Budget City Guide: 8 Free Things to do in Paris

Let’s be real, Paris isn’t one of the cheapest destinations for your next European city trip. But fear not, I’ve got you sorted! Take it from a flat broke student: there are plenty of great low-budget options to make your trip worthwhile. Save up some cash for a few necessary crêpes and croissants (and a plane or train ticket, probably), but don’t worry about spending half your savings on entrance fees. I’m sharing the 8 best free things to do in Paris.

1. Stroll around the Tuileries Garden (Jardin des Tuileries)

The Jardin des Tuileries is a gorgeous public garden in the 1st arrondissement of Paris. It’s very close to the Louvre and is located next to the Place de la Concorde, so it will very be easy to find. The Jardin des Tuileries was originally a palace garden, created in the 16th century. It eventually became a public space after the French Revolution. Additionally, there is usually a summer fun fair in July and August, but any season is a good time to take a stroll around the lively garden.

Tuileries Garden in Paris

2. Appreciate Art at the Petit Palais

One of the especially noteworthy museums in Paris that has an unconditional free admission to its permanent collection is the Petit Palais. The museum was originally built for the 1900 World Fair (Exposition Universelle) in Paris. Nowadays, the Petit Palais home to the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des beaux-arts de la ville de Paris). If you’d like, you can browse through the online collection here.

Free things to do in Paris: the Petit Palais art museum.

3. Visit the Biggest Flea Market in Europe: Le Marché Aux Puces de Saint-Ouen

Le Marché Aux Puces de Saint-Ouen or Flea Market of Saint-Ouen is the biggest flea market in Europe. Actually, it’s a collection of 15 different markets, including indoor (Marché Dauphine) and outdoor areas. Visiting the flea market is free and trust me, even if you’re on a super tight budget, it is still fun to just walk around and admire all the antique knick-knacks and quirky curiosities on display. The flea market is held every Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Marché Dauphine in Paris.

4. Benefit from the Free First Sunday of the Month

Do you love visiting museums? Try to plan your visit to Paris on the first weekend of the month. On Sundays, you can visit many museums for free, such as the famous Louvre and Centre Pompidou (Musée national d’art moderne). You can find the full list of participating museums on this page. Bonus tip: always check the websites of specific museums before you go. Many museums offer completely free entrance all year round for young adults under 26.

The Louvre in Paris is free to visit on the first sunday of the month.

5. Discover Old Churches

There are many churches in Paris that you can visit for free. These wonderful monuments showcase the best of older European architectural styles. It’s not just the Notre Dame that you should try and see. Have a look inside the amazing Basilica of the Sacré Cœur, trace the medieval Parisian history at the Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés, and have a quick look at the charming Church of St Eustache.

Old church in Paris (Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés)

6. Explore Paris by Night

It is no coincidence that Paris is called the “City of Lights” (La Ville Lumière). In fact, Paris was one of the first cities in Europe to introduce gas street lighting. A great way to spend your evening in Paris is to simply go on a walk in the city centre and admire the architecture. If you’re looking for those classic romantic city vibes, you’ll find them in Paris by night. I took this photo as I was standing on the Pont Notre-Dame, enjoying the views of the Seine and Eiffel tower in the distance.

Paris by Night

7.  Take a look inside the Sainte-Geneviève Library

The Sainte-Geneviève Library or Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève is a vast public library in the 5th arrondissement of the city of Paris. The former monastic library used to belong to the Sainte-Geneviève abbey and holds around 2 million documents. The exterior architecture of the library is nothing special, but the reading hall is an incredible sight. The library is open to anyone over the age of 18.

Sainte-Geneviève Library in Paris
Reading room of the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève by Marie-Lan Nguyen (CC BY 2.0 fr)

8. Have a Break at Colonnes de Buren

If the weather isn’t too bad, it’s also a nice idea to take a break and relax at Colonnes de Buren, officially known as Les Deux Plateaux. Colonnes de Buren is a public artwork in Paris and is located in the inner courtyard (Cour d’Honneur) of the Palais-Royal. French artist Daniel Buren created the black-and-white-striped column artwork during 1985 and 1986 to reimagine the former parking lot and to hide ventilation shafts. Moreover, the artsy columns create a kind of playground to climb and jump around.

Free things to do in Paris: Colonnes de Buren.

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