Paris is one of the cities that sits firmly at the top of many a bucket list. Sights such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Sacre Couer made it famous, and the bohemian romanticism as told in the movies made it into an icon. Visitors accept that visiting Paris is usually on the expensive side – but I’m here to show you that it doesn’t have to be! Keep reading for my guide to the Top 20 FREE Things to do in Paris – because, well, who doesn’t want a little FREE in one of the most expensive cities in the world?!
20 Free Things To Do in Paris
Paris may be one of the most expensive cities in the world – and if you only want to do the highlights like going up the Eiffel Tower, Cruise the Seine or taking in a show at the Moulin Rouge ( to name a few!), activities can easily add up. Why not add a few of these 20 Free Things To Do in Paris into your itinerary and give your wallet a break on your next visit to the City of Light!
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Cathedral de Notre Dame
*Please note that due to the terrible fire of 15-16th April 2019 Notre Dame is closed for the foreseeable future.**
The Cathedral de Notre Dame is one of Paris’ most iconic sights, and one of the most famous Gothic churches in Paris (if not the whole of Europe!). A simply beautiful building, both inside and out, it’s sculptures and stained glass are a sight to behold. The main areas of the church are free to enter between 7.30am-7.30pm in winter, and 7am-9pm in summer, although there is a small fee if you would like to climb the belfry towers or enter the crypt.
Head to Trocadéro Square for one of the most photographed views of the Eiffel Tower. Located on the on the opposite side of the Seine to the Tower in Paris’ 16th Arrondissement, the raised platform at the end of the gardens makes for the perfect foreground to you Eiffel Tower shot. It’s easily one of the top free things to do in Paris.
RELATED: If this is your 1st time in the City of Light check out this Paris Travel Planner to help your trip go smoothly – or take a look at our Incredible Itinerary for 3 days in Paris – that was written by a local!
Parc du Champ de Mar
Still looking for the perfect Eiffel Tower shot? Head to the other side of the tower into the Parc du Champ de Mar. Providing a different angle, you’ll find scores of people lined up at ‘the perfect spot’ to capture the ultimate Eiffel Tower Selfie. This is also a great place to base yourself for a picnic, with sunrise or sunset adding a little something extra. However, don’t plan on a pouring a glass of wine here. Public drinking is not permitted, and the police will ask you to put it away (or worse, pour it out!) But still one of the great Free Things To Do in Paris none the less!
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Basilica du Sacré-Coeur
The Basilica du Sacre Coeur is another of Paris’ top sights, located at the top of the 180m high hill in Monmarte. Entry to the ground floor is free from 6am to 10pm every day, however a small fee will need to be paid if you want to climb the 300 steps to the top of the dome. The views from outside the church spreads across Paris, and as dusk descends, the street performers entertain the crowds who are waiting to watch the sun set over the Paris. This is my favorite spot in Paris and the very first place I saw the lights of the Eiffel Tower Sparkle ↓
Watch the lights of the Eiffel Tower Sparkle
One of the prettiest things – and one of my favorite free things to do in Paris – was watching the lights of the Eiffel Tower Sparkle. This is one thing that is totally free – and happens every night, on the hour, every hour. As the Eiffel Tower can be seen from all over Paris – you’re not likely to miss this event, but I’d recommend grabbing a seat on the steps at the Sacré-Coeur, or in the Parc du Champ de Mar for the best views of the city!
Before or after a visit to the Sacré-Coeur, wander the bohemian streets of Montmartre. Once the home of the creatives and artists, this area of Paris has retained it’s unique village feel – although this can sometimes get lost under the ‘touristy’ side of overpriced creperies and gift shops. Although bargains are to be had – keep an eye out for the Plat du Jour menus that most restaurants offer which offers a set meal at a discount price, one of the most expensive attractions can be found at the base of the hill: The Moulin Rouge. A truly Parisian experience – if your budget isn’t too strict, watching the show here is extremely enjoyable and will be something you never forget!
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Printemps Rooftop Cafe
Known as one of Paris’ best kept secrets (ssh, don’t tell anyone!), the Printemps Rooftop Cafe and Terrace provides you with incredible 360 degree views of Paris. Take the elevator – and then the escalator – to the top floor of the Printemps Department Store the Deli-Cieux serves cafe food and stunning views. Be prepared to feel like you a right in the heart of the city.
EXTRA: After you have admired the architecture from above, check out these incredible covered passages scattered throughout Paris. p.s. they’re FREE too!
Inspired by the Boboli Gardens in Florence and located on the border between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter, the Jardin du Luxembourg were created upon the initiative of Queen Marie de Medici in 1612 and are a combination of French and English styles. Within the grounds there is also an orchard with a variety of old and forgotten apples, an apiary for you to learn about bee-keeping and greenhouses with a collection of breathtaking orchids and a rose garden. Entrance is free and the gardens are open between 7.30am and 8.15am and close between 4.30pm and 9.30pm dependent on the season.
Window Shopping along the Champs-Élysées
1.9km long and 70m wide, the Champs-Élysées stretches between the Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe. Popular with tourists and locals alike, it is lined with restaurants and luxury boutiques and is where the celebrities shop and dine on their visits. It is also the setting each year for major events such as the Bastille Day military parade, the arrival of the Tour de France and the Christmas lights. Taking a walk here is definitely one of the top free things to do in Paris.
Arc de Triomphe
Located in the center of a roundabout at the top of the Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Below the structure lies the tomb of the unknown soldier from WW1.
To look at the outside is free, but if you would like to enter, the cost is a nominal €12, and it is free for those who are under 26 and from the EEC (European Economic Community)
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
On the outskirts of Paris in the 19th arrondissement, the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is a 24.7 hectare park – which is the 5th largest green space in Paris. Its most facours feature is the Temple de la Sibylle, inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, Italy, and is perched at the top of a cliff fifty meters above the waters of the artificial lake. If you’re looking for a leafy escape from the hustle and bustle, Parc de Buttes-Chaumont is well worth a visit.
RELATED: Another fantastic park, and the third largest green space in Paris is the Parc de la villette and is located at the northeastern edge of the city in the 19th arrondissement; and the Parc de Belleville located in the 20th arrondissement and offers a unique view of the Eiffel Tower from afar.
Street Art around Canal St Martin
Originally built as a water supply, Canal StMartin in Paris’ 11th arrondissement is now the where all the cool kids hang out. Literally. Following the gentrification of the area, the hipsters moved in – it’s where the creatives went when Montmartre became too expensive. You’ll find walls adored with street art, a perfect accompaniment to the funky restaurants and bars that are now scattered all over the area.
Gallery Lafayette + Observation Deck
The Galleries Lafayette are one of the most impressive building in Paris – and even if you are on a budget with no intention of doing any shopping, the architecture alone is worth a visit. The Galeries Lafayette also offer FREE 30 minute fashion show every Friday (by reservation) and they also boast a rooftop terrace – La Terrace – accessible from 9.30am -7.30pm every day. Another great spot for panoramic views over Paris.
RELATED: If you feel like you have thoroughly explored the city, why not check out all the day trips that you can take from Paris?
Walk the Banks of the Seine
Designated a UNESCO heritage site – and for good reason – the banks of the Seine are popular with tourists and locals alike. Perfect for long romantic walks, or a place to sit to watch the world go by. This free attraction remains a crowd favorite and a Parisian staple. And if you take a wander along the banks at night, you also get to see 33 of the 37 bridges that cross the Seine, illuminated. The lights highlight and emphasis their beauty against the night sky – and are the perfect subject for budding low light and night time photographers.
The bridges across the Seine, such as the Pont de l’Alma (Alma Bridge) and pont de l’archevêché (Archbishops Bridge) are also tourist attractions themselves and although the most famous – the pont des arts – which used to hold thousands of ‘love locks’ has recently been resorted to it’s original state, the bridges are still beautiful examples of period architecture.
Free Walking Tours
Like most capital cities in Europe, Paris has a variety of Free Walking Tours available. The expert guides are often volunteers with a passion for their city and only ask for donations/tips at the end of tour instead of you paying a fee. You can chose to focus on one area, take a highlights tour or even a night time tour, depending on your interests. Whatever tour you are looking for, please check if you need to book in advance or if it possible to arrive at a meeting point and join in – these free walks can get super busy in peak tourist times!
Climitiere du Montparnasse
The 2nd largest cemetery in Paris is a very peaceful spot adorned with over 750 trees and hosts more than 40,000 graves. Many Parisian scholars and intellectuals are buried here alongside a wealth of funeral art objects and adornments. The largest cemetery in Paris – Pere Lachaise Cemetery – is a slightly darker and less whimsical place of rest, with many more full sized crypts which block some of the light. Also free to enter, it counts Edith Pilaf, Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde amongst it’s famous residents.
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Rue Mouffetard is THE Parisian ‘shopping street’. A combination of produce, fish, cheese, pastries, wine and meat shops alongside trendy boutiques making it a street where you can buy just about anything! Add in street artists and performers (particularly on the weekends) and the lively locals dancing in the street and you become part of a Paris institution. And if you’re lucky, the vendors will be feeling generous during your visit and have been known to offer free samples of the incredible goods. What could be better that having some freshly melted raclette on rustic bread handed to you as you peruse the stalls and shops?! Its the perfect destination for a spot of home grown eating and drinking.
Jardin des Tuileries
Located between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde, Jardindes Tuileries was originally the palace garden before being opened to the public in 1667. Stretching over 22.4 hectares and boasting over 200 sculptures, it is a place where Parisians meet, walk and relax.
And if you’re looking for more green areas in Paris, check out the Promenade Plantée (aka. Coulée verte René-Dumont) in the 12th arrondissement. This ‘garden’ sits on old disused railway tracks raised high above street level (and was the original High Line way before New York City got in on the act!)
The Marais is now one of Paris’ main localities for art galleries and has become a fashionable district, home to many trendy restaurants, fashion houses, and hip galleries. It’s diversity testament to aristocracy who originally claimed the area and the different communities (Jewish, Chinese and most recently, the LGBTQ community) it has embraced since the French Revolution and can be reached via the Hotel de Ville, Rambuteau, Art et Metiers or Republic métro stations.
There are around 130 museums in Paris – and you’ll be pleased to know that quite a few of them are free to enter! The Paris Museum of Modern Art (Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris) is one of those – open from 10am-6pm Tuesday to Sunday (although they do charge entry to some visiting collections – but the main body of the museum and permanent collections are still free). Another museum in Paris that is free is the Galerie Lumière des Roses – and as the opposite of a traditional museum – the photos lining its walls are credited to nobody: nobody knows who took them, when, or where and the big name artists are completely ignored there.
Other free museums include Maison de Victor Hugo, Musée Carnavalet (although it is closed for renovations until 2019) and the permanent collections at the Musée de la Vie romantique.
Related: Click to find out about more Free Museums in Paris
*Extra* Museums That Are Sometimes Free
That’s right, you can visit one of the most famous museums in the world completely for free – IF you are in the city on the first Sunday of the month between October and March. You can also get in free (year round) if you are under 18 years of age, or are a resident of the European Economic Community (EEC) aged between the ages of 19-25. And Every Friday from 6 p.m. admission to the museum is free for under-26s of all nationalities on presentation of valid ID.
Anyone who uses Instagram will have seen one of the most photographed clocks in Europe located at the Musee D’Orsay (above, if you haven’t guessed) – and if you haven’t seen it, which rock have you been hiding under?! Similar to the Louvre, the Musee D’Orsay is FREE to enter on the first Sunday of each month (year round); It is also free to enter for Under 18s and those aged 19-25 who are members of the EEC.
If these 20 Free things to do in Paris are not enough for you – check out these other Fun Things To Do in Paris – I can guarantee you’ll never have thought of some of them! And if you’re headed South check out these Things To Do in Nice in summer – or the best ski resorts in France in winter!
And there you have it – 20 Free Things To Do in Paris! I hope this travel guide can help you plan a budget friendly trip to the City of Light – and if you find another other FREE things to see or do in Paris that you think should be included – just let me know and I can add them to this list!
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Vicki is the Lawyer turned Content Creator, Editor-in-Chief and all round Boss Lady at MakeTimeToSeeTheWorld.
She has lived and worked in 7 different countries and started the site to show everyone that it is possible to travel whilst holding down a full time job (because not everyone can – or wants to – quit and walk away from it all).
Her style of travel has always been to get the best out of a destination as a time poor traveler making the most of limited vacation days and all without breaking the bank; BUT she does know where to save and where to splurge to have the most incredible travel experiences – such as luxury hotels and over-water bungalows, safaris, spas and more(!) – where the situation calls for it.