Let’s face it, Paris is a pretty expensive place. Since it’s my 4th visit to Paris, I think I’d had my fair share of staying in a bougee hotel in the centre and since I’m not currently working, I tried to save as much as possible on this trip! Here’s my top tips and tricks for seeing Paris on a budget.
My flight was about £90 return from Manchester airport (cheapest I’ve seen was about £60). Obviously if you live down south the Eurostar is a great option from London but it can be really pricey (when I looked in January to travel in March, prices were upwards of £100, each way). You have to book really far in advance to get good prices. Although the Eurostar takes you straight centrally to Gare du Nord station, Charles de Gaulle airport isn’t actually very far out – about a 30 minute train to Gare Du Nord and it costs €10, so not too bad.
This time, I was lucky enough to stay with my best friend who lives in the suburbs of Paris. However, if you don’t have that option, I recommend staying as centrally as you can, and ’cause the hotels are pricey there, look on Airbnb for some great options. When I went with my ex we stayed in an Airbnb Opera which wasn’t too pricey, it’s 8th arrondissement (super central, close to the Champs Elysees) but I’ve also heard great things about Montmartre for cheaper airbnbs.
Staying a bit further out did mean a Metro ticket – personally I find Paris quite big, similar to London, so I’m always on the metro even if I’m staying centrally. If you’re staying just for a weekend like I did, I recommend buying a carte jeune ticket for young people (€8,95 per day, available only on Saturdays and Sundays). This is definitely worth it when one metro journey costs €3-4 euros. Or it might be worth considering the weekly ticket (€27 euros for young people, and includes the €10 journey from CDG airport).
Just like in London and New York, grabbing a bite near the biggest tourist attractions is always going to be expensive. Take the Louvre’s Café Marly, where I (somewhat willingly) paid €7.50 for a coffee, because we desperately needed the loo, or Instagram famous cafés like Café de Flore, where I paid €12 for a Croque Monsiuer (basically a glorified ham-and-cheese toastie). I knew these were going to be expensive though when I walked in, but it was a price I was willing to pay just for a coffee or a small sandwich (you wouldn’t catch me having a meal there, though). Mostly, if we got hungry during the day we ate from the many food stalls dotted around Paris – tbh I think was half girl, half crêpe at one point. A crêpe from one of these costs €3, whereas in a nice café it’d be at least €6, and we grabbed coffee to go from small cafés, with the exception of ones I wanted to visit (for the gram, obviously). I recommend going to a local boulangerie for breakfast and just picking up a croissant and a coffee to have on your way out; it’s a cheap way to fill yourself up. A good thing about Paris though is that they don’t really have a service charge and it’s not custom to tip, because the prices are already high.
PLACES TO SEE
On to the best part of this post! Obviously being my 4th time in Paris I’d already done a lot of these, but we still made it to some major hotspots this time around.
1. The Eiffel Tower from Trocadero
This is the place to get that Eiffel Tower shot. Rather than going to the main area with the barriers, head down to the steps to get a shot on that slope made famous by Instagram. And if you’ve never been before, a trip up the Tower is a must.
2. The Louvre
Obviously. Not only for the super-aesthetic glass pyramid, but for all the artwork inside, including the Mona Lisa (I have a lovely picture of me with the Mona Lisa somewhere aged about 11 lol).
3. Café Marly
I may have paid €7,50 for a coffee but the interior decor was worth it. Again I don’t recommend coming here for food if you’re looking to save, but a quick coffee isn’t too bad (the standard price for a coffee in a café in Paris is about €4/5).
4. Le Grand Palais
A little less well-known than the Louvre, the gorgeous courtyard of the old Royal Palace is open to the public, which has beautiful gardens to explore.
5. Café de Flore
Made famous by Instagram, naturally. If you’re looking to save money, it’s probably not worth eating here (I didn’t think the food was that great, to be honest, although the waiter was lovely and found me an iphone charger…. #priorities). Either come here for coffee or a quick drink, or just get the shot outside without bothering to pay the fee.
6. Le Marais at Night
One of the most popular places for Paris nightlife, we went to a gorgeous rooftop bar here with the most stunning views, called Le Perchoir Marais.
7. The Grand Mosque of Paris
Something a little off the beaten track, but so, so stunning. We tried to get a photo in the courtyard but they were closing and it was raining anyway, so enjoy this Google image of the place. They also have a lovely café where you can get mint tea and some food.
8. Shakespeare and Company
One of the oldest bookshops in Paris, great writers like F.Scott Fitzgerald used to stay here in exchange for working on their writing. You can’t take photos in there but you can buy some amazing books including special editions, all priced at €14 each.
I am absolutely obsessed with this area. My friend took me to Sacré Coeur at sunset to see the view over Paris, and then we spent some time exploring all the cute alleyways and cafés of Montmartre. Montmartre is a bit of a creative, hipster hub, a bit like New York’s Brooklyn or London’s Shoreditch.
10. Place Vendôme
This is where a lot of the designer boutiques are found in Paris, so the area makes for gorgeous outfit photos.
11. The Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysées
Of course. We didn’t get to go this time because be aware that this is where the main action of the Paris protests (referred to as the gilets jaunes, “yellow vests”) takes place every weekend. The worst day for this is Saturday, where the area is completely blocked off and local tube stations closed, so I recommend avoiding the area entirely on a Saturday.
Hope you enjoyed these tips and tricks – let me know what you think in the comments!
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By some miracle (my laziness) all photos were shot on my iPhone 7 xox