Paris is a city synonymous with so many things; style, history, romance and fine French cuisine, to name but a few. Artists and writers plied their trade here, kings and queens built 17th century palaces with sprawling estates and a certain Alexandre Gustave Eiffel put his name to a somewhat iconic tower. With the port of Le Havre located around 2.5 hours away, Paris lures cruisers looking to see the city in a day. Though it may hold a reputation as one of the most expensive cities in the world, ‘gay old Paree’ has so much to see that you really can live the Parisian dream without spending a penny. Here are our top picks of the best free things to do in Paris.
Visit the Notre Dame
The Gothic gargoyle guarded Notre Dame is one of the world’s most famous cathedrals and you can see it for free any day of the week. As with any tourist hotspot you can expect some queues but they move quickly and the scene inside is well worth the wait.
Dance the Tango along the Seine
From the beginning of July to the end of August, the banks of the River Seine become a gathering ground for dancers. Hundreds of partners take to Tino-Rossi square, spontaneously bursting into dance that anyone is free to join.
Walk La Promenade Plantée
This reinvigorated former rail road may look like a rip off of New York’s Highline but it was actually built six years before its American counterpart. Stretching a little under 3 miles through the 12th arrondissement, the tree lined walkway of La Promenade Plantée is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city below.
Photo credit: Luis Tamayo
Visit the Louvre
Paris is the home of art and architecture, with no trip complete without a visit to some of the city’s most incredible museums and landmarks. The Musee d’Orsay is free on the first Sunday of the month all year round, whilst the Louvre is free on the first Sunday of the month between October 1 and March 31.
Some of the city’s most iconic monuments can also be explored without spending a penny, including the Arc de Triomphe, Panthéon and Château de Versailles, all of which are free on the first Sunday of the month between November 1 and March 31.
Watch the lights of the Eiffel Tower twinkle
The Eiffel Tower is Paris’s most famous resident and whilst you will pay to go inside it, some might argue that the best views can be found elsewhere and for free. It’s difficult to beat the Trocadero for free views of the tower at dusk. Pick a spot on the grass, pack a picnic or indulge in a crepe from the street vendors, listen to the music that plays in the distance and wait for the Eiffel Tower to put on a display for all who have gathered.
The light show occurs on the hour, every hour until 1am (2am in summer), lasting five minutes each time.
Visit Parc de la Villette
Designed by architect Bernard Tschumi and built on the grounds of a former abattoir, this 135 acre park has something to entertain the entire family. Playgrounds and huge slides will keep the kids occupied, whilst the adults can choose between theatres, art installations, ponds, fountains, music festivals and open air cinema screenings.
Cook French cuisine
Since 2007, the French Federation of Cuisine has offered free cookery classes in some of the city’s busiest markets. Classes are held in French so you’ll have an opportunity to not just brush up on your cooking but on your language skills too.
Places are very limited and classes are very popular. Find out if there’s a class on the day you are in town here and book online to reserve your spot.
Picnic with locals at Place des Vosges
This 17th century palace used to house royalty but now it provides a little respite for weary shoppers who have blown their budgets in the nearby designer boutiques. Hidden in the heart of Paris’s shopping Mecca, Place des Vosges is an idyllic spot in which to simply sit and watch the world go by. Treat yourself to a naughty pastry from a patisserie on route or stretch out on the grass with a huge piece of brie and a bottle of wine.
Visit the vineyards of Montmartre
If your visit to Paris falls during the month of October, head to the top of hilly Montmartre for the Fête des Vendanges, when locals gather to celebrate the wine harvest at Clos Montmartre. Don’t worry if your visit falls outside of the festival period; the area is exceptionally pretty all year round, especially when viewed on a stroll along the rue des saules.
Enjoy free concerts in fabulous places around the city
If you have an evening free in Paris, spend it listening to free music in amazing surroundings. Free concerts are held all over, including inside the American Church in Paris, where a Sunday night concert series has been held since the 1930’s. You will also find classical music recitals and organ music at the Notre Dame and other churches and cathedrals around the city.