6 Fabulous Things to Do in Paris for Free
Updated: Aug 27, 2019
(Originally posted on my blog "Feeding the Need" on 7/7/17. Updated and edited 7/31/19.)
It’s been too long since I’ve posted for sure. And I’m taking the easy way out as it is this time. I’m posting an article I submitted to something called the 101 Holidays Blog (a British website - hence, the spellings) back in early February. I never heard back from them, so I’m posting it here now.
This was my first writing submission. Except for one I used to get me on board at Scripted – a service of which at this point I’ve made absolutely no use. I suppose I’ll submit something else to someone else someday, but I have so many interests to find time for. As we all know all too well – only when it becomes important or desirable enough will it get done.
Speaking of that, I want to post a link to this great Ted Talk on time management by Laura Vanderkam called How to Gain Control of Your Free Time. I watched it on a recent Delta flight on my most recent trip to France. In fact, I think I watched it on the way over there and on the way back. The quote from the talk that came to mind as I was writing the above paragraph is: “I don’t do X, Y or Z because it’s not a priority.”
Time is the most precious thing you will ever have. Unlike almost anything else you can think of…there’s absolutely no way to ever get any more of it. You don’t even know how much you have! Nothing will ever impact your life more than how you choose to spend your time. And lately, writing has not been a priority for me. Someday, it very well may be.
But for now – here’s this. It was formatted to the style of the blog which was basically “Six Things That Are Awesome In (location).” My location of choice? Obviously, Paris.
6 Fabulous Things to Do in Paris for Free
Ah, Paris. How can you not love Paris? The grand boulevards, the amazing architecture, the world-renowned artworks, the food, the wine… it’s a wonderful, beautiful city. But it’s just so expensive to visit! Isn’t it? Well, it sure can be, but it doesn’t have to be. You might be quite surprised at how much you can do and how much fun you can have in Paris without spending a dime.
1. Take a walk in a park
Paris is well-known for many things, but parks is not really one of them. This is regardless of the fact that the city is book-ended east and west by two massive parks that sprawl out over a total of 1845 hectares (4549 acres) with over 420 other parks and gardens in between them. There are wonderful neighbourhood parks in each of the 20 sections of Paris (the “arrondissements”) filled with gardens, fountains, sculptures, food vendors, playgrounds, carnival games, carousels, chess tables and all sorts of interesting and useful things.
2. Expose yourself to art
If art is more your style, there are 22 museums and art collections in Paris that are free to enter every day of the year. The City of Paris’ Museum of Modern Art offers free admission to its permanent collection every day and houses absolutely stunning works by Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Chagall and others. Some of the most popular museums in Paris – including the Pompidou, the Orsay and the Orangerie – offer free admission the first Sunday of every month. Even the Louvre is free to visit on the first Sunday of the month almost year-round. Do keep in mind that these “free days” are often extremely crowded. If you can, go to these museums mid-week (and off-season) for a much more pleasant and enriching experience.
3. Walk along the grandest boulevard of them all
Nothing quite compares to walking up the Champs-Élysées with the Arc de Triomphe coming into view in the distance. Or strolling blissfully along the Seine and looking up to see the Eiffel Tower. The immensity and grandeur of the Louvre. The Pantheon, the Opera House, Les Invalides, the Petit Palais…all stunning and fabulous and wonderful. And the real kicker is…they look even better at night. No city in the world lights up its monuments quite the way Paris does. Hence its nickname, “The City of Light.” Take a tour of Paris at night and see her monuments and museums at their brilliant best.
4. Time travel through stunning places of worship
Regardless of your religion (or lack of it), there are at least two places of worship you really must see while you are in Paris. The Notre Dame is a Catholic cathedral right in the very heart of Paris and was built in the French Gothic style. Now over 850 years old, it is one of the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world and it’s free to visit every day of the year – even during mass. (This cathedral is currently closed for restoration following a massive fire that started on 4/15/19). Equally as stunning is the Sacré-Coeur basilica which delights its visitors every day. And being at the highest point in the city, it boasts some of the very best views of Paris. Almost all churches and cathedrals in Paris are open to the public every day as are many other places of worship. Don’t be shy about stopping by. Usually, you can just walk right on in. Even during services. Just be quiet and respectful. Silence your phone and don't use a camera with flash or that makes a shutter sound. If someone greets you, ask if they are currently welcoming visitors.
5. Explore the neighbourhood markets
Paris is known and loved the world over for its cuisine. If you’ve never been to one of the many neighbourhood markets in Paris, you absolutely must go. There are weekly, bi-weekly and even daily markets all over the city that serve their neighbourhood residents and visitors by offering mostly food items, but also sundries, clothing and more. You'll find not just fruit and vegetable stands, but cheese shops, bakeries and even butcher shops with fully stocked refrigerated cases right there on the sidewalk. There are people selling spices, candies, jams, wines…all sorts of wonderful things. Just make sure to go early as many sellers start packing up shortly after noon.
6. Pick a “quartier” and just stroll around
Perhaps the most relaxing and enjoyable thing to do in Paris is to pick a neighbourhood and just start walking. Every neighbourhood has so much to see and many of them are unique, but all of them are most certainly “Parisian.” There are so many bakeries, parks, markets, shops, churches, bistros…you never know what will be around the next corner to delight you. The “tabacs” of Paris are definitely a favorite of mine. No matter if you are after a bite to eat, a coffee, a drink, a smoke, – you can always stop in a friendly and cozy neighborhood tabac. Walk up to the counter and say “un cafe, s’il vous plaît” and for just over a Euro, you’ll receive a tiny porcelain cup full of the most delightful espresso. It’s the perfect afternoon pick-me-up for getting you on your way and enjoying the rest of your Parisian day.