Top things to do in Paris for free

Destinations

By

By |

What fun things can you do in Paris for free? Well, there are more than you’d think! Museums, galleries, concerts, amazing views, and beautiful hidden places are all here for you to discover on a budget

Paris, like any major city, can be expensive. However, we’ve put together a list of places to go and things to do that are either free or will cost mere pennies. Here’s our budget travelers’ guide to free attractions in Paris.

Free walking tours

Tourists on walking tour in Montmartre in Paris — Getty ImagesIt sounds so simple, but joining a free walking tour is the best and cheapest way to learn about Paris’s places of interest — Getty Images

To get acquainted with Paris, get yourself on one of the many free walking tours available. Obviously, it’s a big city, so you’ll have to pick an area, a subject, or a part of the city’s history that appeals to you, but there’s generally something for everyone.

You could choose a part of the city — Montmartre, the Latin Quarter or Le Marais, for example. Or maybe something related to its history, such as Paris in the war, famous myths and legends, or the city’s literary history.

You can even dive into something a little more obscure, such as film and TV locations, Paris in paintings, or the history of Judaism in the city. For an extra charge, you can even add an element such as a chocolate tour, a baked goods tour, or a pub crawl. What you choose to spend (and on what) is completely up to you!

Cheap and free museums

Louvre is the world’s largest and most prestigious museum — manjik / Shutterstock Paris travel guideThe Louvre is free to enter for everyone on the first Sunday of the month — Shutterstock

Similar to the walking tours listed above, Paris has museums dedicated to pretty much anything and everything.

The basic facts are these: all museums are free for EU citizens under 26 years of age (and everyone under 18). If neither of those criteria applies to you, wait for the first Sunday of every month when some of the big hitters (the Louvre, the Pompidou, the Musée d’Orsay, etc.) have their monthly free day — although due to their popularity, you’ll probably need to queue.

However, for us, the best thing to do is to investigate some of the other free museums dotted around the city. They include:

That’s just the tiniest selection of what’s on offer for absolutely no charge. Pretty amazing. 

Free music

Close-up of violins in orchestra — Getty ImagesYou can catch free classical music concerts all around the city — Getty Images

Paris is the City of Love, and if music be the food of love then… well, that’s a lot of love to go around. Treat yourself to a snack at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique, a music school that’s been teaching the city’s best and brightest musicians since the 1700s; or check out the selection of free concerts run by the École normale de musique de Paris at the Salle Cortot. These shows give students the experience of playing in large venues in front of audiences — a win for all involved.

Otherwise, many of Paris’ churches and cathedrals will have free music on offer, from organ recitals to morning choirs, as well as occasional chamber orchestras, quartets or duos.

If you’re not into classical music, then head over to the town hall of the 8th Arrondissement every Thursday at 13:00 for Midi-Concerts — free shows that might be anything from jazz to pop, electronica to rock, and beyond.

Cemeteries

Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris — Getty ImagesPère Lachaise is the final resting place of several great artists and writers — Getty Images

An unusual choice? Maybe. But Paris has some wonderful cemeteries, huge and winding with ancient trees and a sense of peace hanging over them. They’re a calming escape from the noise and bustle of the city.

There are 14 in the city, but the most famous are probably Père Lachaise, Montmartre and Montparnasse. Père Lachaise houses the graves and tombs of many famous artists and writers, including Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Frédéric Chopin, Camille Pissarro and Jim Morrison.

Montparnasse in the 14th Arrondissement (a lovely space in one of the liveliest parts of Paris) is where you can visit the last resting places of Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Charles Baudelaire. Meanwhile, Montmartre, as well as being in that beautiful suburb, is the final home of Émile Zola, Hector Berlioz, and the Italian-French singer Dalida, whose burial place is almost permanently covered in flowers. Not such a grave choice after all.

Get the best view

View over Paris from rooftop of Galleries Lafayette — Getty ImagesHead to the Galleries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussmann for the best-value view of Paris — Getty Images

As you’ll probably have worked out, the top of the Eiffel Tower is A: not free to get to, and B: the only place in the city where you can’t see the Eiffel Tower. So how do you get a wonderful view of the city — for free — that includes all the major landmarks?

The answer is to be found at the Galeries Lafayette Haussmann. The beautiful, art nouveau shopping gallery at number 40, Boulevard Haussmann, contains not only designer boutiques but a roof terrace that’s free to access. Not only do you get a spectacular panorama of the city including the Eiffel Tower, Opéra Garnier, Sacré Cœur and Notre Dame, but there’s also a rooftop bar in the summer months, plus a selection of pop-up restaurants. Sunrise, sunset, or during the day, it’s all of Paris in one place.

Peer into the passages

Shop signs in a passage couvert in Paris — Getty ImagesThe “covered passages” of Paris are charming, characterful and well worth a look, even if you don’t actually buy anything — Getty Images

There are 21 Passages couverts in Paris, 18th and 19th-century walkways with glass roofs, and tiled walkways, containing charming independent businesses such as bakeries, second-hand stores, coffee shops and florists.

Paris is, of course, a great city for shopping, but if you want to see a side a million miles away from the big designer stores of the Champs-Élysées and the we-could-be-anywhere shopping malls, these covered passages are perfect. You don’t even have to buy anything — simply finding them and experiencing their own unique atmosphere is enough. (Although stopping for coffee and cake probably won’t hurt!)

The Seine and Canal Saint-Martin at night

Two women walking across bridge in Paris at night — Getty ImagesNo trip to Paris would be complete without a stroll along the river, and it’s all the prettier at night — Getty Images

One way you can get the real atmosphere of Paris is to experience it at night, but where to begin? Well, there are plenty of places that are beautifully lit — the Eiffel Tower, of course; the Arc de Triomphe and its views down the wide boulevards; the cathedral at Montmartre — but we’d recommend staying close to the water.

Starting on the banks of the Seine around Île de la Cité, follow the river southeast past Île Saint-Louis until you hit the Canal Saint-Martin. This waterway continues for around four and a half kilometers past Place de la Bastille and into the area also known by the name of the canal. The waterway is covered for the first part of its length, creating wide boulevards and green spaces, while further up it emerges from its tunnel. Here, during the day, you’ll find people fishing and strolling in the sun, while at night, its illuminated iron bridges and canalside bars and restaurants attract crowds of people who want to hang out in this super-cool part of town.

Taking this route means you’ll see both sides of Paris: the beauty of the Île de la Cité with Bateaux Mouches sliding gently past, lit up and shimmering against the water; and the Paris that the locals so love.

Do you want more travel articles? Visit Kiwi.com Stories.