Paris is known for a lot of things, but being inexpensive isn’t one of them. Constantly ranked as one of the of the world’s most costly cities by travel media, Paris may seem like a tough destination to wring any value out of. But trust me when I say that the City of Light has a lot to offer for value travelers. To give you a little taste of ways to stretch your travel dollars in Paris, we have compiled seven of our favorite free things to do in this gorgeous city.
One of the most unique walks you can take in Paris is along a former railway line. La Promenade Plantee is a 4.5km trail in the 12th arrondissement that places you above the city streets and, at one point, right over the galleries of Viaduc des Arts, which are located in the arches of the bridge below. A stroll along La Promenade Plantee is the perfect way to see this world-famous city from a fresh angle (promenade-plantee.org).
Located in the 20th arrondissement, Père Lachaise is the city’s largest cemetery. Beyond its imposing stone entrance, visitors will find a network of cobblestone streets that wind through tombs and family memorials. The cemeteries impressive list of famous figures, such as Oscar Wilde, Balzac, Piaf and Jim Morrison, has helped Père Lachaise earn the title as the most visited cemetery in the world (16 rue du Repos, 20th arr, pere-lachaise.com).
Square du Vert-Galant’s most popular characteristic is its stone tip that cuts right up the middle of the Seine. Located in the western portion of the Île de la Cité, the wooded park is a popular spot for sunbathing, picnics, and escaping the bustle of the city. To access the park, take the stairs in Pont Neuf.
The musée Carnavalet is where to go to learn the story of Paris. The city’s impressive history is spread out through the halls and more than 100 rooms of two town houses in the Marais District, as well as the properties delightful gardens. Recognized as the oldest municipal museum in the city, the musée Carnavalet houses 600,000 exhibits, which is the largest number of collections in Paris. The eclectic mix of exhibits includes views of Paris past, street signs and archaeological remains (23 rue de Sévigné, 75003 Paris, Tuesday to Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., www.carnavalet.paris.fr/en/museum-carnavalet).
The huge flying buttresses, famous gargoyles and gothic style of Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris have enamored locals and visitors alike for centuries. Completed in the 14th century, and still used today, the inside features a series of side chapels that line the cathedral’s long nave, stained-glass windows and an impressive organ. While admission to the cathedral is free, its two towers, which give way to panoramas of the city’s historic center, cost €8.50 to visit (parvis de Notre-Dame, 75004 Paris, notredamedeparis.fr).
Now in its 14th year, the Parc de la Villette breaks cinema out of its indoor confines and releases it into the Paris night air for all to see. This year the open-air cinema is showcasing films that revolve around adolescence. From July to August, movie lovers all of ages can spread out on the lawn to catch films by Wes Anderson, Brian de Palama, and Wes Craven, just to name a few (19th arr, villette.com/fr).
Built in the 17th century for Marie de Médicis, Jardin du Luxembourg is now the Senate’s garden. The pristine park, the city’s second largest, is home to the first model of the Statue of Liberty as well as beautifully manicured gardens, countless statues and fountains. As one of the best green spaces in Paris, the garden is usually flush with activity, from toy boats in the pond to early-morning joggers and chess players (Rue de Médicis-Rue de Vaugirard, 6th arrondissement, senat.fr/jardin).