On a budget: Paris

The iconic Musée du Louvre
Image courtesy: Lonely Planet/Pete Seaward

There’s a wealth of ways to soak up the French capital without spending a cent or scarcely any, at least.


Navigo Pass: If you’re staying in Paris longer than a few days, the cheapest and easiest way to use public transport is to get a combined travel pass that allows unlimited travel on the metro, Reseau Express Regional (RER) and buses for a week, a month or even a year! Navigo (www.navigo.fr), like London’s Oyster or Hong Kong’s Octopus cards, is a system that provides you with a refillable weekly, monthly or yearly unlimited pass that you can recharge at machines in most metro stations. A weekly pass costs €19.15 for zones 1 and 2 and is valid from Monday to Sunday.

Walking tour: See Paris through local eyes with two- to three-hour walking tours organised by Paris Greeters. Volunteers lead groups (max six people) to their favourite spots in the city. Minimum two weeks’ notice needed. www.parisiendunjour.fr


Museums: If you can, time your trip to be here on the first Sunday of the month when you can visit the musées nationaux (www.rmn.fr) for free, as well as a handful of monuments (some during certain months only). At any time, you can visit the permanent collections of selected musées municipaux (www.paris.fr) for free.

Temporary exhibitions at both national and city museums always incur a separate admission fee. Some museums also have reduced entry at various times of the day or week.


Arc de Triomphe
Image courtesy: Lonely Planet Images

The museums and monuments offering free admission on the first Sunday of the month are:

– Arc de Triomphe (November to March only)
– Basilique de St-Denis (November to March only)
– Château de Fontainebleau
– Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine
– Cité Nationale de l’Histoire de l’Immigration
– Conciergerie (November to March only)
– Musée d’Art et d’Histoire
– Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature
– Musée de l’Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris
– Musée de l’Orangerie
– Musée des Impressionismes Giverny
– Musée d’Orsay
– Musée du Louvre
– Musée du Quai Branly
– Musée Guimet des Arts Asiatiques
– Musée Ernest Hébert
– Musée National d’Art Moderne (within the Centre Pompidou)
– Musée National du Moyen Âge (aka Musée de Cluny)
– Musée National du Sport
– Musée National Eugène Delacroix
– Musée National Gustave Moreau
– Musée Rodin

Montmartre, one of Paris' busiest and liveliest districts
Image courtesy: Lonely Planet/Abhinav Saxena

– Panthéon (November to March only)
– Ste-Chapelle (November to March only)
– Tours de Notre Dame (November to March only)

Churches: Some of the city’s most magnificent buildings are its churches and other places of worship. And best of all, entry to general areas within them is, in most cases, free. Be respectful, keep noise to a minimum, obey photography rules (check signs), dress appropriately, and try to avoid key times (for example, Mass) if you’re sightseeing only.

Cemeteries: Paris’ celebrity-filled cemeteries, including the three largest – Père Lachaise, Cimetière de Montmartre and Cimetière du Montparnasse – are free to wander.

Picnic at Jardin du Palais Royal: There is no lovelier spot to picnic in palatial splendour than Jardin du Palais Royal, the courtyard gardens of Palais Royal with benches overlooking box-hedged flowerbeds, gravel paths and zebra-striped columns at one end. For an inexpensive but delicious lunch, buy a baguette sandwich (for as little as EURO3.25) from Paris’s oldest bakery, a two-minute walk from the arches on the western side of the gardens. Boulangerie Patisserie du Grand Richelieu is closed on Sundays.


Street acts: Busking musicians and performers entertain crowds on Paris’ streets, squares and even aboard the metro. Some of the top spots to catch them are as follows:

– Place Georges Pompidou, 4e — The huge square in front of the Centre Pompidou.
– Pont au Double, 4e — The pedestrian bridge linking Notre Dame with the Left Bank.
Books: This literary-minded city is an inspired place to catch a reading, author signing or writing workshop. English-language bookshops such as Shakespeare & Company and Abbey Bookshop have details of literary events throughout the year, many of which are held at the shops themselves.

Fashion: Reserve ahead to attend free weekly fashion shows at the flagship store of Galeries Lafayette. While you’re here, don’t miss one of the best free views over the Parisian skyline from Galeries Lafayette’s rooftop. www.galerieslafayette.com

Stage acts: On the day of the performance, theatre, opera and ballet tickets are sold for half the price (plus EURO3 commission) at the following kiosks:

– Kiosque Theatre Madeleine
– Kiosque Theatre Ternes
– Kiosque Theatre Montparnasse


Paris has 400 free wi-fi points (some time-limited) at popular locations including parks, libraries, local town halls and tourist hotspots. Locations are mapped at www.paris.fr.