Who knew there was so much to do in Paris for free, hey?
I set myself a little challenge to see as much of Paris for free as possible in 24 hours. I ended up spending €64, but that was because it was raining so I had to take the bus and Metro instead of walking, and I had to drink that carafe of wine to dry me out and warm me up.
I saw a grand total of 17 free Paris attractions, and would absolutely recommend them all. Here goes…
Awesome free things to do in Paris
1. Galleries Lafayette inside and rooftop
Head straight up the escalators and don’t stop till you get to the top, or you could be at risk of spending a euro or two (hundred). Galeries Lafayette is a luxury shopping centre, but you’re not here for the clothes, handbags and make up, the building is stunning.
Look up while you’re inside to see the colourful stained glass roof and dramatic dome. Then find the magic stairs leading outside and you’ll be welcomed with a FREE view of Paris – Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur in the distance all included.
There’s a wine bar, restaurant and ice cream shop up top, but we’re talking free, so ignore them and focus on the scenery. There are even deck chairs up there and everything.
2. Printemps Shopping Centre
Just a few minutes walk from Galeries Lafayette you’ll find the Printemps Shopping Centre. Apparently there’s another roof top garden here, but err, I think I was so mesmerised by the roof up there I forgot to look for the secret elevator. It was also raining so I was drenched and was seeking the shelter.
Anyway, although I missed the view outside, I did get to admire the roof above.
3. Eiffel Tower and Champs des Mars
It’s €25 to enjoy the view from up the Eiffel Tower, but once you’re up, you look out over Paris, and there’s no Eiffel Tower on the skyline, making it one of the worst Paris views in my opinion. Le Tour de Eiffel is Paris.
So, my recommendation to include a trip here on your free Paris itinerary would be to grab a bottle of wine / beers / French stick, and sit in the park surrounding the tower – the Champs des Mars – and relax and enjoy the scenery.
4. Walk round the Latin Quarter
The Latin Quarter is one of the cheapest areas of Paris to eat. Here you’ll find plenty of set menu offerings and drink deals too.
Boutiquey shops, cute churches, crepe stands and galleries are standard here, and are all free to look around.
5. Cimitière du Père Lachaise
When I asked my Facebook followers what I should do in Paris for free, the Pere Lachaise cemetery was the number one suggestion. This is where Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison and… I didn’t actually know anyone else… are buried. Some of Europe’s most famous writers, poets and philosophers are here, I’m just not really up on that side of French culture.
Whether you know them or not, the cemetery is pretty cool, and all kinds of eerie. Huge tombs, one after another, line the winding path, engraved with the names of people rich enough to afford a plot here. Spooky, but fascinating, and all free.
6. Canal St Martin
This is the cool, arty, part of Paris, yes, even more arty than the other arty parts of Paris. With little shops, boutiques and plenty of bars and restaurants, you’re going to have to exercise some restraint if you plan to last an hour or so here for free. Remember, eating’s cheating.
7. Sacre Coeur
I love the Sacre Coeur – the actual building, the steps and the vibe around it. On this particular visit I went early on a Friday morning so there weren’t many people around. Go a bit later in the day and the stairs are full of people admiring the view, with a beer or wine and street entertainers doing their thing.
You can go in the Sacre Couer for free, just to pop your head in, but it does cost to go up the towers. Or I recently learnt about this cool scheme where you can sleep over for free, if you promise to pray while you’re there. True story, honest.
8. Moulin Rouge
Hey sister, go sister, better get that flow sister.
Yeah, I’m a teenager of the noughties, Moulin Rouge was a big deal when I was young. Admittedly, it doesn’t look like the most exciting prospect from the photo above, but it was early. Go later on in the day, preferably after sun down, and it’s all lit up and totally exciting. Well worth a photo outside with the rest of the tourists.
This one time, I paid to go and see it. And we drank aaalll the Champagne and had a brilliant night. Loved it.
9. Shakespeare bookshop
Paris’ Shakespeare bookshop is legendary. It’s been there for years, and before that was a hidden wine shop during prohibition.
Anyone with an interest in books will love it as soon as they walk in, guaranteed. It felt like every book I’ve ever wanted to read lined the haphazard shelves in there. I took my time to admire the titles and covers. One of the first things I’m going to do when I get a house is to sort out my book collection – I have nowhere to keep them now so I’m tied to my Kindle.
You’re not allowed to take photos inside unfortunately, but it was basically a labyrinth of little rooms and nooks to sit and read, from floor to ceiling, wall to wall. Incredible.
10. Street art, everywhere
Good quality street art, like actual art, rather than graffiti is all over Paris. Keep an eye out for your favourite pieces – the Rue de Martyrs is a good place to start – and get inspired for a little home decoration. Maybe.
11. Notre Dame
I still haven’t been inside the Notre Dame Cathedral, despite having been to Paris nine times. Can’t believe it.
It’s free and I wanted to go, but when I was there it closed at 6pm, so I was an hour late. It’s still an awesome building to see from the outside though. Next time, I’ll go in.
12. Promenade Plante
The Promenade Plante is a 5km stretch of old railway that’s been redeveloped into a garden. You can walk from one side of Paris to the other in total safety and above the cars and traffic below. It’s completely free to do and has lots of benches and places to chill along the way. Take a picnic and relax!
13. Arc de Triomphe
The roads around the Arc de Triomphe are crazy. Again, I was too early for the total carnage to have started above, but if you can imagine the equivalent of 7ish lanes of cars, not in lanes, but trying to get round the roundabout all horns a honking, you’ll understand the Arc de Triomphe roundabout.
You can pay to go up, around €9, or you can just admire from below. The Arc de Triomphe stands at the top of the western end of the Champs-Élysées and was built in honour of anyone who’d fought for France. It’s home to the grave of ‘The Unknown Soldier’ too. Make sure to take the tunnel over to explore more, it really is a cool structure with a great sentiment.
14. See the Louvre
The Louvre is one of the most visited museums in the world – it’s home to the Mona Lisa after all. You’ll need a ticket to get in – around €20ish – but you’re free to hang out in the gardens and the courtyard all you like. This is where you can get the ultimate Louvre touristy photo of you holding the point of it (like this).
The Louvre takes up all the buildings around – that glass bit is just the entrance. Relax, hang out, laugh at the tourists trying to get the photos, and then join them.
15. Musee Carnavalet
I wanted to add a museum into my day, even though I’m not actually that into museums, unless they’re sex or science ones (always good for a laugh), which is what bought me to the Musee Carnavalet.
The Museum looks at the history of Paris via ‘2,600 paintings, 20,000 drawings, 300,000 engravings and 150,000 photographs, 2,000 modern sculptures and 800 pieces of furniture’. I probably saw about 5% of that. I don’t last long in museums, but I do like a walk through. And seeing as it was free, and right in the heart of the Marais, there was nothing to lose.
16. Abercrombie and Fitch store
Another recommendation from my Facebook followers, the Abercrombie and Fitch store on the Champs Elysee was crazy fancy. The photo above is just the entrance. Inside there was five floors of over priced clothes, but most amazingly the opulent beams, details and art work on the walls. I’m not going to spoil it with a photo but it’s well worth checking out.
And it’s right by Laduree, the macaron shop too.
17. Walk round The Marais
The Marais is another great spot for eating, drinking and shopping, or, in our case, window shopping. So many cute streets, so little time. You’ll find Paris’ most famous falafel shop here, the Musee Carnavalet, and lots of galleries. You’ll also find the Anne Frank Garden here, another free activity, although I ran out of time.
Just another reason to get back to Paris asap!
17 Awesome Free Things to Do in Paris
In short: for you to screenshot
- Galleries Lafayette
- Printemps Shopping Centre
- Eiffel Tower and Champs des Mars
- The Latin Quarter
- Cimitière du Père Lachaise
- Canal St Martin
- Sacre Couer
- Moulin Rouge
- Shakespeare Bookshop
- Street art, everywhere
- Notre Dame
- Promenade Plante
- Arc de Triomphe
- The Louvre
- Musee Carnavalet
- Champs Elysee / Abercrombie and Fitch store
- Walk round the Marais