The capital of France is a huge metropolis with a tremendous appeal to travelers and tourists through the ages - including this author. The entry of low cost airlines has made it cheap to fly to Paris' various airports. But it is not quite cheap to live in the city.
Paris is a definite mecca for shopping at the high end of the price range and the city is filled with luxury. However, it is also possible to enjoy the highlights of the city without having to blow the budget. Here are my very own completely free Parisian favorites.
The world's greatest works
Everyone knows the world's largest museum with some of the world's largest works of art. The Louvre is impressive in every way and there is always a long queue at the entrance. However, the queue usually moves forward. On the first Sunday of the month from October to March, admission to the Louvre is free. It is an offer you must not miss.
Most pilgrimages to Leonardo da Vinci's painting 'Mona Lisa' - which is surprisingly small. It can be hard to get past the crowd and get a selfie with the picture. Patience and a little agility are the solution. The Louvre is filled with other great works, such as 'Venus from Milo'. Take the time to explore and take it all as an experience.
It's not just the Louvre that has free admission on the first Sunday of the month. This also applies to, among other things, the impressive Musée d'Orsay on the other side of the Seine and the Pompidou Center. At these museums, free admission applies all year round. If you are under 26, there is free admission to several places every day. Many of the museums are closed either Monday or Tuesday, so keep an eye on the opening hours.
The Seine is the essence of Paris
Paris is crossed by the river 'Seine', and it is obvious to use the river to navigate. Many of the large known buildings are located along the Seine. There are promenades along the water both at street level and closer to the water.
A large number of bridges cross the Seine and tie Paris together across, and a promenade should include at least a walk across the Pont Neuf. This bridge is known for the thousands of padlocks that loving couples have attached to the bridge with the desire for eternal love. Pont Neuf leads from both north and south to the island of Île de la Cité. There are stairs down to the park 'Square de Vert-Galant' at the tip of the island. Here you can enjoy Paris and the Seine from the water's edge. Île de la Cité is also the island that houses Notre Dame Cathedral.
Notre Dame and company
Notre Dame Cathedral is unfortunately under reconstruction after it partially burned down in 2019, so be aware that it is not open to visitors at the moment. But it reopens at some point.
Notre Dame is, of course, known for being the focal point of Victor Hugo's The Clock of Notre Dame. But you do not have to have read the book to get something out of the church. The church room itself is impressive and there are lots of little details to explore. The cathedral is very popular and you will not be alone in there. But it's worth the experience no matter what. If you want to go up to the towers and see the view, it costs something, but the church itself is free to visit.
Most other churches in the city also have free admission, and there is something in every style. The Madeleine Church is built in a classical style and resembles a temple from ancient Greece, while the iconic Sacré-Cœur at the top of Montmartre has an almost romantic expression and an excellent view of the city.
The story can be found in the cemetery
After the churches, it is natural to go to the cemetery. In Paris, there are two cemeteries in particular that attract attention as they are the final resting place of some of the international celebrities of the past.
Funeral monuments in France are somewhat more pompous than at home. There is a lot to learn about the culture and history by exploring between the many tombstones, mausoleums and memorials that stand close together and slightly cluttered between each other.
Visit the tombs of the famous
In the southern part of the city is the cemetery Montparnasse. Here, with a little luck, a card or just good detective skills, you can find burial sites from celebrities like Samuel Beckett, Jean-Paul Sartre and Serge Gainsburg.
In the eastern part of the city is the large cemetery Père Lachaise. It houses celebrities such as Oscar Wilde, Frédéric Chopin, Édith Piaf and not least Jim Morrison, whose graveyard and the fence in front are always decorated with graffiti and various effects. A stroll with Wikipedia at hand is an excellent introduction to history through Paris' famous residents.
Belleville - street art and crucible
Just north of the Père Lachaise Cemetery is one of Paris' most colorful and international neighborhoods, Belleville. The district is located on some semi-steep streets and has for many decades welcomed large groups of immigrants from all over the world. This is also where you will find one of Paris' 'Chinatowns'. There is a strip of small and cheap Chinese restaurants, which are crammed with both Chinese Parisians and students from the neighborhood. There is always life in the streets.
Belleville is in some places a large outdoor gallery, where street art of all kinds is allowed to put colors on walls and walls. It is also a neighborhood where the political currents can be seen in the street scene, and where left-wing groups traditionally dominate with posters and messages.
If you walk down Rue de Belleville from the Pyrenees metro station, you pass the stairwell, which was the childhood home of singer Édith Piaf. And you have a nice view down the street with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
Forward with the camera
Paris is perfect for long walks through the many streets, and the city's iconic buildings make it an obvious photo destination. You will very often have the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the high-rise buildings of La Défense, the Invalides Church, the Sacré-Cœur or the big Ferris wheel on Concorde Square in the background. It just makes you want to pull the camera forward.
A hike along the Seine to the west will take you past a statue of the Statue of Liberty, which is a smaller version of it in New York. The silhouette of the Eiffel Tower accompanies you around the tour. One of the best places to sit with his lunch and look at Paris is right next to the free art museum 'Musée d'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris' in the embassy area east of Trocadéro. At the museum itself you can see works by, among others, Picasso, Matisse and Per Kirkeby.
Of course, Paris has also attracted the attention of film directors from near and far. A walk around the streets can be used to spot famous locations. For example from 'Amélie', 'The Da Vinci Mystery' and 'Ratatouille'. It's just about exploring.
Picnic and romance
Of course, a romantic city like Paris also has a collection of world-class parks and they are open to the public. The 'Tuileries', which is next door to the Louvre, are obvious to take a walk in. And it's a great place to look at people. The same applies to Luxembourg Gardens south of the Seine at the Latin Quarter and the Botanical Gardens further east.
A slightly special park is the 'Parc de Buttes-Chaudmont', which is laid out on the slopes at Belleville. Here there are both waterfalls and dramatic scenery. Take a sandwich and something to drink with you in your hand and sit down after the walk, which goes somewhat uphill.
Wine and rest at the Eiffel Tower
Another park with an obvious picnic opportunity is the Champ-de-Mars below the Eiffel Tower. With a picnic basket and a bottle of wine with the Eiffel Tower as a neighbor, it will not be much more Paris!
We hope you've been inspired by how to enjoy beautiful Paris without draining your wallet. Bon voyage!