All my friends and I wanted was a really cheap European weekend away and a brilliant time.
Thanks to my blogger friend Amy from the Querido Family Adventures I managed to get my hand on 5 x £30 return Eurostar tickets and with a little investigation I found this awesome Airbnb house for £25 each per night.
Between holidays, weddings, honeymoons and general life, none of us could spend much on the trip and we agreed a budget of €120 while we were there, knowing we’d definitely push it to €150, and then that would be it.
Here’s how we spent it, down to the last cent…
We met at London St Pancras at 9am ready for our adventure to Paris via Dover. We nipped into Marks and Spencer to purchase a few bottles of Prosecco (€6) to celebrate the journey with.
The train was a lot of fun, although maybe not for the family of three sat on the adjacent table. We drank, chatted and ended up making friends with this little girl who wanted her nails painted like we were all doing. Unfortunately she was unexperienced in the drying process and when she smudged one of them she cried and screamed. Cue instant regret at trying to help her out.
Arriving in Paris
We arrived and being on the Paris budget we were I decided we should walk the 30 minutes to our apartment. Sometimes, being a recent ex-Londoner, I forget that people don’t like to walk and that a 30-minute walk is a lot for some people, particularly those with cars.
Finally we found our house in the Montmartre area down Passage Penel. After a quick spruce up for us and a look around the flat – cool, bohemian, quite dirty, it would do – we went out in hunt of the nearby Sacre Coeur.
Along the way we bought a selection of sandwiches, pizzas and pastries from the boulangerie to share as well as a few beers from the supermarche for a picnic (€6).
Day one: the Sacre Coeur
The Sacre Coeur is completely free to enter. After trying to find somewhere grassy to sit at the Sacre Coeur for our lunch we ended up sat on the steps watching the tourists go by. I couldn’t bare to watch my friend trying to open the beers with her teeth so we invested in a bottle opener for €8 between the five of us too (€2).
Chancers were coming round offering us beers at €3 a pop so make sure you get them before you go if you want to save money. We watched this dude doing crazy things with a football on a post, along with the rest of the tourists. After we’d watched the same routine five times we realised two hours had passed and we should get on with exploring Paris.
We walked about 5 metres and found the grassy knoll we’d pictured before settling with the steps, we also found a carousel for just (€2). Worth every cent!
First night in Paris
After a quick look around the Montmartre area, a petit biere (€2), and some free chocolate and biscuits at the respective museums we decided to head home and freshen up for the night ahead. This was a girlie holiday after all. We could walk back to the house from the Sacre Coeur area, and stumbled upon some really cute cafes and bars along the way to try later.
On our first night we went to Les Refuges des Fondus – an absolutely incredible fondue place in Montmartre (€21). After three baby bottles of wine (see article) we stumbled down the street to find one of the best bars I’ve ever been in. It was like a curiosity shop but full of beers and different kinds of wine. I got a blueberry beer (one of my five-a-day, go me, (€4)) while my friend ordered a wine. Except it wasn’t a wine, it was the whole bottle, for €4! Bargain!
We ended up chatting to some locals there as it was really friendly and everyone was sat outside. They took us to an underground bar afterwards that just looked like someone’s house – you needed a password to get in. Once we were in there it was like olde Paris – based on my knowledge from Moulin Rouge – there was someone playing the piano, a smoking room, fancy cocktails and red leather furniture. Our new Parisien friend exclaimed “Welcome to Paris” as he opened the door in a dramatic way. Cringe!
Day two: the Paris-Plage
The next day we were all feeling a little ‘gentle’ so we took it easy. After a lot of walking around and hungover indecision we found a little breakfast place and ordered a Croque Madame (€6). It’s basically a Croque Monsieur with an egg on top – it was pretty epic. I also had an Americano (€4).
We were aiming for the Paris Plage – a series of fake beaches set up along the Seine every summer for people to chill out in the city – but we got a bit lost and confused along the way and found ourselves first at Notre Dame and then in the middle of the River Seine on a grassy island. We gave in and sat down. A few minutes later and I got totally ripped off for an ice cream – €4 for a Solero. Oops, got all caught up in the moment. Also spent €3 on a can of Kronenburg.
Finally we found the Paris Plage, just on the other side of the river from where we were. We lay there for the next few hours. Good bit of free fun, although at one point we found ourselves in the middle of a fight, between an adult and a child. I think she was the au pair but she came over and slapped one of the kids so hard around his ear it blew up, cartoon-like. No one around us seemed bothered, is that normal in France?
The heat and the kids all ended up getting a bit much for us so after a Nutella and banana crepe (€6) we made our way home.
Out for dinner
Tame one tonight, seeing as we’re on a budget and last night was a 4am lights out. We had a few fruity beers at home (€2) and made our way up the road we’d walked back from, from the Sacre Coeur.
We chose a restaurant that looked really French, rather than touristy and that we could see had a cool clientele. I chose suckling pig, which the waitress said was enough for two, so my friend shared. It definitely wasn’t enough for two, but at least we saved some money (€7). We had the best chocolate brownie dessert here that I’ve ever had in my life, for the bargain price of €8, halved (€4).
Seeing as we were out we thought we might as well go in the bar over the road for one. We enjoyed a carafe of red wine between three of us (€2) and then it was bed time.
Day three: time for a swim
We’d had the bright idea of finding a rooftop swimming pool in Paris, turns out there aren’t any in Paris city centre, shame. We did come across this little beaut in Bercy though. For €5 you got two hours of sunbathing and swimming, although you had to buy a swimming hat for €3 if you wanted to go in. Of course we didn’t want to pay that and managed two lengths before getting booted out. It was well worth it though, so hot in there.
Come 3:30pm and it was time for us to leave. Unfortunately none of the awesome restaurants along the pier were serving food at that time. So after spending a ridiculous €3 on an Orangina in a restaurant thinking we’d have dinner to follow, the only place we could find was a hotdog shop. We were ravenous so went for it, another €5 gone. As far as hot dogs go, it was alright. Also had a Kronenburg to go alongside (€2).
Cheap buffet dinner tonight
We decided to get a picnic from Monoprix for dinner. Cheeses, meats, breads, salami, beers, wine, chocolate, crisps, tomatoes, avocados – all in for €10 each. We ate it at home while we got ready to go out. My friend’s Parisien mate came round and she was amazed at the house, telling us that people don’t live like that in Paris. We were feeling pretty smug. Well done us.
That night we went back to Montmarte, she didn’t really know the area and we didn’t want to be traipsing across town when it was already late by the time we went out, so we went to the bar next to Refuges des Fondus we’d had a biere at on the first day. They had some sort of wine festival where every glass was just a euro – brilliant! (€5) We met some cool people and I had a go on the motorbike, standard.
Closing time came and we didn’t want to go home, but we didn’t want to go to another bar or pub and drink either so we decided to make our way to the Moulin Rouge and take a look. For some reason there’s a weird blowy thing outside the Moulin Rouge where you can stand to get your photo done. It definitely wasn’t a good look for me but it felt good to cool down in the intense Paris heat of the week we went. After a sneaky pizza we went home.
Day four: Eiffel Tower
The next day we got up and had to be out for midday. We made it, well 10 minutes late. We stored our bags at the Gare du Nord lockers (€2) and ventured out to see the Eiffel Tower. Had to be done. We got some ham and cheese crepes (€4) and just sat on the grassy area nearby for a few hours. Time went quick and before we knew it, it was time to head back to get our 7:13pm train back to London.
- Train Prossecco €6
- Boulangerie pizza and beers €6
- Sacre Coeur bottle opener €2
- Carousel €2
- Toilet 50 cents
- Small biere €2
- Les Refuges des Fondus €21
- Blueberry beer at cool place €4
- Beer at the secret place €4
- Train €2 per day x 3 €6
- Croque Madame and coffee €10
- Solero ice cream €4
- Kronenburg €3
- Crepe €6
- Home beers €2
- Suckling pig, coke, brownie €15
- Red wine carafe €2
- Swimming €5
- Orangina €3
- Hot dog €5
- Kronenburg €2
- Monoprix picnic €10
- €1 wine €5
- Pizza €3
- Locker €2
- Crepes €4
- Croissants on two days €3
The rest of the money went on water, taxis and a bottle of pamplemousse (grapefruit) wine for the Eurostar home!
Top tips for a weekend in Paris
- Taxis charge extra if you have to sit in the front (parties of 4) or if they get their backseat down (5). They also charge for carrying your luggage.
- Try and buy water in the supermarkets – you can get a big bottle for 24 cents. A small bottle of Evian in the shops costs €2-3. If you drink as much as I do this is actually quite a big saving.
- Note that even in Paris they obey the lunch time / evening food opening hours, generally 12-2pm.
- If you’re on a budget boulangeries are your friend. You can get croissants and pastries for less than €2.
- Don’t go to Paris if you’re on a diet, my friend gained 7lbs.
- French people are open and friendly, all the stereotypes are wrong!