Free Things to Do in Paris

There’s no denying that a visit to Paris is often going to be an expensive affair – especially when the euro remains such a strong currency. But do you think that keeps budget travelers away from this famously costly city?

Au contraire.

Budget-conscious travelers know that just about any place can be budget-friendly if you’re being clever, and that includes Paris. In addition to saving money by staying in hostels in Paris and eating on the cheap in Paris, there are also ways to save money on many of the city’s attractions. Yes, some of the “must-do” things in Paris will cost you money, but if you play your cards right by taking advantage of the many free attractions in Paris for most of your trip, then fitting a few higher-priced tickets into your itinerary won’t feel like such an economic burden.

In this article, you’ll find information on the Paris sights that are always free, some that are free at certain times or days of the week, and some that we think are pretty darn cheap all the time (and so might fit into even the tightest travel budget).

>> And for a more in-depth look at attractions in Paris, check out this article on things to do in Paris.

Always-Free Paris

These activities are always considered “free things to do in Paris” – there’s never an admission fee, no matter what time of day or day or the year.
  • Notre Dame Cathedral – That’s right, the famous cathedral (one of Paris’ top sights) is always free to enter. You’ll pay a fee to climb the tower (usually) or visit the treasury, but not to enter the church itself.
  • Eiffel Tower Views – Sure, taking the elevator (or climbing the stairs) to the top costs a pretty penny, but there’s no charge for enjoying a view of one of the world’s most iconic structures. Bonus points if you’re picnicking in the public green spaces around the tower – cheap eats and a great view? Priceless.
  • Paris Greeters Tours – The Paris Greeters are residents who you can contact (via the website) for short tours of certain parts of the city, and it’s entirely free.
  • Seine River – There’s no charge for a stroll along Paris’ famous river, or for perusing the legendary bookseller carts that line up along the riverside on the Left Bank.
  • Steps of Sacre Coeur – Many would argue that the steps in front of the Sacre Coeur church atop Montmartre offer some of the best views in the city, and it’s a view you’ll enjoy for free.
  • Paris Flea Markets – Sure, doing any shopping will set you back a few euro, but walking through Paris’ many outdoor markets and enjoying the people-watching they offer won’t cost a thing.
  • Fragonard Perfume Museum – Not only is this great perfume museum free to visit, the guided tour is free, too.
  • Versailles Gardens – A visit to the Versailles palace will cost you, but the fabulous and extensive gardens are free of charge (except on Sundays, when the musical fountains are going).
  • Galeries Lafayette Fashion Shows – Each Friday from March-December the popular Paris department store has a free fashion show on the 7th floor.
  • Hôtel de Ville – Despite the name, you can’t book a room at the Hôtel de Ville – it’s Paris’ City Hall. It’s beautiful to look at from the outside, and there are public areas inside with art exhibits that change regularly and that you can visit for free.
  • Maison de Victor Hugo – Fans of the author will enjoy a visit to his apartment, which includes exhibits of first editions.
  • Musée Curie – This museum is housed in the one-time lab of Marie Curie, and displays include the Nobel prizes she won.
  • Maison de Balzac – Even if you’ve never read a single thing Balzac wrote, a visit to his former apartment is worth it for the view of the Eiffel Tower from the attached garden.
  • Musée Carnavalet – This excellent Paris history museum is always free, and a bonus is that it’s housed in old Parisian mansions.
  • Parks and Gardens in Paris – There are too many to list here, but Paris is full of parks, gardens, squares, and public green spaces that are free to enjoy. Some of them have extras depending on the season, too, including free summer movies at the Parc de la Villette and free puppet shows at the Jardin du Luxembourg.
  • Cemeteries in Paris – Not only do the old Paris cemeteries like Pere Lachaise and the Montparnasse Cemetery let you get some quasi-celebrity sightings with all the famous people buried in them, they’re just creepy-cool places to wander.
  • Paris Plage – When the city turns the banks of the Seine into a beach every summer, it’s available to the public free of charge.
  • Ice Skating Rinks – And when, in the winter, temporary ice skating rinks pop up in a few places around the city, they’re free, too. (Renting the skates will cost a nominal fee.)
  • Free Concerts in Paris – Many of the churches in Paris regularly host free concerts, whether it’s an organ recital at Notre Dame or Saint-Eustache, classical or blues concerts at the American Church in Paris, or choir rehearsal at Sacre-Coeur. The days of the week vary, but if you’re interested ask at the tourist information office to see what’s going on while you’re in town.
  • Musee de Prefecture de Police – Yes, it’s a bit out of the ordinary for a trip to Paris, but if you’ve got antsy kids who might want to see something a little different or you just really like police history, then Paris’ police museum might be ideal.
  • Observation Deck at La Samaritaine – Before this one-time department store closed for renovations in 2005, the grand view from the top-floor observation deck was free. We’ll see if they keep it that way upon re-opening.

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French Riviera - Cote d'Azur: Taxis & Rental Cars

Taxi Service

Taxis in the French Riviera are abundant and easily accessible; however, because most of the towns are so small there is usually an imposed minimum fee of 8 euros per cab ride. Nice, the biggest city in the riviera, is mostly walkable but if you're trying to get to the Musee Chagall from Old Town or the Promenade des Anglais, a cab is worth it. It is easy to catch cabs on the curb and it might be more convenient and time-saving than taking buses to certain attractions.

At the peak of tourist season (July-August), traffic becomes a problem if you are trying to get from one town to another via taxi during the day but if you miss the last train or bus back to your hotel, keep in mind that most towns on the Riviera aren't very far from each other, especially if your accomodations are in a central location (such as Nice.)

Rental Cars

Renting a car is also an option for exploring the French Riviera and this service is available at airports and large railway stations. Although renting a car can make many areas that are unreacheable by public transportation accessible, it is drastically more expensive than renting a car in the US. Also, mostly all available cars are manual transmission. You have to make advance reservations for automatic cars and these are only available in the large cities. Traffic is a concern in the summer: taking secondary roads or public transportation is a good alternative.


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France Awards Legion d'Honneur to The Weinstein Company Co-chairman Harvey Weinstein Weinstein To Receive Country's Oldest And Highest Honor In Ceremony In Paris Read more here:

Published: Friday, Mar. 2, 2012 - 4:11 pm
/PRNewswire/ -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy has named Harvey Weinstein, Co-Chairman of The Weinstein Company (TWC), a recipient of the 2012 Legion d'Honneur, in recognition of Weinstein's contributions to cinema and his decades of work producing some of the most highly regarded films of our time. Weinstein was nominated personally by President Sarkozy on July 22, 2011 and will receive the award in a ceremony to take place in Paris.

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President Sarkozy wrote the following upon nominating Weinstein to the Legion d'Honneur: "This prestigious distinction, which I wanted to come from my personal allocation, is a testimony of the admiration of millions of French citizens for the exceptional quality of the films that you have produced. It also expresses our gratitude to someone who has always shown great friendship towards our country and our cinema which you have enabled so many Americans to discover."

Said Weinstein, "I am honored and humbled by this recognition from President Sarkozy and the people of France. All my life, I have loved and been inspired by French cinema. I am still the young boy who walked two miles to The Mayfair movie theater in Flushing, NY to see films by the greats – Lelouch, Godard, Renoir and my personal favorite Francois Truffaut. They inspired me and led me to the place I am in today. I hope to continue my friendship with France and its filmmakers for many years to come."

France's oldest and highest distinction, the Legion d'Honneur was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 and is awarded to outstanding individuals who have contributed to France and to the ideals it upholds. Past recipients include Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, Akira Kurosawa, Clint Eastwood, Robert DeNiro, Satyajit Ray, and Steven Spielberg to name just a few. Weinstein requested to keep the honor private until now to avoid any conflict of interest with Academy Award® Best Picture winner THE ARTIST.

Weinstein will enter the Legion d'Honneur with the grade of "Chevalier." Weinstein has been bringing interesting and cutting edge independent films to audiences for three decades, first as founder and Chairman of Miramax from 1979-2005, and subsequently as founder and Co-Chairman of TWC, launched in 2005. In spring 2011, he acquired Michel Hazanavicius's THE ARTIST, a French production that went on to win five 2012 Academy Awards®, including Best Picture. Over the years, the cultural impact of some of his most well known films – PULP FICTION, GANGS OF NEW YORK, THE AVIATOR, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, THE PIANO, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, GOOD WILL HUNTING – has been recognized and awarded on many levels.

Weinstein has been responsible for the distribution and promotion of more than 30 French films in the United States, including previously released EDITH AND MARCEL (EDITH ET MARCEL, 1983); DELICATESSEN (1991); THREE COLORS: BLUE (TROIS COULEURS: BLEU, 1993); THREE COLORS: RED (TROIS COULEURS: ROUGE, 1994); THREE COLORS: WHITE (TROIS COULEURS: BIALY, 1994); AMELIE (2001); LE CONCERT (2009); SARAH'S KEY (ELLE S'APPELAIT SARAH, 2010); and upcoming releases including box office sensation THE INTOUCHABLES (UNTOUCHABLES, 2011); A GANG STORY (LES LYONNAIS, 2012); WAR OF THE BUTTONS (LA NOVELLE GUERRE DES BOUTONS, 2012); and PLAYERS (LES INFIDELES, 2012).


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