Top 9 Free Things to do in Paris
1. Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris
Festooned with gargoyles and Gothic touches, this imposing icon ofParis is essential for every visitor. Entering this grand medieval edifice is free (although it costs to climb its twin towers) as is a stroll along the neighbouring Seine for an alternate view of the cathedral’s spiky apse and naturalist sculptures.
2. Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen
Window-shopping (or lécher les vitrines to the locals) is a great way to take an indulgent peek at objets d’art and wild curiosities you’d never actually buy. The St-Ouen flea market and antiques fair is the perfect place to let your imagination run riot. Marvel at bearskin rugs, antique tapestries and brass diving bells in this decadently eccentric marketplace. (But try to keep your eyebrow-raising in check when you look at the price tags.) Hop off the metro at Porte de Clignancourt (line 4) and continue under the bridge until the souvenir stalls give way to side streets crammed with beautiful buys.
3. Parc du Champ de Mars
A lift to the peak of the Eiffel Tower can squeeze the budget but views below can be equally stunning, albeit from a different angle. Parc du Champ de Mars has lawns and flowerbeds manicured with military precision (as you’d expect from a former army marching ground). Bring a blanket, wine and the best brie you can find to this expanse of greenery and wait for the light show at dusk to set La Tour Eiffel a-twinkle.
4. Cimitière du Père Lachaise
The most haunting spot in Paris allows you to rub shoulders with literary greats like Proust and Balzac, and modern icons like Oscar Wilde and Edith Piaf. Jim Morrison also lies in this ancient cemetery, his grave barricaded off to protect it from over-zealous fans who make a musical pilgrimage here. The tree-lined avenues and calling crows make Père Lachaise the most atmospheric walk in Paris. Head to the 20th arrondissement, jumping off the metro at Père Lachaise (line 2) or Gambetta (line 3).
5. Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
For a surreal view of French culture, dive into the permanent collections of Paris’ Museum of Modern Art. From the bolshy cubism of Braque to Matisse’s dancers, there’s sure to be something to lift your spirits. Take metro line 9 and alight at Alma-Marceau.
6. Marché d’Aligre
Feast your eyes on the finest local produce at this fabulous covered food market on Place d’Aligre in the 12th arrondissement. Mountains of cheese, artisan butchers and a field of flower stalls can send you into sensory overload after wandering through a few aisles. Stop for a discreet glass of Bordeaux and get your hands floury on some crusty baguette. Ride metro line 8 to the Ledru-Rollin stop.
7. Basilique du Sacré Coeur
This palatial white marble church crowns the lively Montmartre district in the 18th arrondissement. Its interior is bedecked with gold mosaics and towering stained-glass windows, and you can listen for the peal of one of the world’s heaviest bells. Visiting the basilica is free, but there’s a charge to ascend into the dome or explore the crypt.
8. Musée Carnavalet
Experience a tour de force through Paris’ history, from its ancient origins to the fashion-forward capital of sophistication it is today. The Musée Carnavalet’s permanent collection has no charge, allowing you to saunter through fin-de-siècle drawing rooms and delicately reconstructed baroque interiors without spending a euro. The closest metro stops are Chemin Vert (line 8) and Saint Paul (line 1).
9. Cimitière du Montparnasse
The final resting place for hundreds of glamorous and intellectual Parisians, Montparnasse cemetery is less ostentatious than Père Lachaise but perfect for a serene stroll. Get closer than you ever thought possible to Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Samuel Beckett. Ride metro line 6 to the Edgar Quinet or Raspail stop.