The Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France at twilight in front of a very deep blue sky.

Paris: You’ll Love These Six Ways to Enjoy The City of Light For Free

Ah, Paris. How can you not love PARIS? The grand boulevards, the amazing architecture, the world-renowned artworks, the food, the wine… it’s a wonderful, beautiful, magical city. But it’s just so expensive to visit! Isn’t it? Well, it sure can be, but it doesn’t have to be. You might be quite surprised at how much you can do and how much fun you can have in The City of Light without spending a dime.

A chair sits in the Jardin du Luxembourg park in Paris with autumn leaves freshly fallen and sunshine lighting up the lawn.

1. Take a walk in a park

Paris, France is well-known for many things, but its parks aren’t really one of them. This is regardless of the fact that the city is book-ended east and west by two massive parks that sprawl out over a total of 1845 hectares (4549 acres) with over 420 other parks and gardens in between them. There are wonderful neighborhood parks in each of the 20 sections of Paris (the “arrondissements“) filled with gardens, fountains, sculptures, food vendors, playgrounds, carnival games, carousels, chess tables, exercise equipment and all sorts of fun and interesting things.

The Louvre Museum in Paris at night is seen from the courtyard with one corner of the central glass pyramid in front and the main building behind it.

2. Expose yourself to art

If art is more your style, there are 22 museums and art collections in Paris that are free to enter every day of the year. The City of Paris’ Museum of Modern Art offers free admission to its permanent collection every day and houses absolutely stunning works by Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Chagall and others. Some of the most popular museums in Paris – including the Pompidou, the Orsay and the Orangerie – offer free admission on the first Sunday of every month. Even the Louvre is free to visit on the first Sunday of the month almost year-round. Do keep in mind that these “free days” are often extremely crowded. If you can, go to these museums mid-week (and off-season, if possible!) for a much more enjoyable experience.

The Arc de Triomphe in Paris at twilight in front of a very deep blue sky.

3. Walk down the grandest boulevard of them all.

Nothing quite compares to walking up the Champs-Élysées with the Arc de Triomphe coming into view in the distance. Or strolling blissfully along the Seine River and looking up to see the Eiffel Tower. The immensity and grandeur of the Louvre. The Panthéon, the Opera House, Les Invalides, the Petit Palais…they are all stunning and fabulous and wonderful. And the real kicker is – they look even better at night. No city in the world lights up its monuments quite the way Paris does. Take a tour of Paris at night and see her most beautiful buildings at their brilliant best.

The Sacre Coeur Basilica sitting high above in Paris on Montmartre.

4. Time travel through stunning places of worship

Regardless of your religion (or lack of it), there are at least two places of worship you really must see while you are in Paris. The Notre Dame is a Catholic cathedral built in the French Gothic style right in the very heart of Paris. Now over 850 years old, it is one of the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world and it’s free to visit every day of the year – even during mass. Equally as stunning is the Sacré-Coeur Basilica which delights its visitors every day. And being at the highest point in the city, it boasts some of the very best views of Paris. Almost all churches and cathedrals in Paris are open to the public every day as are many other places of worship. Don’t be shy about stopping by to ask if they are currently welcoming visitors. (NOTE: The Notre Dame Cathedral is scheduled to be reopened in December of 2024 following a massive fire there in April of 2019.)

A typical cheese vendor at an outdoor market in France with customers waiting their turn on one side and workers filling orders on the other.

5. Explore the neighborhood markets

Paris is known and loved the world over for its cuisine. If you’ve never been to one of the many neighborhood markets in Paris, you absolutely must go. There are weekly, bi-weekly and even daily markets all over the city that serve their neighborhood residents and visitors by offering mostly food items, but also sundries, clothing and all sorts of other things. You can find not just fruit and vegetable stands, but cheese shops, bakeries and even butcher shops and fishmongers with fully stocked refrigerated cases right there on the sidewalk. There are people selling spices, candies, jams, wines…all sorts of wonderful things. Just make sure to go early as many sellers start packing up shortly after noon.

The statue of George Washington on a horse in the Place d’Iéna in Paris, France.

6. Pick a “quartier” and just stroll around

Perhaps the most relaxing and enjoyable thing to do in Paris is to pick a neighborhood and just start strolling around. Every neighborhood has so much to see and while some of them are quite unique, all of them are most certainly “Parisian.” There are so many bakeries, parks, markets, shops, churches, bistros, boutiques…you never know what will be around the next corner to delight you. The “tabacs” of Paris are definitely worth investigating. No matter if you are after a newspaper, stamps, a bite to eat, cigarettes, metro or lottery tickets, a coffee or a glass of that fantastic French wine – you can always stop in a neighborhood tabac. Walk up to the counter and say “un cafe, s’il vous plaît” and for just over a Euro, you’ll receive a tiny porcelain cup full of delicious espresso. It’s the perfect afternoon pick-me-up for getting you on your way and enjoying the rest of your day.

(This was one of my first writing submissions. It was a fun challenge to maintain my voice and style while conforming to the format they required. I’ve since done a bit of a rewrite on it, especially the title. Thanks for being here and I hope you enjoyed my travel tips!)