Paris: 5 Things to Do and See on a Budget
Paris is one of my favorite cities to walk around in. When we first arrived, we walked from the university to our hotel, about 8 blocks with our bags in a less-touristy neighborhood and it was beautiful. We walked nearly nonstop for the next 4 days and would recommend it to anyone looking to see the city on a budget. April was a great time for a walking trip – not too hot and probably less crowded than the summer months.
A few directional tips: the neighborhoods or districts are called arrondissements and are numbered from 1 to 20 in a spiral pattern starting from the center of the city and going out. As you move out from the center, everything gets a little cheaper. We stayed at a hotel in the 15th arrondissement and were able to walk to the Eiffel Tower the first day, and easily take a train after that.
I did a lot of research on walking tours, things to do, as well as staying at hotels in Paris before our trip. Hopeful my tips will help others planning their vacation!
1. Eiffel Tower and Champ-de-Mars
Yes, its touristy and crowded and just a tall piece of metal, but it is beautiful and worth a visit. With our 4 days, we walked by a few times: the first was around noon and it was way to busy. The next was in the evening and the better time to go up and check out the views. There are 4 entrances, one at each corner of the square base, and each have different hours that seem to fluctuate with the demand. Check out the Tour Eiffel website for hours and ticket information. We waited in the stairs line, which is much cheaper and shorter than the elevator, and bought our ticket just before that booth closed at 4pm. It was great timing, because as we slowly made our way up the over 600 stairs to the second level, stopping to rest and enjoy the view, the sun went down and the night cast a beautiful blue hue on the city. Back at the bottom, we took some photos of the tower lit up at night, then wandered around the rest of the 7th arrondissements then across the river for dinner. There are a few small alleys that have the kind of street cafes with Eiffel Tower views that are exactly what you’d imagine dinner in Paris to be like.
2. The Louvre and Notre-Dame
Two other “must-see” landmarks that we visited were done in one day. Its a little hecktic, but we knew we wanted to spend time outside of the city center but still see these two Parisian masterpieces. We spent about 4 hours at the Louvre and Tuileries Garden, including standing in line for tickets. Others warned us about how you need 4 days to see it all, but for non-art lovers, the museum provides a handy map of just the most famous works, allowing us to skip around and enjoy just a few wings of the massive building, rather than rushing through and not enjoying all of it.
After the museum, we walked along the river to Notre-Dame, situated on an island in the Seine. Walking was a great (and free) way to see the river and people-watch along the way. The cathedral itself was amazing to see and think about the history, and you can see everything in an hour or so.
3. Champs-Élysées and Arc de Triomphe
The most famous street in Paris and maybe in the world, Champs-Élysées is a great place to walk, window-shop, and people watch. I’d always see it on TV, mostly at the end of the Tour de France when the cyclists take it over, and many other parades walk this street. The metro takes you near the Arc de Triophe, then you have to follow the underground tunnels under the street to get to the Arc. Its tough to get a photo without tons of other tourists in it, but its worth it to see the famous Arc.
4. Luxembourg and its Garden
Ok, now that you’ve see the most touristy landmarks, explore Luxembourg on foot. The arrondissement has many historical bars and shops, and the garden in a beautiful place to walk around and have a picnic or a crepe from a nearby stand. Get lost in the street markets and endless sidewalks of cafes!
If you are interested in some spooky history, the Catacombs of Paris can be toured from the Place Denfert-Rochereau in the 14th arrondissement, just south of Luxembourg. This underground cemetery holds the remains of over 6 million people, and because of its location, limits Paris from build foundations to accommodate any tall buildings.
5. Montmartre and Basilica of the Sacré Cœur
I think my favorite day in Paris was walking from Moulin Rouge, near the train station we got off on) to the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur in the Montmartre area of Paris. The walk is all uphill and not easy, but beautiful the whole way. We stopped near the famous Moulin Rouge theater and snapped a few photos, but didn’t have money in our budget for a show there. I would love to see one, and if you have, comment below on how it was! Heading toward Sacré Cœur, Parisians will try to sell you everything possible, or draw your portrait, which adds to the charm of this area but can get a bit annoying. At the Basilica, I recommended paying the small fee to climb the stairs for an amazing view.
Montmartre Hill is known for nightclubs as well, so if you have any stamina left, enjoy the nightlife.
A lot of the maps and directions I used I found by looking up “Paris walking tours”, reading guides from other travelers and Paris activities websites. Are there other walks and activities you would recommend?