How to Visit Paris on a Budget: Where to Eat, Drink and Explore

Paris is known for being chic and sophisticated, but it doesn’t have to be tough on your wallet.

Vacations can get expensive. The cost of the hotel and flights add up before you’ve even landed in your destination. And once you arrive, it’s easy to burn through your budget on food, attractions and entertainment—especially in a city like Paris.

Although Paris is known for its classy bars and three-Michelin starred restaurants, there’s a budget-friendly side to the French capital. This version of Paris usually involves mingling with locals in picturesque public spaces and drinking in hidden bars only Parisians know. 

Take our advice and seek out the low-cost life—visiting Paris on a budget is just as much fun! 

Visiting Paris on a budget is easier than it seems! Here are some tips to help you out.

Free Museums in Paris

A handful of the best Paris museums are free, and always will be. 

Petit Palais

The petit brother of the famous Grand Palais just across the street, this museum is a delight of polished marble, ancient Greek sculptures, ornate murals and grand paintings. The beautiful garden, hidden away in a central courtyard, is welcome moment of calm away from the hustle and bustle of the Champs Elysées.

Atelier Brancusi

Located just in front of the Centre Pompidou, the Atelier Brancusi is an exact replica of the artist’s studio. Constantin Brancusi, a Romanian national who famously walked from Bucharest to Paris between 1903-1904, donated his entire studio to the city of Paris upon his death in 1957. The studio is packed full of his sculptures and plinths, creating a mix of rudely chopped wooden blocks and elegant, feminine forms. 

Musée d’Art Moderne

Just a stone’s throw from the Trocadero and Eiffel Tower, the MAM’s permanent collection is free. With a collection of more than 13,000 objects ranging from the early 20th century to today, this is one of France’s leading cultural centers. Check out some of the biggest names in French modern art next to contemporary icons.

First Sundays of the month

On the first Sunday of every month, all Paris museums are free! Get down to the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay or any of the other top museum. Just expect to be joined by hundreds of culture-hungry Parisians and visitors!

The Mona Lisa has unfortunately become one of the biggest tourist traps in Paris. Consider visiting some of the underrated gems at the Louvre instead.
The Louvre is a classic Parisian destination—and it’s free the first Sunday of every month!

Cheap & Free Activities in Paris

Grab a bike

Sign up for the city’s Velib Metropole service. Paris’ bike sharing network is a cheap and fun way to see the city. With hundreds of stations in every corner of the capital, it’s easy to jump on and off the bikes wherever you want (and it’s cheaper than electric scooters).

Cinema en plein air

From July to September, make the most of the outdoor cinema at Parc de la Villette! As the sun goes down, join the assembly of film lovers under the stars—and don’t forget the picnic! Deck chairs can be rented for a couple of euros for optimal comfort.

Play pétanque

The classic old-guy activity has been reappropriated by the Parisian youth! Grab a set of boules and get down to the sandy banks of canal Ourcq for hours of fun. If you don’t want to buy your own, Bar Ourcq just next to the canal will lend a set for a small deposit. 

When visiting Paris on a budget, playing pétanque is a great way to mingle with the locals.
The younger generation is making pétanque cool again. Photo credit: Lake Tahoe Petanque Club

Where to Eat in Paris On a Budget

Miznon

Stop at Miznon on trendy Canal Saint Martin for cheap Israeli tapas and homemade pitas (starting at €8) ranging from full to bursting. It’s the type of place where whatever you’re eating drips down your arm, however hard you might try to be chic. 

Bouillon Chartier

In the 1900s, there were more than 250 bouillon restaurants in Paris. These are cheap places to eat with a short menu of traditional food. Bouillon Chartier is one of the few remaining old restaurants in Paris. The impressive space and hilarious waiters provide a classic experience at a low price. Appetizers start at €4, and mains go from €8.

Bouillon Chartier is one example of the Paris bouillons that have withstood the test of time.
Bouillon Chartier during the characteristic mealtime rush. Photo credit: Jayfredem

Miss Banh Mi

The banh mi is a Vietnamese invention—a culinary result of the expanding French empire in the 19th century. Think lemongrass chicken, marinated eggplant, and spicy tofu, enveloped in the classic French bread. Sandwiches at Miss Banh Mi start at just €7. The menu is subject to change.

Urfa Durum

This tiny space in the vibrant 10th arrondissement is full of heat: a wood burning oven churning out fresh bread and lamachun. At a charcoal grill, kebabs are constantly spitting and flaming, until they are cooked to perfection. Sandwiches here start at €6.

Le pique-nique

Do as the French do and skip the restaurant! In good weather, the banks of the Seine are teeming with picnickers. Stop off at your local fromagerie, grab a baguette, and join the locals down by the water. Just don’t forget the wine!

Insider’s tip: The banks of the Seine are pedestrianized and equipped with toilets from the Louvre to métro station Sully Morland on the right bank.

When visiting Paris on a budget, join the locals for a picnic on the banks of the Seine.
A riverside picnic is a favorite hobby among Parisians. Photo credit: Bryce Edwards

Our Favorite Cheap Bars in Paris

Ô P’tit Paris

Join trendy locals at this vibrant bar just off the rugged rue Strasbourg Saint Denis. They serve €3 pints of beer and the frites are free!

La Loutre Bar

It’s rare to find a quality cocktail bar which doesn’t break the bank, so this gem in the trendy 11th arrondissement is worth celebrating. Be sure to arrive between 6–9 p.m., when happy hour means cocktails for €6.

La Pétanque

La Pétanque (40 Rue Etienne Dolet) is an authentic Paris bar, complete with old men permanently attached to the counter and Turkish-style toilets in the courtyard. It also happens to serve some super cheap Pastis, and looks out on a beautiful pedestrianized square. It’s a corner of the 20th arrondissement that time forgot.

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