The best things in life are free

Whilst Paris captures the heart of many, being the fashion capital and the city of love, time in the French capital can be costly. But if you’re planning a trip and looking at saving money during your stay (and who isn’t) then let us show you a few free things to do in Paris that will capture your interest and cost you nothing, because the best things in life are free.

Our suggestion is a free walking tour. But it doesn’t have to be an organised tour, we rather plan your own. We set out one morning along the beautiful tree lined street of Rue Caulaincourt in Montmartre just near Moulin Rouge. When you think of Montmartre, Moulin Rouge, Sacre Coeur and Place du Tertre probably comes to mind. Not for us.

Our first stop was somewhere a little different, Montmartre Cemetery, established in 1798. This is a fascinating cemetery if you like something a bit different. Being in the middle of a busting neighbourhood is a tranquil place where you can wander amongst rows and rows of ornate mausoleums and gravesites. They provide a map listing the plot numbers of some of the final resting places for artist Edgar Degas, singer/actress Dalida, Russian ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky and many, many famous painters, artists, dancers, composers, authors, sculptures and musicians. But we choose to simply wander.

Although not as spectacular as Pere-Lachaise Cemetery it is worth a visit to spend time away from the tourists and the usual Parisian tourist attractions in Montmartre and find some peace and quiet in the middle of a world capital. The sunken nature of the cemetery is because the site was originally an abandoned gypsum quarry and was previously a used grave site, being a mass grave during the French Revolution.  The steel blue urban viaduct of Rue Caulaincourt spans over the cemetery and is a contrast to the ancient moss covered tombs below street level giving it a unique perspective.  This intriguing cemetery has wonderful, majestic monuments and crypts that inspired us to think about the past and reflect as we spent time walking around the ornate and ancient graves.

Back at street level we continued along Rue Caulaincourt and left behind the peace and tranquility that lay under the four lane road. We kept stopping to observe things as they caught our eye, in awe of the fact we are in Paris. Our cameras are kept busy along the way. The area is charming, warm sunlight pouring in the gorgeous little cobblestone streets. The air filled with the aroma of fresh croissants and sounds of little dogs barking at the buskers playing their harmonica. We see the beauty of the architecture of 19th century buildings is magnificent with ornate balconies where bright red geraniums grow in pots that match the terracotta chimneys.

The graffiti on the cream walls and the old ornate doors contrast against the slate colour of the dense rooftops.  Along the way we pass lively squares, overflowing with bustling cafes and steep stairways leading through to the next street. It is a sensory overload. The sound of traffic, the confused aroma of coffee, cigarettes and croissants wafting in the air. The sight of mind blowing pastries and delicacies in the windows. We walk for about half an hour and stop at Café Francoeur, sip our coffee and reflect. Our senses are truly stimulated in this beautiful area.

After expending all our energy climbing Montmartre’s formidable hills and stairs we have found yet another thing for free. No need for expensive gym memberships here, exercise is free. We made our way up to the opulent and grandiose Basilica Sacre Coeur. This magnificent building and popular landmark is located at the summit of the butte Montmarte and is the highest point in Montmartre. Here you can experience a free choir rehearsal, a picnic on Square Willette, in front of Sacre Coeur or a ride on the famous carousel. The mosaic in the apse named Christ in Majesty is amongst the largest in the world. On the stairs of the Basilica the best views across Paris can be seen, up to 30 km’s on a clear day.

Nearby where Picasso worked and lived is Place du Tertre. Here in the lively souvenir selling area artists sketch tourists’ portraits. Not far away and worth a visit is the I Love You wall, a space where love comes together in any language and where you can indulge the most popular Parisian pastime, people watching.

Another great place to do some people watching is Jardin des Tuileries which occupies 63 acres between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde. It is a formal, well manicured garden, where you can pull up a green chair by the Grand Bassin or relax at the fountain.

Paris is magical and another great free experience is to stroll along the covered passages or the most famous boulevard in the world, the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe. It is 1.9km long and 70 metres wide running from Place de la Concorde to Place Charles de Gaulle.

Having burnt all our get up and go in the hilly streets of Montmartre, the best experience of all that was at the most famous icon of all, the Eiffel Tower. But no more climbing for us, we had no more get up and go and no way we were climbing to the top. And we didn’t have to. The view from the ground is spectacular in its own right and the perfect backdrop for a leisurely picnic. Here we whiled away some time, relaxing in the surrounding grassy area of Parc du Champ de Mars, right under the famous structure or Jardin de Trocadero.

One thing even better, is to experience the Eiffel Tower after sunset. If you think it is impressive during the day, then you will find at night this 324 metre tall tower becomes simply breathtaking. For 5 minutes every hour on the hour it actually sparkles and hosts a fabulous light show and lets not forget the beacon on top. The beacon on top sends out two light beams visible for up to 80km and the 336 projectors illuminate the tower bathing it in gold. The tower is awe inspiring as it lights up with 20,000 golden lights as they twinkle and sparkle. It is the most incredible sight to see and the one thing not to be missed. Here you will be mesmerised by the lights and taken back to a time in your childhood. Those simple memories bringing joy and happiness and you will join others who have waited for nightfall to arrive to see this special moment.


So there you have it, another cliché, the best things are in life are free. And how about  a visit to the Opera Garnier watching a rehearsal? No photos allowed but plenty of time to watch and absorb the beauty of this wonderful building.

*Update: Two things very unique to Paris which are free. The Sanisette, high tech, self cleaning, free toilets found throughout Paris and the Wallace Fontaine. In fact 67 drinking fountains in the form of cast iron sculptures are spread throughout Paris providing visitors, workers and homeless people free drinking water from March to November.

Do you have other suggestions for free things in Paris? Which of these tips is your favourite? Or did I miss the mark and the best free tip hasn’t been mentioned? Share your feedback with us, tell us your  thoughts?

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Linking up with All About France

Packing my Suitcase

43 Responses

  1. Paris is the perfect walking city which makes it a great place to do free stuff and avoid gym costs!!! I like everything you discovered. One of my favourite things in Paris is to watch kids playing with boats on the lake in the jardin de luxembourg (but it’s only free if I don’t have my kids with me otherwise they want to do it too and then it becomes a paying activity!) Another free thing I usually do is take in the view from the terrace at the top of Printemps department store. Great view, 100% free (as long as you don’t get trapped shopping that is!) Thanks for linking to #AllAboutFrance.
    Phoebe @ Lou Messugo recently posted…Nantes and its fabulous giant elephantMy Profile

  2. Lia says:

    Your photos are beautiful! I love the Montmartre area ♥

  3. What a great idea to write about all the wonderful free things there are to do in an expensive city like Paris. Walking is one of my favourite things to do in a city and I love your tour of Montmartre. #allaboutfrance

  4. Rossana says:

    Love your photos and yes, so many things in life are free and it is good to know when you are visiting somewhere like Paris. It tends to be a bit pricey. I will be heading there at the end of October ( if all goes as planned) and will definitely be doing my own walking tour, cannot wait – your pictures have inspired and excited me! 🙂
    Rossana recently posted…Picnic time – A twist on the classic BLT #LetsDoPicnicMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      Rossana I hope you will love Paris as much as we did. We are planning our second trip and plan to check out the Christmas markets this time. Whilst it is expensive I just wanted to show you can see lot for very little expense. Thank you for your comment.

  5. Great tips – I’m looking forward to getting back to Paris sometime soon. I really loved the food and architecture. We walked all around Paris to experience the city. I agree – the best things are free!
    Todd @ Visit50 recently posted…Island Hopping in Bocas del Toro PanamaMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      What is it with Paris, we all wish we were back there again. We’ll be back in December to enjoy the experience again. Thank you for coming here and leaving a comment Todd.

  6. Oh how I long to return to Paris for all of these reasons and more.
    Thanks for joining in #wednesdaywanderlust this week
    Malinda @mybrownpaperpackages recently posted…Friday Favourite: Mummy Wife MeMy Profile

  7. So true! Best things in life are free and the best travel memories are not linked to expensive activities. Thanks for a very inspiring post, and nice tips for enjoying Paris!
    Laia (colibrist) recently posted…Milford Sound in usual weather conditionsMy Profile

  8. Sooo happy to have you on #MondayEscapes Lyn!!
    This post is just what I needed as I am heading to Paris tomorrow 😀
    It only inspired me even more for my trip. I have been there a few times and lived there too, but I’m always impressed by the fact that there is sooo many things to see!! Great photos!!
    Packing my Suitcase recently posted…Tips to make pre flying less stressfulMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      Thank you Allane, I’ll have to hit you up for some tips on what to do and where go in December when we will be back in Paris. Such a beautiful place and looking forward to our return. Thanks for hosting #MondayEscapes.

  9. What a lovely and free way to explore Paris. It’s such a great city for just wandering through, isn’t it? Your words paint such an attractive picture of the city.

    Thanks for linking up with #WkendTravelInspiration
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted…Postcards from Intramuros, a Spanish walled city in the PhilippinesMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      Thank you for your kind words Michele, I’ll see you again next week for #WkendTravelInspitation and invite you to join our linkup #TheWeeklyPostcard

  10. Looks like a wonderful and scenic walking tour. I am a big fan of free!
    Suguna @unfinishedtravelproject recently posted…Chicago: My MuseMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      Paris is said to expensive but we found lots to see do for the most universal currency with the best exchange rate, free.

  11. Corinne says:

    The best things in life are free! Great post. It’s a good reminder that no matter your budget anyone can travel and get a lot of out of it!
    Thanks for linking up with #wkendtravelinspiration!
    Corinne recently posted…Weekend Travel Inspiration – Rick StevesMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      Corinne we are not into the backpacker style of travel and yet still find the less we spend the more value we get from our travels.

  12. Linda Bibb says:

    You’re right: Paris can be expensive. That said, you’ve certainly found a lot of really great things to do that don’t cost a centime. We had a great time walking around Montmartre and then watching the lights come on from the stairs of Sacre Coeur.

    I’d also like to add another option: Walk through Le Village des Batignolles in the 17th arrondissement, roughly located between the Arc de Triomphe and Montmartre. Rue de Batignolles and Rue des Dames are filled with bars, ‘restos’ and quirky boutiques selling artsy tchotschkes as well as designer children’s wear and it’s fun to watch the resident well-to-do bourgeois bohemians (BoBos, in Parisian slang) as well.
    Linda Bibb recently posted…#TheWeeklyPostcard: Singapore Night SafariMy Profile

  13. we came across many carousels in Paris. But the only free one we ever came across was on Paris Plage, near Park de La Villette. We were so happy!
    eileen at FamiliesGo! recently posted…WTI: Our Favorite Lake Placid Family Dining SpotsMy Profile

  14. Elaine says:

    So much joy to be extracted from just walking around Paris … great post!
    Elaine recently posted…Packing for an adventurous holidayMy Profile

  15. Vlad says:

    Excellent walking tour, I found that I enjoyed Paris the most when I was wandering on its streets without rushing to get somewhere. 🙂
    Vlad recently posted…How I Spent A Day On The Island Of GozoMy Profile

  16. Love this and it is how we roll as well. So many places have touched my heart and I love to get out and explore.
    Heidi Wagoner recently posted…Plans For The Summer?My Profile

    • Lyn says:

      It really is the way that suits us best Heidi, I like a mix of organised walking tours and set out on our own to really get to know a place. Thank you for linking up and for your comment Heidi

  17. So true, we explore Paris by foot and see so much. We were recently in Paris and covered so much ground and saw things never written in any guide books
    Paula McInerney recently posted…Graduating from the Paella Academy in Valencia, SpainMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      Thanks for your comment Paula, I might need to get the details of some of those places you saw not written in the guide books for when we are back in Paris in December.

  18. I love Paris there is so much more to it than just the Eiffel Tower
    Sally@Toddlers on Tour recently posted…Photo Flashbacks: Kota Kinabalu Nature Reserve with KidsMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      So true Sally, in fact we don’t even feel the need to go up the Eiffel Tower, just to say we’ve done it. I’m sure we will one day, but so many others things to do first. Thank you for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard and for leaving a comment.

  19. Bryna says:

    Who doesn’t love free? 🙂 I was just in Paris last month and loved that there were so many things you could see and do for free. Just strolling around the city, soaking in the scenery and stunning buildings was a treat!!
    Bryna recently posted…A Love Letter to the NetherlandsMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      I couldn’t agree more Bryna. We will be back again in December and look forward to spending more time finding other free things to do. Thank you for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard

  20. Walking and exploring neighborhoods and getting a “feel” for a new city is my favorite thing to do when travelling. One of the challenges for me is knowing just where to walk- creating a map (just getting lost in a new city does not walk with my personality:) Posts like these are helpful, as well as some travel books:) Thanks for sharing your Paris walks!
    Victoria @celebratetheweekend recently posted…Boston Weekend. 4th of July.My Profile

    • Lyn says:

      Agreed Victoria, I love walking and exploring at my leisure when I get to a new place. I am a little cautious of getting lost (as I did in Prague) but have a good Husband to keep an eye out for me. Glad you find this kind of post useful. Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard

  21. Anda says:

    Thank you for this beautiful tour, Lyn. I miss Paris and I agree: FREE is the best!
    Anda recently posted…Riding the Cogwheel Train to the Top of EuropeMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      Happy to share Anda. We miss Paris too and are lucky enough to be getting back there again December when we can find other things to do for free.

  22. Alyssa says:

    Ah I was just there. Great post and I agree, the best things are free. Walking tours and exploring are wonderful ways to find hidden treasures.
    Alyssa recently posted…At a Glance: Taste of EuropeMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      I am sure you found other great things you could add to my list. We will be back there in December and can’t wait. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment Alyssa.

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