The City of Light draws millions of visitors every year with its unforgettable ambiance. Of course, the divine cuisine and vast art collections deserve some of the credit as well. The gentle River Seine rambles through the city, flanked by stately museums, centuries-old churches, and blocks of Rococo- and Neoclassic-design architecture, further enhanced by cascading trees and glowing streetlamps. Peppering the Seine’s cobbled walks and graceful bridges are impossibly chic Parisians, probably on their way to the market, cafe or cinema.
Containing world-class museums, fashion, cuisine and an atmosphere all its own, Paris is also a city of “many splendors,” as Ernest Hemingway recalled in his memoir, “A Moveable Feast.” Visit the beloved Musée d’Orsay, shop the biggest designers on the Champs Élysées or hit the boutiques in Le Marais, take in the view atop the Eiffel Tower, or even plan a day trip to Versailles Palace. But don’t miss out on the simple pleasure of meandering the marvelous arrondissements (districts), or snacking on street crepes either.
Things to See and Do
1. Go museum hopping
2. Walk the Champs Elysees
3. Visit the Panthéon
4. Relax in Jardin Du Luxembourg
5. View the city from Montemartre
6. Notre Dame
7. Stand under the Arc De Triomphe
8. Celebrate Bastille Day
9. Experience the Cinema en Plein Air
10. Visit Maison du Victor Hugo
11. Climb through the Paris Catacombs
12. Dance the night away
13. Walk amongst the tombstones
14. Mémorial de la Shoah
The Louvre Museum
Hostel prices – Hostels in Paris aren’t cheap. The hostels that are closer to Paris’ main attractions are more expensive – around 30 EUR per night for a 6-bed dorm. You can find better-priced hostels in neighborhoods like Montmartre or the Latin Quarter (like 6-bed dorms starting at 20 EUR and 10-bed dorms at 17 EUR per night). During the summer high season and on weekends, prices tilt towards the higher end. Private double rooms begin at 80 EUR per night. There aren’t many good hostels in the city but I like St. Christopher’s and 3 Ducks! Lots of hostels provide free linens and many offer free breakfast (which in Paris typically consists of pastries, croissants, and other baked bread with spreads like Nutella and jam to be washed down with strong coffee).
Budget hotel prices – You can find two-star budget hotels starting at 50 EUR per night that are within a mile or two of the city center. These hotels have free WiFi. Rooms with more amenities like air-conditioning and free breakfast start at 60 EUR. On Airbnb, you can find shared rooms in apartments for an average of 23 EUR per night, while some are as low as 17 EUR. You can find entire apartments/homes for an average of 54 EUR per night, while some are as low as 23 EUR.
Average cost of food – Expect to pay between 25-40 EUR for dinner at a nice restaurant including wine. Try to avoid the tourist areas, where prices around about 10-30% higher, if you want to save money. Luckily, buying your own food is cheap. There are many bread, cheese, markets, and meat shops throughout the city. It’s common to pick up some ingredients and have a picnic in one of the city’s many parks. Creating your own meal will cost around 9-15 EUR, depending on what you buy and if you get wine. Eating pre-made sandwiches from the city’s takeaway shops, crepes, or fast food generally costs between 6-10 EUR. If you want to eat at a restaurant (the French are known for their culinary skills, after all!), try doing a “prix-fixe” meal. It’s a set menu that offers you a deal on a 2-3 course meal for about 20 Euros. To save even more money, consider lunch instead of dinner (which, in France, is still typically 2 courses). If you’re cooking for yourself, you can expect to pay about 50 EUR for a week’s worth of groceries (basic staples), but if you find a discount grocer like Aldi or Lidl, you’ll pay way less.
Transportation costs – The Paris public transport system is one of the world’s most comprehensive and efficient. Every other block has a metro (subway) stop. A single-use metro/bus ticket costs 1.90 EUR (2 EUR if you buy it on the bus). A “carnet” of 10 single-use tickets costs about 14.50 EUR, or you can get a day pass for all modes of public transportation (bus, metro, trams, and suburban trains called the RER) for around 11.65 EUR. The day pass, called ParisVisite, also gives you discounts to some major Parisian landmarks. You can buy tickets at any metro station. (Note: There are cheaper day passes available if you are under 26, as well as discounted prices on weekends and holidays, but they are only explained on the French website. If you can speak passable French, and are under 26, you can ask for those reduced fares instead.) Taxis in the city are expensive (rides cost a minimum of 6.50 EUR regardless of where you are going) and, with the metro running late into the night, there’s little reason to take them. Uber is also a cheaper option than taxis, with a base fare of 1 EUR and costs 0.25 per min/1 EUR per km. The RER train to Charles de Gaulle airport is about 10 EUR and takes about 40 minutes.
Suggested daily budget
50-70 EUR / 52-72 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect this to be higher!)
Money Saving Tips
- Discounts at The Louvre – The Louvre is free after 6pm on Fridays if you’re under 26, and on the first Sunday of October to March. It is closed on Tuesdays. It’s located in the center of the city and has two metro stops – both marked “Louvre.” Get off at either one. If you enter from the Louvre stop, you’ll be able to skip the line.
- Buy a metro card – Paris has over 300 subway stations, so it is easy to get around the city. A day pass is only 11.65 EUR. Moreover, if you buy 10 tickets or a “carnet”, it only costs about 14.50 EUR, much cheaper than the 1.90 EUR for each individual ticket. The day pass, called ParisVisite, also gives you discounts to some major Parisian landmarks.
- Have a picnic – With so many beautiful parks and outdoor gardens, it would be hard not to take advantage of this. Eating in Paris is cheap when you do your own shopping. Buy some bread, cheese, and meat at the local shops and have an outdoor picnic. It’s fun and will cost you a fraction of what a restaurant would.
- Paris Museum Pass – This is a prepaid card that gets you access to over 70 museums and monuments around Paris. A two-day one is 42 EUR, a two-day pass is only 56 EUR, and a six-day pass is only 69 EUR. This is perfect for the museum hopper and for anyone that wants to save money and get ahead in line. Since most people visit lots of museums in the city, you’re pretty much guaranteed to save money.
- Paris Pass – This is a super-sized version of the Paris Museum Pass and is for people who are going to be doing heavy sightseeing in a short period of time. You can purchase a two-day pass for €117, a four-day pass for €173, or a six-day pass for €210. It includes a TON of sights, the ability to skip lines, and a free hop-on, hop-off bus tour (in addition to everything in the Paris Museum Pass).
- Free museum admission – All national museums are free admission on the first Sunday of every month. If you happen to hit this day, be aware of potentially large crowds and long lines.
- Dine out during lunch – Food in Paris is not cheap. It will cost you an arm and a leg to eat here but during lunch, restaurants do a pre-fixe menu for between 10-15 Euros. It’s the same food you would buy for dinner but at half the cost. When I eat out in Paris, I do so during lunch so I can still eat amazing French food without it eating my entire wallet!
- Cook your meals – The best way to save money on the road is to cook your own meals. Many hostels, campsites, and guesthouses have kitchens. No kitchen? Pack your own container and silverware and make some sandwiches and salads on the go.
- Couchsurf – There are a lot of hosts in this city and with restaurants and accommodation so much, I highly recommend trying to find a host on the website where you can get a kitchen, a place to stay, and local friend to show you around. The community here is very active and friendly!
- Save money on rideshares – Uber is way cheaper than taxis and are the best way to get around a city if you don’t want to wait for a bus or pay for a taxi. The Uber Pool option is where can you share a ride to get even better savings (though you can get your own car too).
Best Months to Visit
The best time to visit Paris is from June to August and September to October. Both summer and fall have its ups and downs. From June to August the weather in Paris is just about Parfait (perfect). Average highs are in the high 70s and there are long days of sunshine. Unfortunately, summer is also the most crowded time – and the most expensive. For lower travel rates and significantly shorter lines at attractions, plan a visit in the fall. The seasonal foliage is known to stun, though the city’s spring blooms are pretty famous too. If a travel deal is all that you’re after, a visit during the winter will surely shave off travel expenses. Keep in mind though that Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world, seeing upward of 30 million travelers yearly. So no matter what time you visit, there will always be tourists and some crowds.
Source: Nomadic Matt