Paris Travel Guide
True to its nickname, Paris is a city that is impossible to not fall in love with. Like art? The Louvre could keep you occupied for months. Bit of a history buff? Walking Paris’ many historic quarters is akin to traveling through time. Consider yourself a foodie? Welcome to heaven.
This city has a seemingly endless amount of things to see and do, but I’ve shared some of my favorite activities and money saving tips below.
What to Budget
€30-40 per night
Given how popular of a travel destination Paris is, it’s not surprising that the cost of accommodations is on the higher end in the city. Expect to spend anywhere from €30-40 per night, even in the “budget hostels”. If you’re traveling with someone else, I’d recommend checking out Airbnb (get $40 off with that link!), as you can find some pretty good deals in the city and split a place for less than the cost of two beds in a hostel.
As with any accommodation, location is everything, so the further you get outside the city center, the more you can save. Luckily, Paris is well-connected via its subway system, so getting around won’t be an issue. If you’re traveling alone, hostels will still be your best bet. Check them out at HostelWorld.
Going out to Eat
€5-20 per meal
Let’s be honest; you’re not going to go to Paris and not sample the many incredible foods it has to offer. It’s basically the greatest hits album of food in general. That being said, it’s not easy to balance indulging your taste buds and making your budget go further. Now that’s not to say you can’t find great food at an affordable price, but you have to be smart about where you eat.
The Champs-Elysées for instance; Paris’ luxury shopping street, is one of the most overpriced areas you could eat in the city. Get away from the tourist hotspots and opt for the more hole-in-the-wall style establishments. Many restaurants will offer fixed price three-course meals at lunchtime for just €10-15. It’s a great way to experience Paris’ culinary delights without breaking the bank.
€1.90 per ride
While I would consider Paris a very walkable city, many of its most famous attractions are quite spread out. Thankfully, Paris has an excellent metro system that will save you the hike for just €1.90 per ride.
If you plan to be in the city for a few days or more, you can save a little money by purchasing a 10 pack of tickets for just €14.50.
Many of Paris’ best attractions can be experienced by even the most frugal of travelers. Most ticketed activities will run you between €5-10, though there are many free museums and experiences available as well. If you’ve got the leg muscles for it, you can even take the stairs up to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower for only €4.50!
How to Save
Eat Like the Locals
The thought of eating a candlelit dinner next to the Arc de Triomphe sounds tempting, I know, but don’t forget – we’re traveling long-term on a budget here. Sacrifices must be made. Luckily, while you may have to compromise in visual aesthetics, you can still experience every delicious bit of Paris at a fraction of the exorbitant prices.
Ditch the touristy areas and opt for a quieter cafe instead. Grab a freshly made croissant and cafe au lait for breakfast at most local bars or coffee shops for less than €5. If it’s a nice day out, grab a baguette, some local cheeses and a bottle of wine at a nearby store and have yourself a picnic along La Seine for less than €10.
Take Advantage of Lunch Specials
Many restaurants around Paris will offer a fixed price three-course meal during lunch. This is a great way to experience some of the city’s best offerings on a tight budget – typically €15 or less.
Free Walking Tour
If you’d like to learn about Paris’ history and hot spots while saving a little money, check out Sandemans New Europe walking tours. The tours are run by highly knowledgeable locals and are completely free of charge. While the tour itself won’t cost you anything, the guides are paid entirely in tips, so it is customary to leave at least a few euro if you enjoyed the experience. Make sure to book your spot in advance online, as the tours are offered on a first come first serve basis and do tend to fill up quickly.
Buy Your Metro Tickets in Bulk
If you plan to be in the city a few days or more (and you should – there is so much to see!), I recommend buying a book of 10 metro tickets for €14.50, compared to the €19 you would spend if you were to buy them one at a time. That’s like three free rides!
Visit the Free Museums
If you’re lucky enough to be there at the right time, many of Paris’ incredible museums are free to the public on the first Sunday of every month. Also, if you’re under 18 (0r 26 if you live in an EU country), most museums are free every day! Some of the free Sundays operate on seasonal windows, so I would recommend checking the full schedule here.
Given the high cost of hostels in the city, consider trying Couchsurfing. Couchsurfing is a website that pairs you up with locals who are willing to let you stay with them during your visit. It can be a bit intimidating staying at a stranger’s house, but once you get used to the idea, you’ll quickly realize it is one of the best ways to experience a new place. What better way to learn about the area than from a local resident? If they have time, they may even show you around. My first Couchsurfing experience was in Paris and my very kind host made it a fantastic one. Give it a shot!
Grab a Crepe from a Food Cart
For me, it’s not a real trip to Paris until I get a freshly-made crepe from one of the many street vendors located around the city. For €3-5, they’ll prepare a crepe from scratch with your choice of filling in just a couple minutes. I highly recommend banana and speculoos if they have it.
Visit the Catacombs
If you’re in the mood for something a bit more macabre (or just to beat the summer heat), head over to the Paris Catacombs for a self-guided walking tour of the legendary ossuary. Depending on the day, there is usually a fairly long line waiting to get in, so leave yourself some extra time. It takes about 30-45 minutes to walk through and it’ll drop you off outside a gift shop where you can buy spooky little trinkets to remember your visit. Fair warning though, if you are freaked out by bones or confined areas, maybe skip this one.
Plan Your Visit to The Louvre
The Louvre is one of many “can’t miss” activities in Paris. However, one does not simply do The Louvre. Here’s a fun fact for you – If you were to spend 30 seconds on each piece of art in The Louvre from open to close, it would take you a little over three months to see it all. That being the case, you’ll need to be a bit more tactical in your approach. Plan out what pieces you really want to see and make a beeline for those. Otherwise, plan on extending your stay.
Macarons at Pain de Sucre
If you ask where to find great macarons in Paris, most people will tell you to visit one of the several Ladurée locations around the city. They’re not wrong. Ladurée does do a fantastic job. But if you ask me, the BEST macarons in Paris can be found at Patisserie Pain de Sucre. Located on the outskirts of the Latin Quarter, these colorful cookies are well worth the walk. Seriously, I still dream about these things. Do yourself a favor and check this place out.
One of my favorite nice weather activities in Paris is eating outside along La Seine or near the Eiffel Tower. Visiting the bakery for your fresh baguette, the butcher shop for some jambon de bayonne and local cheeses, and finding the perfect bottle of wine are all part of the experience… or if you’d rather get right to it, you can gather everything you need at a nearby Monoprix (including plastic wine glasses!).
Visit Shakespeare and Company
If you’re a book lover, you can’t miss one of Paris’ famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore. This shop has charm and character bursting out the door (not to mention an impressive selection of books as well). I could easily spend hours in here every time I visit and still find things that surprise. Last time I visited, I found one of my favorites, The Great Gatsby, available with four different cover arts. This place is bookwork heaven.
Take in the Views from the Eiffel Tower
Yes, it’s about as touristy as you can get, but the views from the top are well worth it. You can buy an elevator ticket straight to the top, but if you want to get the full experience (and save a few euros), buy the stairs-only ticket to the second floor and upgrade your ticket from there if you’d like to continue up. Walking the many steps to the second floor may seem daunting, but it’s really the best way to truly appreciate everything that went into its construction.