We’ll come right out and say it. Paris is one of our favorite cities in the world. But still, there’s just one little problem: it’s expensive!
While some of Paris’s experiences are well worth splurging for — after all, it is home to over 70 Michelin-starred restaurants, dozens of world-class museums and monuments, and is considered a world capital of fashion — not every Parisian attraction needs to break the bank!
With this guide, you can enjoy the best of both worlds! Some of these experiences you’ll have heard of, and others will surely surprise you! Here are the top 15 free things to do in Paris.
The Top 15 Free Things to Do in Paris
1. Printemps Rooftop Terrace
The first of the top 15 free things to do in Paris is a beautiful secret. Take the elevator up to the rooftop of Printemps (a Parisian department store) for a breathtaking panoramic view of Paris and all of its famous landmarks. From the rooftop, you can relax, enjoy the view, and – although, not free – enjoy a cocktail or a croissant at the tranquil rooftop café.
2. Cooking classes
For the past six years, the Federation Francaise de Cuisine has partnered with the French capital to offer free cooking classes to the public! Class themes vary from organic foods to healthy cooking, but each class always focuses on seasonal ingredients or limiting food waste. Using the freshest ingredients from Parisian markets, you’ll learn from some of the city’s best chefs. Note: Book your class well in advance; spaces are limited.
3. Picnic at Canal Saint-Martin
Grab some friends, a baguette, cheese, and a bottle of wine (or three…), and head over to one of the liveliest parts of the city: Canal Saint-Martin. Parisians and tourists alike frequent this canal, as nobody can resist its charm. With jovial crowds, endless greenery, and early-nineteenth-century architecture to enjoy, this outdoor space is the perfect place to soak in Paris slowly.
4. Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris
If you think you’ve seen a beautiful cathedral, you really haven’t seen anything until you step foot into the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. Known worldwide for its stunning Romanesque stained-glass windows and Gothic architecture, can you believe that entry to this medieval jewel is free? Yet, if you want to climb up Notre-Dame’s towers, it’s a different story; prepare to shell out 8.5 euros.
5. Cimetière du Père Lachaise
Paris’s largest (and most beautiful) cemetery, Père Lachaise Cemetery, opened in 1804. Ever since, it’s been known for its estimated three million permanent residents and its extravagant tombs. This fascinating graveyard is filled with stories of love, war, and even the paranormal. This cemetery is a must-see, indeed!
6. Wine Tasting at La Dernière Goutte
Every Saturday from 11 am to 7:30 pm, you can stop by La Dernière Goutte for free wine tastings with French winemakers! The wine here comes from all regions of France and is presented to you by ex-pat-turned-wine-connoisseur, Juan Sanchez, who gives explanations and lessons in both English and French. Magnifique!
7. Marché d’Aligre
For a real local’s experience, spend a weekend morning at Marché d’Aligre. This historic market, beloved and frequented by Parisians of all ages, offers the freshest produce, bright flowers, beautifully aged cheeses, charcuterie, fine wines, and so much more. While none of the products are free, the samples, aromas, and vibrant colors are! If you’re interested in learning a bit more about the French diet and culture, Marché d’Aligre is a great place to explore.
8. Pigalle Basketball Court
The Pigalle Basketball Court is my personal favorite on this list of free things to do in Paris! French fashion brand Pigalle Paris collaborated with the creative platform Ill-Studio to design a public basketball court in the Quartier Pigalle. Head over to the 9th arrondissement to shoot some hoops! If you’re lucky, you’ll see some of the world’s best basketball players, known to frequent the court.
9. La Promenade Plantée
Reminiscent of New York City’s High Line, La Promenade Plantée is an elevated public park, built atop an old railway. Here, you can talk a nice stroll, jog, or bike ride, among the flowers, trees, and aerial views of Paris!
10. Open-air film screenings
On summer evenings, Ciné en Plein Air festival screens free movies in the Parc de La Villette for the public to enjoy. From Hollywood blockbusters to short pieces by up-and-coming directors, Paris’s biggest open-air film screenings feature something for everyone!
11. Marché aux Fleurs
Since 1830, Paris’s most famous flower market has attracted millions of green thumbs and curious onlookers alike. Marché aux Fleurs, open seven days a week, offers a wide mix of flora, ranging from orchids and peonies, to exotic flowers and shrubs. There is no excuse for missing this happy place!
12. Jardin du Luxembourg
The Jardin du Luxembourg is an oasis in the middle of bustling Paris; it’s the perfect place to sit and chat, enjoy nature, and simply allow time to pass you by. For first-time visitors and locals, this garden is a true gem.
13. Play a game with the locals
While strolling about the city, why not try your hand at something new? Join in on a locals’ game of pétanque or mölkky for some friendly competition. Pétanque is a classic French game, similar to both horseshoes and bocce, and is beloved by generations. Nowadays, however, Parisian hipsters are also taking up mölkky, a Finnish throwing game.
14. Musée d’Orsay/Musée du Louvre/Musée de l’Orangerie
Paris’s three most popular art museums, Musée d’Orsay, Musée du Louvre, and Musée de l’Orangerie, are free on every first Sunday of the month. The only exception is the Louvre, as this rule applies only from March through October. Whether you have to pay your way or not, though, these impressive institutions shouldn’t be missed. Free entry is just a bonus!
15. Explore the neighborhoods of Paris on foot
Getting lost in the historic, café-lined streets of Paris has to be the best way to explore the City of Light. From the Latin Quarter and Saint-Germain-des-Prés, to Pigalle and Montmartre, Paris’s many different quarters wait to be discovered!
Top 15 Free Things to Do in Paris
With our guide of 15 free things to do in Paris, you’re sure to experience the best of Paris, without going broke! While there are hundreds of free things to do in Paris, these are a few you shouldn’t miss during your next visit.
What to Pack for France
Remember that the season of your visit to France will help determine what you need to pack!
Of course, summer is warmer, and you can dress as you would in this part of Europe. But as expected the winter is very cold. Always bring a beautiful coat in winter!
Here are a few top tips of what to wear in France:
- Wool coat: During the colder months a beautiful wool coat is essential for style and practicality. You will fit in with the locals with this one.
- Comfortable boots: As expected, you’ll walk a lot, so opt for a comfortable but stylish boot that you’ve worn in. You can’t go wrong with a smart Chelsea boot, like these.
- Floaty dress: In the summer opt for a long floaty dress so you stay cool, and bring a light scarf so you are always prepared to enter religious sites and cover your shoulders.
- Sunscreen: Nothing spoils your trip (and your photos!) more than sunburn. Remember to prepare with a good, natural sunscreen and stay protected.
- Reusable water bottle: Remember to keep hydrated during your adventures; it can’t all be wine and coffee all the time! Bring a reusable water bottle so you can keep topped up.
- Umbrella: There is always a risk of rain! Pack a travel sized umbrella so you don’t get caught short
- Travel insurance: As with any trip, you should ALWAYS purchase travel insurance in case anything goes wrong. I’ve had my fair share of travel mishaps!
Quick France Tips
- HOTEL: I use this website for scoring amazing deals on accommodation worldwide. Find great hotels in France here.
- HOSTELWORLD: If you’re traveling on a budget, this is the best website to score cheap hostel deals.
- VACATION RENTAL: I use this site for finding the perfect vacation rental for an unforgettable getaway.
- TRAVEL INSURANCE: Never go on a trip without travel insurance! If you are a remote worker and/or traveling regularly, SafetyWing has an awesome monthly subscription for digital nomad insurance (I currently use SafetyWing).
- GUIDED TOURS & EXCURSIONS: Many of the tours I recommend are hosted with Viator, which also works with local tour operators. Search them all here.
- CHEAP FLIGHTS: Get great deals on flights using my favorite flight fare aggregator.
- TRAVEL GEAR: A collection of all of my must-have travel gear are all listed here. Most important to remember is comfortable shoes and a scarf to use when visiting religious sites.
- CAR RENTAL: If you need to rent a car book car rental in advance here for the best deals.
What are you favorite things to do in Paris? Have you experienced any of these free activities before? If not, which would you enjoy most?