about visiting the basilica, check out their website here for more details.
12. Cemetery du Père Lachaise
One of the most popular cemeteries in the world and Paris’ most haunting spot to visit the famous dead including: Edith Piaf, Proust, Balzac, Oscar Wilde and enfant horrible Jim Morrison is the spot for fans to visit and pay respect while seeing some of the beautiful architecture and artifacts around this beautiful cemetery. Père-Lachaise cemetery is located on the 20th arrondisemont.
13. The banks of the Seine
Surprisingly, the banks of the Seine are also a unique Unesco World Heritage site that is a great spot to relax enjoy a scenic spot away from the flocks of tourists and really connect with the Seine river and soak up some sun. It’s fun to explore the many bookstands lining the upper bank areas or do a photo-op with Sacre Coeur in the background. During the summer months from July 21 through August 21, the Paris Plages season, the city turns the banks of the Seine and the Canal into a big beach scene and the banks are turned to beachside resorts and other fun ongoing events worth checking out.
14. Jardin del Plantes
This botanical garden located opposite the Gare Austerlitz is one of the oldest gardens in the world. The beautiful gardens are well maintained and free to explore outside of the endangered species “Menagerie Garden” which requires a modest entry.
15. Explore the back streets of Montmartre
Below the Sacre Coeur at Montmarte, the back streets behind the famous church are a maze of fascinating alleyways called the Place du Tertre and lined with little curio shops, small take out eateries and cafes and other cool galleries and other unusual finds. It really feels like old Paris with these narrow alleyways with beautiful old buildings that reflect the homes developed in this district. Montmartre surrounding Sacre Coeur is more touristy, but still a fun area to explore the art district and square with all the artists pitching and drawing quick sketches for a living.
16. Arènes de Lutèce
These are the remains of a Roman arena in the heart of Paris. You can visit and sit on the terraces where Romans once entertained and saw various games and events. The arena is located at 49 rue Monge, paris 5. (Latin Quarter). To learn more about this fabulous arena, check out the details here for more information including the surrounding area.
17. Relax in the Tuileries Gardens & free tours
Tuileries Gardens is the perfect place to enjoy a nice rest after walking around the heart of Paris and visiting more than enough museums for the day. Outside of the lovely annual floral displays, sitting around the two elegant pond to absorb the scene and vibe of the area is a nice way to slow down and feel very Parisien. Located between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde the large expansive garden is easy to explore, but there are also regular tours offered around the gardens here to share some of the history, plantings and other surrounding monuments in the park.
18. Canals of Paris
The canals of Paris, mainly the Ourcq, Saint-Denis and Saint-Martin canals are a fantastic local spot to stroll and enjoy this enjoyable part of Paris. The night-time hang out spots located between Republique and Gare du Nord in the 10th arrondissement are where you fill find the waterfront canals area – it’s a perfect spot for picnics, lounging in a café or just doing a nice evening stroll or people watching.
19. Eiffel Tower Light show
Best seen at night-time – the Eiffel tower shows off its glitz by lighting up a few minutes in a spectacular light display and strobe light atop its tower. You can catch the view from many of the Seine bridges or higher lookout points around the city with scenic views from above.
20. La Promenade Plantee in Paris
An abandoned railroad track and viaduct has been repurposed into a popular elevated park with blooming cherry trees, bamboo, fragrant lavender and other beautiful annuals to enjoy on a walk along this wonderful walkway. You also get wonderful aerial views of the communities and surrounding architecture from walking around the elevated park. The entire walk covers over 4.5 Km of wild vegetation with modern garden rooms in between to explore and relax in the busy urban environment.
La Promenade Plantee is located behind the Bastille Opera House at Gare de Lyon – Bercy – 12e Arrondissement
21. Enjoy a farmers market
Check out the lively Bastille market to see the freshest produce and other locally made products in this weekly Thursday and Sunday market. You can shop for the best ingredients in Paris for a nice picnic and vendors will offer you free samples of their products if you look interested in trying them out.
22. Le Marais – Gay district of Paris
This cool and hip part of Paris also known as the Gay Ghetto is a lively and wonderful spot to check out the galleries, fun clothing and vintage shops, trendy bars and popular street side cafes the area is known for. The main landmark Hotel de Ville also houses a rotating free art show and events inside the building for visitors and locals. The Marais and Haut Marais district definitely is the trendy area of Paris where relaxed bistros, speak easy bars and see and be seen cafes are the spot for fun people watching.
Most of the French capital’s gay-friendly venues are located in this neighbourhood squeezed in between Place de la Bastille, Place de la République and Hôtel de Ville. The heart of the Marais’ LGBT community is a fantastic place to explore and hang out with gay and lesbian friendly places to shop, eat and party.
Part of the fun of exploring the Marais is just to walk around and explore the various streets and promenade areas, find some cool shops or grab a bite or sit at an outdoor venue and people watch the chic crowds in the area.
23. Free Walking tours of Paris
There are free self guided tours, greeters and other non-profit walking tours of Paris that are mostly free (minus the tipping portion) and a great way to visit without planning out every detail and knowing the inside stories to the place you want to visit. There are a variety of walking tours to choose from, so you can find out more details of these tours here for more information and the current operating hours.
24. Rooftop views of Paris from Department stores
While admiring the magnificent stained glass interior dome of this famous department store – the Galleries Lafayette in Paris, a visit to the rooftop for the views in the area is a must. Take the escalator up to soak up those nice views of the Opera and immediate area and if you’re in a splurging moment, order a nice aperitif from the rooftop bar close by to enjoy those views of the city.
25. Check out the Park de Valette
A very cool area of Paris that combines green spaces, public art and many cultural venues, the Park de Valette is one of the larges green ecological garden that promotes biodiversity. Designed by Bernard Tschumi, the 26 architectural structures are designated to each activity, innovative designs and free public events. You can check out the various places to explore and regular events happening at Park de Valette here for more details and information on their calendar.
Affordable places to stay in Paris
Paris is not a cheap destination when it comes to staying somewhere reasonable but still in the heart or close commute to the city center. Here are some suggestions of places to stay around Paris that wont break the budget.
Grand hotel Francaise – A boutique hotel in the 11th arrondisement offers exceptional 4 star service, rooms and value for only two star prices. Modern and clean rooms with
Hotel Darcet – A great value hotel and location with clean rooms, small rooms and simple but comfortable with a friendly staff to help with any needs
La Manufacture – Modern and clean lines matched with efficient and clean rooms, friendly staff and easy access to public transport and the
Looking for more deals, check out these affordable stays with Trip Advisor here for updated prices and availability.
Check more inspiring posts to visiting Paris here
Spending a perfect day in Paris
10 tips and suggestions to visiting Paris
More free & cheap things to do in other destinations
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Conclusion to free things to do in Paris
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I am amazed at all the free stuff to do in Paris. Definitely puts a hole in the idea that someone cannot afford a Paris trip. Yep rooms and food can put you back but beyond that, you can do some or all of these 25 things over the course of a month, really.
I always wanted to stroll the Champs. I walked by the Strait in Istanbul, have covered most of Manhattan in NYC, have hit the streets in Bangkok and in a few other major cities. Gotta walk the Champs to experience it.
Thanks for sharing with us.
Yes it is fun to walk through the night, but the neighborhoods of Paris are what oozes the Parisian charm, chic and places where the locals live and hang out
I was trying to think if I could add to your list, but I can’t! Great list of free things to do in Paris. I’m glad that the love locks are gone. It was a nice idea that got out of control.
Oh I’m sure you can somehow add more to this list on what to do and see in Paris for free.
Great advice. Just walking around Paris and visiting some of the neighbourhoods should be on everybody’s list of things to do in this city. It’s sensory overload on a grand scale..
Thanks for visiting Rhonda, yes it is a no brainer to enjoy all these amazing neighborhoods for free
I loved that you mentioned the cemetery with Jim Morrison’s remains. It’s one of your free things to do in Paris that I haven’t done myself, but will have to remember next time I’m there. Thanks for the reco’s on hotels, too!
Hi Jane, Hope that you get a chance to visit the cemetery next time around – it is pretty spectacular.
Thoroughly enjoyed this post, and it’s always nice to know about the free things to do in famous cities as so much is often focussed on the paying things to see or do. I think visiting the free spots as a sort of quest, throws up lots of other interesting things along the way.
Yes, it doesn’t take too much to really explore neighborhoods and monuments and splurge for just the right things, thanks for commenting Jo
I always love finding free things to do in fabulous cities. There is so much to enjoy in Paris just be walking around.
That is very true and why most of these tips are about exploring different neighbhorhoods