Here are some of the best things to do in Paris. A personal Paris Guide and Paris travel tips in exploring the City of Lights. The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, romantic and iconic bridges, old churches, chic bistros, lovely food and street corner cafe.
See all these when you go to the City of Lights – Paris!
But I’m a budget traveller, I can’t possibly afford Paris, it’s one of the most expensive cities in the world! There’s a way to enjoy and experience Paris, even on a shoestring budget!
Read on the helpful Paris travel tips in exploring the Paris attractions and some other best things to do in Paris!
First things first, you must secure your visa.
Most people need a Schengen visa to enter France and other member countries of the European Union (EU).
There are some people who don’t need a visa to enter France, but if you’re a Philippine passport holder, you need to get a Schengen visa before travelling.
The good news is, once you have your Schengen visa, you are free to travel anywhere in the EU within your visa validity – that’s 28 countries!
Plan and Explore!
There are so many interesting places to see in Paris than a week’s stay probably won’t be enough. But since we’re on a shoestring budget, I’ve listed some of the places I’ve gone to with friends.
Tip: Going with a group reduces the cost of travelling, as well as makes everything more fun! You can share meals, accommodation, and in some cases, transport costs.
Another tip: Plan ahead. Make sure you’re armed with a city map and a map of the train and bus routes. It’s best to print them out before you travel, but these maps are also generally available at the airport and in most hotels.
Maps will save you from having to ask for directions in a non-English-speaking country.
Don’t get me wrong, most of the locals can understand English, they just prefer not to speak it. The French love and are so proud of their language that they even sometimes use French subtitles while watching TV and movies.
Don’t worry though, as most public transport terminals and tourist attractions have English translations of important signs and notices. Nevertheless, your maps will come in handy when you want to go from one place to another.
If you don’t mind a short train ride (free, courtesy of your Paris Visite Pass), it’s better to stay at a budget hotel, hostel, or a B&B in Montmartre.
An even cheaper alternative is to hunt for a budget hostel in Zones 2 or 3, as this is cheaper than staying in the city centre.
You’ll need a booking confirmation of your accommodation arrangements when you apply for your Schengen visa, so make sure your hostel/hotel will be able to provide you with one well in advance of your trip.
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The most economical way to roam all over Paris during your stay is to get the Paris Pass.
With this Pass, you get unlimited rides in all public transport systems all over the city. This includes trains, buses, trams and the Montmartre funicular. Depending on the length of your stay, you can get a Pass for 2, 3, 4 or 6 days.
Tip: Since most of the main attractions in Paris are in Zones 1-3 (Central Paris), get the Pass for this zone only.
The Paris train systems – Metro and RER (Réseau Express Régional) – and the bus system run all over the city and are colour coded both in the stations and the maps, so following a route is very easy. Alternatively, you can just walk and enjoy the city even more.
Whether taking the train, bus, or walking, it’s best to plan ahead and know which train, bus, or route to take, take note of which stations to get on and off from, before you start your trip for the day.
This will save you from getting lost, gawking, and being an easy target for pickpockets while you study your maps and try to find your way.
Yes, it’s no surprise, being a tourist-rich city, Paris also has its share of pickpockets. They lurk especially in the train stations, where unprepared tourists are generally too distracted trying to figure out the maps to notice they’re being victimised.
So always pay attention and be prepared – know where you’re going and how to get there!
Read my guide on how to travel around Europe using Interrail Pass and Eurail Pass.
Free City Tour
Yes, Paris is an expensive city, but you can roam it for free! I booked a slot on the Free Walking Tour of Paris with Sandeman’s New Europe.
This company hosts loads of free walking tours around major cities in Europe, Asia and the United States. Just don’t forget to tip at the end of the tour to show your appreciation for your tour guide.
No price tag, just give what you think the tour was worth, or whatever you can afford.
The tour guides are great! They provide interesting information about each place that you visit, which will lead you to appreciate the city’s history and hidden treasures.
Also, the atmosphere during the tour is so friendly and welcoming that you’ll get to meet the other people in your tour group. Because of that, I personally prefer the walking tour over the hop-on-hop-off bus tour of the city.
But if you’re the brooding and quiet type of traveller, prefer seeing the city from atop a double-decker bus, and don’t mind paying for it, then there are a lot of hop-on-hop-off bus and river cruise tours available for you.
Paris is an old city, but while the surrounding areas have gone along with the times, Montmartre has retained its old neighbourhood charm, making it a great destination.
You can either take the funicular or trek to the top of the hill to the Sacre-Coeur (Sacred Heart) Basilica.
Sacre-Coeur Basilica address:35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre, 75018 Paris, France (Show on map)
I suggest walking to really appreciate the neighbourhood. At the top, you’ll get a bird’s eye view of the city (great for a photo op!).
You’ll also find the very famous cabaret Moulin Rouge in Montmartre.
Moulin Rouge address: 82 Boulevard de Clichy, 75018 Paris, France (Show on map)
You may or may not get your dinner here (it costs 100+ Euros per person!), but you can definitely take great photos outside for free.
This part of Montmartre is where you’ll also find the red light district. There are loads of sex shops, and of course, the requisite souvenir shops.
Musée du Louvre
Address: Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France (Show on map)
A visit to Paris is not complete without going to the Louvre Museum. The Louvre is so huge and the exhibits so numerous that you won’t be able to see everything in one visit.
Still, I braved the crowds to see the iconic “Mona Lisa”. The entrance to the museum is 17 Euros, but students and EU residents below 26 years old either get a discount or can enter for free.
So don’t forget to bring your ID or passport when you visit. Here’s a helpful guide if you are visiting the Louvre Museum with kids.
Address: 6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris, France (Show on map)
The Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris) Cathedral is another must-see during your visit.
Be amazed by its French Gothic architecture; stained glass rose windows and gargoyle statues.
If you’re Catholic, you can attend a mass.
There’s also the option of an audio tour (for a fee), if you’d like a historical tour of the Cathedral. A breath-taking view of the Cathedral may be seen from the River Seine, with its iconic spire where the famed Quasimodo hangs out.
Address: Champ de Mars, 5 Avenue Anatole France, 75007 Paris, France (Show on map)
Do we really need a reason to go to the Eiffel Tower? No visit to Paris is complete without at least taking a selfie with the Eiffel Tower in the background!
Tip: You can book your tickets online to escape the very long lines on site.
Ticket costs vary – 17 Euros to the Summit by elevator; 11 Euros to the Second Floor by elevator; and if you really want the full experience (or are saving your Euros), you can climb the stairs to the Second Floor for 7 Euros.
There are different rates for kids of different ages, the handicapped and their companions.
Note: Tickets to climb the stairs are only available on site.
River Seine Cruise
Address: Port de la Bourdonnais, 75007 Paris, France (Show on map)
Very near the Eiffel Tower are the docks for the River Seine Cruises.
A cruise will take you on a tour of Paris from a different perspective. A multi-lingual audio guide will tell you all about Paris and its historic attractions while you cruise along the Seine.
Ticket costs vary depending on the company you choose.
Arc de Triomphe
Address: Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris, France (Show on map)
Another iconic monument is the Arc de Triomphe at the centre of Place Charles de Gaulle.
The Arc is a monument for those who fought for France during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars.
There is a cost to climb to the top of the Arc to see the 12 avenues radiating from this roundabout, and for another breath-taking view of the city. At the base of the Arc is the tomb of the unknown soldier and the eternal flame, in memory of those who fought in both world wars.
If you don’t fancy climbing the 284 steps to the top, you can just have your photo taken from Avenue des Champs-Élysées, with Arc de Triomphe at the background.
Be careful, though, as there’s always heavy traffic here. Don’t be a statistic, make sure you’re not on the path of the cars while you’re taking a selfie! After taking your photo, go explore the posh branded shops along this Avenue – Louis Vuitton, Hermés, Swarovski, Chanel, and Dior, among others.
Chateau de Versailles
Address: Place d’Armes, 78000 Versailles, France (Show on map)
If you’d like a day trip not far from Paris, you can visit Chateau de Versailles.
A 40-minute to an hour train ride will take you to this Palace of the French Royal Family. Entrance to the Palace costs 18 Euros but is free for visitors under 18, EU residents under 26, people with disabilities and their companions.
Once there, you can tour the Palace and the magnificent gardens with an audio guide. There are also temporary exhibitions you can enjoy, and musical fountain and garden show on some days, but these cost extra.
Address: 77777 Marne-la-Vallée, France (Show on map)
If you’re travelling with kids, or are just young-at-heart, you can go to Disneyland Paris for a different take on the happiest place on Earth. This is also on the outskirts of Paris but is well worth the visit.
Tip: There are online offers selling packages that include park tickets and transportation from and back to the city centre.
This may cost a bit more than a DIY but will save you the hassle of catching the Metro and RER, especially since Disneyland is in Zone 5, so if your Paris Visite Pass for Zones 1-3 won’t be valid going there.