There are three particular images that pop to mind when you think of Paris: the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Arc de Triomphe. Whatever you do, don't limit yourself to just these three highlights because there is so much more to see and do in the City of Lights.
Paris is a bustling city full of fashion, culture, history, and let's not forget the food! But can you see and do it all on a budget? In a word, yes!
There are plenty of free things to do in Paris besides a photo shoot when you visit the major sites. You can have your own picnic in one of the many beautiful parks, take an invigorating hike, or watch a movie at the free open air cinema in Parc de la Villette. We've compiled a list of our favorite free things to do in Paris.
But before you go running off to check all the free attractions or get some sun tanning in at Paris Plages, you will need to store your luggage. You definitely don't want to be hauling your luggage around the French capital while you are trying to eat croissants and admiring fine arts. So use one of our convenient Paris luggage storage lockers and go about your day.
Although Notre Dame de Paris is still closed due to the fire in 2019, it is still worth stopping by to have a look at the incredible work being done in rebuilding it. But there are, of course, alternatives to the iconic building. And while other cathedrals in Paris don’t have the pedigree of the Notre Dame Cathedral, they have their own charms.
Tour Saint-Jacques can provide you with a beautiful view of Paris from a belltower with gargoyles that will rival Notre Dame’s after you climb its three hundred steps. Sainte Chapelle’s towering stained glass windows are a sight to behold and are actually more impressive than Notre Dame. If it is the architecture you love, check out Saint Eustache with its Renaissance interior and breathtaking gothic architecture.
All three of these cathedrals are within walking distance of Notre Dame. Sainte-Chapelle is the closest being only a few blocks away. For Tour Saint-Jacques, cross the Seine on the Pont au Change bridge, and you will see it from there. Saint-Eustache is a little further, just a one-mile walk north from Notre Dame.
Place de la Concorde
Place de la Concorde is a beautiful square that separates Champ-Alysee and Jardin des Tuileries. At the center, you will find a towering three-thousand-year-old obelisk that once stood in front of the Luxor Temple in Egypt. There are two gorgeous large fountains, one representing the rivers Rhone and Rhine, the other the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
Once the scene of the guillotines during the French revolution, it has now become a great place to relax and enjoy some entertainment. Within the park, you will be delighted by a variety of family-friendly street performers. While they don’t charge for their performances, they also don’t mind if you leave a tip.
You can find free music concerts at almost any time of the year in Paris, but most of them are contemporary jazz, classical, or baroque music. The Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse (France’s most prestigious music conservatory) and Radio France present nearly five-hundred concerts a year.
You will find free classical concerts Saturday nights at Église Saint-Roch, the Oratoire du Louvre, and the Église Saint-Eustache. There is one particular night of the year when the entire country comes alive with music: June 21, the summer solstice. In parks, bars, stadiums, and pretty much everywhere on the streets there are free events and free concerts.
Free Fashion Shows
In the 17th century, Paris became the fashion capital of Europe and is synonymous with fashion to this day. Getting a ticket for a fashion show in Paris is normally reserved for celebrities, the rich, and the press, but not always. There are actually quite a few shows that are open to the public and some are with free entrance.
Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussman used to offer a free fashion show every Friday at 3 pm. The shows still go on but they now charge. For any of the other free shows, you need to keep your eye on the internet or wait for Fashion Week. If you happen to visit Paris in late February, this is when the famous Fashion Week starts and offers some of the fashion shows for free.
Art on the Streets
Some of the world’s most incredible art resides on the streets of Paris. The 1980s saw the rise of street art in Paris and it is still going strong today. Once considered graffiti, this art form is now encouraged and looked upon as fondly as anything on a canvas.
And while you can find amazing murals throughout the city, there are few places that have gained a reputation for having the finest works. Canal Saint-Denis is an area where you will find some of the most visually stunning wall murals and is an official tourism site. It benefited greatly from the Street Art Avenue project launched in 2016.
A few other places not to miss are The Centre Pompidou, Vitry-sur-Seine, and Belleville. Visiting Paris without checking the street art is like going to New York but not spending time at Times Square.
Arc de Triomphe
It is free to walk around the Arc de Triomphe, and there is much to see on the iconic structure. Images of Napoleon, like a regal emperor, looming over and protecting Paris, and the names of six hundred generals who fought in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars adorn the exterior. For a fee, you can climb the stairs (well over two hundred) to the top for a spectacular view of Paris.
It is also the sight of the last stage of the Tour de France and on July 14th you can watch the Bastille Day military parade. In the wintertime, you do not want to miss the Christmas lights as they light up the arch. You may want to visit the Unknown Soldiers tomb as well, but it is not a free entry.
Ice Skating at City Hall
One of the best free things to do in Paris in the winter is ice skating in front of the town hall. If you didn’t bring yours that is alright because they rent them there. There are two rinks to choose from, advanced and beginner levels, and they are open from December to early March.
It can get very busy, especially on the weekends, so make sure to get there in the morning. Besides going skating, you will also be able to watch skating displays and hockey games. They are not normally open to the public, but if you show you have the skills you can join in on the games. Looking for something to do with the kids? This is a great option!
There are many free walking tours in Paris that will take you to not only the famous sights but the lesser-known and just as interesting ones too. They are guided by local experts that do it for free because they love showing off their amazing city. Walking tours are great for everyone in the family as you can organize a custom tour that has something for everyone.
And while the tour is free don’t be afraid to tip at the end. The tours themselves are easily found online.
You may have already guessed that shopping in Paris can be quite expensive, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a look. Wandering the streets and many galleries you will be witness to some of the most extravagant fashion in the world. And you don’t have to just stand and look at your reflection in the window, go in and try it on - it doesn’t cost a thing.
For the best shopping in Paris, head down Avenue des Champs-Elysees where you will find some of the most exclusive shops not just in Paris France but the world too. In the winter the window displays are unbelievable, especially at the Galeries Lafayette. Window shopping is a great way to save money!
One of the oldest and best-known areas of Paris is Montmartre, a village within a city, very much like Greenwich Village in New York City. A charming district with cobbled streets and plenty of cafes, it was the home to many of the world’s greatest artists. Picasso, Renoir, and Van Gogh all hung out in this artsy part of the city.
Located in the 18th arrondissement, with all its greenery and charm, it is easy to see why it appeals to artists. You can even visit the cafe of the character from the acclaimed movie Amelie. Or walk to the top of the hill to visit the beautiful Sacre-Coeur basilica, with its breathtaking view of Paris from the gardens or inside the dome. Free things like these make the sweetest memories, a reason why we love Paris so much!
Paris has some pretty amazing museums and while some are free, others like the Louvre and d’Orsay, are not completely free unless you go at certain times. If you are looking for the best free museums check out the Museum of Paris History, and the Paris Modern Art Museum with permanent collections that are always free to visit.
Other museums with permanent collections that you can always visit for free are Maison de Victor Hugo, Musee de la Vie Romantique, and Musee Carnavalet. The more famous museums are normally free on the first Sunday or Saturday of the month. And if you have the kids with you, even better! Most of the museums have great kids programs.
If you are looking for free adult things to do in Paris, look no further than sipping some very good French wine for free. While most of the big wineries don’t offer free wine tasting, the smaller family-owned ones do. Although the wine tasting is free, they expect that you will buy a bottle before leaving –but you don’t have to.
Five of the best place to get your wine fix are Les Caves Auges, Cave des Papilles, Les Petits Bouchons, La Dernière Goutte, and Le Vin en Tête. Take advantage of their superbly trained staff to help you with the pairing.
Did you know you could eat quality gourmet food in Paris for free? It’s true, although you may have to do it a few bites at a time. When you visit Rue Mouffetard you will come across some terrific shops and food vendors that offer free samples.
Located in the Latin quarter of Paris, it is one of the oldest roads dating back to the Romans over two thousand years ago. If you are not into “just samples,” plenty of the delis and shops offer discount meals on Plat du Jour menus. The street is a buzz of activity throughout the day and a great place to people watch, enjoy the historical architecture, and listen to music.
Rue Mouffetard was even an inspiration for Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.
It might seem weird recommending a cemetery to visit, but not in Paris. Some of the best architecture and sculptures in the country can be found in cemeteries, not to mention the number of famous people buried in them.
In the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, you will find the final resting place of Oscar Wilde, Edith Pilaf, Jim Morrison, and Frederic Chopin. Plus there are over sixty-nine thousand ornate tombs which are sometimes referred to as a “sculpture garden.”
Climitiere Du Montparnasse is the largest and is located in one of the busiest parts of the city. The locals regard it more as a park with over twelve hundred trees and incredible sculptured headstones. Some of the famous names that rest there are poet Charles Baudelaire, playwright Samuel Beckett, and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.
From Street Art to Window Shopping
There are a ton of free things to do in Paris, from checking out art galleries or strolling the green space of Jardin de Luxembourg, to marveling at the Eiffel Tower or having the best night out in Le Marais. Paris has it all. So when you get home and your friends ask you what you saw when you visited Paris, you can tell them "I saw it all and I even saved money".