Paris is renowned for being the “city of love“, and for its beautiful architecture. It is often thought to be a very expensive city, but there are actually many ways you can enjoy its magnificence for free.
- Go to the Notre Dame Cathedral. This spectacular building is a work of art in itself – it definitely shows that Parisian architecture is among the most incredible in the world. If you want to go up to its famous bell tower then you will need to pay a small charge, however entry to the cathedral itself is free. Walking around the cathedral allows you to witness the grandeur of its stained glass windows, the gargoyles and religious statues inside and to see just how intricate and beautiful the design of the the Notre Dame is.
Everyone has heard the tale of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the most well-known story about the Notre Dame. While we were in Paris we went on a ghost tour around different buildings and areas, and the Notre Dame was our first stop. Our tour guide told us a popular story about how the design of the doors of the cathedral came about; the architect who was hired to design them couldn’t think of any inspiration and after praying to many saints, he ended up praying to Satan. After this, he apparently had a very vivid dream about how the doors should look. During the first mass that took place after the doors were designed and built, the doors closed and locked by themselves and the key wouldn’t work; the priest then dipped the key in holy water and – hurrah! – the doors opened. Spooky stuff…
- Visit the Louvre. Going to the Louvre was definitely a highlight of our trip to Paris – it is absolutely huge, so if you’re planning on going then you should dedicate an extremely large chunk of your day to it. It’s free to enter the Louvre if you’re 18-25 and a citizen of the European Economic Area, if you’re an art or history teacher or if you’re disabled or a jobseeker. It’s also free to enter on the first Sunday of every month between the months of October – March. The Louvre is absolutely amazing and I’m not joking when I say it is massive; I can’t count the amount of times we got lost and had to ask for directions.
The Louvre is most famously known for the stunning glass pyramids in its grounds, and inside there are so many incredible works of art to be fascinated by; murals, paintings, statues, and so many different types of displays. The Mona Lisa is one of the Louvre’s most popular attractions – we did go to see it but the pushing, photo-taking crowds surrounding this tiny, glass-guarded painting really made it hard to enjoy looking at!
- Sticking to the museum theme for now – go to the Picasso museum. If you love all things arty like I do, you’ll love the weird and wonderful paintings that are displayed here. It is located on rue de Thorigny, in the Marais district of Paris, and of course it is dedicated to the works of artist Pablo Picasso.
This is free under the same requirements as entry to the Louvre; quite a few places in Paris offered free or discounted entry if you met this criteria.
- Have a walk through Place des Vosges. This is said to be the oldest planned square in Paris, and it is definitely one of the most beautiful. It is located in the Marais district and if you’re looking for somewhere to just sit and chill on a hot summer’s day, I promise it will not disappoint.
- Go and see the Sacré-Coeur Basilica. Also known as “The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris”, it is located at the top of Montmartre hill. This is one of the most iconic monuments in Paris, and pretty much any photo you take of it would look great on a postcard. Not unlike the Notre Dame, the architecture of this building is stunning. It is free to visit, except entry to the dome and the crypts.
You do need to climb a lot of steps to reach the Basilica, but when you do you’ll be able to see that it was worth it from the spectacular view of Paris that you’re rewarded with. Be aware, though, that the restaurants and bars near the Sacré-Coeur are way overpriced and there are a lot of people there who will relentlessly try to sell you selfie sticks, handmade bracelets and things like that. Although, this can be the case near many other touristy areas in Paris, too.
- Spend your afternoon at Parc du Champ de Mars. Afraid of heights? Or just don’t want to pay to go up the Eiffel Tower? Here, you can enjoy a view of the most symbolic attraction in Paris while remaining firmly on the ground. You can look up at the Eiffel Tower in all of its majestic glory while having a picnic or getting that all-important selfie in front of the tower itself.
We actually decided to go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, as we suspected that the views from the top would be spectacular. To say we were right would be an understatement. You do have to pay to go up the Eiffel Tower, but I would strongly recommend it (unless you’re afraid of heights of course). We paid to go all the way up to the top, so that was around €14.00 at the time. This may seem a bit pricey but with a lot of the museums and attractions we went to offering free or discounted entry for young people, it really didn’t break the bank.
- Get off the beaten path and go to Jardin des Plantes. This is Paris’ main botanical garden, and it also contains a zoo! Jardin des Plantes is a great place to go and do something different while getting away from the bustling city for a day. Even with my unrelenting hayfever, spending the afternoon walking through this beautiful park really was worth it. It is beautiful in the summer time, and if you want to get away from the “typical” tourist attractions I would encourage you to come here.
It also boasts three museums from the Natural History Museum of Paris – the paleontology museum, the evolution museum and the anatomy museum. There is a small charge to get into the museums, but again, this may be free or discounted if you’re of a certain age or a student. We came here specifically to go to the anatomy museum, as Shaun and I are big geeks and love things like that, but we had no idea that it would be located in these gorgeous gardens.
I would recommend paying the very small entry fee and visiting the anatomy museum, it’s fascinating and you really just don’t know where to look! However, the gardens are absolutely huge and even if you choose not to visit any of the museums, you could definitely still spend a good amount of your day exploring Jardin des Plantes.