The Rich Life On a Budget

15 Fun Things to do in Paris on a Budget

I’m off to Paris before month’s end. This trip is a special graduation gift for my stepdaughter, Tori.

When she was in middle school, she chose to take French. Her dad and I wanted to encourage her to stick with learning a second language – I sure wish I would have – so we made a deal with her:

If she continued studying French throughout high school, we would take her to Paris her senior year.

Tori never forgot our agreement and took French every year and now, after five years, has quite a good grasp of the language.

She has been asking lots of questions about what we will do on our trip. Since this will be our fourth time to Paris in five years, my husband and I have accumulated a long list of our favorite things to see, eat, drink and do that don’t leave us broke. We are thrilled to experience them with Tori.

This list is partly for her, but also to share with readers who may be heading to The City of Light in the future.

Here are the top “15 Fun Things to Do in Paris” that just happen to be on a budget at about 20 € or less:

1) Buy Mailles mustard crocks at their shop on the Rue de Madeline. Have them filled with your favorite mustard on tap, then bring the crocks back for refills each time you visit Paris!

2) Visit Versailles for the day. It’s easy to get to by RER train – about an hour with no transfers. Bring your camera, some great walking shoes and enjoy the grounds. We liked seeing the interior of the buildings but spent most of our time outdoors. Do not miss Hameau de la Reine, the Queen’s Hamlet. It’s adorable. I would happily live there as a cow milker or mill worker if that were an option.

3) Take a ride on a Bateaux Mouche. Get a different perspective of landmarks and a better lay of the land on a river boat as well as some great photos. Rides are only about €10.

4) Stroll through an outdoor food market. You won’t believe how beautiful and fresh the food is.

5) Go to the top of Arc de Triomphe. The staircase is winding and small but it’s worth the climb to the top to see the excellent view of Paris.

6) Get a shwarma at L’As Du Fallafel, enjoy as much chocolate mousse as you like at Chez Janou (both located in the Marais), or have a Croque Monsieur outdoors at one of the cafes in the Tuileries.

7) Stop into a high end shop on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and browse. This flagship Louis Vuitton store is enormous. Visit the top floor to see the €30,000+ bags on display under glass. They make the €1800 bags on the first floor seem like a bargain…for a brief moment!

8) Stand under the Tour de Eiffel at night, look up and snap a photo.

9) Visit Père Lachaise Cemetery. It’s not creepy – at least not to me – and rather very beautiful and historic.

10) Enjoy a banana and Nutella crepe for a snack or dessert. If you like a little something extra with your crepe, ask for a couple sloshes of Grand Marnier.

11) Wander through the magical Jardin du Luxembourg while snacking on freshly roasted chestnuts you bought from a street vendor.

12) Walk across bridges over the Seine. Did you know there are 37 of them? My favorite is this one, Pont Alexandre III.

13) Try some Parisian sweets. Although I love gazing at all the colorful macarons, they are too sweet for my palate. I prefer a tarte au citron…or two.

14) While it’s a must to see the Musée du Louvre, Notre Dame, and Musée d’Orsay while you’re in Paris, it’s also fun to see smaller, less crowded sites. Spend some time at Musée Rodin, Carnavalet, Sainte-Chapelle, and Conciergerie, just to name a few. Buy a Paris Museum Pass before you see the sights to save lots of money on entrance fees.

15) Have a picnic on the banks of the Seine. We like to buy a bottle of French wine, a baguette, an apple, some salami and brie and sit on the wall at the end of the Île de la Cité. Be sure to pack a couple of plastic wine glasses, an opener and a Swiss Army knife in your luggage so you can be well prepared for your romantic picnic.

Have you been to Paris?
If so, what are your favorite things to do there.
We are looking to add to our list!
XO,
Adrienne

53 thoughts on “15 Fun Things to do in Paris on a Budget

  1. Déjà Pseu

    Ah, the Maille shop is always a must for us! And it’s a great place to pick up little gifts for co-workers and others back home. You’ve listed most of my favorites here. Would also add:

    Have lunch or coffee at the rooftop cafe at Printemps department store, also a fabulous view.

    Visit the Grande Épicerie at Le Bon Marché for all kinds of fabulous gourmet food you’ve never heard of, and interesting wines to bring home.

    Musée Les Arts Decoratifs (just around the corner from the Louvre) often has some wonderful exhibits. Right now they have one called “Fashioning Fashion” which you and Tori might enjoy. Bill can go upstairs to look at the antique mechanical toys. I don’t remember if it’s included on the museum pass or not, but don’t remember it being expensive.

    We love going into the old churches and just looking around at the architecture and artwork. Sometimes there will be an organist or other musicians practicing. Once we wandered into a church in Aix-en-Provence to find a free baroque concert by a string quartet in progress! Almost always free, but we usually leave a donation in the charity box.

    Dress warm and have a wonderful time!!

  2. The Gold Digger

    We liked the sewer museum! Weird, I know, but it was interesting. The police museum was also interesting. For something more mainstream but also very good, Cluny museum, which has all these tapestries of the baby Jesus about to be circumcised with a stick – and everyone is smiling! Crazy.

    The museum under the – holy smoke brain fart! The huge church! – Notre Dame! How could I forget that? OK, there is an archaeological museum in front of and under Notre Dame.

    I also like the grocery stores – we like finding potato chips in flavors you can’t find here.

  3. vintagefrenchchic

    Great list…we did most of those things too. Didn’t know about the mustard and crepes–what fun things to try.

    I would add lunch or coffee at Laduree. Dinner at Cafe de Flore. Peek in at the Paris Opera House. Browse Shakespeare and Co. Hit the flea markets. And for another day trip, go to Giverney. We were unable when we were there and it is a big regret. OH! And isn’t there a Monet museum somewhere around there (besides the D’Orsay)–Musee de L’Orangerie? xo H

    PS I just saw a guidebook on Amazon for all the vintage and thrift shops a couple days ago. Now THAT would be fun!!

  4. Coulda shoulda woulda

    When you go to Versailles this time, try and go on the official tour the Versailles do. They take you to areas not allowed without a tour. They just finished the poker room where Marie Anotoinette played four or five months ago plus avoids the queues. Look forward to the pics later!

  5. Val Sparkle

    You mentioned Sainte-Chapelle, which is a little treasure chest! A quick train trip to Chartres is lovely, too. The cathedral there has most of its original stained glass because it was removed and stored during WWII.

  6. Sulky Kitten

    How exciting that you get to make a return visit with Tori. I love the Carnavalet, Parc Monceau, open top bus rides, wandering through the Marais and St-Germaine-des-Pres in the evenings.

  7. Goldenoldenlady

    Excellent list, Adrienne. And Tori will have a chance to practise what she has learned, at least reading everything around her, and translating for you. I have always found the first few days of hearing French all around me is overwhelming…but eventually I catch on and try speaking.

  8. lovesjetlag

    On my last trip we went to Belleville to eat Vietnamese food, it was heavenly, best food I ever had..we did not know where to go, we just peeped inside and chose the one packed with Vietnamese families and then go for the “passages” walk, in them you will be thrown back to Belle Epoque because the shops inside still have that feel, one of the most famous is passage des Panoramas et Passage Brady which is quite “ethnic” too..and then The museum someone mentioned above might be the musée Marmottan- Monet in the XIVeme, a huge collection of works by Monet, Berthe Morisot and other impressionistes, it is located in beautiful hotel particulier…I loved it!!!

  9. Kathy

    What great ideas, although I’m sort of stuck sitting eating all of the chocolate mousse. I always go to the Picasso Museum, and the Maillol Museum. Both wonderful.
    Also love going into Sennelier, which makes incredible oil paints and pastels – very expensive in the US and much more affordable from their own shop on the Left Bank.
    Yes, stay warm!!!

  10. Heather Lindstrom

    Ohhhh lala Paris!! It sounds like you have a wonderful list here Adrienne. You have hit some of my favorites and I’ll bookmark a few for my next trip. One of our favorite things to do is wander the neighborhoods in Paris. Each Arrondissement has a distinct flavor. We often stay in the 6th on the Left Bank. Wandering from the Eiffel Tower on Rue de Grenelle to St. Germain and the Seine is a lovely ramble. Have you been to Monmarte? Pretty views and charming village feel. Be sure to introduce Tori to the wonders of the French pharmacie and lovely cosmetics-I’m in love with the Nuxe Dry Oil. Pure luxury!
    Can’t wait to see your photos Adrienne!
    xx, Heather

  11. Charlene

    This is a great list. I’d add climbing to the top of the bell tower at Notre Dame. The view is spectacular! Also we enjoyed seeing Sacre Coeur and the whole Montmartre area. So picturesque! It’s fun to walk around the Place du Tertre where artists sit and paint and display their artwork. Also be sure you have a cone of Berthillon ice cream on Ile St. Louis. There must be at least a million things to do in Paris and never enough time to do them all. I know you’ll have a great trip and look forward to hearing about it!

  12. LR @ Magnificent or Egregious

    You guys are wonderful parents. Tori will never forget this amazing opportunity, she will have a wonderful time in Paris – as will you!

    Excellent ideas – I am going to bookmark this post for when Hubs and I eventually go to Paris.

    You inspired me to make crepes with Nutella and bananas today! YUM.

  13. Jessica Maruri

    I just bought tickets for my husband and I to go to France for a wedding a few minutes. Then I came to see what was shaking in the The Rich Life world and this is what I find! Such great timing!

    We did about half the things on your list when we were in Paris a couple of years for our honeymoon and I would agree with all of vintagefrenchchic’s suggestions as well (love Laduree and Shakespeare and Co). Can’t wait to go buy mustard at Maille’s; I am a zero-waste fanatic and my husband is a mustard fool, so that’s going to be a very hot date for us!

    Thanks for the tip and so happy for you all and Tori!

  14. Kelly-Ann Maddox

    Thank you for this adventure of a blog post! It’s been ages since I last went but what a city! Your daughter is so lucky, not only for the upcoming trip but also to have parents who’ve encouraged her to be bilingual. It’s an important gift for a kid.

  15. Brian W. Ogilvie

    It’s worth knowing that all the museums that belong to the city of Paris (not national museums) are free, except for special exhibits. That includes the Musée Carnavalet (history of Paris), the modern art museum of the city of Paris (in the Palais de Tokyo), the Petit Palais, and plenty of others.

    Churches are also free, and often worth visiting–not just Notre Dame, but also Saint-Sulpice, Saint-Martin-des-Champs, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Saint-Eustache, and plenty more.

    The Jardin Albert Kahn is a hidden gem; there’s an entry fee, but not too much.

    The Institut du Monde Arabe has changing exhibits (small fee), but you can also go up to the roof for a nice, and free, view of central Paris.

    Just a few ideas…another, since your daughter speaks French, is to pick up a copy of L’Officiel des Spectacles or Pariscope, and look for concerts, gallery openings, exhibits, etc. that are gratuit (free) or participation libre (contribute what you want). And you can find guided walking tours (conférences) that don’t cost a lot and are usually well worth the money.

  16. Tori May

    A and Dad,
    I AM SOOOOOOOOOOO EXCITED! I cannot beleive we are actually going to Paris, C’est ma reve! Je suis tres contente! Je vous adore! I am looking forward to seeing anything and EVERYTHING! All the things listed in this post and the comments look spectacular, hope we can tackle it all! Love you guys, and MERCI BEAUCOUP!

  17. K

    A few more ideas…

    There is usually a free exhibition at the Hôtel de Ville, the one running right now is on Haute Couture.

    Picnics in so many different parks, I like the Parc Monceau and the Parc des Buttes Chaumont.

    Walking along the Promenade Plantée (an elevated path in the 12th that starts near the Place de la Bastille) or through the Jardin des Plantes in the 5th.

    Crepes at Breizh Café in the 3rd or West Country Girl in the 11th.

    Slightly less budget friendly, but the cheese course at Astier (http://www.restaurant-astier.com/) is amazing and dinner is very good there. They bring a large tray of cheeses to the table and leave it there until the next table needs it. You can pick and choose which cheese you want and it is really fun.

  18. Dawn

    I love that the Maille store is at the top of your list! I am sending my coworker there for a mustard refill later this month. If I was smart, I would have bought more!

    One budget friendly thing we did was Paris Walks. They offer a variety of interesting and informative walks through Paris (in English) for a very good price. http://www.paris-walks.com

    Bon voyage!

  19. Michael

    Musee Arts et Metiers, one of the best in the world. You will learn that Thomas Edison did not invent the motion picture, despite what we’ve always been taught.

    Ice cream at the ORIGINAL Berthillon on the Rue Ile St. Louis, near the eastern end of the island.

    Le Sergeant Recreuteur, prix fixe meal, quite good, reasonable, and with virtually unlimited salads, soups, charcruterie, cheese, etc.

    The “African” cocoa at Angeline, across from Tuilleries Gardens

    Les Freres Mariage, the greatest tea shop in the world.

    The Rue Cler, near the Tour Eiffel, wonderful pedestrian only market street. GREAT crepes there, ham, egg and gruyere for savory, Nutella for dessert.

    Les Gobelins factory – fascinating.

  20. Michael

    Oh – the Rue Montorgueil, another great market street. At the southern end is a terrific cookware store that also sells bulk spices — I bought a lifetime supply of dried shallots there for a few Euros.

  21. Lorisa

    SIP Hot Chocolat in a cup served with rich and real
    unsweetened whip cream at Salon Angelina’s
    across the street from the Louvre. Don’t order
    anything else! It’s very filling and rich and the best!

  22. Tamera Beardsley

    I am so excited for all of you and your latest Parisian adventure!

    My favorite find in Paris was L’eclair… on Rue Cler. It just opened last October and is a very small and intimate cafe specializing in the now popular vintage cocktails. I have the link liked on my Facebook if you are interested. Our hotel was right next door, so we went often and were always greeted with the warmest of hugs, (well certainly not our first visit though).

    I am excited to hear all about your trip! Savor and enjoy my dear!

  23. jill815

    Great post! I loved visiting the Catacombs on our trip to Paris, yes there is a high creep factor, but the place is also amazing. We also spent plenty of time at Notre Dame so my husband could sit in a pew and sketch the windows. He came back with some amazing drawings. I love the photo you shared of the Eiffel Tower! Have a great trip, I am so excited for all 3 of you, especially Tori! XO, Jill

  24. kim at northerncalstyle.

    Great post Adrienne! I hope you are all having a wonderful time and seeing some snow. I never heard of the mustard stop. Will keep all these saved.

    Some of my favorites in Paris:
    Berthillion ice cream cones on Ile St Louis
    Musee D’Orsay
    Le Grand Epicerie for picnic supplies and gifts to bring home (they have the best baguette sandwiches)
    Bon Marche for shopping and also love Zara.
    Rose Bakery near Luxembourg Gardens for lunch and breakfast and amazing scones.
    Restaurants inside Ile de Cite’ surrounding the green.
    You might consider going to Normandy just a few hours north. Truly one of the loveliest areas. I loved Bayeux. ( See my post this week)

    SO much to do! Hope it’s lovely.

    xx
    Kim

  25. Christina

    Tres Charmant! What a delightful post!-Love your photos! found this through a Pinterest search as we are headed to Paris this fall- I just love the mailles mustard idea- and what a great gift to bring back to our foodie friends! we are trying to budget time and money as we will be going to Italy too-of course as the world’s worst packer I’m already getting anxiety about how to pack my suitcase!

  26. bellz

    I read this before going to Paris and pretty much hit about 9-10 out of your perfect 15! So glad I remembered! Some of my favorites:
    - Palais Garnier = amazing & magical
    - Latin Quarter = young & lively environment
    - Ble Sucré (Rue Antoine Vollon) = best madeleines ever!
    THANK YOU!

  27. Nickscape

    I’ve recently got back from Paris and we actually did most of the things that you have listed here! Paris is a beautiful place and you have captured the scene very well in this post.

    I recently wrote a blog post with some of our pictures from our Paris trip >

  28. kalvinabott

    OMG!! It’s really great things to do in Paris but i don’t think before it. This post is very helpful for me in future because now i am going to try and enjoying all these mentioned things in Paris next year with my lovely wife. I am sure you don’t mind if i share this budget related blog with my friends who are planning to go Paris from last 2 years but never visit due to Budget problems.
    Villas in Sant Antoni de Calonge

  29. Pingback: Insider Tips - Things to Do in Paris France

  30. Alix Strickland

    Lovely list! I’ve lived here for 12 years now (I moved from Manhattan!) and my favorite museum is still the Jacquemart André, located in the 8th arrondissement. It is a stunning, personal collection housed in what was once a private Hotel Particulier. A must see!

  31. Marne Sio

    I’m so glad I stumbled on your page. I’m headed for France this fall and your post will definitely come in handy! :) I’m curious to to find out about these French beauty pharmacies that everyone keeps talking about though…

    1. Adrienne Shubin Post author

      Lucky you! You will love it.
      The French pharmacies are everywhere. Just look for the neon green cross. They have wonderful skincare and makeup products. I love to browse the pharmacies!

  32. Ruth Sklar

    I go to Paris twice a year for a month each time. I adore it and do have favorites. First, the Musée du Cluny on the left bank. It’s a combination of medieval art and Roman baths. Second, I adore the 4th for the Place des Vosges and the incredible diversity of people one meets. Third, I love the tea room Angelina’s on the Rue Rivoli by the Tuilleries. They have the best hot chocolate in the world, thick and served with a pitcher of whipped cream. Unbelievable!

    I stay in an apartment for a month on the Ile St. Louis which is the best place to have Berthillion ice cream. I am addicted to their glace aux abricots. it is all I have ever eaten since tasting it in 1986 on my first solo trip to Paris. I’m still solo but friends do come and visit. I must say, however, being alone is a joy because I can do what I want when I want!

    I told my oldest granddaughter that when she turns 18, I will take her to Paris. I’ve got a few years to go, but it will be fun!

    I do enjoy your blog! Take care…

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