Glamorous Paris has an extravagant and luxurious reputation but you don’t need the Sun King’s budget to be able to enjoy a visit to the City of Lights. Here are my top tips on how to save money in Paris.
When to visit
Paris enjoys the best bright, sunny weather between June and August. However, if you are looking to keep costs to a minimum visiting between April – May or September – October will mean you are not hit with peak prices. The weather may be more mixed at those times but you can always plan your museum trips for the iffy days. Paris also hosts various events that see hotel availability evaporate and prices generally soar. If your trip to Paris needs to keep to a budget, keep an eye out for these occasions and avoid them, especially Fashion Week.
Getting into town
If you arrive at Charles de Gaulle Airport the cheapest way to get into the centre of Paris is by using public transport. The RER A or B train costs about €9 and the Roissybus shuttles to the Place de l’Opera every 10 – 20 minutes for €10.
Getting around Paris
Paris is an easy city to explore on foot but if you need a quicker way to get between stops the Paris Metro is easy and inexpensive to use. If you will use it a lot, save money by buying a carnet of 10 single-use tickets (around €13), rather than buying individual tickets (€1.70) each time you travel.
|Riding the Paris Metro, France|
Café and croissants
Breakfast in a Paris café is often better, and cheaper, than breakfast in a hotel. If all you need to get started in the morning is a coffee, drink it at the bar. You will be served faster and pay half the price of having a waiter deliver it to a café table.
Enjoy the Prix Fixe menu
The French take their food very seriously as evidenced by businesses frequently closing for lunch. Brasseries and bistros often offer a ‘prix fixe’ menu of two or three courses for €9 - €15, representing magnificent value. Paris tap water is safe to drink, so you can save another few euros by requesting ‘une carafe d’eau’ instead of mineral water, with your meal.
If you’d prefer to enjoy a picnic-style lunch on a bench in a park you can get fantastic baguette-sandwiches with delicious fillings from boulangeries (bakeries) for about €5 - €8. If you would like some wine with your baguette the cheapest place to buy wine is in the supermarket.
|Menu Prix Fixe, Paris, France|
Paris offers a variety of accommodation options. As a general rule you will pay more for accommodation near the major attractions, but you may also save money on transport, depending on what you want to see.
Paris has lots of small family-run hotels so you can find reasonably priced accommodation in the centre if you book in advance. Renting an apartment is another option, and may be cheaper if you are travelling as a group. It also means you can self-cater which can save some money, or be beneficial if travelling with children.
|Louvre Museum, Paris, France|
Sights in the City of Light
Paris boasts some incredible attractions. It has everything from grand monuments such as the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, to art galleries holding the worlds treasures such as the Mona Lisa in the Louvre and the work of the Impressionists at the Musee d’Orsay.
If you are under 26 years old, and from a European country, entry to state museums is free, but you will need to provide ID proving your age and country of residence. Don’t forget entry to churches, such as Notre Dame Cathedral is free. (There is a charge to visit Notre Dame's tower and treasury).
If you are older than 26, the cheapest way to visit these is to time your visit so that you are in Paris at the start of the month because many of them offer free entry on the first Sunday of each month. Some also open for free in the evenings, so it is worth checking the websites before booking your trip.
If your dates are not so flexible you can also buy a Paris Pass, which is a ticket for entry to the museums and attractions for a set number of days. It offers savings if you plan to visit multiple attractions during a short period.
It may not be for everybody but the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris is where Jim Morrison is buried. The grounds also host memorials for lots of French writers, actors and musicians. There is also a memorial to Oscar Wilde.
For something different you may want to attend a free lecture from the College de France. Lectures are given in French and English on a variety of subjects including physical and natural sciences, philosophy, sociology and history.
|Jardin des Tuilleries, Paris, France|
A great place to buy some inexpensive souvenirs is a shop called ‘Monoprix’, which is a French version of Target. It is also a great shop to head to if you find yourself suddenly needing a new pair of trousers, shoes, batteries, or other traveller needs.
If you fall in love with something in a high-end boutique store, see if you can find it in a large department store such as Galeries Lafayette, as they offer discounts to tourists.
For more unique treasures browsing the Paris flea markets is an enjoyable way to spend a morning. Prices are not always cheap though, so enquire and bargain before you commit to a purchase. Keep an eye out for pickpockets if the market is crowded though.
Cafes and restaurants are often open late in Paris and in summer it is easy to eat dinner outside and watch the world go by.
If you want to party while in Paris get to the nightclubs early to avoid paying an entry fee. The atmosphere will be a bit quiet initially but will not take long to warm up.
Do you have any tips on how to save money in Paris? If so, please share them in the comments below.