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FAVORITE PARIS FREE THINGS

Going back to Paris after nearly thirty years. Will be staying with a friend in Louveciennes near Versailles. What are your favorite free things or nearly free to do in Paris? Our ticket to visit three different friends in three different countries is going to take most of our cash....so we're planning to walk, picnic and just absorb.

Posted by
6795 posts

30 years ago the Eiffel Tower didn't put on a light show. As darkness sets find a spot to sit in the Parc Champ Du Mars to watch the magic. A simple walk along the Siene is a nice way to see the city. Window shop along the Champs Elysees. If in town over the weekend spend A Saturday or Sunday morning strolling around the huge Les Puces Flea Market. If you are there on the first Sunday of the month and are willing to accept that it will be crowded, the Musee d'Orsay is free. Anyone like French fashion? Are you traveling between March and December? Double check but the Galeries Lafayettes department store used to host free Friday fashion shows late in the afternoon. Mdme Curie's laboratory is free of charge. If the weather is good enjoy a picnic in one of the many parks. The Parc de la Villette is a huge park with wonderful themed gardens. Free movie screenings during the summer months.
Loads of free stuff to do in the City of Lights. Tres Bon.

Posted by
3696 posts

People watching, window shopping, photographing, wandering the markets, sitting on a park bench, hanging out at a cafe with a wonderful latte (not free, not even cheap, but worth it) Just hanging around a beautiful city with the locals and watch the tourists go by...my favorite things to do.

Posted by
1068 posts

People watching, pretty much anywhere. The light show on the Eiffel Tower. Watching from Trocadero is fantastic and romantic. Riding the carousel at the foot of Trocadero is a coupla Euros, and so fun! Hitting the shops - window shopping in places from fast fashion (C&A, H&M) on the Rue de Rivoli to browsing though the expensive luxury stores (Galeries Lafayette, Au Printemps). I think the Galeries Lafayette still does a free Friday fashion show - at least, it was on offer when I was there in December. A cafe creme at Cafe Diane in the Tuileries. The cafe creme is good, the location is excellent, and the people watching is delightful. A crepe, anywhere. Wandering in les Halles. Yes, it's a mall. Yes, it's also a fantastic place to see tout Paris (especiallly the youth thereof) on display. The human circus around the Centre Pompidou, any sunny day. It's also free to go in and wander around the space outside the exhibits, and to hit the book store and the Au Printemps gift store. A picnic in Place Vendome. Free museums! The Petit Palais has amazing stuff (ceramics by Paul Gaugin, a bunch of wonderful Russian icons...), as does the Carnevalet (death mask of Napolean, scurrilous 18th century political cartoons....)

Posted by
15321 posts

Buy picnic food at the supermarket - fresh baguettes, veggies, fruit, cheese, etc. and a bottle of wine. Works for lunch and dinner too. There are great views from the steps of Mont Martre (Paris below you) and the Trocadero (Eiffel Tower), both good places for a picnic. Every church is a museum. All are free. There are organ recitals at Notre Dame on Sundays at 4 pm. There are other church services with good music, mostly Sunday mornings. The Rodin Museum sculpture garden is €1 to enter, many sculptures there. Download Rick's free audio tours of Paris. I think Frommer's also has several free walking tours on their website.

Posted by
71 posts

What fun ideas. I like the supermarket idea (as opposed to some ritzy specialty shop). The parks and churches sound great and the Rodin Museum seems perfect for a September picnic. I just read about the Belleville area, which sounds chaotic and exotic and maybe a bit seedy - all right up my alley. I remember one of my favorite meals ever was when I was there before - cous cous and lamb in some tiny hole in the wall in a warren of tiny streets holding Algerian restaurants. I hope this area still exists and one can still find bargain meals there. Any opinions about the Sewers or The Catacombs or both? My husband (maybe because he's a 68 year old Warped Tour and Metallica fan :) wants to do something underground.

Posted by
71 posts

The light show at the Eiffel seems perfect - maybe that and walking Pigalle one evening. Anyone know about Bato pass - someone on the island where we live mentioned that it was great, but they travel on a different economic level than we do. Didn't see it mentioned in Rick's France book - maybe I will look on line...

Posted by
9110 posts

Carole, Batobus - - it's a hop on/off boat. Maybe eight stops with no narration.. Passes come in one or a couple of days. One day is plenty. It's also pretty good for a night ride, but it closes before dark in the summer.

Posted by
711 posts

Paris has EXCELLENT parks, so my wife and I (and now our toddler daughter) often pick up some supplies at the market (meat, cheese, bread, fruit, wine) for about 10 euros and head to a park, set up the picnic and people watch. My wife loves the market experience, and I love that a $2 bottle of wine can taste that good! The Gardens at Versailles can consume an entire day if you want them. You can spend a bit and paddleboat the Grand Canal, or rent some bikes to explore the gardens. While this negates the free part of the trip, it does add some fun for not a lot of euros. Tons of free churches in Paris, Luxembourg Gardens, the ET light show at night, and even better if you buy a bottle of Champagne (not from the guys selling it in the park, come prepared). Of course, my all time favorite is to buy a Chocolat Chaud at a Paris cafe and people watch. There's a reason Parisien cafes have their chairs facing the Rue...

Posted by
4379 posts

All great suggestions; Claudia pretty much hit all of mine ( and a big THANKS on Mdme Curie; going into the 'Paris' file!). Be aware that the Eiffel Tower twinkling light show occurs On The Hour (and lasts for approx. 5 mins). People cheer and clap (including moi-meme!)!!! Frankly, if you can combine your picnic in a quintessential Parisian park with a view of the Eiffel Tower, you might just pass out from overstimulation LOL! **Also, unless something has changed recently, picnicking was outlawed in the Rodin Museum garden years ago :-(

Posted by
811 posts

To those more knowledgeable than I... Aren't there free walking tours available that are given by representatives of the tourist office? Called Paris Greeters, or somesuch, where you can request a specific neighborhood that you'd like to tour? I obviously haven't done this yet (if it still exists), but I read about it a while ago and it stuck in my head (we also have something similar in Chicago). Edited to say: it would appear the walks are still available, and are indeed called Paris Greeter. Here is a link to their website, and they advise booking your tour at least a couple weeks in advance: http://www.parisiendunjour.fr/

Posted by
491 posts

There are still some free museums in Paris: Musee Carnavalet & Musee Cognacq-Jay in the Marais and Musee de la Vie Romantique in the 9th. Visit some of the twice weekly open markets (Richard Renoir/Bastille, Raspail, bd de Grenelle, President Wilson, Breteuil, etc) and/or street markets like rue Cler, rue Lepic, rue Mouffetard.

Posted by
15321 posts

You can picnic in just about any public place and there are many gardens, large and small, in Paris. The markets are fun to visit, but often the prices are higher than in the supermarkets. If you are wine-drinkers, do pack a corkscrew! Perhaps a paring knife and small cutting board too. You can pick up paper/plastic utensils and stuff in the supermarket. I haven't been to the Catacombs. The Sewers tour was interesting, not too smelly. I think the Bato-bus is overrated. It is slow and relatively expensive. I got vouchers on-line for the Seine river cruise with a discount at http://www.vedettesdupontneuf.com/ I found this website for "neat places to walk around"
http://www.tomsguidetoparis.com/NeatPlaces.php The most beautiful public bathroom you will ever see is next to the Madeline Church. The big department store, Galleries Lafayette, is also worth going in to see (aesthetically).

Posted by
71 posts

Good suggestion! The corkscrew and a mini cutting board are on the "packing" table. I do love markets (being a veteran traveler in Guatemala), but I think the suggestion of going to a supermarket is a great one - but are there any NORMAL(ie with prices not inflated for visitors) supermarkets in the touristy area around the Seine?

Posted by
141 posts

The Pere Lachaise Cemetary on a sunny day - it's free and a great way to immerse yourself in Parisian history - Chopin, Proust, Colette, Gertrude Stein, Alice Toklas, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Victor Hugo, Moliere, and Sarah Bernhardt all are buried here. You can pick up a free map as well.

Posted by
922 posts

Carole, Chani hit on a good one;" Tom's guide to Paris". Tom has some awesome and lo-cost ideas on his web site. We used them to find cheap and funky plces to eat when we were there a couple of years ago. If you have any questions send Tom and Email; he is an ex-pat living in Paris. And , like everyone told you, you just have to lay out on the lawn at nite, with a bottle of wine, and watch the twinking lights on the Eiffel tower. And go have a dessert and coffee at a sidewalk cafe and just people watch.....so much fun. There is a supermarket in the basement of the Monoprix dept store in the Maris, but you can find great stuff at the local grocers.

Posted by
15321 posts

There are smallish supermarkets in the residential areas, both banks of the Seine. I stayed in the Marais and right next to the St. Paul metro station, there are two. Honestly I never looked further. There must be some near your friend also.

Posted by
8293 posts

A stroll on the Promenade Planté at Bastille is free and you'll see Parisians with their children, grannies and dogs enjoying this excellent use of an old railway elevation. While in the Bastille area, find your way to the Pavillon de l'Arsenal, which is also free and usually has exhibits about the city of Paris, city planning, architecture and such. Special interest, I admit, but it is free and it may intrigue you. N.B. Never crowded!!

Posted by
2023 posts

Definitely visit Pere Lachaise Cemetery-a very beautiful area of Paris. St Eustache has free organ concerts on Sunday afternoon. On a recent trip to Paris we visited Jardin des Plantes which is free except admission is charged for the conservatory. Nearby is the Mosque where you can have tea on the attractive terrace. We also discovered DeHillerin kitchenwares boutique where Julia Child shopped. Lots of fun looking around there and it is located near Les Halles (skip it) and St Eustache. Galleries Lafayette, Bon Marche, etc are great fun to explore. There is a charge for the Victor Hugo home but well worth it. In the same area is the home of the guy who owned the Samartaine-check guidbook for details.

Posted by
71 posts

Thanx everyone. Great ideas. Tom's website is also a wealth. Any suggestions for a SMALL guide to Paris? I have Rick's France guide - but that isn't good for this trip. And his Paris guide is too many pages given our short time there (and no kindle) - don't want to cart that around. (And no - I don't want to tear pages out)

Posted by
1294 posts

The Knopf Mapguides are small and lightweight.

Posted by
71 posts

Thanx - just ordered a Knopf mapguide. Hope it shows days and times and maybe price of major attractions. If not, I may need to make my own sheet from the France Book.