Cliched AF but Audrey Hepburn was so right when she said, “Paris is always a good idea”, except maybe when you’re backpacking Paris on a budget and can barely afford a baguet, let alone a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
But fear not dear reader!
Because you really can enjoy being a backpacker in Paris since there are actually a TON of things for backpackers to do in Paris…like beg for money.
Realistically though, I can’t change the prices in Paris, but I can show you how to stretch your Paris budget and do more Paris travel with less, hence this budget Paris France guide).
With this Paris guide for backpackers:
You will no longer have to quiver in fear under the weight of your own financial insecurity. Instead, you’ll laugh at the sheer enormity of your bank account with the Paris budget backpacking tips I’m about to send your way (probably not but a girl can dream).
I’ll give you tips on where to stay in Paris on a budget, tell you how to navigate Paris for less, provide you with a fantastic list of free things to do in Paris, and even sprinkle in some pixie dust filled with Paris safety tips to avoid getting scammed along the way.
So grab a croissant and a piece of Brie and let’s rock this biznitch!
Actual footage of me looking at my bank account after a recent trip to Paris.
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***Psst! The best time to visit Paris, if you’re on a budget, is from early December, through February, minus the holiday season. This is typically the coldest time of year Paris (so check out my packing guide and find out what to wear in Paris), but also when crowds are at their lightest and when hotel/flight prices are at their cheapest.***
***Looking for some of the best backpacker hostels in Paris, that won’t charge you a month’s rent for a single night in a dorm room? Then check out St Christopher’s Inn Gare du Nord, Generator Paris, Les Piaules, and the Loft. At these places, you’ll be rollin’ like a big shot without the bankroll of one.***
Secret Backpacking Paris Tips: Paris Backpacking like a Pro
So before we dive headfirst into the assortment of epic things for backpackers to do in Paris, let’s first get an idea of what your Paris budget per day will look like.
I obviously want to save money, but I also want to experience all the things that make you fall in love with an extraordinary city like Paris.
If you actually want to experience some of the cultural beauty found within this magical place, then I would plan on spending between $60 and $90 a day, which isn’t a whole lot when you consider that a bed in a hostel dorm room is around $40 a night (for that kind of money, definitely check out Airbnb because you can probably get a better room for less there).
So now that we have our backpacking Paris budget:
Let’s examine some of the ways that we can stretch that backpacking Paris budget a little further.
1. Visit museums on the first Sunday of the Month – This is a great time to visit many of Paris’ most iconic museums since many of these institutions also carry a hefty price tag; museums like the Louvre, Musée Rodin, Musée Picasso, Musée d’Orsay, etc. So plan accordingly and visit a museum that you otherwise could not afford.
***PSST: For EU citizens under 26, all national museums are free with valid proof of identity***
2. Buy metro tickets in bulk – Estimate how much you plan to use the metro and plan accordingly since buying metro tickets in packs of ten is MUCH cheaper than purchasing a metro ticket every time you use public transportation. And other than walking, the metro is definitely the cheapest way to explore Paris.
3. Avoid Cabs – Cabs in Paris are ridiculously expensive and, in my humble opinion, a total waste of money. So unless you are completely lost and have no other way of getting back to your Paris backpacker hostel, I would skip the cab.
4. Watch out for Pickpockets – Paris is one of my favorite cities on the planet. However, there are pickpockets everywhere, so be extra careful and always keep an eye on your belongings since this is an easy way to lose a ton of money. I mean, I had two guys follow me down the Champs Elysees so pickpockets are not at all uncommon, especially in popular tourist areas and in the metro.
Also watch out for anyone who has a petition for you to sign since this is usually just a way to distract you so that they can steal your stuff.
***Planning to travel solo in Paris? If you’re a solo female traveler in Paris, like me, then be aware that cat calling is a huge problem in Paris. I was literally followed down the Champs Elysess by two men and it was down right scary. Therefore. be cautious and aware of your surroundings at all times. Also have the police on speed dial just in case you need to quickly call for help.***
5. Consider the Paris Card – A common question I get is, “Is the Paris Card worth it?”, To which I say a resounding “yes”! With 2 through 6 day options available, the Paris Card is perfect for anyone visiting Paris for the first time. Including free public transportation and free admission to over 60 Paris Museum, this card is a great option for anyone looking to visit many of Paris’ major attractions for less.
***If you’re a museum buff then consider the Paris Museum Pass since it is half the price of the Paris Card but still gives you free access to many of Paris’ top attractions like the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, and more.***
6. Bring a Reusable Water Bottle – Always an easy and effective way to save money on beverages while traveling in Paris and through any other major city really (See what else you should add to your Paris packing list).
7. Do Some Free Paris Walking Tours – Paris is huge and you’ll definitely need to use the metro at some point, but Paris is also a fantastic walking city. Therefore, use metro tickets sparingly and plan some amazing, self-guided walking tours through Paris’ most iconic neighborhoods, like an enchanting walking tour through Montmartre.
8. Eat out for lunch and go grocery shopping for dinner – Dinner is typically the most expensive meal of the day. Therefore, eat out for lunch instead and take advantage of Paris’ amazing and well-priced grocery stores for dinner.
9. Visit free attractions – Try and visit as many of Paris” free attractions as possible by using my extensive list of free Paris attractions below.
10. Do NOT visit Paris during the summer (May through September) – It is hot, expensive, crowded AF, and absolutely God awful. If you want to save money, time and your sanity, then the best time to visit Paris is during the fall or spring. I truly believe that many people end up hating Paris because they go during peak season. I did it once and will never do it again.
Best Paris Cheap Eats
Joey and I have the same philosphy when it comes to food.
It comes as a complete surprise to no one that food is a HUGE part of Parisian culture.
So what do you do when you’re backpacking Paris but still want to experience all the culinary charms that this city has to offer?
Paris has a ton of fantastic cheap eats that you can enjoy while traveling Paris on a budget. So check out some of my favorite Paris cheap eats when you’re short on cash but still want flavor.
1. Du Pain et Des Idées and Liberté – Umm, who doesn’t love carbs? Between the baguettes, croissants, and assortment of other pastries, bakeries are always an easy and delicious way to eat on a budget. Yup, I’m over here drooling like a Saint Bernard.
2. Breizh Cafe – Forever and always one of my favorite places to eat a delicious crepe for less. But honestly, crepes are usually inexpensive, delicious, and a great food that you can eat on the go!
3. Rue des Rosiers – As a vegetarian, I absolutely love this street because it is filled with some of the best, and most reasonably priced, falafel shops in Paris. Between L’As du Fallafel, Chez Hanna, King Falafel Palace, and MI-VA-MI, you could do an all-out falafel food crawl without going broke.
4. Marché des Enfants Rouges – This Marais street food market is one of the most famous, and best places, to try a variety of inexpensive, Parisian street food. Between the burgers, sandwiches and Japanese noodles, there really is something here for any and every type of Paris backpacker out there.
5. Maison Castro – This Parisian eatery sells fantastic Mediterranean sandwiches that are perfect for any picnic by the Eiffel Tower. Seriously, the cheese here is imported and ridiculously good.
6. Le Coquelicot – Located in the heart of Montmartre, this sandwich shop and bakery offer patrons amazing baguettes (and sandwiches) that make the perfect quick, breakfast or lunch after strolling through the quaint cobbled lanes of this picturesque Parisian neighborhood.
7. Bistrot Victories – A delicious, French bistro with divine prices that will satisfy even the most budget-conscious Paris backpacker. Plus, this eatery is right near the Louvre. Seriously, can it get much better than this? Probably not.
15 Things for Backpackers to do in Paris!
Paris’s highest hill, with the exquisite Sacré-Coeur Basilica at its apex, is a must stop destination on any budget Paris France itinerary, even if you have only a few days in Paris.
This Parisian neighborhood has an almost quaint, village-like charm that is largely absent from the rest of this expansive city. You’ll be delighted as musicians strum their harps to an endless parade of tourists who march uphill while admiring the intoxicating views of the city.
In the background:
You’ll be serenaded by giggling children who are whirled around a carousel in a frenzy of delight. Charming right? It really is, even though you’ll need an iron lung or two after hiking up all those stairs.
Perhaps this small town feel stems from Montmartre’s past as an artists’ haven where artist ballers like, Pablo Picasso, invented cubism at the Bateau Lavoir on place Emile-Godeau.
Because of the panoramic views and the nearby. Moulin Rouge, areas of Montmartre, like Place du Tertre, can get super crowded with tourists that admire pseudo artists hawking their latest creations.
Therefore, to avoid the crowds:
Meander down rue des Abbesses and rue Lepic, where cottage lined alleys and steep stairways give way to local bars and fabulous restaurants (psst, I have a really good walking tour of Montmartre that you should check out).
2. Pere Lachaise Cemetery
This cemetery is a great addition to any Paris backpacker itinerary because not only is it one of the great, free things to do in Paris, but it is a beautiful place to walk on a nice sunny day.
Filled with quaint, cobblestone lanes:
Ornately carved gravestones are found at every turn and are truly unlike anything that I’ve ever seen.
This place is HUGE! Like 110 acres big, making this the largest cemetery in Paris. So before you go off exploring, grab a map (it outlines where all the famous gravestones are) and go to the bathroom in the administration building near the main entrance.
You don’t want to end up popping a squat behind a gravestone like me, especially since some of these “celebrity” gravestones can be tricky to find, so much so that you might do a little happy dance when you finally find one.
I’d spend at least two hours in this cemetery. But obviously, you could meander through all the graves here for an entire day, especially if you’re backpacking Paris on a budget.
3. Walk Along the Seine
The rich history and culture of Paris make it a fantastic city to walk through. Plus, walking is the best way to see, feel, taste, touch, and smell the heart of a city.
That’s why you NEED to walk along the Seine like it’s your JOB. You just have to do it! The Seine really is an intricate part of Parisian culture. It defines who Parisians are and how they spend their time.
Just stroll along the riverside boulevard and watch the people here go about their day while eating cheese and drinking copious amounts of wine.
You can even get a baller level, riverside massage for 10 euros. How amazing is that?
Who knows how much it costs now with the hyper speed of inflation but all I’m saying is that when I got my massage, it was relaxing and inexpensive!
As you continue your walk:
You’ll experience a seemingly endless expanse of shops, restaurants, and beach chairs that are surrounded by actual sand and beach umbrellas.
I’m all about the beach umbrella since the sun makes me shrivel up like a prune.
But whatever you do:
Take some time to enjoy the Seine, and allow Parisian culture to wash over you and capture your heart.
4. Jardin du Luxembourg
Absolutely one of the best parks in Paris!
Jardin du Luxembourg is a buffet of vibrantly colored flowers and meticulously manicured lawns that provide visitors with a much-needed respite from the chaos of the city.
But the gardens here are so lovely that you can’t walk on them because you WILL get yelled at.
Yeah, they take garden maintenance pretty seriously.
Now, because most Paris residents don’t have a green space of their own, this park explodes with activity as soon as the weather warms up.
Paris tip number 365 is that if you find a vacant, pale green, lounge chair, hold onto it like it is a gemstone of the rarest kind because these chairs are a hot commodity among sunbathers and ardent readers alike!
And after walking through Paris all day, you kind of just want to sit in your chair and relax.
5. Canal St-Martin
With its tree-lined canals, and cobblestone walkways:
Paris really can’t get any more picturesque than this canal (I guess it could but then you would want to throw up because it would too saccharine sweet), which Napoleon built and opened in 1825.
Beginning at Port de l’Arsenal marina:
This canal snakes under Bastille and emerges from a long tunnel near République. So take a stroll along this peaceful canal and enjoy a fresh baguette slathered in brie.
All I ate in Paris were baguettes and Brie. And I sort of cried a little when I realized that I couldn’t bring cheese back with me on the plane with me. So sad.
Now, if you’re gonna visit Canal St-Martin:
Explore this area on a Sunday, when the roads are closed to cars, a fact that lows local cafés, bistros, and shops to come alive with pedestrian traffic.
But if you’re begging for mercy after all this walking:
You can also take a boat tour of the canal that starts at the Musée d’Orsay and ends at Canauxrama between Bastille and Bassin de la Villette.
A great way to experience the straight up Disney style magic that this city has to offer.
6. La Villette
A modern park and museum complex:
This fantastical green space has been brought to life with vibrant red paint and edgy modern architecture that is an adventurous space for children and adults alike.
They even have a giant dragon slide and themed gardens. So it really doesn’t get much wonkier than that. Actual,ly it can and does since many of the sculptures found throughout this park left me scratching my head going, “huh?”
But even if you don’t like modern art:
You’ll still love it here scenic you can walk along a picturesque canal and enjoy the view. There’s also a Cité des Sciences here (aka science museum) that has interactive exhibits, a Planetarium, and even a spherical Géode IMAX cinema.
You can also head south and catch a show at the Cité de la Musique, where an assortment of events take place like the circus, art exhibitions, theatrical performances, outdoor film festivals, and more.
7. Maison de Victor Hugo
So I don’t know if you have heard of him, but Victor Hugo was this kick ass, French (shocker) poet and novelist who wrote some mildly famous works like the Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables.
But even when someone is an epic author, a detailed history of their lives can be a real snooze But never fear because that is not the case here.
I mean if this place was a bore then it would not be on my list.
But ye olde Victor Hugo led a rather varied life that is well presented in this refurbished apartment that he rented, between 1832 and 1848.
Museum displays and Hugo artifacts educate visitors about the author’s life, including an awesomely vintage, red damask lounge where he held pinkie up tea parties!
Kidding. I have no idea if he really did that.
And while all the artifacts presented were quite interesting, I enjoyed the personal drawings, caricatures, correspondence and photographs that give you a small window into the life of a man whose work has transcended time and touched countless people.
8. Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris
This is one of those places that you kind of have to see while you’re in Paris. I mean it was in the title of a mediocre Disney movie, so how could you not want to see it?
In all seriousness though:
Obviously, Notre Dame is an immortal Cathedral that holds a special place in the heart of the French nation.
The French people love this religious structure so much that all distances, from Paris, are measured from Notre Dame, making this building the literal canter of Paris.
Which makes sense when you see this enormous, structurally balanced, Gothic cathedral towering over you, with it’s breathtaking, central choir made of carved wooden stalls and statues that represent the Passion of the Christ.
Just pure and total wow.
For a great view of the church, head to Jean XXIII Square in the back of the church, where you can really appreciate the ornate flying buttresses that support the walls and the roof of the building.
And if you have a little extra cash:
Definitely walk to the top of the tower and enjoy the panoramic views at the top. Definitely worth the loss of breath and mild case of vertigo that I got while climbing the staircase.
9. Shakespeare and Company Bookstore
I know I have a weird obsession with books and bookstores, but I promise that even if you’re not a huge fan of bookstores, you’ll still love this place.
It puts the extra in extraordinary. It’s a place where writers, intellectuals, and artists all congregate to soak up the residual literary inspiration that lingers here from the icons of the past that called this place home.
Even today, you can still sleep among the store’s cozy bookshelves. atop small beds that double as reading benches and writing desks.
And believe it or not:
Since Shakespeare and Company opened, over 30,000 young writers and artists have stayed here, including then-unknowns like Robert Stone, Ethan Hawke, Geoffrey Rush, and David Rakoff (Shout out to Geoffrey Rush because I love him as an actor).
These stacks of books have an aura of greatness about them that inspires you to comb through the shelves and create a piece of art that actually means something to the world.
It’s like somehow:
These temporary guests leave an indelible mark on the intellectual community of this store, a place where it feels okay to dare to dream.
10. Trocadero for the Best View of the Eiffel Tower
Probably the most quintessential Paris attraction of them all is the ever iconic Eiffel Tower, which is pretty budget friendly if you don’t go to the top (and if you don’t it’s okay because you’re not missing much).
This wrought iron, architectural masterpiece was completed in ye olde 1889 and was created as a magnificent showpiece for the 1889 World’s Fair.
And while the grandeur of the World’s Fair has faded away, the enduring beauty of the Eiffel Tower has not.
But what everyone really wants to know is:
Where is the best view of the Eiffel Tower and what is the best time to visit the Eiffel Tower?
And while my opinion may be an unpopular one, since everyone goes insane for the glitz and glam of the Eiffel Tower at night. I still maintain that the BEST time to visit the Eiffel Tower is early, like 6 am early.
You can’t go to the top but honestly, the tickets to the top are expensive, the lines are as long as the Great Wall of China and the view was meh.
I’d rather take the metro to Place du Trocadéro and enjoy the enchanting beauty of the Eiffel Tower all by myself, plus a few locals who are still wasted from the night before.
If you arrive via subway, the Eiffel Tower is directly across the street from the Trocadero metro station, near the Musée national de la Marine.
11. Arc de Triomphe (Free if you don’t go to the top but you should go to the top)
This is the first attraction I saw in Paris because, well, during my first trip to Paris, I stayed at the Hotel Mercure Paris Arc de Triomphe (a great hotel at a decent price point) and the Arc de Triomphe was basically the closest attraction to me.
I practically fell out of bed and onto the Arc de Triomphe so yes, clearly I visited this top Paris tourist attraction first.
Located at the top of the Champs-Elysées:
The majestic Arc de Triomphe is the biggest arch in the entire world, which makes sense since Napolean commissioned this architectural wonder (talk about overcompensation for something).
Besides a nice photo op:
The Arc de Triomphe offers visitors a chance to explore the accompanying museum and viewing platform at the top. Just make sure to purchase your Arc de Triomphe tickets in advance to avoid waiting on the neverending queue.
Once at the Top:
Savor one of the most exquisite views in all of Paris, especially during the autumn season. Not only do you get a fantastic, panoramic shot of the Eiffel Tower, but you can also enjoy a bird’s eye view of the legendary Champs-Elysées; truly one of the best photo spots in Paris.
12. Jardin des Tuileries
Between the Ferris Wheel, Historic Statues, regal fountains, and pristine gardens, Tuileries Garden has it all.
This green space does get a bit touristy and crowded, especially with rando people trying to sell you a selfie stick, but that’s to be expected since this garden lies smack dab in the middle of the Champs-Élysées and the Louvre, two of the top tourist attractions in Paris.
You can always find a nice green, metal chair to relax on as you casually drink in the Louvre pyramid and watch the Ferris Wheel whirl through the air.
Real talk because I think I’m HILARIOUS. LoL.
Believe it or not though:
Paris has Roman ruins of its own, tucked away behind rows of hotels and apartment buildings.
So if you visit Arenes de Lutece:
You’ll discover an amphitheater that was built in the first century AD and that could seat up to 15,000 people for theatrical performances and gladiatorial matches (Russel Crowe anyone?).
To this day:
Les Arènes is a Paris backpacker friendly escape from the hordes of people who call Paris home. Look closely and you can still sit on the tiers of these ancient stone seats and see the cages where wild animals were once kept for gladiator matches (lions and tigers and bears, oh my).
Take a stroll through a Parisian neighborhood with a history of rebellion and a touch of multicultural flair.
Within this Parisian neighborhood you’ll find the bustling streets of Chinatown and a series of imaginative, artist residents that make this a fun and lively place to explore.
And it is your solemn, Paris backpacker duty to visit rue de Belleville, where Edith Piaf is said to have been born under a street lamp.
Turn right onto rue Dénoyez and you’ll find some of Paris’ most decadent and vivacious street art. Also be sure to wander over to the Parc de Belleville where you can savor some amazing views of the city
15. Street Art
What used to be considered a sign of neglect and disrepair has now become a world wide artistic phenomenon.
The grafitti everyone used to complain about has become fancy smacy street art since we’re all so posh now.
But in all seriousness:
I absolutely love street art. It expresses the soul and mind of the people in a raw, real, and unfiltered way. On the streets, bureaucracy, elitism, and monetary gains are cast aside in favor of an authentic expression of art that is hard to find in many art galleries today.
And since Paris is home to the most famous museums in the world, it is no surprise that the street art scene here is insanely rich, diverse, vibrant, and beautiful.
And while you can book a pricey street art tour:
It’s cheaper, and sometimes more fun, to do your own, self-guided street art tour of Paris. Some of my favorite Paris street art spots include:
Rue Saint-Maur – A 2km-long street in the 10th and 11th arrondissements that is littered with artistic expression.
Rue Oberhaupt – Another urban art hotspot in the 11th that is home to Le Mur, an association-coordinated wall where a new artist is invited to transform the space every few weeks.
Rue Germaine Tailleferre – This Street in the 19th runs parallel to a canal and eventually terminates at the Parc de la Villette. Here, a several hundred meter stretch of wall is adorned in art by some of the neighborhood’s biggest names.
Rue Laurence Savart – This narrow, cobblestone street in the 20th arrondissement is developing a reputation for its vibrant and diverse collection of street art.
Rue Riquet – On a bridge over the railway tracks towards Gare du Nord, this street connects the 18th and 19th arrondissements and has a 500m-long street art wall that is the largest dedicated space in Paris.
***Also check out Boulevard de la Villette, Rue de Cascades, Rue Ordener, Rue de l’Ourcq, and the cross section of Rue de l’Elysée Ménilmontant and Rue Julien Lacroix.***