Paris is, undeniably, one of the world’s greatest tourist destinations. Its museums, boutiques, architecture, and cuisine draw visitors from all around the world. Like other major European cities, Paris can be a very expensive place to visit. The city’s gourmet restaurants and glamorous nightlife venues are attractive, but they can take a toll on your vacation budget.

Luckily, Paris is a walk-able city and is full of sightseeing opportunities. There is also an expansive menu of free attractions. With a little planning, you can make these free spots the center of your itinerary and can leave Paris with both money and memories.

1. Bridges of the River Seine

Bridges of the River Seine

Photo: James Whitesmith / Flickr

The Seine runs through the heart of Paris. Picture-worthy views are easy to find for those who walk along its banks. But the most memorable part of this completely free attraction is its bridges. These well-lit spans have been the site of many film classics. Even if romance, real or imagined, is not on the agenda, the bridges still offer the best vantage points for viewing the city lights in the evening. You can even see the Eiffel Tower from certain points along the banks of the river.

2. Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Photo: gadgetdude / Flickr

The famous, oft-photographed cathedral does not charge admission. There is a fee for those who want to climb to the top, but entry into the church itself is free. That means you don’t have to pay a cent to view the church’s ornate decorations and impressive, vaulted ceilings.

3. Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur

Photo: schermpeter42 / Flickr

The grounds of this church, in the hilly Mont Martre area, offer some of the most scenic views of the city. It is completely free to visit, as long as you are willing to hike up to the top of the highland area where the church is located. There is also a funicular train, which takes people up the slopes for a price that is exactly the same as any other ride on the Paris Metro system.

4. Paris City Hall (Hotel de Ville)

Paris City Hall (Hotel de Ville)

Photo: myeyesareclosed / Flickr

The Hotel de Ville is an architectural wonder with an impressively long history. It has been the site of Paris’ administration since 1357. The grand, castle-like structure is lit up at night and has grounds that contain sculptures and courtyards. Free exhibits are held inside the building in the sections that are open to the public.

5. Galeries Lafayette

Galeries Lafayette

Photo: kainet / Flickr

This retail space is a prime spot for window-shopping, but it is a truly unique attraction because of its free fashion shows. Every Friday during most of the year, a fashion show is held on the 7th floor of Lafayette. It is free to attend, even if you are not a member of the fashion media. Shows are not held during the winter (January and February).

6. Musee Carnavalet

Musee Carnavalet

Photo: Piero Sierra / Flickr

This is one of the best history museums in Paris. It is housed inside historic Parisian mansions and holds exhibits and artifacts from the city’s long and storied (and sometimes violent) past. Best of all, admission is always free.

7. 1st Sundays at Famous Paris Museums

1st Sundays at Famous Paris Museums

Photo: Pedro Guridi / Flickr

If you can plan your trip accordingly, you can take advantage of the free days offered as some of the most famous museums in France (and the world). The Louvre does not charge admission on the first Sunday of each month. The Musee d’Orsay and Rodin Museum are also free on this first Sunday. Yes, the crowds can be pretty thick, but this is one of the rare times when you can see these amazing attractions without having to pay a cent.

8. Jardin du Luxembourg

Jardin du Luxembourg

Photo: Raul DS / Flickr

This huge public green-space is characterized by gardens and fountains. Benches and chairs are scattered throughout the park (simply plopping down on the grass is frowned upon). Sculptures, many inspired by Greek and Roman mythology, are found around the central pavilion area. The historic residences of France’s royalty are located in the park, but are not open to the public.

9. Musee d’Art Moderne

Musee d'Art Moderne

Photo: Thomas Claveirole / Flickr

Paris’ Modern Art Museum houses works of art from famed artists such as Henri Matisse (and many of his peers). The central, permanent exhibits are always free of charge, though traveling and rotating exhibits are not. The permanent exhibits include some large murals.

10. Flea Markets and Side Streets

Flea Markets and Side Streets

Photo: Alex E. Proimos / Flickr

The famed monuments and museums of Paris only cover a small part of the city’s area. Local flea markets and farmers markets are worth wandering around, even if you don’t plan on spending any money. Many of the city’s neighborhoods are quite walkable. The 7th Aroundisment, home to some of the most notable attractions in the city, is also one of the best places to wander on foot because of its open air markets and wide-tree-lined boulevards.

Paris is a very expensive city, but that does not mean that you have to break your travel budget to enjoy a few days in this world famous tourist destination.

Have we missed your favorite free places to visit in Paris? Let us know in the comment section below!

Josh Lew
Josh Lew
Josh Lew has traveled widely in Asia and the Americas. He has contributed to popular travel sites like Gadling and Brave New Traveler and currently writes a weekly travel column for MNN. His work has also appeared on the websites of CNN and Forbes Magazine.

If you enjoyed this article, get email updates (it's free).

2 Comments

  1. julie says:

    coolio facts. they were intersting. u helped me with my french HW soooooo thxs. reply if u can. c ya

  2. Ms. Kusum says:

    Requesting you to think over the entry fee for Eiffel Tower. It is too much for an Asian visitors. Thank you. Free attractions are really good.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>