Things to do

Visiting Paris: Top free things to do in Paris

A trip to Paris can come with a high price tag, but with our guide you can explore the city without worrying about your budget.

Paris has a bit of a reputation as one of the world’s most expensive destinations, and it’s certainly not difficult to blow your holiday budget on all the fantastic food, cultural experiences, and tours that you can take around the city. Fine dining and luxury hotels aside, Paris is a goldmine of activities that can be enjoyed for free.

We’re happy to share our favourite of the city’s hidden gems and secret places where you can enjoy an afternoon without having to worry about your budget. Our list of free things to do in Paris will help you to explore the city like a local, and fall for its many charms.

Free first Sundays

Many of Paris’ museums and galleries, such as the Musée d'Art Moderne, are free entry to see the permanent collections. And while many of its more famous institutions do charge, they also take part in ‘free first Sundays’. This means that on the first Sunday of every month, some museums are free entry, such as the Musée d'Orsay and the Centre Pompidou. From October to March, the Louvre also takes part in free first Sundays.

Under 26 go free

A feature not often widely-known is the under 26 benefits available in Paris. If you are under 26 and visiting the city, you can take advantage of discounts on the metro, many museums, and attractions in the city.

For example, the Louvre allows those under 26 to visit for free on Friday evenings, while under 18s can visit for free year-round. For some museums, you can even avoid the queue by showing a valid ID, but others will be a normal wait in line before you can receive your free ticket. Check online for each museum’s rules.

The Ticket Jeune is a daily ticket that allows you to move around Paris via metro, RER, bus, tram or SNCF train at a discounted price if you are under 26. It is valid only on weekends, from 00.00 a.m. to 11.59 p.m. You can buy it where you usually buy normal RATP tickets or you can book it online. Before using your Ticket Jeune, you must write your name on it and be aware the price is different across the 5 zones Paris is split into.

Stroll along the Seine

One of the best evening activities to do when in Paris is a stroll along the river Seine. While it’s possible to enjoy a boat tour along the river, it’s free to explore on foot and you’ll pass beautiful views of the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral. The Seine passes through the centre of Paris, so there’s no better way to explore some of the city’s best sites. It’s dotted with quays and bridges, making an evening walk especially pretty.

people sat along a lit up river bank at night

Visit the Sacré-Cœur

One of the best views of the city can be found by visiting the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Free to enter, it’s open every day from 6am until 10pm, and sits atop the hill of Montmartre in Paris’ 18th arrondissement. Inside you’ll find stunning mosaic ceilings including a 475 square-foot Mosaic of Christ, a vast chapel, grand pipe organ and eerily beautiful crypt. Built in a Romano-Byzantine style, it was apparently inspired by such places as Venice’s San Marco.

white temple with trees each side and a blue sky

Meet the locals at Marché de Belleville

If you’re looking to head a little off the beaten path, travel to Paris’ Belleville neighbourhood. You can enjoy wonderful city views from the Parc de Belleville, and on Tuesdays and Fridays between 7am and 2:30pm, you’ll find the Marché de Belleville. Selling quality fresh groceries, the market started in 1858 and has been held along the boulevard de Belleville since 1860. It’s really fun to explore the market and meet the locals, and it’s a great place to try your hand at speaking a little French!

Discover history at Arènes de Lutèce

One of the most important historical sites in Paris, the Arènes de Lutèce is a wonderful hidden gem, away from the hustle and bustle of the main road. Tucked away in the city’s 5th arrondissement, the site was once a bullring and arena, built between the 1st and 2nd centuries. Once capable of holding around 15,000 people, the arena was around 100 metres wide. This part of the city is especially beautiful in the summer, when you’ll see locals playing pétanque and enjoying the sunshine.

people sat around a huge sandy arena surrounded by trees

Parc du Champ de Mars

The Champ de Mars is a large green area between the Eiffel Tower and the École Militaire. This peaceful park is named after the Campus Martius (Mars Field) in Rome, as a tribute to the Roman God of war, as the lawns here were formerly used as drilling and marching grounds by the French military. It’s an ideal picnic spot, with scheduled events often taking place across summer including children’s puppet shows.

Cimitière du Père Lachaise

This is the largest cemetery in the city and possibly the most popular too as it attracts millions of visitors each year. This may seem strange until you set foot in the place itself, which is a treasure trove of unique gravestones and burial monuments from across the ages. It’s also the final resting place of numerous notable French people with around 75 painters, 40 composers and 40 singers buried here, including, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, and Marcel Proust. Take a stroll and marvel at the unique sculptures or book a guided tour for stories and highlights.

Woman walking down a cobbled path lined with trees, tombs and gravestones on each side

Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris

This Gothic monument has truly withstood the test of time, having been built in the Middle Ages. It has been badly damaged at times, during the French Revolution and, more recently, in a fire in 2019, but has been fully restored. Inside you will find plenty to enjoy. You have to pay to climb the cathedral's twin towers (a climb of 387 steps) or visit the crypt, but the rest of the space is free to explore at your leisure, even during worship. Enormous stained-glass windows, intricate architecture, and a host of small chapels and nooks filled with religious features await you.

La Promenade Plantée

This rather magical park is 10 metres above street level and formed from an abandoned 19th century viaduct. This means you can stroll along a green paradise from the Bastille to the Bois de Vincennes, roughly 3 miles, with a unique view of the surrounding city. There are staircases and lifts dotted along the route, so you can pop down to check out the Viaduc des Arts: 45 brick archways transformed into artisan showrooms for glass blowers and jewellers to furniture and tapestry restorers.

When you visit Paris, use our guide and explore the city on a budget

We hope we’ve inspired you to see Paris in a new way and helped you to plan some affordable activities. Travel from Folkestone to Calais takes just 35-minutes with LeShuttle, and then Paris is under a 3-hour drive away.

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