The Scrubba Blog

See Without the Fee: 5 Things to Do in Paris That Don’t Cost a Cent

by Sam Stephens |

Following on from our 5 Things to Do in London That Don't Cost a Penny blog, posted earlier this year, 5 Things to Do in Paris … is the latest instalment in our new See Without the Fee series. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to share our favourite and entirely free experiences around the globe because, you know, who doesn’t love free things? Travel is, of course, the crowning jewel of freebies. Achieving our travel goals without spending a cent is all the more exciting precisely because it often seems impossible to become so much richer in experience and memories without becoming a whole lot poorer in the actual money department. Thankfully, we’re here to dispel that downright pessimistic mindset with our list of the top 5 things to do in Paris for free.

Aimez-vous Paris? You’re not alone. In fact, according to l’Office du Tourisme et des Congrès “Tourism in Paris in Key Numbers” brochure, the Greater Paris region entertained 36.5 million tourists last year alone, easily making it one of the most visited destinations in the world. Maybe it’s the air of romance, the high quality cheap wine, or the powerful allure of renowned landmarks like La Tour Eiffel, L’Arc de Triomphe, and Notre-Dame de Paris, but whatever the reason, it’s clear that people just can’t get enough of the beautiful French capital that refuses to take even a transitory break from its eternal quest to awe its many visitors with outpourings of history, culture and fine dining (of which, we want to make absolutely clear, cheese is undoubtedly the most important element). There’s simply so much to see and do in the City of Lights and its surrounding regions that even the most frugal traveller can rack up quite a bill, especially when you consider that seeing this sprawling city with any degree of seriousness demands quite a lengthy stay. Thankfully, there are some amazing parts of Paris that are totally free to visit or admire, and the following list sums up a handful of our favourites.

Notre Dame:

No Parisian blog would be complete without it, and as luck would have it this particular attraction happens to be free, earning it top place on our list. Perched anything but discreetly on the banks of the Seine, Notre Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris) is a staggeringly large Gothic cathedral that took around 300 years to complete following the start of construction in the 12th century. One of the oldest examples of Gothic architecture and one of the first buildings to use flying buttresses, Notre Dame has become a staple of the Parisian skyline, admirably surviving the test of time and the many conflicts that have accompanied it. Today it lies in the heart of the city where it is easily accessible on metro line 4 thanks to the nearby Notre-Dame and Cité metro stops. Jaw-droppingly magnificent both inside and out, the cathedral has been celebrated in many art forms, and is today one of Paris’ most visited attractions.  

Parc du Champ de Mar:

Enjoy the Eiffel Tower in all its dominating glory from the beautiful, sprawling Parc du Champ Mar. Comprised of lush pockets of vivid green grass periodically intersected by neat paths that offer spectacular central views of the famous 300m high Tower, the park is a fantastic place to relax by day and to admire the shimmering lights of La Tour Eiffel by night. If the prospect of sitting in the Tower’s shadow and craning your neck up at its observation deck becomes a little too daunting (or perhaps a little too depressing if you lack the cash to scale the monument yourself), you can always turn your attention to the impressive Mur pour la Paix (Wall for Peace), a recent monument built in the tradition of Jerusalem’s famous Wailing Wall. Bearing the word ‘Peace’ in 32 languages and 14 alphabets, its letterboxes enable visitors to post their wishes as a symbol of the continuance of time and the transference of messages across generations. Both the park and the beauty that lies within its neatly trimmed borders are well worth a visit, promising a highly enjoyable excursion that offers up copious amounts of Parisian culture and history for the most budget-conscious traveller. 

A Ton of Famous Buildings (from the Outside):

 One of the great things about Paris is that the vast majority of its most famous attractions are highly accessible from the street, enabling visitors to freely bask in their stunning architecture and total embodiment of near impossible feats of engineering, without having to so much as open their wallets. Not only the Eiffel Tower, but also L’Arc de Triomphe, the largest arch in the world, can be freely visited at ground level without anything to hinder your view. In fact, situated in the middle of what is quite possibly the world’s most frightening roundabout and lying at the end of the famous Champs-Élysées, it would be difficult to find a monument that is more accessible to the public, proudly showing off its beauty from the second it leaps into view right up until the jaw dropping moment you walk beneath the famed archway that was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806. Today, the arch serves as a tribute not only to his military battles, but also to the fallen in general, acting as the site of Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, whose flame is rekindled daily at 6.30pm. Le Louvre, famously approached by the romantic, padlocked-lined Pont des Arts, also presents the opportunity to admire a beautiful façade completed by an impressive glass pyramid, while the Pantheon Paris, not to be outdone, boasts its own superb neoclassical architecture. Of course, your visit will be infinitely enriched by venturing inside these famous buildings to experience the treasures that lie within, but if you lack the time or money to do so you can rest assured that you can still experience Paris (and take the photos to prove it) without emptying your bank account.  

Basilique du Sacré Coeur:

It might not be quite as famous as Notre Dame, but the Basilique du Sacré Coeur is well worth a visit. Located in the historic Montmartre region, one can both admire and enter the Romano-Byzantine style church for free, although what you save in money you might just lose in disposition, as your prize can only be reached by ascending a large, sweeping staircase that proves challenging for many visitors. Nevertheless, the views of Paris from the top are absolutely stunning, and make for some beautiful photo opportunities for those eager to commit their visit to Paris to the eternal. Brimful with culture, atmosphere, and history, the Sacré Coeur is only around a ten minute walk from Anvers station, reached on the number 2 metro service, and is definitely a must-see for young and old alike. 

Jardin du Luxembourg:

These impressive gardens, covering 25 hectares, comprise both French and English separated by a large pond and forest. Boasting 106 statues along with the impressive Medici fountain, the park can become overrun with tourists and locals alike in fine weather, who quite understandably flock to the historic grounds to enjoy a spot of sunshine in a beautiful location. Despite this, Jardin du Luxembourg offers a great way to take a break from the bustle of Paris by immersing yourself in nature and observing Parisian life and flora and fauna from afar, all without spending a cent!

Yes, it’s not the best way to see the city and no, you won’t get to climb the Eiffel Tower or experience da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, but hopefully this list has helped to convince you that Paris offers many exciting attractions for even the most budget-conscious traveller. So put away those Euros for just a moment and get back to the heart of the city by admiring the features that complete its skyline … just try not to blow your savings on a huge pile of crêpes afterwards!  

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