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Associated with luxury, designer fashion and gastronomic soirées, Paris is certainly not known as a budget destination. Yet there are plenty things you can do at no cost at all – if you know where to look :-) From scenic river walks and strolls in the park to cultural visits to impressive landmarks: here’s our guide for free activities in the City of Lights.
Free museum admission
Paris is inextricably linked to culture and (fine) arts. The city is packed with interesting museums and galleries, some of whose permanent collections can be enjoyed free of charge.
We recommend a visit to the free permanent collections of the Petit Palais, which houses fine arts oeuvres from antiquity through the early 20th century and the one at the Musée d’Art Moderne (Modern Art Museum), where you can admire over 8,000 contemporary art works.
And did you know that even some of Paris’s most famous museums, like the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, offer free access to their permanent collections on the first Sunday of each month?
Free visits to churches and cathedrals
One of the city’s most monumental landmarks, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is a must for all visitors. What you may not know is that entrance to the cathedral is free – those who wish to climb the towers, though, need to pay a small charge.
Another church in Paris you can visit free of charge is the Saint-Sulpice Church, which is often overlooked but has become more popular since it starred in Dan Brown’s hit novel The Da Vinci Code. Last but not least, the romantic Sacré Coeur Basilica in Montmartre is also accessible for free. The breathtaking views of the city are a bonus!
Parks and gardens
Of the many green spaces in Paris, the Buttes-Chaumont Park is one of the biggest (25 ha) and one of the most varied: hills, caves, waterfalls, an artificial lake… No wonder it’s one of the locals’ favourites!
A totally different but equally beautiful setting is provided at the Jardin du Luxembourg, public gardens which were inspired by the Boboli Gardens in Florence. Worth a visit for its monumental Medici fountain alone (not to forget its orchard and 106 statues spread throughout the garden).
One of the newest parks in the capital is the Parc André Citroën, which is set on the site of the former Parisian Citroën factory. This futuristic park opens directly onto the Seine and is ideal for families, offering plenty of activities for children.
Europe’s biggest cities usually offer free walking tours, and Paris is no exception. Whether you want to see the famous landmarks, the Latin Quarter or the city’s hidden gems, there’s a tour for you. You are, however, expected to tip your guide – it’s only polite ;-)
If you’d rather explore the city at your own pace, a stroll along the Seine never gets old. It’s a great way to get a first look at many of the big Paris landmarks and discover new ones alike. One of our favourite spots is around the Notre-Dame, where you can browse the UNESCO-listed riverside book stalls: here, the “bouquinistes” sell second-hand books over a 3-km stretch along the river.
Paris also isn’t short of markets. One that is loved by Parisians as much as by tourists is the daily market at Rue Mouffetard, situated in the 5th arrondissement. The market is a feast for the senses, with cheeses, vegetables and fruits, pastries and much more on offer. It’s easy to spend a few hours here – even Victor Hugo found inspiration here for Les Miserables.
Another special market is the Marché d’Aligre (12th arrondissement), which has a village-like atmosphere and is composed of three different areas, each one with its own personality: the Rue d’Aligre, the Place d’Aligre and the charming covered market “Halle Beauvau”.
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* Unless expressly stated otherwise, all fares quoted are per person/per leg (VAT included) based on an online reservation for a 2nd class return from Brussels. Please note, terms and conditions apply. Tip: As the number of seats at the lowest fares on Thalys, Eurostar, TGV® and ICE trains is limited, we recommend that you book your trip as early as possible. Most international trains allow reservations to be made from 3 to 4 months before the date of departure (or from 6 months for Eurostar and ICE).
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