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The Absolute Best Free Attractions in Paris

Ah, Paris. The City of Lights. There’s a reason it’s on many travel bucket lists. It’s beautiful, historic, and there’s a nearly endless supply of things to do and iconic sites to visit…but it can be hard on the wallet. If you’re trying to save a few dollars (or euros) on your trip, try a few of these awesome free attractions in Paris. In fact, you could string several of these together to create a full day of sightseeing made up entirely of free things in Paris.

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Great free attractions in Paris your should add to your itinerary

The Eiffel Tower lit up at night
Watching the lights on the Eiffel Tower at night is my favorite of the free attractions in Paris, Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

Enjoy the Eiffel Tower light show

If you want to experience the Eiffel Tower but don’t want to shell out the 16 euros (or more!) to ride the elevator up to a viewing platform, find a good viewing spot on a bridge over the Seine or pull up a piece of grass at Parc du Champs de Mar and take in the view without spending a penny. It’s one of the best free things in Paris.

Champs de Mar is a large public greenspace that spreads out east from the Eiffel Tower. It’s a popular spot to picnic or just relax with an up-close view of one of the most iconic landmarks in the world. Of course, you can do this anytime during the day, but why not check it out at night? The Eiffel Tower is lit up after sunset (which is really nice), but then there is a five-minute sparkling light show that I personally think is spectacular. The light show runs every hour on the hour from the time the tower is lit up until 1 a.m.

Check out this post if you’re looking for things to do in Paris with kids!

Stroll the Champs-Élysées

No Paris itinerary is complete without seeing the Champs-Élysées, one of the most famous streets in the world. I recommend starting at Place de la Concorde (exit Jardin des Tuileries at the west end near Museé de l’Orangerie) and walking up the north side of the boulevard before return by way of the other side of the street to get the full experience.

If you’re interested in haute couture, take a detour into the “golden triangle” on your way back down the south side of the boulevard. This section of Paris’ 8th Arrondissement is so named for the high number of luxury hotels, businesses and top fashion boutiques with flagship stores (think Chanel, Dior, Valentino, Louis Vuitton) in the triangle of land between the Champs-Élysées, Avenue Montaigne and Avenue George-V.

Arc de Triomphe in Paris with tourists and cars
Why you do need to pay to climb up the Arc de Triomphe, there’s no charge to get up close or even walk underneath the great arc. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

Get up close and personal with the Arc de Triomphe

And, hey! Once you get to the top of the Champs-Élysées, why not just pop over to the Arc de Triomphe? Though you’ll need to purchase a ticket for €12 (or use your Paris Museum Pass) to climb up to the top of the arch and view Paris from the panoramic terrace, it’s totally free to get up close and even walk underneath this famous landmark.

Do not under any circumstances attempted to cross the insane traffic on Place Charles de Gaulle (the traffic circle around the arch). Instead, use the underground pedestrian walkway (near the metro station) to get safely from the top of the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe.

Arc de Triomphe
Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris, France
www.paris-arc-de-triomphe.fr/en/

Underside of the Arc de Triomphe
Photo: Plan, Ready, Go

Take a historic Paris walking tour

Another one of the great free activities in Paris is to take half a day and walk through the historic center of the city. Although you can no longer visit a key free site here (Notre-Dame), there’s still plenty to see on and around Île de la Cité in the heart of Paris and especially into the Latin Quarter.

If you want some structure to your walk, I highly recommend the Rick Steves audio walking tour available to download through his free Rick Steves Audio Europe app. Although some of the sites on the tour are not free (e.g., Conciergerie), if you don’t have a Paris Museum Pass and want to save a few euros you can simply view these sites from the outside while you listen to the audio guide.

You can also join free guided walking tours of Paris through companies like Sandemans and Discover Walks. Be advised though that most of these companies expect a tip for the guide at the end of the tour, so…sort of free but also not.

Deportation memorial courtyard in Paris with the Seine visible through an iron grate-covered opening in the concrete wall.
Photo: Plan, Ready, Go

Pay your respects at the Deportation Martyrs Memorial

If you’re looking for something to do outside of the typical Paris tourist sites, I highly recommend stopping at the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation; it’s one of the hidden gems of Paris. The memorial is located on the east end of Île de la Cité and is free for all visitors. It was opened in 1962 and honors the 200,000 people who were sent to the concentration camps from France during World War II.

There is a small visitor’s center just inside the entrance gate at the memorial where you can get a brochure. You will need to pass through a minimal security check (they just peak inside your bags) before you can enter. The memorial is typically closed on Mondays and major holidays.

There are no public restrooms at the memorial

Deportation Martyrs Memorial
Square de l’Ile-de-France, 7 Quai de l’Archevêché, 75004

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Photos of Sacre Couer and a large fountain at Versailles
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Basilica Sacre Coeur in Paris with a blue sky
Photo: Plan, Ready, Go

Basilique du Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart) is a top tourist draw in Paris…and it’s free to enter. In addition to being a lovely church to visit, it sits atop the highest point in Paris, offering great views of the city stretched out below you.

To get into the church, you’ll need to go through a nominal security check (they just look inside your bag). Inside there are areas for general seating, making Sacre Coeur also a great place to get a few minutes of quiet while you soak up the atmosphere and architecture.

Be aware that Sacre Coeur is a functioning place of worship. Please respect the posted signage marking designated seating areas for those in the church for prayer as opposed to visiting as tourists. Tourists are welcome to visit, but they are asked to remain silent while inside and not take photos of the basilica’s interior.

Pay restrooms (€1,50) are available outside Sacre Coeur (down the stairs and to the left as you exit). These are shared men’s and women’s facilities, and there is an attendant if you need change.

Basilique du Sacre Coeur
35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre, 75018
www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com

Check out this post if your looking for more ideas for things to do in Paris.

Les Jardin des Tuileries with view of the Louvre and the Louvre pyramid in the background.
Les Jardin des Tuileries. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

Visit some famous Paris parks

Paris is full of hundreds of beautiful, public green spaces, gardens and parks…all of them free for your enjoyment. Jardin des Tuileries, Parc du Champ de Mars (see the Eiffel Tower!), Jardin de Luxemburg and Jardin du Trocadéro (more Eiffel Tower!) are all lovely ways to experience an important part of Paris life for free. And aside from being totally free, these parks and gardens are also great for when you need something relaxing to do in Paris.

Large fountain at the gardens in Versailles
Photo: Plan, Ready, Go

Visit the gardens at Versailles

Okay, I know Versailles is actually not in Paris, but I thought this one was awesome enough to include in this post. And though the entry fee for the actual palace of Versailles is a little on the pricey side, entrance to the massive gardens is totally free…with the exception of days of the Fountains Shows and Musical Gardens.

The gardens at Versailles are definitely worth a lengthy stop on your Paris itinerary. In fact, I even enjoy the gardens more than the palace. The Versailles gardens are open every day all year round starting at 8 a.m. They’re usually open until 8:30 p.m. (last admission at 7 p.m.), but occasionally close early, particularly on Night Fountains Show days.

Related Post: Planning a Travel Itinerary: The Complete Guide

Château de Versailles
Place d’Armes, 78000 Versailles, France
en.chateauversailles.fr

There really are quite a few awesome free things to do in Paris. So, if you’re heading to Paris and need to shave a few dollars off your trip budget, try out a few of these great ideas. What’s your favorite free thing to do in Paris?

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Arc de Triomphe with blue sku
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3 Comments

  1. Great post! I’m headed to Paris in October for the beginning of my first solo trip! I will definitely be using some of these tips.

    1. Darcy Vierow says:

      Thanks so much for reading! Have a great time in Paris. It’s absolutely one of my favorite cities.

  2. Thanks for a great read and a very well written post, god job!
    Paris is on my bucketlist 🙂

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