How to see the City of Light on a budget
Guest blogger Gretchelle Quiambao shares her tips for visiting Paris on a budget. You can also read her personal blog here.
Paris is on practically every traveller’s to-do list and the city welcomes thousands of visitors every year. Along with being known as one of the most romantic cities in the world, Paris does have a reputation for being a bit on the pricier side.
However, budget travellers should not be discouraged from visiting. Paris does have hidden gems that come at much more forgiving price tags and with a little research you can have an amazing experience without burning a hole in your wallet.
Travel around Paris
Paris is a beautiful city and ideal for exploring on foot as the main tourist attractions are located close to one another. It is worth noting that the Metro is another easy and inexpensive way to get around especially if you want to cover a lot of ground in a short space of time.
Another great way to see the city is by using the Velib bike system. This bike rental system is fairly simple, but do try to get a bike as early as possible as people tend to pick them up fast especially during peak seasons. All you need is a credit card to use at any of the 1,800 rental stations around the city. You can rent the bike for a day or a week and you will pay a deposit for as many trips as you like. If you happen to use the bike for less than 30 minutes and return it to a rental station your card will be refunded and the trip will be free.
Sleeping in the City of Light
Hotels are abundant in Paris but the prices may not fit into the budget traveller’s expenses. Bear in mind that Paris is a city meant to be explored so don’t coop yourself up inside your room!
Hostels are a great option for those looking for a cheaper alternative to a hotel but with the same quality of service. Hostels are a great way to connect with other travellers and to save money. With an increase in the demand for budget accommodation in today’s economic climate there are now even more hostels throughout the city for you to choose from. HI Hostels, for example, have five hostels in Paris so it’s just a matter of picking which neighbourhood of the city is best for your needs.
Feast for your stomach
Paris is famous for many things including, fashion, art and, most importantly, food. All foodies have Paris on their list of must-go destinations and for good reason. While Paris is known for its many Michelin-starred restaurants, the city’s street food and smaller bistros still have the same high quality fare as found at the more expensive restaurants. Of all the things to enjoy in this French city one thing every visitor should prioritise is eating as much food as possible!
A must for any foodie visiting Paris is trying French patisserie. The entire city is lined with bakeries and patisserie shops with mouth-watering and artistic baked goods. If you feel like splurging head over to Ladurée but do bear in mind that a box of just six of their famous macaroons will set you back about €17. For a cheaper alternative there are many bakeries in the Latin Quarter that have equally delicious treats without the hefty price tag.
For breakfast keep it light with a pastry such as a croissant and a cappuccino at a small café. Many of the cafés have three different prices depending on where you sit in the café. Outdoor seating will cost more than indoor seating and the cheapest prices will always be in the standing area by the bar.
For lunch grab a quick sandwich or crepe from the many street vendors that line the city. Another great lunch option is to stroll the small streets at Le Marais to find great falafel stands that can give you a filling and cheap lunch. For dinner give yourself a treat at least once during your stay and try a restaurant with traditional French cuisine – it will be a splurge you will definitely not regret. Try restaurants in the Latin Quarter which might be a bit cheaper than those found near bigger tourist spots such as the Eiffel Tower. Another great alternative for dinner is to visit a grocery store or local market and pick up some items for a picnic at Champ de Mars for a meal with a great view of the Eiffel Tower without spending a fortune.
Strolling through the city
Sightseeing and shopping in Paris can be pricey but they are the two best reasons to visit. Being the capital of high fashion can make even the most frugal of fashionistas want to splash the cash but keep in mind that the best part of being in a city known for fashion means finding great quality vintage or second-hand pieces at equally great prices. There are great vintage shops all through Le Marais where you can pick up your own unique fashion find to take home.
The city also has great bookshops that have been around for years such as the world famous Shakespeare and Company bookshop. Situated across from Notre Dame, this is a lovely area definitely worth a visit. Speaking of Notre Dame, don’t miss out on visiting this other iconic Paris landmark. Arrive early to get in line to see the inside of the famous church, as it’s one of the few attractions in Paris that’s free.
While Paris does have many attractions that can do some damage to your budget there are some great attractions that you can visit for free. Luxembourg Gardens is a wonderful spot to do some people watching and to enjoy a bottle of wine with someone special. A visit to Père Lachaise Cemetery to see famous graves such as Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde is another free attraction that combines a piece of Parisian history with art, as many of the graves in the cemetery rival the ornate buildings throughout the city.
Of course a visit to Paris would not be complete without the Eiffel Tower. However, tickets to go up the tower can be pricey and difficult to get. One adult ticket is about €15 – and make sure to buy your ticket online before your visit to help cut down on wait time.
Paris is definitely an incredible experience for any traveller and, with these helpful tips, can be an affordable one as well.
Feeling inspired? Check out HI’s Paris hostels.