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There are so many fun and free things to do in Paris, France!
Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and one that I am extremely fond of. However… it ain’t cheap to visit the French capital. Lodging can be pricey, food (while delicious) can be expensive, and with all the amazing attractions it’s easy for your costs to quickly go as high as the Tour Eiffel.
But with a city so amazing there are actually a ton of fantastic places to visit and things to do that won’t add anything to your bill while adding a lot of value to your experience.
Here are the 11 best free things to do in Paris.
Visit the Parks and Gardens
Paris is full of gorgeous gardens and parks to visit, and these lovely greenspaces are dotted around the city. These spots are very popular with both locals and tourists, and, especially during the evenings and on weekends, the parks are filled with family and friends enjoying the fresh air.
So where to stroll? There’s the Jardin de Tuileries, which is adjacent to the Louvre and sits right along the Seine. Or, there’s the Jardin de Luxembourg in the trendy Latin Quarter.
Both of these gardens have immaculate flower displays, wide walkways, lots of seating options, sculptures through the grounds, and different types of ponds or water displays.
But, if you want an experience that is more “park” than “garden” and is full of locals, hit up Parc Monceau or Parc des Buttes Chaumont.
Parc Monceau has intricately wrought iron gates, a pond with Greek columns, a carousel, a bridge, and playground, and a great view of the Arc de Triomphe.
Parc des Buttes Chaumont takes advantage of a hilly area and provides a beautiful view of Paris. It also has a pond and bridge, cliffside views, walking paths, and tons of green space to relax in. Oh, and well-kept bathrooms! (Don’t laugh, this is actually super important for Paris.)
Of course, one of the best things to do at Parisian parks is enjoy a picnic! Find a chair or nice piece of grass, settle in, and enjoy a lazy lunch admiring your beautiful surroundings.
Enjoy Free Museum Day
While the major museums of Paris cost money, most of them have free days every month, where anyone can get free entry into the main areas of the museum. For example, some of the best free museums throughout the month are:
- The Musee d’Orsay, a museum inside an old train station full of impressionist art, is free on the first Sunday of every month.
- The Musee Rodin (one of my absolute faves) is free the first Sunday of the month from Oct 1- March 31st.
- Pompidou, the inside-out museum of modern art, is free on the first Sunday of every month.
- The Chateau of Versailles is free on the first Sunday of every month from November to March.
- The Louvre is free on the 14th of July (France’s independence day).
- Many other museums are free on the first Sunday of every month; check their websites to verify!
A note on free things to do in Paris for students:
If you are under 18 years old (or are from the EU and under 26), almost every monument and museum in Paris is free! Bring your ID with you, and you should be able to get free admission. (Although I would still double-check an attraction’s website to be sure!)
Watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle at Trocadero
Going to the top of the Eiffel Tower costs money, but looking doesn’t cost a thing! Of course, you want to see it during both the day and night, as at nighttime the tower is lit up.
Every hour on the hour, for five minutes, the tower will sparkle with thousands of flickering lights.
It is truly magical! I recommend watching the sparkles from the Trocadero platform. The way that the platform perfectly frames the tower is *chef’s kiss*.
Walk the Seine
The Seine is the river that cuts through Paris. There are two islands in the middle of the Seine – the larger one is Île de la Cité, and it holds Notre Dame Cathedral and Sainte Chapelle, and the smaller one is Ile Saint Louis. Fun fact: Paris was first founded on those islands!
While most walking paths are higher up from the river (“city level” is several meters above the river), there are also several places where you can walk down some stairs and walk right along the edge closer to the water.
Walking the banks of the Seine is very relaxing and pretty and is one of the best things to do in Paris for free!
The water is flowing along beside you, the walkway stretches in front of you, old, stone-carved bridges are crossing the Seine, lovers are holding hands strolling by, friends are sitting together along the edge, and the buildings of Paris, with their gorgeous architecture, line the banks.
I particularly like the section of the Seine by the islands and then farther west by the Louvre, but any section is lovely.
Explore Notre Dame and other churches
It is free to visit (almost) all the churches of Paris (Sainte Chapelle would be a notable exception), and, whether you are religious or not, you absolutely need to experience this impressive piece of history!
The sheer vastness of Notre Dame is humbling, with the high vaulted ceilings and soaring arches, and the stained glass windows are second to none.
There are amazing Catholic churches scattered all over Paris, and I really like popping into a church when I’m walking by.
Other churches to consider would be Sacré Coeur, Eglise Saint Sulpice, Eglise Saint Germain, Eglise de la Madeleine, and Eglise Saint Ambroise. But really, just popping into whatever church you happen to be walking by can be really fun.
When you travel to the French capital, you absolutely can’t miss the city’s churches as one of the best free places to visit in Paris!
Marvel at the Place de la Concorde
Place de la Concorde is a small square in the middle of a busy traffic circle. It is found right at the end of the Jardin de Tuileries, before the Champs Elysées starts, and is one of the best free attractions in Paris.
During the French Revolution, the Place de la Concorde was the main guillotine site. Today, an obelisk, a gift from Egypt, marks the spot. There are also two beautiful fountains that flank the obelisk.
From the Place, you get an awesome view of the Arc de Triomphe, the Madeleine church, the Jardin des Tuileries, the bridge crossing the Seine, and even a view of the Eiffel Tower poking up behind some buildings. It’s a significant and interesting historical spot!
Walk the Champs Elysees
The Champs Elysées is the long, wide boulevard that stretches between the Arc de Triomphe and the Jardins de Tuileries.
It is one of the most famous streets in the world and gives some of the iconic shots of Paris – the way the enormous Arc de Triomphe rises grandly at the end of the tree-lined street will stop you in your tracks!
I recommend crossing from one side of the Champs Elyées to the other at some point so you can really appreciate the view of the Arc de Triomphe from the middle of the street!
Walking down the Champs, you will see luxury designers and trendy stores. There are a lot of restaurants and cafes, and the people-watching is top-notch.
I recommend starting at the Georges V metro station, as the boulevard is long! (Alternatively, you can start at the Franklin Roosevelt metro station if you want a little longer walk).
I generally think that, unless there is a specific store you want to shop in, just walking between Georges V and the Arc de Triomphe is the right amount of street to get a great feel and have a fun experience.
Discover the Beauty of Montmartre
Montmartre is most famous for the Sacre Coeure basilica, but it is also so much more. The whole neighborhood is full of adorable and charming locations, and you really should spend some time exploring the area.
Place du Tertre is a square where artists are out painting and selling their wares.
You should also walk by Le Consulat and La Maison Rose, which are well-known restaurants in very recognizable buildings. But what I really love is finding the area’s pretty staircases and walking down the picturesque streets of Rue de l’Abreuvoir and Rue Lepic.
Finally, find the Moulin Rouge and the smaller Moulin de la Galette and take pictures by the Mur de Je t’Aime (I Love You Wall).
Take in the View from Galeries Lafayette
Galeries Lafayette is an upscale department store located in the 8th arrondissement, behind the Opera Garnier. But it’s not just a department store. The whole building is a showstopper and “Galeries Lafayette” is synonymous with shopping in Paris.
The defining feature is a huge, art-nouveau-style, domed atrium. It is several stories tall, and each level hosts a ring of shopping areas with intricate staircases connecting the levels.
The whole space is stunning, and there is a great synergy between the massive space and the small, intricate details. Just walking through the store is fun, “window shopping” the luxury goods.
On the top floor, you can access the rooftop terrace which offers an excellent view of Paris – again; access is free.
And at Christmastime, a massive Christmas tree fills the atrium, and the whole store is strung with decorations – a must-see during the holidays!
Wander Around Père Lachaise
Père Lachaise is the biggest and one of the oldest cemeteries in Paris.
It covers a whopping 110 acres and is full of old graves with large and sometimes very ornate above-ground tombs and sepulchers. With its maze of tree-lined paths, you can walk through this calm and truly beautiful cemetery for a long time.
To make the visit even more interesting, though, is the fact that many famous people are interred here. The most visited grave in the whole cemetery is that of singer Jim Morrison, but other well-known people, such as Mèolière, Chopin, Edith Piaf, and Proust are here too.
You can spend an enjoyable afternoon wandering around, looking for the grave of your favorite intellectual or musician, and enjoying the break from the bustle of the city.
Get Lost in the Versailles Gardens
Although it’s already been noted that the Chateau of Versailles is free on the first Sunday of every month and that parks and gardens are a great free thing to do in Paris, I really think it’s worth putting the Versailles gardens into their own separate category!
The gardens at Versailles are always free, and they are just so next level! Plus, they’re one of the best photo spots in Paris.
First off, you get a great view of the back of the palace in all of its splendor and beauty.
Then, as you start venturing into the gardens, you’ll encounter the Latona fountain – a large and prominent fountain at the bottom of a set of stairs.
From here, the Tapis Vert (“The Green Carpet”) is a long pathway lined with statues and hedges that leads to the Apollo Fountain and the Grand Canal.
On the other sides of the Tapis Vert are a series of different themed groves, with paths meandering around and leading you to a focal point in the middle of each grove – such as a grand statue, water feature, or even a mini-amphitheater.
As you get farther in, you can explore and wander more of the parks, walking around the grand canal and exploring some of the back reaches of the estate gardens. You’ll find it easy to spend several hours here discovering new hidden gems.
There is no end to fantastic and meaningful free things to do in Paris on this list. Indeed, some of my absolute favorite things to do in Paris are free (visiting parks and churches). Even just walking the streets of Paris feels like a cultural experience in and of itself!
So on your next visit to Paris, enjoy some of these amazing places and leave some more room in your budget for the important things – like an endless supply of baguettes and cheese!
Meet the Guest Author
This post, including its words and photos, was contributed by Stephanie from The Unknown Enthusiast!
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