We have been lucky enough to live in Paris for over 8 years and we have loved every single minute of it. Ok, maybe the morning rush hour on the metro has not been our favourite thing to do, but otherwise it was great. Visiting museums (often for free), discovering restaurants from every corner of the world and deciding which bars make our top ten have been just some of our highlights.
Of course, doing everything would be impossible in one day. Paris is surprisingly small for a capital city, but you would need a good weekend just to see the top attractions without going in Museums. So what if we only had 24 hours to visit? What would we do?
Just 24 hours in Paris…
While we would love to tell you to go to loads of secret places, it would just be a shame not to experience the heart of the city, especially if it is your first visit. We will publish another article at a later date with some alternative activities when you have seen everything in Paris.
Below is our proposed itinerary on a budget, spending time in the centre during the day, and heading to where the locals hang out in the evening.
(See further down for our cost breakdown)
Early morning: Head to Notre-Dame
Get up early and grab one of the croissants (1 euro) or pain au chocolats (1.20 euro) that France is famous for! There is a bakery on virtually every street corner, but try to favour those that are ‘artisan’ because the produce is guaranteed to be freshly baked and not frozen.
If you manage to resist the temptation to buy another one, head for the closest metro station and go to either Hôtel de Ville or Saint Michel. From here you can walk to Notre-Dame, which should be fairly quiet early in the morning. Take time to go inside (it is free) and have a good look around.
When leaving the cathedral, walk away with the front of the church behind you until you reach the first bridge. This is where you will get the best photo of Notre-Dame!
Walk along the banks of the River Seine
In some ways the River Seine is the heart of Paris and you will notice the huge amount of people either walking, biking or running along its banks. Head West past the fountain at Saint Michel, the fancy Saint Germain Neighbourhood and the Acadamie Francaise, where the French language is carefully protected by top intellectuals.
Once you reach Pont des Arts, cross the bridge and head into the first of the Louvre Museum’s courtyards. From here you will see that there is also the main courtyard with the famous pyramids. Of course, you’ll want to get the signature photo of you pinching the top of the biggest pyramid, but take a moment to notice that the Louvre, the arch in front of it, the monument at Concorde, the Arc de Triomphe AND the Grande Arche at La Défense are perfectly aligned. Cool huh?
Have lunch in the Tuileries Gardens
The Tuileries Gardens is located just in front of the Louvre and has plenty of space to sit down either on the grass or around the ponds on the metal chairs. There are a few restaurants in the garden, but it is much cheaper to head towards rue de Rivoli and grab something to eat there.
- The cheapest option would be to buy a basic sandwich and a drink from a small supermarket for around 3 euros.
- If you feel like splashing your cash a little more, buy a savoury crêpe from a stand for around 5 euros or a sandwich from a bakery for about the same price.
- Families or groups could also grab a sandwich filling (pâté, ham, cheese etc.) from the supermarket and a baguette from the bakery. It would be a pretty good deal!
Near the Tuileries gardens
Eric Kayser Bakery: 4 Rue de l’Échelle
Franprix supermarket: 165 Rue Saint Honoré
Once you’ve got the necessary, find yourself a chair in the gardens and watch the world go by while enjoying your lunch!
Head up the Champs Elysées
From the Tuileries Gardens, walk across Place de la Concorde, not forgetting to take a snap of the Eiffel Tower on the way, and walk towards the Arc de Triomphe in the distance. The first part of the Champs Elysées is quite boring because there is nothing there, but if you happen to visit in December, you will be able to explore a huge Christmas market here.
On the way up, keep your eye out on the left for the Hôtel des Invalides with its big gold dome. On the right you might notice the French president’s house, known as the ‘Elysée’.
Once you pass the Franklin Roosevelt metro station, you will see that there is more going on. We suggest walking on the right-hand side of the road because there is more to see and it is more affordable. Wander in and out of some of the car showrooms and luxury shops. Going against what you may have heard, the Champs Elysées does have some reasonably priced high-street shops as well. Take a look in some of the French favourites: Promod, NafNaf and the biggest H&M in Paris.
If you’re thirsty or hungry on the Champs Elysées, head to the Monoprix which has a supermarket in the basement. Otherwise, avoid the restaurants and cafés which are mostly expensive in this area.
Take a look under the Arc de Triomphe
Thay’s right, we said under! When you’re standing at the edge of the roundabout, it can seem like a real mystery as to how people got to the middle. And before you try, don’t even think about crossing the 10+ lanes of traffic. This is one of the most accident-prone places to drive in Paris… Rather, use the tunnel that looks like a metro entrance. It is on the right-hand side of the road when looking at the Arc de Triomphe with the Louvre behind you.
Walk to Trocadero for a great view of the Eiffel Tower
You might not be able to see it, but you are really close to the Eiffel Tower from here. Walk down Avenue Kléber and before you know it you will be at Trocadero. We think that this is one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower, especially at night when it sparkles on the hour.
Go for dinner in the popular Oberkampf neighbourhood
Most of our favourite, and the best restaurants in Paris are located in the Oberkampf neighbourhood where most of the locals hang out. Just take the metro (line 9) at Trocadéro and get off at the Oberkampf station.
For an excellent meal at a budget price, we would suggest going to Les Fabricants where you can get a main dish and a glass of wine for as little as 10 euros. If you want to save a few pennies, you can also just ask for tap water (totally normal in France).
Before or after your meal, you could also go for a drink in the area. Oberkafé serves pints of beer for just 3 euros, probably one of the cheapest in Paris. If not, La Quille is more expensive, but you can also have a game of mini bowling for 5 euros per person.
How to enjoy a day in Paris for less than 20 euros
So if you followed this itinerary, what would it cost you?
|Activity||Price per person|
|Croissant from a bakery||1.00|
|Metro ticket to Notre Dame||1.80|
|Visit Notre Dame||FREE|
|Walk along the Seine||FREE|
|A basic sandwich and drink from a supermarket||3.00|
|Visiting the Champs Elysées||FREE|
|Drink from a supermarket||1.00|
|Visit under the Arc de Triomphe||FREE|
|The best view of the Eiffel Tower from Trocadero||FREE|
|Metro ticket to Oberkampf||1.80|
|Main dish and glass of wine atLes Fabricants||10.00|
|If you feel like splashing the cash…|
|A last drink at Oberkafé||3.00|
|A game of bowling at La Quille||5.00|
Even cheaper Paris by going self-catered
This guide goes along the eating and drink ‘outside’ route because that is what we enjoy. However, it would be even cheaper to stay in Paris if you had self-catered accommodation. You can buy a huge range of food in the French capital and there are plenty of affordable supermarkets:
Cheapest supermarkets in Paris: Dia, ED
Mid-range: Simply Market, Carrefour, Franprix, G20
Most expensive supermarkets: Monoprix, Casino, corner shops or ‘Alimentation Générale’
Organic supermarkets in Paris: (From cheapest to most expensive) Biocoop, Bio c’ Bon, Naturalia
Paris does not have to be expensive!
Visiting the French capital does not have to be expensive. There are loads of free things to do in Paris, so the majority of your budget will be spent on transport and food. If you are lucky enough to be staying in accommodation with kitchen facilities, you can easily reduce this budget by preparing your own meals, just be careful not to be tempted by some of the delicious speciality boutiques!
Got a question about visiting Paris on a budget? Don’t hesitate to ask in the comments. After all, with over 14 years of combined experience in the city, we dare say we’re experts 😉