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Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world. And why not? The “City of Light” has an amazing story to tell.
Every year, millions of tourists from around the globe flock to the French capital just to experience all that Paris has to offer. With magnificent museums, incredible food, and amazing history, what’s not to like?
Well, the price tag for one.
I’ve been to Paris a few times now, and – like other large cities throughout the West – a trip to Paris can get downright expensive. Between the sightseeing, the dining, and the museums, it doesn’t take much to blow your travel budget.
While you certainly don’t want to skip out on some of the top spots just because of the cost, in Paris, every last penny counts. That’s why it’s important to look for ways to save any way you can.
Thankfully, there are plenty of free things to do in Paris if you know where to look. In no particular order, here are 9 of my favorite free sites and activities to check out while you’re there.
1) Parc du Champ de Mars & Eiffel Tower
Although it costs money to go up the Eiffel Tower, admiring it from below is completely free. There’s no better place to do that than the huge green space sitting right in front of it – the Parc du Champ de Mars.
Day or night, this public park provides the best views of the Eiffel Tower in the entire city. It’s also a great spot to lay down a blanket and have a picnic or bottle of wine – making it a romantic retreat for couples and a fun spot for families. (Our kids LOVED it here!)
So, grab your selfie stick and let your inner tourist shine because you gotta grab a pic of yourself lounging here. Seriously, it’s like a national law or something.
2) Notre Dame Cathedral
If you’re traveling to Paris, visiting Notre Dame Cathedral is likely on your list. This gigantic Gothic structure isn’t just one of the most famous buildings in Paris, it’s one of the most impressive and famous cathedrals in the world.
Here’s the best part: Entering the cathedral itself is actually free! However, if you’d like to get up close and personal with the guardian gargoyles on the towers, you’ll need to purchase a ticket or pick up a sightseeing pass like the Paris Pass.
3) Montmartre and Sacre-Coeur Basilica
For one of the best views of the city, be sure to visit Montmartre. This giant hill provides a perfect spot to unwind and take in a great view of Paris, even if you are flanked by dozens of other tourists.
While you’re there, be sure to enter the Sacre-Coeur basilica. Again, entering the church is free. However, if you’d like to climb the tower for an even better view, you’ll have to purchase a ticket.
4) Le Marais
One of my favorite things to do in Paris is to simply walk through the streets. There are few places better to do that than the neighborhood of Le Marais.
The medieval streets of Marais can be found right near Notre Dame. Filled with charming architecture, cafes, boutiques, and more, this neighborhood makes for an interesting walk any time of day. If you’re into art, you can also find the Centre Pompidou and the Musee Picasso here.
5) Place de la Concorde
I’m a sucker for fountains and obelisks. I’m also a sucker for cool public squares. Thankfully, these almost always come hand-in-hand.
With that said, these aren’t the only reasons I love the Place de la Concorde. As the largest public square in Paris, this place is absolutely packed with important French history. During the French Revolution, it is here where numerous public figures were brought to the guillotine and beheaded – including King Louis XVI, Queen Marie Antoinette, Maximilien Robespierre, and more. How’s that for some crazy history?
Located at the far end of the famous Champs-Elysees, the Place de la Concorde makes a good starting point (or stopping point) to a stroll down this important street. It is also flanked on each side by two huge public gardens, the Champs-Elysees Garden and the Tuileries Garden, both of which are free to enter.
6) Arc de Triomphe
At the other end of the Champs-Elysees sits the famous Arc de Triomphe. This large arch has been used as a centerpiece for several military victory parades throughout history – including the Allied Forces after WWII.
Viewing the Arc de Triomphe is, of course, free. You can also pay a fee to go to the top of the monument and get a nice view of the area. This fee is included in sightseeing passes like the Paris Pass or the Paris Explorer Pass.
7) The Latin Quarter
Speaking of cool neighborhoods, one of my favorite free things to do in Paris is to wander through the streets of Saint Germain and Saint Michel in the Latin Quarter. These two neighborhoods are connected and well worth a visit.
The Saint Germain area is full of restaurants and high-end shopping. There are also some pretty neat historical sites. The Saint Michel area is a bit grittier, packed with medieval buildings, pubs, and eateries.
Honestly, I wish we would have discovered this area sooner. On our first visit to Paris, we didn’t make it down here until our last night – but it was still a blast. The streets are winding and lively, and there is plenty of fun to be had.
8) Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise
Looking for something a little spookier? How about checking out one of the city’s largest and coolest cemeteries – Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise.
If you’ve ever visited the cemeteries in New Orleans, this one will look fairly familiar to you. The cemetery is lined with above-ground mausoleums which serve as the final resting place to some extremely famous people – including Frederic Chopin, Honore de Balzac, Colette, Jean de La Fontaine, Moliere, Camille Pissarro, Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, and more. Self-guided tours here are free.
9) Stroll Along the Seine
Whether you’re on a romantic retreat with your significant other or a family vacation to France, no trip to Paris would be complete without taking a stroll along the Seine river. Running straight through the middle of Central Paris, the river truly provides the heartbeat of the city.
Major attractions rest on both sides of the river in Paris, so you’ll likely cross several of the river’s bridges while you’re there. However, at some point, I suggest taking some time to walk along the river and just soak up the atmosphere.
Personally, I love hanging out on the Pont Neuf or the Pont des Arts after sunset. You get a really cool view of the city lit up at night!
What are your favorite free things to do in Paris? Let us know in the comments below!