1. Explore the bustling flea markets
On a trip to Paris don't miss the city's most famous flea market, Marché aux Saint-Ouen. Dubbed Europe's largest market, you could spend your whole trip unearthing both treasures and tat – each in similar quantities – from this sprawling bazaar. Flea market shopping in Paris (Shutterstock)
With over 2,500 stalls, there's something for everyone, and don't feel pressed to buy – just enjoy meadering around tables of trinkets and arrays of antiques in the Marché Vernaison, which sells vintage and second-hand clothes in Marché Dauphine; explore the 'freelance stalls' where shacks sell anything from batteries, to padlocks, sunglasses and more.
2. Ogle at street performers at Places Georges Pompidou
If the Pompidou Centre
's surreal and bizarre structures don't entertain you for most of the day, the surrounding street performers most certainly will. Check out clowns, mimes, magicians and buskers performing for tourists and locals alike. The entertainers never cease to tire and you should find them showcasing their talents throughout the day. Centre Pompidou (Shutterstock)
To spy modern art without spending a cent, saunter around the outskirts of the Pompidou Centre to the Place Igor Stravinsky. Here you'll find the first modern fountain in Paris, designed by Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely, featuring quirky sculptures, multi-coloured figures, elephant heads and more.
3. Gawp at the Cathédrale de Notre Dame
Found in the very heart of Paris, the Cathédrale de Notre Dame is central to Parisian history. As the city's most-visited site (averaging ten million tourists per year) you need to get there early to avoid queues. Notre Dame cathedral (Shutterstock)
Entrance to the cathedral is free. Once inside, take the time to examine the glorious architecture, the beautiful colours created by the stained-glass windows, the intricately-carved wooden statues that line the corridors. There are free one-and-a-half hour guided tours conducted in English, where you can learn more about the building's design and history (Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2pm, Saturdays at 2.30pm).
4. Browse great museums on a budget
It's not hard to get in for free, if museums are what you came to see: the Musée Carnavalet
and the Musée de la Vie Romantique
offer free admission to all throughout the year. Other museums, such as the Musée d’Art Moderne
, the Pompidou Centre
and the Musée d’Orsay
offer free entry on the first Sunday of the month (but make sure you get there early as there tend to be hefty queues). Musee d'Orsay (Shutterstock)
If you're under the age of 26, a number of museums will also allow free entry; this is true for the Louvre
, the Conciergerie
and the Sainte Chapelle
. Also look out for free late night openings, such as at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie
and the Musée des Arts et Métiers
. There's even a map of museums in Paris with free admission
5. Use your legs
Paris is pretty compact in terms of the main sites and attractions – so let your feet do the hard work. Take advantage of a free guided tour from Sandemans Tours
or Discover Walks
, who offer top-notch info on all the sites you visit. Great places for walking are along the Canal St-Martin (between République and Gare du Nord in the 10th arrondissement) as well as the Rue Mouffetard, a market street for food-lovers. Artist in Montmartre (Shutterstock)
Why not go on a quest to find Lady Liberty? You may not be in New York, but whilst exploring the streets of Paris, see if you can find another two Statues of Liberty – as well as a life-size model of her finger and torch.
6. Enjoy a personal tour of Paris
The Global Greeter Network
is a place where locals volunteer to show around a foreigner as they would a friend or relative. The initiative started in Paris as an attempt to counter the image of Parisians as an unfriendly bunch. Paris cafe (Shutterstock)
The idea is to see how a real Parisian lives, as volunteers tend to show you their version of the city – so why not be Parisian for a day? Group meet-ups are also an option, but up to a max of 6 people. The tour is free, but donations to the site are appreciated if you had a good experience.
7. Creepy goings-on in the Cimetière du Montparnasse
A cemetery visit may sound strange, but the Cimetière du Montparnasse (located in the south of the city) is home to many of France's intellectual and artistic elite, providing a real insight into Paris in days-gone-by. Cimetière du Montparnasse (Shutterstock)
World-renowned photographer Man Ray is buried there, as well as painter Chaim Soutine, playwright Samuel Beckett and the controversial singer and songwriter Serge Gainsbourg, whose fans show their ever-lasting affection by placing used metro tickets onto his tombstone in reference to his well-known song 'Le Poinçonneur des Lilas’ (The Ticket Puncher of Lilas).
If you're more of an Oscar Wilde fan, you'll find him in the Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris's largest cemetery which is home to over a million remains (including those of Jim Morrison).
8. Picnic in the pretty Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
Encompassing over 7km of roads and paths, there’s plenty to see and explore in Park des Buttes-Chaumont. The main attraction for visitors to the park is a small belvedere (a structure that is built for the purpose of providing an excellent view) that sits on the top of an island, surrounded by a charming lake. Parc des Buttes-Chaumont (Shutterstock)
If you want something a little more off-the-beaten-track, try visiting the Jardin des Plantes, a botanic garden in the arrondissement du Panthéon district, on the left bank of the river Seine. The entrance to the greenhouse is around 6 euros, but access to the surrounding gardens is free, and it's perfect for a lovely leisurely stroll or a picnic.
9. Seek out a spectacular cityscape
We all know the Eiffel tower supplies visitors with panoramic views of Paris, but a standard adult's lift ticket to the top (access to the tower's highest floor is only by lift) costs €15 and a whole lot of queuing. View from Montmartre (Shutterstock)
Don't fancy that? Scale the stairs to the top of Butte de Montmarte, from where you can survey an equally impressive view of the capital – for free.
10. Enjoy the sound of free music
All around Paris, you can find free musical recitals and concerts, from organ recitals at the Notre-Dame Cathedral
(Sundays at 4:30pm) to jazz gigs every Monday night (at 7 Lézards
in the Marais district). Interior of Notre Dame (Shutterstock) Other concerts include:
- Baroque and gospel music at the Eglise St-Merri
, on Saturdays at 9pm and Sundays at 4pm (September to July).
- St. Merry Church (next to the Centre Pompidou) hosts complimentary classical, baroque, and gospel concerts every Saturday night at 9pm and Sunday afternoons at 4pm (September to July).
- The American Church in Paris
holds performances of classical music and blues on Sundays at 5pm (September to November; January to June).
- Each year, 180 concerts are held by Radio France for national and philharmonic orchestras, which also include weekly chamber music concerts at the Petit Palais
(Museum of Fine Arts of the City of Paris; 12:30 -1:30pm). Free tickets are handed out to the public 30 minutes before.
- Paris's esteemed music and dance company Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse
, offers more than 300 student concerts yearly, most of which are free.
Main image: Champs-Elysees at night (Shutterstock)