Paris is known for its luxurious haute-couture fashion, Michelin star restaurants, and lavish hotels with views of the Eiffel Tower. So you might be thinking that visiting Paris on a budget is impossible.
Truth is, this city is so much more than ritzy attractions. And while living there may have you spending quite a bit in apartment rental fees, Paris’ arrondissements have something for everyone.
For a city that’s known for hosting starving artists and bohemians, it’s actually no surprise that some of Paris’ best treasures are either affordable or don’t cost a thing!
Paris has endless sights and countless attractions, but in actuality, the city is quite small. This makes it easy to get around without shelling out too much cash.
Does Paris have a walk-score? If so, it should be 100. One of my favourite things to do in the city is simply going for a walk – even if I don’t have anywhere to go!
Unlike Toronto or New York’s grid system, Paris isn’t as easily navigated. With intersections leading diagonally it’s easy to get lost in the city of lights.
The very best thing about walking around Paris is that it doesn’t cost you a thing.
flying into Paris or catching a train into town, chances are, there will be a metro station nearby. Paris has one of the most expansive subway systems in the entire world.
Spanning all of the city’s twenty arrondissements and out towards the suburbs, Paris’ metro system is super convenient and affordable for getting around, especially when your feet are tired.
Tickets (t+) can be purchased at most metro stations for €1.90 and you can cut costs and get a package of 10 tickets for €14.90.
There are over 300 metro stations in Paris, making them a super convenient and frugal choice for making your way around the sights.
Just like the subway, Paris also has wide access to buses and trams (streetcars) to help you get around the city.
You can use the same tickets as you would for the metro, but if you’re buying a ticket on the bus, the price increases to €2.
Note that you cannot transfer between metro/RER and trams/busses – this is something I often forgot.
If you have a Navigo pass (available weekly or monthly) then you won’t have these limitations. That being said, these passes are only worthwhile if you’re staying in Paris for an extended amount of time.
Are There Cheap Hotels in Paris?
If you want budget accommodations in Paris, the best advice would be to skip hotels entirely.
In one of the most visited cities in the world, hotel prices are sky-high, especially during the popular tourist seasons.
It’s certainly worth it to look for other accommodation options when staying in Paris, but that’s really not as hard as it sounds.
Finding an Airbnb in Paris
There are thousands of Airbnbs available in Paris, so much so that it’s actually
caused quite a stir.
Airbnb is a great way for locals and smaller businesses to make money off of the large number of visitors that enter into Paris, so why not take advantage as a traveller?
For those unfamiliar with Airbnb or short-term rental services, you’ll be getting so much more than just a room. Many short-term accommodations feature kitchens, private courtyards, or personal touches that you wouldn’t find in hotels.
It gives you the chance to live like a local in typical neighbourhoods outside of the tourist hubs. Hosts (whether on-site or not) usually give great advice on their particular arrondissement, so you’ll already have the best tips.
Where to Stay in Paris on a Budget
Paris may not to be a large city, but there sure is a lot to see. Each neighbourhood (or arrondissement) has their own vibe, as well as their own pros and cons.
Where you stay in this vibrant city will depend on your budget, what you want to see, and the experience you’re after.
Paris is separated by the Seine into what most people call the “left bank” and “right bank”, with the “Ile de la Cite” in the middle.
The left bank tends to be quieter and more reserved for families, while the right bank is where the majority of the population lives.
Affordability with Convenience
If you’re looking for affordable accommodations and restaurant options, but still want to be in the heart of the action, the 11th and 17th arrondissements may be up your alley.
Paris’ 11th arrondissement is getting trendier and trendier and is now one of the hippest areas in the city.
What makes this neighbourhood better than other popular areas is its affordability in comparison. It’s also well connected to metro and train lines.
This area has a slew of restaurants and bars that are all the rage, yet budget-friendly. The 11th is also great for seeing live music with a number of affordable venues in the neighbourhood.
The 17th arrondissement is right near the sought-after Montmartre, and the festive Pigalle area.
It’s well connected to popular metro lines and is much more affordable than its surrounding neighbourhoods yet just a stone’s throw away from some of the city’s best attractions.
Sacre Couer, Moulin Rouge, and Paris’ interesting red light district will be in walking distance in this area.
While you’ll find some touristy restaurants and bars on the outskirts, they’re plenty of hidden gems in the Batignolles area.
The Peacefulness of the Suburbs in the City 20th Arrondissement
When I booked my first apartment in Paris’ 20th arrondissement, I thought that it may be a challenge to experience the ‘real’ Paris in the more-recently added neighbourhood.
Boy, was I wrong. The 20th may be right on the edge of suburbia, but it has its own charms that you can’t find inside of Paris or its suburbs.
You won’t be in the heart of the city’s highlights, but you will have access to convenient metro and tram lines, as well as dirt-cheap grocery stores and bars.
If you’re looking for a retreat at the end of your day, the already calm 2oth arrondissement is at its quietest at night and on Sundays, so you’ll be sure to catch up on your beauty rest.
Where to Find Cheap Food in Paris
Paris is renowned for its Michelin Star restaurants and celebrity chefs. While that’s all great for foodies with a higher budget, these restaurants can be out of reach for some.
While you shouldn’t resist that restaurant you’ve been dreaming of visiting for forever (hey sometimes it’s worth it to splurge), you wouldn’t want your travel budget to be drained after three meals.
So, how do you survive in a city with so many expensive temptations?
Parisian Restaurants and Bars
Drinking in Paris isn’t as expensive as other touristy cities, depending on where you go.
While there are bars in Paris that offer a glass of beer for €4, there are many that start charging at €10. The more affordable the neighbourhood, the cheaper your options will be.
There are a number of cheap Paris restaurants fit for those on a budget scattered throughout the city.
But along with those, there are some tips below that can get you through your hanger no matter what neighbourhood you’re in.
One of the easiest ways to find cheap restaurant deals in Paris is to look for fixed menus or ‘prixe fix’ menus.
Usually found during the lunch hours, these menus often offer an appetizer, main dish, and dessert for a fixed price. These menus are usually much more affordable than ordering a la carte and feature some of the restaurant’s specialties.
A variety of restaurants offer these menus from budget favourites to Michelin Star pros and is a great way to treat yourself without breaking the bank.
Food Carts Never Fail
There are a
ton of food carts scattered around Paris with a variety of street food options to delve into.
You can find Parisian food carts and stands offering popular staples like crepes and paninis in almost every arrondissement. And it’s not often that you’ll have a bad bite.
These food stands are often much more affordable than dining in and are great in warmer seasons when you can find a scenic spot to sit and enjoy.
Use Apps to Save Money at Paris Restaurants
If fixed menus aren’t appetizing to you, there are apps in Paris that offer discounts when you make a reservation at select restaurants through them.
These restaurants aren’t just your usual pizza shop either. They include top-rated restaurants and a variety of cuisine choices.
Discounts get pretty steep too, with the highest being 50% off. The discount can be applied to your full reservation so your full party of five receives a sweet deal on their bill.
I’ve personally used the app
La Fourchette on multiple occasions and restaurants honoured this deal with no problem.
Other apps like Groupon and TripAdvisor are also great for scoring some deep discounts on popular restaurants.
Coffee lovers will be happy to know that you can get your fix for fairly cheap while out and about in Paris. There are cafes on almost every corner offering up espresso for about a euro.
Pro tip: When you’re out sightseeing, you’ll find that many public toilets in tourist areas charge a fee. Most restaurants and cafes will only lend their restrooms to customers.
Instead of paying a bathroom fee, simply hop into a cafe, get an espresso, and you’ve killed two birds with one stone.
Do visit a grocery store if you’re spending some time in Paris. Items that are super expensive in North America (like cheese!) are cheaper in Paris since a lot of it is produced in France.
Take the opportunity to whip up some gourmet-style meals of your own for a fraction of the cost by visiting grocery stores. This is where a kitchen or kitchenette in an Airbnb comes in handy.
What you find cheaper will depend on where you’re from, but for a Canadian, the following are some cheap grocery store items I took advantage of:
Milk and Eggs: the perfect staple to every breakfast and both are super cheap at most grocery stores. Cheese (of course): My top choices included Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, Goats, Feta, and Mimolette. Desserts: You’ll find yogurt and pudding to be cheap, but don’t stop there. Parisians go hard on their desserts, especially in the refrigerated dessert aisle. Flan, creme brulee, macarons, and exotic flavours of comforting favourites are all available. While they may not be up to pastry shop standards, they’re definitely beyond mine. Fish and Seafood: I was so spoiled when it came to seafood and fish in Paris that it became a much more regular part of our diet. From smoked salmon to shellfish, prices in Paris made it much more affordable to eat with an added bit of a luxury. Bread: When in doubt, you’re sure to find at least a baguette for under a euro at almost any bakery or grocery store in the city. Great for sandwiches or just eating with cheese. Wine: I don’t think this needs much of an explanation, but of course wine is cheap in Paris. Some of the best wines in the world come from the French region. Indulge, and don’t forget the bubbly! The Art of the Picnic
Once you’ve gathered all your cheap staples, you don’t have to be confined to your apartment to enjoy them all.
I get it, Parisian apartments can be teeny and are not so great for entertaining. The city of Paris however, is perfect for sharing a meal amongst friends.
During the warmer months, picnics become just as normal as walking your dog. There are plenty of parks and green spaces in Paris to take advantage of and do as the Parisians do.
The Seine is a great spot for unrolling a blanket, slicing up some cheese and indulging in some rose with a scenic view either alone or with some company.
This is just your basic guide for completing a trip to Paris without burning a hole in your wallet.
What are your favourite tips for travelling to Paris on a budget?
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