25 Odd, Touristy and Free Things To Do In Paris

Posted on 18. Mar, 2013 by in Destinations, Europe Travel, France

Free Things To Do In Paris

Travel is but one of the few expenses that will make you both richer and poorer at the same time. But what if I told you there was a way to avoid the monthly bank statement heart attack?

Paris, unlike the rest of its equivalent counterparts, is actually fairly easy to visit on a tight budget, contrary to popular beliefs. Between its walkable-size (adios expensive taxi fares and metro tickets) and its many inexpensive dining options, there are also hundreds of free sightseeing opportunities waiting to be seized, some obvious, some not.

If indeed you are planning to visit Paris, read on. It might save you a few hundred euros!

10 free and off-the-beaten-path things to do in Paris

free things to do in paris

  • Galeries Lafayette: While it may seem odd to promote a high-end department store as a free activity, the Galeries Lafayette is perhaps the one stop that offers the best value with 3 different things to do! First off, marvel at the splendid stained-glass dome, an heritage of the Belle Epoque and Art Nouveau eras. Then, revel in French haute-couture at one of the weekly 30-minutes fashion show on the 7th floor (advance booking only via email or telephone at +33 (0)1 42 82 36 40). Lastly, go all the way up on the last floor of the store and enjoy gorgeous views of Paris from the terrace (open in summer only)
  • Musée Fragonard: One of the few entirely free museums of the city! Dedicated to one of the oldest and most famous French perfumeries, the museum is located in a beautiful Napoleon II townhouse and features a lovely ornate decor that will leave very few indifferent.
  • Promenade Plantée: Forget New York’s High Line - the real deal is the Promenade Plantée, which existed long before its NYC counterpart. What used to be an elevated train track is now home to a beautiful, serene, linear park that’s especially popular with the locals. Keep an eye out for interesting pieces of street art.

free things to do in paris

  • La Défense: Why not spice up your Parisian getaway with skyscrapers, ultra-modern architecture and a fast-paced central square? Just a few minutes outside the city lies the most important business center of Europe, with gorgeous, colorful fountains and surprising buildings that you typically wouldn’t expect to find Europe, much less Paris.
  • Butte Chaumont: Not just a huge poster in Monica’s and Chandler’s apartment, the Butte Chaumont really does exist, and offers unobstructed views over Paris from an angle that few visitors get to see. The hike up the park is, unsurprisingly, very steep - it is called a butte, which is French for hill - but the reward far outweighs the effort.
  • Institut du monde arabe: If you are in the mood for a delicious, inexpensive mint tea and unparalleled views of Notre-Dame Cathedral, the islands and even Montmartre, the terrace of the Institut is the perfect place to spend an hour or two.
  • Love locks on Pont des Arts and Pont de l’Archevêché: Come and participate in one of the most romantic - or cheesiest, it’s up to you - traditions in Paris. Buy a lock, write both your name and your sweeeheart’s on it, lock it on the bridge and throw away the key in the Seine.

free things to do in paris

  • The Seine banks: What is technically the only UNESCO listed site in Paris - surprising, right? - often goes under the tourists radar - sadly so, because it’s quite an amazing place to sit, relax and eat a macaron on a sunny day. It also offers a unique perspective of Paris.
  • Hôtel de Ville: Welcome to the largest City Hall in Europe! While most of the 16th century building is closed to visitors for security reasons, there are many interesting exhibitions throughout the year, as well as free guided visits of the State Rooms (by reservations only).
  • Musée Carnavalet: Nestled in the heart of Le Marais and opened since 1880, this fantastic museum depicts the history of Paris from its very beginnings to our day and is located in a lovely 11th century mansion. Not to be missed for the hardcore Paris lovers, or the neophyte.

17 touristy and free things to do in Paris

Good to know: most museums and National Monuments are free of charge every first Sunday of the month - some in the winter, some year-round. Yes, there are going to be massive crowds, that’s a given. But I’ll gladly take a crowded Louvre than no Louvre at all.

Also good to know: most “national monuments” listed below are entirely free of charge for international visitors under 18, or European residents between the ages of 18-25. Make sure to have a valid ID with you, and enjoy the free visit!

Free Things To Do In Paris

Sure, off the beaten path and local-approved activities are always fun - but going to Paris and skipping the Eiffel Tower? Not cool. There are dozens of iconic landmarks in Paris that are well worth a visit, if only for a brief but budget-friendly glimpse.

  • Eiffel Tower and Place du Trocadéro
  • Arc de Triomphe
  • Notre-Dame-de-Paris (indoor visit free of charge!)
  • Pyramide du Louvre
  • Jardin des Tuileries
  • Jardin du Luxembourg
  • Père-Lachaise and Montparnasse Cemetaries
  • Place des Vosges
  • Panthéon
  • Conciergerie
  • The hill of Montmartre
  • Pont Alexandre-III
  • Fontaine Stavinsky
  • The arcades of Rue du Rivoli
  • Les Invalides
  • Champs-Élysées
  • Canal Saint-Martin

Free Things To Do In Paris

Getting to Paris is usually expensive enough as it is - I suggest you stick to free attractions, and keep your money for the spontaneous crêpe stop or a picturesque afternoon spent drinking wine on a sunny terrace. The fantastic places listed here are just another proof that with a bit of planning, Paris can be one of the most budget-friendly cities in Europe, despite its reputation.

What is your favorite free thing to do Paris? Did you know all these places were free?

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37 Responses to “25 Odd, Touristy and Free Things To Do In Paris”

  1. Julika

    18. Mar, 2013

    Great list! The Promenade Plantée is definitely on my next Paris itinerary — I just love this idea of combining edgy urban elements with nature and art!
    And regarding the Galeries Lafayette terrace — I did go up there last November… so it might still be accessible during the winter as long as the weather is somewhat dry.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      18. Mar, 2013

      Same here - talk about smart urban development. Also, good to know for Lafayette!

      Reply to this comment
  2. Andrea

    18. Mar, 2013

    I definitely missed a few of these. Pere Lachaise is free and quite interesting if you feel like taking a little train trip…

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      18. Mar, 2013

      A little train trip? Not sure I get what train you are talking about.

      Reply to this comment
      • Lorraine Slattery

        16. Nov, 2014

        I totally agree. After at least 8 separate day trips to beautiful and enchanting Paris, I lived in Ramstein, Germany, the only time I was lost on the Metro was trying to get to the Orsay. Totally turned around!

        Reply to this comment
  3. Jenna

    18. Mar, 2013

    I love the Promenade Plantée and the Seine banks! I wanted to make it to Buttes Chaumont last time we were in Paris, but unfortunately, it didn’t work out. We recently stayed near the Hôtel de Ville, butI didn’t realize there were free exhibits. I’ll have to check that out, along with a few of the others next time! Thanks!

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      18. Mar, 2013

      You’re welcome! Can’t wait to check out the City Hall myself.

      Reply to this comment
  4. Lizzie

    19. Mar, 2013

    Great list! I’ve missed out a few items on the off-the-beaten path list - mainly because my two trips to Paris have been really short so I was racing around seeing the main attractions. When I go back I’ll have to check out some of the lesser-know places you mention :)

    Reply to this comment
  5. Edna

    21. Mar, 2013

    As someone who lives in Paris, I can tell you there is no better way to spend a sunny day than sitting along the banks of the Seine with friends, wine, sweets and some light guitar music wafting in through the background…

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      28. Mar, 2013

      Now you just made me want to be in Paris all over again. Sounds like a fantastic day!

      Reply to this comment
  6. Lil

    22. Mar, 2013

    Please don’t advise people to throw the key of locks into the river. It’s polluting the river, being left to rust in the water - not. good. In fact I wouldn’t even encourage people to put the love locks because the integrity of the bridges get compromised and the grill had to be regularly cut and changed…

    (Ps: it’s not a French/Parisian tradition by the way - it was something written in an Italian novel about a decade ago and somehow the idea spread from Rome to Paris - and elsewhere too…)

    Paris is fabulous so let’s keep it that way :)

    Reply to this comment
    • Clare Laming

      02. Aug, 2014

      The bridges actually cannot cope with the weight of all the locks either. It was a nice idea but now it has gotten out of control. I live nearby and it looks like an eyesore. I agree with you Lil. Stop polluting the Seine with your so-called love. Just kiss! ;-)

      Reply to this comment
  7. Larissa

    24. Mar, 2013

    Great suggestions, Marie! I also like visiting the Arenes de Lucece in the Latin Quarter. To find an ancient Roman Theatre tucked away in the middle of Paris is surreal! I also wrote a post on lesser-known sights in Paris. . . not all are free, but a few are:
    http://www.changesinlongitude.com/5-less-crowded-sights-in-paris-larissas-list/

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      28. Mar, 2013

      Could you believe that I didn’t know about that?

      Reply to this comment
  8. Laura @Travelocafe

    25. Mar, 2013

    Oh, this is a great Paris guide. Thank you. I have been already three times in Paris, but I am sure I will end up there again… great tips.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      28. Mar, 2013

      Glad you like this, Laura. Hopefully you’ll be in Paris soon!

      Reply to this comment
  9. Donna K

    06. Jul, 2013

    Thanks for the amazing tips! Heading there in august, so this couldn’t come at a better time, Merci!

    Reply to this comment
  10. Jeff

    14. Jan, 2014

    Père-Lachaise Cemetary was one of my favorites. Spent one afternoon walking through with my granddaughter, the history is amazing. We took a few notes from some of the more interesting gravesites and looked up more info on the net when we got home. Great history lesson for both of us.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      15. Jan, 2014

      Cemetaries are such interesting places to visit, especially in European capitals. Glad you enjoyed it!

      Reply to this comment
      • Kathy

        13. Dec, 2014

        I was reading all the comments. Im leaving for Paris Saturday with my daughter and her friend. They are stationed In Germany. Is the tour bus that great? I’m just excited to go there and take a beautiful picture to remember this day with my daughter.. My Christmas present from my son-in-law, Tell me what not to miss. ‘

        Thank you,
        ‘Kathy”

        Reply to this comment
        • Marie-Eve Vallieres

          27. Dec, 2014

          Tour buses can either be great or awful - in the end, it really depends on your travel style. If you would rather not walk everywhere and want to stick to the main attractions, then I say go for it! But in Paris, everything is so walkable I would say just walk and take in the beautiful architecture. If all else fails, metro tickets are suuuper cheap.

          Reply to this comment
  11. Natasha Foulon

    17. Jan, 2014

    on the way to visit Montmartre, be sure to take the small funiculaire (lift) and enjoy the views on your way up. Taking the metro be sure to stop at Abbesses where you have a beautiful metro sign and the ‘I love you-wall’ in a nearby garden.
    In front of the Notre Dame (pretty great with the gargouilles (or waterspitters) the original middle of the city stone is positioned. When you read 120km to Paris, it means 120km to this stone. And whilst walking on the Seine riverbeds, visit the Isle of the Swans (Ile des Cygnes) and look for the replica of the Statue of Liberty. The Flame of Liberty (only the flame but in real size as in the US) can be seen near Pont de l’Alma.

    Reply to this comment
  12. Clare Laming

    02. Aug, 2014

    If you like food markets and want an even better (cheaper) mint tea go to Le Marché des Enfants Rouge in the north of the Marais quarter. Be careful though, the entrance is tiny. A blink-and-you-miss-it type scenario. Great post!

    Reply to this comment
  13. armida

    02. Sep, 2014

    Its grate things to do in Paris. The gorgeous Sacre Coeur basilica is in itself a major tourist attraction which should be explored in about half an hour, with free entry. Sacre Coeur, Montmartre - up to an hour or a whole evening. If you’re coming for the evening, bring some food and a bottle of wine and watch the sun set amongst the crowds, some of whom will bring guitars and music and start a party on the steps.

    Reply to this comment
  14. Franca

    27. Dec, 2014

    Great list, I wish I knew about some of these places and activities whilst in Paris. Next time I guess ;)

    Reply to this comment
  15. Indira Castillo

    03. Jan, 2015

    Im going to London in april and im planing on going to Paris (because once you are there is a must isn’t?) im going alone and my friend been trying to scare me that is to expensive to go… this list will help me.. i know if im not there even just to walk those beautiful streets i will regret it :) thanks for posting!

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      08. Jan, 2015

      Well yes, Paris and London can be expensive but they don’t have to be if you plan ahead. There are a ton of super cool, clean and modern hostels and heaps of inexpensive restaurants. Let me know if you need more tips :-)

      Reply to this comment
  16. Dave Smiley

    04. Jan, 2015

    Spent an afternoon at the pere lachaise cemetery , very interesting ,easy to get to by the metro , then found a great pizza place down the street . Loved paris going back for a second visit

    Reply to this comment

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