18 Best Free Things To Do in Paris in 2024

Welcome to the city of lights, love, and expensive price tags. Forget about going into debt, we’re here to show you the best free things to do in Paris.

From admiring breathtaking views to strolling through free museums and the most popular neighborhoods. We even include a short guide to cherry blossom season and where you can head out for a day at the farm in the city (for free, of course).

Here’s the art of exploring Paris for free. We also have a budget guide for Paris with tips on how to save money.

Type of free things we’re covering:

  1. Landmarks
  2. Museums
  3. Must-see Neighborhoods
  4. Walking Tours
  5. Alternative Tours
  6. Cherry Blossoms, Magnolia, and Wisteria Hunting 
  7. Seasonal Events
  8. Food and Flea Markets
  9. A Farm
  10. Parks and Gardens
  11. Picnic Spots
  12. Photo Spots
  13. Shopping Centers with a View
  14. Sunset Spots
  15. Libraries
  16. Bookstores
  17. Weird Landmarks
  18. Churches

The Most Beautiful Free Landmarks in Paris

Palais Garnier
Palais Garnier
Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral
Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral
The Louvre Pyramid
The Louvre Pyramid
Place de la Concorde
Place de la Concorde
Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower
Hotel des Invalides
Hotel des Invalides
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe

Paris is filled with iconic architecture and history at every corner. Some of its most magnificent views and landmarks are absolutely free so let’s dive into the ones that offer a feast for the eyes without emptying your wallet:

  • Eiffel Tower: you can enjoy looking at it for free from the Parc du Champ de Mars. Make sure to stick around for the evening light show.
  • Arc de Triomphe: A monumental ode to French military victories and the soldiers who fought in them. You can walk around its massive base, take in the intricate sculptures, and read the names of generals and battles inscribed on its surfaces (like Napoleon). 
  • Champs Elysées: Paris’s version of a catwalk, except the models are tourists and the occasional local who got lost. Window shop among some of the most luxurious brands, or simply people-watch from one of the many park benches lining the street. During the holidays, the Champs Elysées is transformed into a winter wonderland, making it a perfect free attraction for festive backpackers. 
  • Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral: A magnificent example of French Gothic architecture.
  • The Louvre Pyramid: home to fine art, the Mona Lisa’s smirk, and a pyramid that is a sight to behold in its own right. At night, it’s illuminated, casting a futuristic glow on the courtyard.
  • Palais Garnier: is what happens when you give an opera house a fairy godmother. It’s so fancy, you’ll feel underdressed just looking at it. While tickets to performances come at a price, the exterior, with its grand marble façade adorned with statues and golden embellishments, is a spectacle you can enjoy for free.
  • Place de la Concorde: The largest square in Paris offers a free, open space with significant historical importance. Admire the Luxor Obelisk, fountains, and statues that adorn the square, and ponder the many pivotal events that have taken place here, from royal ceremonies to the French Revolution.
  • Hotel des Invalides: Originally built as a hospital and retirement home for war veterans, it now houses museums and monuments relating to France’s military history. Its golden dome and sprawling esplanade are a sight to behold, especially when the setting sun casts its warm glow upon the complex.

If this is too generic for you, check out our guide on the most unusual things to do in Paris

The Best Free Museums in Paris

Who said the best things in life are free? Probably someone who’s visited Paris’s museums without opening their wallet. Here are our favorite free museums in Paris:

Petit Palais

Museums That Are Sometimes Free in Paris

You can enjoy complimentary admission to certain museums if your visit coincides with any of these cultural events:

Before visiting museums in Paris, it’s wise to check their websites for free days or price reductions. Places like the Musee d’Orsay and Pompidou Centre open their doors for free on each month’s first Sunday. The Louvre also grants complimentary access on the first Friday evenings from September through June—advance booking is recommended as spots fill up fast.

Here’s a good list of free museums on the first Sunday (or Friday) of every month in Paris, as well as specific dates and periods when they are free: 

*EU residents under 26 can access national museums and monuments, such as the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay, for free. Special reductions or complimentary admissions are offered to students who present their student ID.

The Most Beautiful Neighborhoods in Paris

Paris isn’t just a city; it’s a tapestry of villages. Each neighborhood has its own persona, and strolling through them is like flipping through a book of stories. Here’s where you can tread through history, culture, and beauty, all without spending a dime:

  • Belleville: Once a village outside Paris, it’s now a canvas for street artists and a fusion of cuisines. The Park of Belleville offers one of the best views of the city, and you might stumble upon an impromptu concert or a hidden gallery along its colorful streets.
  • La Butte aux Cailles micro-arrondissement: With fewer tourists than pigeons, this spot’s a breath of fresh air with a side of street art. It’s so quaint, even the local cats look like they’ve stepped out of a vintage postcard.
  • The Marais: holds layers of history, with pre-revolutionary buildings, hidden courtyards, and an energetic LGBTQ+ scene. It’s a district where old-world elegance meets trendy boutiques and nightlife.
  • Montmartre: synonymous with bohemian Paris. The home of artists like Picasso and Van Gogh, its steep steps and winding streets tell tales of inspiration. 
  • Saint-Germain-des-Prés: Once the stomping grounds for intellectuals and writers, Saint-Germain-des-Prés oozes with chic. With its iconic cafes, such as Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots, and the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens, it’s perfect for those who want a taste of the literary life.
  • Canal Saint-Martin: The Canal Saint-Martin’s iron footbridges and shaded pathways make it ideal for a stroll or a picnic.
  • The Quartier Latin: where the spirit of youth thrives. Overflowing with bookshops, cinemas, and bistros, it’s a cultural hub that’s also home to the famed Sorbonne University.
  • Île de la Cité: The heart of the city, and probably where Parisians first invented the phrase ‘Oh là là’. From the majestic Notre Dame Cathedral to the quaint flower market, every corner here tells a story.
  • South Pigalle: Once known as the red-light district, South Pigalle, or SoPi, has transformed into a hotspot for food and nightlife. 

If you’re thinking about where to stay in the city on a budget, check out our guide to the best hostels in Paris.

The Best Free Walking Tour in Paris

Paris is a city best explored on foot! And guess what? You can do it without spending a euro thanks to some fantastic free walking tour options. We recommend Local Greeters. This free service pairs you with a passionate Parisian who’ll take you on a stroll through the city’s nooks and crannies, revealing secrets that you won’t find in any guidebook.

Read: 33 Tourist Mistakes to Avoid in Paris.

Remember, while the tour itself may be free, it’s always a kind gesture to tip your guide if you’ve enjoyed the experience. It’s a way to say “merci” for the personalized touch they’ve added to your Paris adventure. So, get ready to walk, talk, and fall in love with Paris one step at a time!

An (Almost Free) Alternative to Hop-On Hop-Off Tours

If you’re searching for a unique and budget-friendly way to discover the City of Light, look no further than the local public transportation. Paris offers some scenic bus and metro routes that take you through the heart of its most picturesque neighborhoods and iconic landmarks:

Bus Route 69: Route 69 is your golden ticket to Paris’s most famous sights. Starting at the Eiffel Tower, this bus weaves its way through the city, offering views of the Louvre and ending at the Père Lachaise cemetery. It’s like a historical highlight reel on wheels! Bonus: hop off and meander through the Marais district to catch a glimpse of local Parisian life in one of the city’s most vibrant areas.

Metro Line 6: If you prefer to travel underground with occasional peeks of the city, Metro Line 6 is your go-to. Take the train from Bir-Hakeim to Passy and enjoy a unique perspective of Paris. This line offers stunning views of the Eiffel Tower as you cross the Seine, making for an unforgettable metro ride. 

Cherry, Magnolia, and Wisteria Season in Paris

When Paris blooms, it puts on a show that could make the best bouquets green with envy. Spring in Paris isn’t just a season; it’s a pastel-hued, petal-strewn party where even the trees are dressed to impress. Backpackers, ready your cameras and allergies:

Magnolias in March

They blossom quietly into a spectacle of pinks and whites. Head over to the Jardin des Plantes, where the magnolia trees stand tall and proud, offering a masterclass in poise and petal perfection.

Cherry Blossoms in April

The cherry blossoms in Paris are the city’s way of blushing. Parc de Sceaux is the go-to spot for a cherry blossom fiesta, where the trees are so pink, that you’ll start to question whether you’re in a French park or inside a cotton candy machine. 

Wisteria in May

The wisteria in Paris is nature’s version of a glamorous purple feather boa. These cascading blooms are the divas of the plant world, draping elegantly over buildings and alleyways. Make your way to the charming Rue de l’Abreuvoir in Montmartre, where the wisteria steals the spotlight and probably has its own Instagram following.

Cherry Blossoms in Paris

Wisteria in Paris

The Best Free Seasonal Events in Paris

In Paris, there’s a treasure trove of free events that cater to every season:

Car-Free Sundays in Paris: Enjoy the tranquility and fresh air as certain Parisian streets, including the iconic Champs Élysées, become a haven for pedestrians, cyclists, and skateboarders on the first Sunday of each month. It’s a unique opportunity to experience the city’s famous thoroughfares without the buzz of vehicles.

Paris Plages (Paris Beaches): Each summer, the banks of the Seine and the Bassin de la Villette are transformed into a free makeshift beach resort, complete with sand, deck chairs, and palm trees. It’s a delightful escape for sunbathing, picnicking, and enjoying the Parisian summer without leaving the city.

Fête de la Musique: Every 21st of June, the city comes alive with music for World Music Day. Streets, bars, and parks become stages for free performances, ranging from amateur musicians to professional bands, covering all genres imaginable.

Cinéma en Plein Air (Outdoor Cinema) at Parc de la Villette: Film buffs can enjoy a variety of films under the stars at this free outdoor cinema event during the summer months. With a mix of classic and contemporary films, it’s a perfect way to spend a Parisian evening.

Jazz Festival in Parc Floral: This festival treats visitors to free jazz concerts in the beautiful setting of Parc Floral. The lineup often includes both established jazz musicians and up-and-coming artists, making it a great way to experience the Parisian music scene.

Christmas Markets: In the lead-up to Christmas, various markets pop up across the city, offering festive cheer with no entry cost. While products are for sale, browsing the quaint stalls and enjoying the holiday atmosphere is entirely free.

Remember, these events are seasonal and subject to change, so it’s always best to check the current year’s calendar for the most up-to-date information on what’s happening in Paris.

The Best Markets in Paris (Free to Visit)

If you want to shop on a budget, or just look around, here are some nice flea marks to take a stroll in:

Explore a Free Farm in Paris

Nestled in the Bois de Vincennes, Ferme de Paris offers a slice of countryside charm right in the heart of the city. This 5-hectare educational farm takes you on a journey through sustainable agriculture and animal husbandry, all without spending a cent. Here’s what you can expect when you step into this green oasis:

  • A Sustainable Farm
  • Educational Resource 
  • Free Admission 
  • Meeting the Residents: Say hello to goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, geese, ducks, and turkeys.
  • Vegetation and Crops: The farm includes pastures, orchards, and a vegetable garden.

Farm in Paris

The Most Beautiful Free Parks and Gardens in Paris

From meticulously manicured gardens to wild, sprawling parks, here’s a look at some of the best free parks and gardens you can enjoy in Paris:

  • Jardin des Plantes: Wander through rows of blooming flora and historic greenhouses.
  • La Promenade Plantée (Coulée Verte): A 4.7 km stretch lined with old railway tracks and beautiful plants.
  • Parc Monceau: Classical statues and Renaissance arches. 
  • Parc des Buttes Chaumont: A lake, waterfalls, and even a temple perched high on a cliff with great views of Paris.
  • Tuileries Garden: A prime example of French formal gardens. 
  • Luxembourg Gardens: Imagine a place where even the ducks are posh— Home to the French Senate.
  • Bois de Boulogne: Once a hunting ground for French royalty, now a park with lakes, gardens, and horse racing tracks.
  • Bois de Vincennes: From boating to visiting the zoo, it’s a place where you can spend the whole day.
  • Belleville Park: offers panoramic views of Paris without the vertigo-inducing heights of the Eiffel Tower. 
  • Parc Montsouris: This English-style park is designed for relaxation with its large lake, waterfalls, and statues.
  • Jardin du Palais Royal: a hidden gem with elegant arcades, symmetrical landscaping, and a tranquil atmosphere.
  • Le Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil: A greenhouse where the plants have better accommodations than Parisian apartments.
  • La Villette: a cultural hub, with its science museum, music complex, and themed gardens.

The Best Places for a Picnic in Paris

Grab your baguette, cheese, and a bottle of wine, and let’s explore the best places to spread out your picnic blanket.

  • Champ de Mars: Nestled between the Eiffel Tower and École Militaire, the Champ de Mars is an iconic picnic spot for a reason. 
  • Canal St-Martin: For a more bohemian vibe, head to the trendy Canal St-Martin. This spot is a favorite among locals and travelers alike, offering a peaceful retreat from the bustling city streets.
  • Parc des Buttes-Chaumont: If you’re seeking a picnic with a view, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is the place to be.
  • Square du Vert-Galant: This quaint park at the tip of Île de la Cité is a hidden gem for picnickers.

The Best Free Photo Spots in Paris

Paris is not just the city of love but also the city of lights and sights. A haven for photographers, both amateur and pro, it’s brimming with iconic spots where you can capture that perfect shot for your travel album or feed. Here’s where to capture beautiful memories for free:

  • Colones De Buren: Nestled in the courtyard of Palais Royal, the striking black and white striped columns of Buren are an art installation that doubles as a playful backdrop. Here’s where you can channel your inner mime without the face paint.
  • Rue Crémieux: This cobblestone street is like a crayon box come to life, with a lineup of pastel-painted houses.
  • Promenade Quai Branly Carousel: offers fantastic views of the Eiffel Tower. 
  • La Maison Rose: This adorable pink house café is tucked away in the artsy hills of Montmartre. 
  • The leaning apartments of Montmartre: These leaning apartments offer a quirky photo opportunity that plays with perspective and the charming disarray of old Paris.
  • Pont Alexandre III: Spanning the Seine with its Beaux-Arts design, Pont Alexandre III is a masterpiece of Parisian elegance. With its ornate lamps, sculptures, and gilded details, it’s the perfect backdrop for a glamorous Parisian shot.
  • Musee D’Orsay Clock: Inside the Musée d’Orsay, the giant clock offers a unique frame for the city outside. A photo through its face gives you a timeless shot with a hint of the museum’s splendor.
  • Esplanade du Trocadéro: Head to the Esplanade du Trocadéro at dawn, and you’ll catch the Eiffel Tower without the tourist hordes.
  • Avenue de Camoens: offers a stunning side view of the Eiffel Tower, with a classic Parisian staircase.
  • Rue de l’Université: Get that postcard-perfect shot of the Eiffel Tower from Rue de l’Université. 
  • Pont de Bir-Hakeim: Made famous in the movie “Inception”, this bridge offers a cinematic frame for the Seine and the Eiffel Tower.
Musee D’Orsay Clock
Musee D’Orsay Clock
The leaning apartments of Montmartre
The leaning apartments of Montmartre
Colones De Buren
Colones De Buren
Pont Alexandre III
Pont Alexandre III
Pont de Bir Hakeim
Pont de Bir Hakeim
Rue Crémieux
Rue Crémieux
La Maison Rose
La Maison Rose
Esplanade du Trocadéro
Esplanade du Trocadéro

Famous Shopping Centers With Amazing (Free) Views of Paris

These are some of the most famous shopping centers in Paris, where fashion and (credit debt) architecture intertwine. They’re nice to visit in their own right but the real reason to head there is their rooftop terraces that grant a visual treat.

  • Gallery Printemps Rooftop Café: Take the escalator to Cloud Nine, also known as the Rooftop Café. Here, the Eiffel Tower isn’t just part of the skyline; it’s practically posing for you. The view comes with a side of Parisian panache and zero euros on the bill. If the café tempts you, remember: the price of a latte is steep.
  • Galeries Lafayette: Galeries Lafayette is a name synonymous with Parisian style, but venture above the chic displays and designer labels to the rooftop, and you’ll find an observation deck that’s a visual masterpiece on its own. Here, the grand Opera Garnier stands proud while Montmartre’s Sacré-Cœur seems to float above the city’s rooftops. As the day fades, the terrace offers a sunset spectacle that casts a warm glow over the City of Light.

Best Spots To Watch the Sunset in Paris

When the sky begins to paint itself with shades of pink and orange, there are a few spots in the city that offer a front-row seat to the spectacle.

  • Pont de la Tournelle: With an unobstructed view of the Seine and the Île Saint-Louis, this bridge provides a stunning backdrop for the setting sun. The silhouette of Notre Dame Cathedral adds to the drama as the sky transitions through its twilight hues.
  • Sacré-Cœur Basilica: The view from up high is a 360-degree reminder that you’re in one of the most beautiful cities in the world
  • Trocadero esplanade: The wide-open space is a popular spot, and for good reason—it offers a clear line of sight to the Eiffel Tower.
  • Centre Georges Pompidou: If you prefer a more urban setting, the Centre Georges Pompidou’s rooftop offers a unique free vantage point. The modern art museum is itself a work of art, and the top floor provides a view over the rooftops of Paris.
  • Pont Alexandre III: The bridge’s elaborate statues and Art Nouveau lamps set the scene as the sky behind the Grand Palais and Les Invalides is painted in twilight tones. 

The Most Stunning Free Libraries in Paris

Bookworms and architecture enthusiasts, rejoice! The City of Light is also the City of Libraries, and they’re as magnificent as they are wallet-friendly.

  • Bibliothèque nationale de France: This one is a cornerstone of French culture, and its famed oval reading room is a sight to behold.
  • Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève: With a facade that impresses before you even step inside, the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève’s interior continues to mesmerize. Its reading room is a marvel of 19th-century design, with an exposed iron framework that supports the elegant, arched ceiling.
  • Bibliothèque Mazarine: As the oldest public library in France, the Bibliothèque Mazarine’s interior is steeped in history. The ornate wood paneling and bookcases filled with ancient tomes give it an air of timeless wisdom.

Bibliothèque nationale de France
Bibliothèque Sainte Geneviève

Famous and Pretty Bookstores in Paris

In Paris, you can judge a book by its cover – especially when the cover is a stunningly beautiful bookstore façade:

  • Un Regard Moderne Bookstore: Tucked away in the Latin Quarter, Un Regard Moderne is an explosion of books from floor to ceiling. It’s a quirky, compact space packed with an eclectic collection that ranges from graphic novels to underground poetry.
  • Shakespeare and Company: It’s not just a place to pick up a book; it’s a literary commune where writers have lived and breathed their craft. With its cozy reading nooks and historic ambiance, it’s a place where you can lose yourself in the pages of a classic while soaking up the bohemian atmosphere that once hosted the likes of Hemingway and Fitzgerald.
  • The Abbey Bookshop: This labyrinthine shop is chock-full of used and new English-language books, offering a cozy refuge for anglophone readers.

Free Popular Weird Landmarks in Paris

If you’re the kind of traveler who prefers sightseeing with a side of “huh, that’s odd,” Paris has got you covered. Here are some landmarks that don’t always make the postcards:

  • Maison Nicolas Flamel: The oldest house in Paris, rumored to have belonged to Nicolas Flamel (yes, that guy from Harry Potter), it’s been defying the real estate market since 1407. It’s a medieval time capsule with a door that probably creaks in Middle French.
  • Paris Pagoda: an unexpected dash of the Far East in the heart of the city. This red and gold oriental marvel was once a standard Parisian townhouse, transformed into a pagoda by its owner in the early 20th century.
  • Jules Lavirotte’s 29 Avenue Rapp: This building is an architectural fantasy brought to life by Jules Lavirotte. Its facade is a riot of shapes, colors, and textures, with a door that’s considered one of the most beautiful in Paris.
  • Arènes de Lutèce: one of the few remnants of Roman Paris. This ancient amphitheater, once buzzing with gladiatorial combat, is now a peaceful park where locals play pétanque.
  • Vigne du Clos Montmartre: Discover hidden Parisian vineyards where despite urban expansion, some clos (vineyards) have survived and offer a vintage taste of French tradition and scenic views in the heart of Paris.
  • The Covered Passageways: Tucked away from the streets, these passageways offer a glimpse into 19th-century Parisian life, complete with charming shops and mosaic-tiled floors.  The most famous are Passage des Panoramas (The oldest covered passage in Paris) and Galerie Vivienne (the most luxurious)
    Cimitière du Père Lachaise: As the largest cemetery in Paris, Père Lachaise is a labyrinth of history and serenity. It’s the final resting place of numerous notable figures such as Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Édith Piaf, and Frédéric Chopin. The cobblestone paths, shaded by leafy trees, lead you through a quiet reflection of the past. Weirdly enough it’s a popular place to visit.

The Best Churches That Are Free To Visit in Paris

Paris’s churches, cathedrals, and basilicas stand as silent witnesses to history, architecture, and spirituality. They offer not just a religious experience but also a feast for the eyes — here are noteworthy ones that are free:

  • Eglise de La Madelaine: With its grandiose Greek temple design, Église de la Madeleine is far from your average church. Its columns could rival those of the Parthenon, and its majestic aura is as impactful as the operatic notes that often fill its nave. Step inside to admire the lavish interior and perhaps catch a free concert if the gods of timing are on your side.
  • Basilique du Sacré-Cœur: The Basilique du Sacré-Cœur is the marshmallow atop the hot chocolate that is Montmartre. Glide up its many steps and be rewarded with a panorama that’ll have your camera working overtime. 
  • Eglise Saint Philippe du Roule: This hidden gem, with its neoclassical façade, offers a tranquil respite from the buzz of the Champs-Élysées. 
  • Notre-Dame du Travail: Notre-Dame du Travail is a testament to the city’s working-class heroes. Its unique interior, with exposed metal beams and a lofty ceiling, resembles an industrial workshop turned sanctuary. 
  • Walk along the Seine by Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris: Though the famed Notre Dame Cathedral is undergoing restoration, the walk along the Seine offers unparalleled views of its historic façade.

Conclusion

Exploring Paris doesn’t have to mean emptying your wallet faster than you can say “croissant.”

As it turns out, the city of lights, love, and lamentably luxurious living expenses also knows how to have a good time on a budget. From nose-up views of the Eiffel Tower to philosophical debates with Mona Lisa’s smile, all the way to frolicking in urban farms or playing hide-and-seek among the cherry blossoms—Paris is your oyster, and remarkably, it’s on the house.

So put away your credit card, and prepare to experience Parisian life without spending all of your money.

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