Paris on a budget: 7 travel hacks to save on your trip
The French capital is one of the first places that comes to mind when thinking about traveling to Europe. Images of Notre Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de Triomphe are bound to come up. These are some of the most iconic landmarks in the world and are well worth the trip to Paris. The culinary, nightlife, and art scenes are also world-class cultural offerings that make this a must-visit city. All of this may sound expensive, but there are ways to visit Paris without spending an unreasonable amount of money.
Planning ahead is the best way to save money while visiting Paris. Not only can you find flight deals and less expensive lodging, but you can also plan out your activities and places to eat so that they match your budget. Finding free walking tours, delicious but inexpensive food, and low-cost activities can certainly be done.
Planning ahead will also help you with logistics like luggage storage in Paris, travel insurance, discounted metro cards, and walking or cycling.
Here are some travel tips for visiting Paris on a budget:
Cheap places to stay in Paris
Like other major European cities, Paris has a wide variety of accommodations, and each Paris neighborhood has its own vibe. There are some of the nicest hotels in the world, there are bespoke Airbnb and rentals, and there are also hostels for younger travelers and backpackers to “rough it” for a few nights. For visiting Paris on a budget, you’ll certainly want to explore the city’s hostels to save money. Typically, a night in a shared room starts around €25. A private room will start around $50.
Here are a few examples:
The Loft Boutique Hostel & Hotel
Even in an opulent city like Paris, there’s nothing cooler than a loft. But a trendy hostel in repurposed loft spaces in Paris’s coolest up-and-coming Belleville neighborhood? Even better. And they charge less than €40 for a night at said hostel? That’s what you get at Loft Boutique, which combines coolness and comfort at a low cost.
If you couldn’t tell by the name, this charming hostel takes its decor cues from the 1970s. The rooms are comfortable, especially at the starting price of €30, but the social vibe and incredible location near Montmartre and Sacré-Coeur make this even more of a steal. The hotel's bar has cheap beer and an awesome atmosphere, especially on weekends.
St. Christopher’s Canal
At under €30 for a night, this chain has all the best amenities that keep loyal backpackers backpacking through their various locations time after time. This specific location even has an incredible rooftop terrace with a full bar.
3 Ducks Hostel
It’s incredible to think you can sleep in a bed less than a 10-minute walk from the Eiffel Tower for less than €30 a night. At 3 Ducks Hostel, their simple but pleasant amenities and dirt-cheap bar make it one of the coolest places to stay in Paris, especially if you’re trying to save money.
Cheap things to do in Paris
You can save money AND have an amazing time on your Paris trip. Here are a few tips and tricks for having the best time possible in a major city like Paris.
Grab a Paris Museum Pass
One of the best ways to explore Paris is by visiting its world-class museums. There are dozens of them in Paris, whether it’s the Louvre (ever heard of it?) or the Palace of Versailles. It can be overwhelming just to plan trips to these museums, let alone pay for all of it. That’s why Paris Museum Passes provide excellent value to first-time visitors looking to fit a number of museum visits in during their trip to Paris. For less than €50, you can get free or discounted tickets to the best Parisian landmarks and museums for two days. If you go to three different museums, this Museum Pass pays for itself. Even more importantly, Pass holders can often skip the long lines at these places.
Arènes de Lutèce
If you’re a history buff and have already spent hours upon hours inside museums across Paris, you’ll definitely want to get outside and explore Paris’s fascinating past as an outpost of the Roman empire. There are Roman ruins in the Latin Quarter, including an impressive amphitheater where gladiators fought. All the ruins are impeccably preserved, and it’s entirely free to visit.
Promenade in Parc Monceau
The French must have a morbid streak because some of Paris’s most popular attractions are historic cemeteries. Parc Monceau gets the same tourism traffic as some museums, but you’ll only ever understand why if you tour this beautiful park. The lush landscapes, impressive promenade, and historical importance all make this place a worthwhile stop during your trip to Paris, and it’s completely free. This was a go-to place for Monet to paint, so art enthusiasts will want to check out a walking tour of Parc Monceau as well.
Explore the Cimitière du Montparnasse
This is one of the most famous cemeteries in the world, in part because of its illustrious (permanent) residents. Cimitière du Montparnasse is the final resting place of some of France’s most famous literary and intellectual luminaries. Jean-Paul Sartre, Samuel Beckett, and Simone de Beauvoir are just a few names of those interned at Montparnasse. It’s a quick ride via Metro Line #6 and entirely free to tour.
Wander through the gardens
Much like its cemeteries, Parisian gardens are world-famous tourist destinations, and for a good reason. These are essentially public parks and thus free to tour, just with impeccably manicured landscapes and some of the most beautiful grounds you’ll ever stroll through.
The most famous of these is the Jardin du Luxembourg, which is adorned with wonderful statues throughout the grounds. There are also classical and modern art exhibits programmed throughout the year. The Gardens of the Louvre are another must-visit garden to explore.
Cheap places to eat in Paris
Whether it’s exploring a solid street food scene or having a picnic, you can definitely eat some delicious food while visiting Paris on a budget. French food from a classic bistro or café is part of the draw to traveling to Paris, so we would certainly recommend setting some funds aside for a traditional (if indulgent) Parisian dinner.
Make a picnic
Head to the local grocery store, or even better, check out one of the many amazing Parisian markets to grab ingredients for a homemade picnic. Rue Mouffetard is another hotspot for bakeries, wine stores, cafés, and cheese shops, called fromageries. Head to this delightful cobbled street to stock up on provisions for a picnic. The best settings for a Parisian picnic are the Canal St. Martin or any public park. People watching over some cheese, charcuterie, a baguette, and a bottle of wine is a quintessential Paris experience.
If you’re going to go for the full French dining experience but can’t see yourself dropping more than €40 for dinner, Bouillon Julien is the place. Not only is this stylish Art Nouveau bistro a fun atmosphere, but it also serves delicious upscale French classics, including wine, at less than €20 for an entree. Try their confit de canard or their coquelet grillé (roast chicken and fries).
Café du Coin
During the day, Café du Coin is an espresso bar where busy Parisians grab a coffee and a pastry before (not so hurriedly) heading to work. Late afternoon, it’s all about their apéro hour, where small plates and wine become the name of the game. They are also known for their €5 “pizzette” snack that comes with a variety of creative ingredients. It pairs perfectly with a glass of wine.
Chez Alain Miam Miam
If you’re going to visit Paris, you should definitely eat at least one proper Parisian café. This third Arrondissement hangout is the perfect lunch spot. Their rotating menu of sandwiches, galettes, salads, and baked goods all feature fresh, seasonal ingredients, all at reasonable (€5-€10) prices.
Ground Control (La Résidence)
If you want to save money while eating at a restaurant with a charitable cause, there’s only one place to eat in Paris. Ground Control supports refugee funds and organizations by providing food and other contributions. They also have a sneaky-great menu of Ethiopian and middle-eastern favorites for reasonable prices.
Cheap Bars in Paris
Drinking and trying to save money can be mutually exclusive endeavors, but Paris is a surprisingly affordable (compared to other major cities) place to grab a beer or glass of wine. Here are a few of the best cheap bars to drink in Paris on a budget:
Located along Canal Saint-Martin, this is one of the cheapest jazz bars in Paris. With charming but kitschy decor and dirt-cheap drinks, it’s almost a “dive jazz bar,” if you will. It gets crowded and (a little) rowdy on weekends, but you're pretty much guaranteed a good time without leaving your wallet completely empty.
This Quartier Latin cocktail bar has more than 300 drinks on the menu, many of which cost between €5 and €8.
Located in Odéon, this student hangout is the perfect place for trendy travelers to hang out and drink a few glasses of wine on the cheap. Look into the natural wine selections.
Le Requin Chagrin
One of the cheapest places to drink delicious craft beer, this cozy Quartier Latin pub is delightfully shabby. Their tasting platter of flavorful beers is particularly popular with local students.
Le Teddy's Bar
This no-frills Quartier Latin pub has an incredibly generous happy hour that lasts from 3:30-8 pm. Even better, the drinks remain affordable once the clock strikes 8.
Bonus Travel Tips For Paris on a Budget
Avoid the hotspots when you can
In terms of eating, drinking, and shopping, the best way to make your newly-purchased euros go far is by avoiding the tourist hotspots near major landmarks and attractions. It’s hard to find a cheap meal near the Eiffel Tower. In any case, checking out spots where actual locals hang out is a more authentic experience.
Getting around Paris on a budget
The most expensive way to get around Paris is by taxi or rideshare. That’s a given. It may seem tempting to traverse a massive, sprawling city like Paris the easy way, but you’ll blow through your budget pretty quickly. If you’re going to be jetting across the city, use Paris’s wonderful public transportation network. The Metro has impressive coverage of this fairly large city and is certainly worth using if you’re trying to pack in a lot of activity during your trip to Paris. Buy a “carnet” of 10 tickets at a Metro station to save time and money for using the subway. If you’re using the metro more than a few times a day, a Mobilis travel card can be purchased for unlimited use.
The best and most inexpensive way to get around Paris is by foot or by bicycle. Depending on what your day’s goals are, walking between landmarks, restaurants, and stores is the easiest and cheapest way to get around. In order to do this efficiently, plan activities in geographic clusters. Keep an itinerary based on a neighborhood or landmark, and walk between each stop.
Biking is an even more efficient way to do this as well. Check for rental companies near your hostel. Better yet, check with your hostel to see if they have bikes for rent. There’s also a self-service bike service called Vélib, which is affordable. Americans from cities like New York and Chicago will recognize these docking stations throughout the city.
Visit during the off-season
Paris can be one of the more expensive cities in Western Europe. But when it’s not summer, or “the high season,” things can get considerably more manageable. Whether it’s a cheap flight (and not just through budget airlines) or discounted room at a hostel, you can find better deals during fall, winter, and early spring. The rule of thumb here is to plan your trip around whether or not school is in session. Once the schools are out, everything gets more expensive and crowded. You can also set alerts on Google Flights to find the cheapest flights on major airlines. Luckily, Paris is beautiful every day of the year.
Whether it’s visiting during the off-season or sticking to free activities like appreciating the Eiffel Tower, Sainte Chapelle, or Arc de Triomphe from the street, you can definitely visit Paris on a budget and still have a wonderful time. While Paris is renowned for its amazing cultural offerings and cuisine, you can still experience the best of the French without having to spend every penny to your name. All it takes is a little planning.