List love: free (or almost) stuff to do in Paris

A trip to Paris can cost you a small fortune. But it doesn’t have to. Here are some hot tips on memorable things to do in one of the world’s most beautiful cities that won’t break the bank…

5. Wander the Promenade Plantée

Little known to tourists, the Promenade Plantée is a stretch of raised walkway running from behind the Bastille Opera to the town hall of the 12st district, then continuing along at road level to the outskirts of Paris. The raised section offers a unique view of Parisian architecture, with chimneys and roofs becoming prominent features. It is a lovely place to take a walk any time of year, and if you hit it up in summer you have the added bonus of being able to make your way all the way to the Bois de Vincennes for a lovely (but unsurprisingly not free!) row on Lake Daumesnil.

4. Stroll along the Seine

Most people who have been to Paris are familiar with the view from the building-level footpath along the Seine, replete with its little green book sellers’ stalls. But not everyone knows that the “quais” (roads) running right alongside this beautiful river are closed to traffic every Sunday, allowing pedestrians and cyclists free reign and offering a surprisingly different perspective of the city. It’s busy in summer, especially when Paris Plage (an interesting attempt to bring the beach to Paris) is on, but much quieter and more spacious in winter.

3. Check out the view from Printemps

Sure, you can go up the Eiffel Tower. But it may cost you an arm and a leg. Not to mention hours in a queue. And then you don’t actually get to see the tower itself! The view from the terrace on the top of the Printemps building on Boulevard Haussmann offers a beautiful view over Paris towards the Eiffel Tower on one side, an up-close and personal look at the Printemps turrets and Opera Garnier on another, La Defence on another and Sacré Coeur on the other. And it’s completely free. In the value for money stakes, this view is where it’s at.

2. Hang out with the locals along Canal Saint Martin

On a balmy summer evening, the banks of Canal Saint Martin are packed with happy folks picnicing. And unlike some other famous picnic spots in Paris (such as the Champs de Mars underneath the Eiffel Tower), these folk are actually Parisians! Grab a cheese and a bottle of wine and join them or, if you happen by in the winter months, stop off for a coffee or hot chocolate in one of the cute cafés lining the quais. The 4.5km long canal varies in altitude by 25m from one end to the other so if a boat happens to pass, it makes for interesting watching as it passes through one of the locks.

1. Ride around on a Velib

Whoever invented the Velib system was a genius! For a paltry 1,70€ access to a Velib (grey bicycle) is yours for the day, available in half hour chunks. You can find stations all over the city and the pick-up and drop-off system is easy to use. If you pass your half hour free period, you will be charged 1€ for the second half hour. Prices start getting steeper for longer hires, so be sure you change your Velib regularly… all you need to do is go back to a Velib station and return your bike, then wait a few minutes and take it away again. Or a different one if there was a problem with the last! The Parisian motorists are surprisingly polite to cyclists and the major sites are all within easy biking distance. There is simply no better way to get around the city.

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6 thoughts on “List love: free (or almost) stuff to do in Paris

  1. Or walk down one of the amazing street markets on Sundays – my favourite is near Place de Italie and goes on (and on) for about a kilometre

    • I love the markets too!!! Haven’t been to the one near Place d’Italie (will add it to my to-do list) but I have a great one less than 10 minutes walk from my house. Too easy! I wanted to break the List Love rules and write more but I stuck to the rules and just wrote about the things I thought were lesser known 🙂

  2. I had the distinct luck to be in Paris recently, and PetiteFolie herself took me to several of these places! I loved them all. Particularly walking along St. Martins Canal. And shopping in Le Marais — which can be free if you stick to window shopping.

  3. Pingback: List love: stuff to do in Paris that’s worth paying for « Laugh Lots, Travel Often

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