15 May 16 Unmissable Free Things to do in Paris
There is so much to do in The City of Light, you could spend months researching your city break. So we’ve done the hard work for you with our handy list of highlights. As with many of our favourite European capitals there are also ample opportunities to part with your money in Paris. So, to help you get the most from your trip and also spend wisely, we bring you 15 free things to do in Paris that are a must for any visitor.
FREE CULTURE, MUSIC AND ARTS
1. The Eiffel Tower (La Tour Eiffel)
While climbing The Iron Lady is not free, visiting it as a sight is. And honestly, we think it looks better from down here, when you can actually get it in the picture!
Address: Champ de Mars, 5 Avenue Anatole France, Paris
Opening hours: 24 hours
2. Sacré Cœur Basilica (La Basilique du Sacré Cœur)
Set at the summit of Montmartre, one of the tallest hills in Paris, the white-domed Sacred Heart Basilica is not only a Parisian landmark and an architectural masterpiece, but from here you will also have some of the most amazing views of Paris. Because the Basilica is dedicated to silent prayer, there are not guided tours, but you can download a free audio tour to your phone and follow it as you go around. Absolutely stunning, but beware you will have to climb 300 steps to get there.
Child-friendly: Yes, just beware of the 300 steps you need to climb and that the Basilica is dedicated to silent prayer, so noise is not really allowed.
Address: La Basilique du Sacré Cœur, 35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre, Paris
Opening hours: daily 6am – 10.30pm
3. Marché Dauphine Flea Market (Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen)
The French style, be it furniture, lifestyle or fashion, is renowned and replicated worldwide, but you just cannot beat seeing the original in the flesh. And there is no better way to see it than at the flea market at St-Ouen – the largest antiques market and second-hand shop in the world. You can even download an audio tour straight to your phone! Admire all the goodies and come out saying Ooh là là.
Child-friendly: Children are welcomed, but we warn you that young ones might get bored of constantly being told not to touch anything
Address: Marché Dauphine, 132-140 Rue des Rosiers, Saint-Ouen, Paris
Opening hours: Sat to Mon 9.30am – 6pm
4. Aligre Market (Marché d’Aligre)
Also known as the Marché Beauvau, a visit to Paris would not be complete without visiting a food market. While visiting the market is free, why not spend a few Euros, buy some amazing produce and try your hand at cooking – the French way mind you – in your very own Parisian serviced apartment!
Address: Marché d’Aligre, Place d’Aligre, Paris
Opening hours: Tue to Sun 9am – 1pm and 4pm-7.30pm
5. Notre-Dame Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris)
One of the most iconic cathedrals in the world, Notre-Dame needs no introduction. The imposing medieval building sits on the corner of an island in the middle of the river Seine and just approaching the Cathedral is quite awe inspiring. Entering the building and guided tours are free, and also available in different languages throughout the week. If you are lucky, you may even catch an organ concert. It doesn’t get much more gothic than that!
Address: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, 6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II, Paris
Opening hours: daily 7.45am – 6.45pm
6. Pere Lachaise Cemetery (Cimitière du Père Lachaise)
While visiting a cemetery might not be on the top of your sightseeing list, Pere Lachaise is definitely no ordinary graveyard. From the incredibly ornate family crypts to the list of its now quiet residents, this cemetery is quite something. If your idol was a renowned poet, musician, philosopher, artist or writer, there is a chance they might be buried here even if they weren’t French!
Child-friendly: Not really
Address: Cimitière du Père Lachaise, 16 Rue du Repos, Paris
Opening hours: times vary during seasons, but going between 9am – 5.30pm would be a safe bet
7. Galeries Lafayette
Paris’ most famous department store, Galeries Lafayette is definitely worth a visit. Its flagship at Boulevard Haussmann revolves around the most stunning and ornate domed hall that will surely deserve a few selfies or Insta posts. And of course, there is also all the window shopping!
Address: Galeries Lafayette Haussmann, 40 Boulevard Haussmann, Paris
Opening hours: Mon to Sat 9.30am – 8.30pm, Sun 11am – 7pm
8. Alexandre III Bridge (Pont Alexandre III)
The most ornate bridge in Paris is quite a sight. It crosses the Seine connecting Champs-Elysees with the Eiffel Tower, so you won’t even need to get out of your way to see it!
Address: Pont Alexandre III, 75008 Paris
Opening hours: 24 hrs, but best seen during the day
9. The Love Wall (Le Mur des Je t’aime)
Is there a better place to snap that kissing holiday selfie than in front of a wall where “I love you” is written in hundreds of languages from around the world? The mural was created by artist and calligrapher Claire Kito under the watchful eye of Frédéric Baron, who started collecting “I love you(s)” in 1992. Spot your language, snap the smooch and then wonder to Sacre-Coeur (see entry #2) to watch the sunset with wine and a romantic picnic. Aww….. nous t’aimons aussi Paris! <3<3<3
Address: Le Mur des Je t’aime, Square Jean Rictus, Place des Abesses, Paris
Opening hours: times change during the year, but 9am – 5.30pm is a safe bet
10. Walking Tours of Paris (Parisien d’un Jour)
Walk Paris with a local. Paris Greeters are a group of volunteers that take people around the city showcasing the best the city has to offer. Perfect if you are visiting the city alone or for the second or third time and would like to see something off the beaten track.
FREE MUSEUMS AND GALLERIES
11. City of Paris Museum of Modern Art (Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris)
Home to around 100,000 works of art, the Museum of Modern Art is a must for any art lover. Need we say more?
Address: Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 11 Avenue du Président Wilson, Paris
Opening hours: Tue to Sun 10am – 6pm (last admission 5.15pm)
12. Atelier Brancusi
A recreation of Constantin Brancusi’s workshop and beautiful examples of his work are on display as part of Centre Pompidou’s permanent exhibition. The Romanian sculptor made his career in France in the early 1900s and is widely regarded as the father of modern sculpture. If you visit on the first Sunday of the month you will also be able to visit the rest of Centre Pompidou for free.
Address: Atelier Brancusi, Centre Pompidou, Place Georges Pompidou, Paris
Opening hours: Wed to Mon 2pm– 6pm
OUTDOOR SPACES AND ACTIVITIES
One of the things we love the most about Paris is that Parisians enjoy just sitting on grassed spaces, picnicking and watching life go by. Once you realise this, you start seeing places all over the city that seem to be purpose-built for this lovely habit. Add a blanket, wine, cheese and a baguette and it makes perfect sense. Here are some of the places where you can enjoy the French picnic lifestyle.
13. Square Louise Michel
Lying directly beneath the beautiful Sacré Cœur Basilica (see entry #2), the square is named after a French school teacher and anarchist and has some of the best views of Paris. It’s a beautiful spot to picnic or bask in the Parisian sun with stunning views of the city. Here you will also find the Montmartre Carrousel, the Funiculaire de Montmartre (Montmartre Funicular), and the stunning Louise Michel Fountain as well as the countless steps you need to climb to get to Sacré Cœur Basilica itself.
Child-friendly: Yes, just beware of the 222 steps!
Address: Square Louise Michel, 6 Place Saint-Pierre, Paris
Opening hours: opening times change during the year, but 9am – 9.30pm is a safe bet
14. Champ de Mars Park (Parc du Champ de Mars)
Stretching in between the Eiffel Tower and the École Militaire, Champ de Mars is one of Paris’ larger green spaces and a prime spot for watching life go by around the City of Light’s most famous landmark. Bring a blanket, a bottle of wine and a cheeseboard and bask in the sun until dusk. Then watch the Iron Lady get her glitter on. It’s is just magic.
Address: Parc du Champ de Mars, 2 Allée Adrienne Lecouvreur, Paris
Opening hours: 24 hours
15. La Promenade Plantée (Coulée Verte René-Dumont)
The Coulée Verte René-Dumont, affectionately known as the Promenade Plantée, is a disused railway track that was made into a manicured garden. It’s the first garden of its type in the world and it runs in between buildings, over an old railway bridge, and through a tunnel providing an amazing 4.7 km long linear green walk across the city. An amazing place to visit and wander.
Address: 1 Coulée Verte René-Dumont, Paris
Opening hours: Mon to Fri 8am – 7.30pm; Sat to Sun 9am – 7.30pm
16. Open Air Cinema at La Villette (Cinéma en Plein Air à La Villette)
From July to August, Parc de La Villette becomes home to Paris’ most popular outdoor event, its open-air cinema festival. Screening a mixture of classic films from great directors and some of the best releases of recent years, the festival showcases films from around the world with French subtitles. While you will pay to sit on a deckchair, you can just bring a picnic blanket and sit on the floor for free, again, with a bottle of wine and nibbles (see what we mean about the picnic thing?). Even if the film is in a language you don’t understand and your French is too rusty for the subtitles, you can still soak up the atmosphere in this hip corner of town and polish off that bottle of wine.
Address: Parc de La Villette, 211 Avenue Jean Juarés, Paris
Opening hours: As soon as it goes dark from July to August
A great base to explore the city is a serviced apartment from Citybase. So pack the picnic basket, a blanket, a beret and a neck scarf, get the wine and the cheese as soon as you get off the plane or train, et voilà! You are ready for your Parisian adventure.