City of love, fashion capital, literary paradise…Paris has many different guises. And while museum entry can be steep and fine dining comes at a premium, the French capital can also be a very cheap date.
Whether you go weak at the knees for soaring church spires or want to rub elbows at an authentic French market, let yourself be seduced by our top 10 must-sees. They are all are completely gratuit, letting you save the euros for the really important stuff: wine, cheese and a flashing Eiffel Tower keyring you’ll regret the minute you return home.
Festooned with gargoyles and gothic touches, this imposing Parisian icon is essential for every visitor. Entering this grand medieval edifice is free but if you can’t bear the queue then stroll along the Seine nearby for an alternate view of its spiky apse and naturalist sculptures.
Window-shopping (or lécher les vitrines to the locals) is a great way to take an indulgent peek at objets d’art and wild curiosities you’d never actually buy. The flea market and antiques fair St-Ouen is the perfect place to let your imagination run riot. Marvel at bearskin rugs, antique tapestries and brass diving bells in this decadently eccentric marketplace. (But try to keep your eyebrow-raising in check when you look at the price tags.) Hop off the métro at Porte de Clignancourt and continue under the bridge until the souvenir stalls give way to side streets crammed with beautiful buys.
A lift to the peak of the Eiffel Tower can squeeze the budget at €13.40 per ticket, but luckily the views below are just as stunning. Le Champ de Mars has lawns and flowerbeds manicured with military precision (as you’d expect from a former army marching ground). Bring a blanket, wine and the best brie you can find to this expanse of greenery and wait for the light show at dusk to set La Tour Eiffel a-twinkle.
The most haunting spot in Paris allows you to rub shoulders with literary greats like Proust and Balzac and even plant a kiss on Oscar Wilde’s lipstick-smudged tomb. Jim Morrison also lies here, his grave strewn with cigarettes, flower garlands and alcoholic offerings from rock fans who make a musical pilgrimage here. The tree-lined avenues and calling crows make Père Lachaise the most atmospheric walk in Paris. Head to the 20th arrondissement, stopping at Père Lachaise on line 2 or 3 or Philippe Auguste on line 2.
For a surreal view of French culture, dive into the permanent collections of the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris. From the bolshy cubism of Braque to Matisse’s dancers, there’s sure to be something to lift your spirits. Take métro line 9 and alight at Alma-Marceau.
Feast your eyes on the finest local produce at the Marché d’Aligre. Mountains of cheese, artisan butchers and a field of flower stalls can send you into sensory overload after wandering through a few aisles. Stop for a discreet glass of Bordeaux and get your hands floury on some crusty baguette. Step off line 8 at Ledru-Rollin and make your way to Place d’Aligre.
This palatial white marble church crowns the lively Montmartre district in the 18th arrondissement. Its interior is bedecked with gold mosaics and towering stained-glass windows, and you can listen for the peal of one of the world’s heaviest bells. Visiting the basilica is free, but there’s a charge to ascend into the dome or explore the crypt.
Experience a tour de force through Paris’ history, from its ancient origins to the fashion-forward capital of sophistication it is today. The Musée Carnavalet’s permanent collection has no charge, allowing you to saunter through fin-de-siècle drawing rooms and delicately reconstructed baroque interiors without spending a euro. The closest métro stops are Chemin Vert and Saint Paul.
Paris’ steepest park is murder on your calf muscles but a feast for your senses. With abundant birdlife, rocky reliefs and even a waterfall masterminded by landscaping genius Baron Haussmann, it’s easy to forget you’re in France’s hectic capital city. Find the park from Botzaris and Buttes Chaumont métro stops in the 19th arrondissement.
The final resting place for hundreds of glamorous and intellectual Parisians, this cemetery is less ostentatious than Père Lachaise but perfect for a serene stroll. Get closer than you ever thought possible to Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Samuel Beckett.