By Dave & Deb Bouskill, on May 23, 2013

Paris on a Budget

For many people, Paris is a trip of a lifetime. Iconic images of the Eiffel Tower, Arc du Triomphe, and Notre Dame are etched in our brains through books, film, and works of art. It is a city known for romance and few things are more romantic than strolling through the streets of Paris. But it’s also an expensive city and no one wants to come back from vacation with an empty pocket. However, we have found that with the proper planning and knowledge you can have that dream vacation while still keeping some money in your pocket.

The spending starts when you land at the airport where taxis can be very expensive to city center. Instead, take a shuttle that will drop you off at one of several central locations. Alternatively, you can take the RER train to city center for under €10 ($12.80).

If you want to save money on accommodations, choose an area outside the center near a metro stop. The Paris metro system is extensive, easy to use, and stops at all major monuments and museums. Buy a day pass for the metro for only €6.50 and easily make your way to each famous landmark, rather than spending most of your money on cab fares. Many of the major landmarks are situated along the River Seine so that you can see them all within a couple of days (depending on how many museums you decide to see). 

View from Sacre Coeur

The historic churches of Paris are grand and all are free to visit. Notre Dame Cathedral is the mot famous of them all. Located on the River Seine, Notre Dame is a good place to start your walking tour of Paris. Begin by strolling along the Left Bank towards the Eiffel Tower. Vendors sell cheap art, music, and books from wooden cupboards where you can grab your souvenirs while zigzagging over the many famous bridges before hitting the Louvre.

The Louvre in Paris

The Louvre is one of the most visited museums in the world and if you plan your stay right, you can get in free on the first Sunday of the month. Even if you don’t enter the Louvre, exploring its exterior is an art exhibit unto itself. The famous glass pyramids are a stark contrast to the historic courtyard and you can walk from here through the gardens filled with white statues, grand fountains, and people eating picnic lunches. Join the fun by bringing your own fresh baguette, cheese and meats, and a bottle of wine to really feel like a Parisian. When you do dine out, take advantage of the many set menus offered in areas like Montmartre, the Latin Quarter, or La Rue Clear.  A three-course meal with wine can cost as little as €15.

From the Louvre, Place de la Concorde is a short walk, where you’ll find the historic square known for its legendary past. Today a giant Egyptian obelisk shoots up to the sky and tourists take in the view before starting their walk along the famous Champs-´Elysées. Known for chic boutiques, high-end hotels, and fine dining, Champs-´Elysées offers some of the best people watching in Paris before reaching the Arc De Triomphe. It is free to visit the grounds where you can walk under the massive arches and visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  

Viewfinder Tip: Take advantage of any number of the free walking tours around Paris.

The city of Paris is a work of art. Simply strolling through the streets will take you on a tour through its long history. Many sights are free to enter, including the Cimetiere Pere la Chaise, where you can visit the tombs of Jim Morrison or Oscar Wilde. Explore the grounds of Les Invalides, housing the tomb of Napoleon, or, take advantage of the free walking tours offered daily from the Latin Quarter or Montmartre.

We’ve saved what we consider the best for last when visiting Paris, the Eiffel Tower.  Walk along Ave Kléber from the arc where you’ll come upon the best view of the Eiffel tower in the city. Lined with fountains, it sets the scene for great photos before you actually visit Paris’ most famous site. It’s things like this, that with a little imagination and smart planning, you can enjoy your own dream vacation in Paris without having to break the bank. 

What are your Europe budget saving tips?