Top 10 Things to do in Paris on a Budget

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1. Rent Out a Local Parisian Flat

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Hotel prices in Paris are sky high. To get the most bang for your buck, renting out an apartment is the way to go. This way, you get to live like a local and see a little bit more than just the touristy areas. My favorite website/app for this is airbnb.com. This is one of the most well known sites out there. The site has hundreds of reliable hosts with reviews of the apartments and a wide variety of price ranges. We stayed near the city of Montmartre and were very close to two metro lines. It was great because we could walk a couple blocks and be in the center of a local, bustling neighborhood with cafes, markets, shops, and bakeries.

Side note: Most apartments come with fully functional kitchens and cooking utensils which is great for those on a budget. As much as I enjoyed Parisian cafes and restaurants, I loved going to local markets and bakeries and picking out my own fresh food even more.

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Here is the view out of our apartment window followed by shots of the surrounding neighborhood.

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2. Climb to the top of the Sacre Coeur

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There are many ways to see Paris from above, and they are all breath-taking. However, my favorite is from the top of the Sacre Coeur. The cost to go up is only about 8-9 euros and it’s totally worth it. There was no line when we went (unlike the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe). To get to the top, you have to climb up a VERY narrow hallway (no windows) with a winding staircase. It was a little creepy at first since we didn’t know how far up we had to go but the view at the top was definitely worth it! There is also something about being inside this beautiful Gothic cathedral that makes you feel like you are in your own castle.

 

The steps used to get to reach the top

The staircase used to reach the top

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3. Dine at a street side cafe

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Hundreds of locally-owned cafes and restaurants line the streets of Paris. Eating out at these restaurants can prove to be very pricey if you make a habit of it, but it is definitely something to check off the list. If not for the food, you can always get a glass of wine and take in the scenery of the Parisian streets. My mom and I dined at Cafe Francoeur near Montmartre. Here, we had croque-monsieur and crouque-madame. A croque-monsieur is a Parisian specialty that is similar to a grilled ham and cheese but at the same time, not like a grilled ham and cheese at all. All I can say is that it absolutely delicious and you don’t want to make a trip to this city without trying one. A croque-madame is basically just a croque-monsieur with a fried egg on top. I would recommend the croque-madame over the croque-monsieur but you can’t go wrong either way!

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4. Visit the Lock Bridge

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The Lock Bridge is something that I have been wanting to visit for years now. Tradition is, couples attach a lock to the bridge and throw the key into the river. I was a little worried about finding it, but it really couldn’t have been easier! The bridge is located along the backside of Notre Dame. You can’t miss it. There is also another popular lock bridge located further down the Seine near the Louvre. However, this one was my favorite because it was less crowded and you have the beautiful view of the Notre Dame Cathedral in the background. If you know this is something you want to see before coming, I recommend buying a cheap padlock from Target or Walmart and bringing it with you to save a little money. Vendors do sell locks around the city but they definitely do charge more for them. This is one of those things that is on the touristy side, but something you definitely don’t want to miss!

My mom and I just had to add to the collection <3

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5. Take a walk along the Siene

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Yes, the metro is a cheap, quick way to get around Paris. However, most of the cities major attractions (The Louvre, Champs Elysees, Arc de Triomphe) are located in a fairly straight path and the walk is BEAUTIFUL. You will be able to take so much more of the city in walking versus taking the metro – and its free! My mom and I walked from Notre Dame to the Arc de Triomphe. Along the way we witnessed gorgeous architecture, street vendors, musicians and gorgeous gardens. It is also really neat to see all of the different bridges. Each has its own architecture and scenery. If walking isn’t your favorite thing, there are also fairly cheap river boats that stop at all of the major attractions along the river.

This is a GPS route of the exact walk that we took.

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One of the river boats that takes you to different stops along the river

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Some of my favorite bridges

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I wanted to take a picture of almost every door I came across during the walk. SO many beautiful doors in all different colors. This was one of my favorites.

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Veering off the river, right past The Louvre is Jardin Des Tuileries. This is a beautiful garden and is a great mid-way resting point with lots of chairs and benches to take in the gorgeous landscape

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After the Jardin Des Tuileries comes the Champs-Elysses, which is a street full of nice high-end shops. Here you will come across beautiful architecture as well as many upscale restaurants and shops to drop those Euros. Even if you aren’t planning on making any purchases, this street has an atmosphere that is definitely worth experiencing.

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Our walk ended with going to the top of the Arc de Triomphe

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The view from the top

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6. Indulge in all of the sweets Paris has to offer

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Whether it is a sweet pastry, melt-in-your-mouth macaroon, delicious ice cream or a warm, gooey crepe, Paris knows how to do sweets.

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I have a RAGING sweet tooth so this city was absolute heaven for me. One of my favorite treats was definitely the crepe. I got Nutella with cookie crumbs and it was perfect. For those who don’t have a sweet tooth like mine, they have lots of other delicious crepe options with meats and cheeses. They have many crepe stands and shops sprinkled throughout the streets. We got ours near Notre Dame and devoured it at a cute little park nearby.

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Another must-try are the macaroons! I did pay a visit to the well-known Ladurée. They have been at the macaroon game for a while (founded in 1862) and I can see why it attracts tourists. If you value the macaroon experience and don’t mind forking out a little extra cash, this is the place for you. I paid about 18 euro for a box of eight. The stores are beautiful on the inside and they give you some different choices of cute souvenir boxes. I will say though that these macaroons were a little dry compared to the others that I tasted. However, they did have a wide variety of unique flavors that weren’t offered in other shops.

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Surprisingly, one of my favorite macaroons was the apricot flavor from McDonalds. I was hungry and grabbed some before getting on the plane to go home and was really surprised at how they melted in my mouth. So if you don’t feel like paying 18 euro for a box of macaroons, or just bored at the CDG airport, definitley pick some of these babies up.

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Paris is also known for its Pain aux Raisin which is usually a round, sweet pastry filled with raisins. Definitely not complaining that this was my breakfast.

7. Take advantage of the fresh food shops and markets

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In Europe in general, food is SO much fresher. There are many markets and shops lining the streets. It is so amazing that even in the HUGE city, there are so many place to buy locally grown and homemade goods. Everything is fresh whether its seafood, fruits, vegetables, breads or cheeses. Here, there is no Walmart to buy your breakfast cereals and frozen chicken nuggets. As I said earlier, if you are on a budget, shopping and buying your food from these markets is the way to go. There is something very refreshing about picking out your fruit from an open-air market or buying a baguette knowing it was made fresh that morning. Not only are you saving money, but you get to experience what it would be like to eat and shop like a local Parisian.

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8. Visit the Louvre (at least from the outside)

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Some travel blogs and websites say that if art isn’t your thing, skip the Louvre. I disagree. If you don’t have time to wait in the long line, pay the entrance fee or art isn’t your thing, you really should stop by just to appreciate the beautiful architecture of this building. We couldn’t believe the massive scale it was built on! Truly incredible. My mom and I didn’t end up going in because the line to get in was ridiculous and it would have taken up at least half of the day. But it is surely something to stop by and take in.

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9. Picnic on the Eiffel Tower lawn

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As I said earlier, eating out in this city can be VERY expensive. So, what better way to spend a meal then a picnic overlooking one of the most beautiful views of the city? My mom and I bought some baguettes, spreadable brie cheese and jam. It was definitely one of the best meals I had in Paris. I have tried to re-create it a total of three times in the U.S. and it just isn’t the same. This is because NO American baguette can compare with a French baguette. It also probably has a lot to do with the fact that I was missing the Eiffel Tower view. We got a little five-pack of jam that had different flavors in very tiny jars from a nearby market (I had apricot). They were each less than three ounces so we could take them back on the plane with us.

If you plan on picnicking, it’s always a good idea to pack some extra napkins, plastic knife and a little towel. My mom brought a little collapsible bag that we used to carry everything in which was also really convenient. Once you’re done with your picnic, its always nice to take a little stroll around the Eiffel Tower. There are many charming views from different points around the tower and a couple neat vendors lining the sidewalks.

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10. Watch the Eiffel Tower twinkle at night

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This was probably my favorite things out of the entire trip. We timed it so that we would picnic at sunset and then be able to see it lit up all at night shorty after. The tower “twinkles” every hour on the hour. If you see the tower at night, make sure you time it so you are there for the twinkling. We sat down on the lawn and there was a man with a beautiful voice who had set up a microphone and was singing in the background while the tower twinkled. It was truly magical. We did this on our last night there so it was the perfect grand finale to the trip.

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Here is a picture of the twinkling. Although pictures don’t do it justice at all. Definitely don’t miss out on this beautiful Parisian sight that is totally free! Hope to have given you some good insight on planning your trip to Paris! Au revoir!

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