Planning a trip to Paris but sticking to a tight-ish budget? Summer is the prime time to visit the French capital if you’re looking for free things to do and budget options in the city. Not only will the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur and Tuileries Gardens look even more beautiful in the summer months but there are also plenty of free things going on from May to August. While Paris is known for being one of the more expensive backpacker cities, there are definitely ways to enjoy the city on a budget. We’ve rounded up 13 free things to do in Paris in the summer so you guys can save some euros while enjoying what the real Paris has to offer…
Don’t have time to read the full article? Here’s a quick rundown:
Open-air cinema on Parc de la Villette
Free museums on the first Sunday of each month
The city’s free parks
Waterfront terrace at Belushi’s
Les Puces de Saint-Ouen flea market
Watch the sunset from Pont Alexandre III
Discover the charm of Montmartre
Catch the Eiffel Tower light show
Walk down Rue Crémieux
Chill out on Place des Vosges
Summer night dance at Jardin Tino Rossi
Relax on Paris Plages, an urban beach
1. Open-air cinema
Every summer an open-air cinema pops up in Parc de la Villette, the third largest park in Paris. Catch a free film on the green lawn with some friends, drink some beers and embrace those long summer evenings. This is the largest open-air theatre in Paris that opens up every summer in the city with 20,000 m² of green space that can fit about 150,000 movie watchers. The open-air cinema screens all types of films from old classics, new releases to short films and international movies. Open to all and free of charge, you can either sit on the grass (just bring a picnic blanket) or you can hire out a deck chair.
2. Free entry to museums
Take a break from the heat and retreat to the city’s cool and air conditioned museums. On the first Sunday of each month many of Paris’ museums are free to enter. Some of the city’s most major museums and art galleries take part include the Louvre, Musée Rodin, Musée Picasso, the Pompidou Centre and Musée d'Orsay (all of which charge for entry on any other day). If you aren’t in the city on the first Sunday but still want to check out some of Paris's museums on a budget, then the ones that are free to enter every day include Petit Palais, City of Paris Museum of Modern Art, Maison de Balzac and Musée Carnavalet.
3. Jardin du Luxembourg and other parks
Walking around Paris’ public parks in the summer is an absolute delight. One of our favourite parks in the city is Jardin du Luxembourg in the 6th arrondissement. Made up of beautiful gardens, perfectly-maintained flower beds and a large pond, the park was created by order of Queen Marie de Medici in 1612 and it overlooks the 17th century Luxembourg Palace. Have a picnic, chillout in the sunshine or go for a nice long stroll on the grounds. Some of the other beautiful Parisian parks that are free to access include the Jardin des Tuileries in the 1st arrondissement (near the Louvre) and Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in the city’s 19th arrondissement.
4. Enjoy views of Canal Saint Martin from the hostel terrace
Sometimes you don’t have to stray too far to find free things to do this summer. Did you know that our St Christopher’s Inns Canal hostel boasts its own outdoor terrace that overlooks Canal Saint Martin? After a long day of sightseeing, head back to the hostel and enjoy the sunset over the water from our large terrace. As a guest of the hostel you can also make the most of 25% off all food and drink at the bar, plus the daily Happy Hour from 4pm - 9pm every day. This is the perfect spot to catch some sun for free with awesome views, great company and awesome music.
5. Catch the Eiffel Tower light show
Catch the Eiffel Tower light show every day from sundown to 1 AM. For every hour on the hour, the tower puts on a truly spectacular show lighting up each of its impressive 20,000 light bulbs for 5 minutes.
6. Check out the Les Puces de Saint-Ouen flea market
This antique and vintage street market in Paris takes place every Saturday and Sunday just north of the Paris city centre. It’s a great place to soak up the local Parisian shopping culture where you can browse the items on sale which start from just €2. You may even land yourself a bargain on something unique and rare. The closest Metro station is Porte de Clignancourt and it’s free to enter. Spread across 15 markets, this Paris flea market is the largest antiques and vintage fashion market in the world.
7. Admire the sunset over the River Seine
They say the best things in life are free and there’s nothing more priceless than experiencing a Parisian sunset. One of our favourite places to enjoy the sun going down is on the riverbanks of the River Seine. Head to one of the city’s bridges or embankments to get the best photos of the pink sky reflecting off the water. Pont Alexandre III is the most extravagant bridge in the city and the perfect place to watch the sunset. Some other awesome viewpoints in the city that are free to access include the rooftop at Galeries Lafayette, the view from the Sacre Coeur, from Pont Des Invalides and the Eiffel Tower skyline from Trocadero.
8. Discover the charm of Montmartre
To get a real feel for a city, getting a bit lost is sometimes the best way! You never know what you might stumble upon or what pretty back street you may discover if you walk around a new place. One of the prettiest Parisian neighbourhoods to explore in the summer is Montmartre, a hilltop district in the 18th arrondissement because it’s full of charming cobbled streets, hidden views and Instagrammable bistros and facades. You could spend a whole sunny afternoon wandering around and checking out the street artists on Place du Tertre. Montmarte boasts a village-like feel and the best part is, you can walk there from our Gare du Nord hostel in 28 minutes.
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9. Views from the Sacre Coeur
One of our personal favourite landmarks in Paris is the Sacre Coeur in Montmartre. Not only is the exterior of the white cathedral breathtaking, but on a clear day, this is probably one of the best viewpoints in the city. It’s free to wander the grounds around the Sacre Coeur but there is a cost to access the dome at the top of the building. The good news is, there’s no need to go to the top if you’re on a budget because the view from the highest point you can reach for free is stunning!
10. Take photos of Rue Crémieux
Rue Crémieux is one of the prettiest streets in Europe, even more beautiful on a warm summer's day. The narrow tree-lined street and pastel-coloured houses make it one of the most Instagrammable places in Paris. You can walk there from Quai de la Rapée Metro station or Gare du Lyon. We recommend heading down there in the morning when there are less bloggers and crowds taking photos for the Gram.
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11. Chill out on Place des Vosges
There are loads of cool chillout areas in Paris that are free to access. Place des Vosges is one of them! Located in Marais, the city’s former Jewish Quarter, Place des Vosges is one of Europe’s most beautiful squares where you can chill out on the grassy lawn which is lined by 36 upmarket Parisian townhouses. It’s a great place to read a book under a tree while listening to the sounds of the fountain (which is the centrepiece of the square). The elegance of this square will really make you feel like you’re in Paris.
12. Summer night dance at Jardin Tino Rossi
Do you love to dance? If so, then you should experience swingin’ Paris. Only Parisians tend to know about the summer night dance that takes place at Jardin Tino Rossi most evenings. This waterfront riverbank plays host to some outdoor dancing in the where locals gather by the river Seine to dance the night away; it’s very romantic. Anybody can attend and it’s free! Whether it’s open-air salsa, latin dancing or freestyle, watching couples dance reminds us why Paris is called the city of love.
Summer night dancing also takes place in Buttes-Chaumont park each evening outside the Rosa Bonheur restaurant.
13. Relax on Paris Plages
There’s no beach in Paris so instead, they built one just for the locals. Only for summer, the banks of the Seine and the La Villette Canal Basin transform into an urban beach with plenty of spaces to chill under the sun. With deck chairs, palm trees, sun umbrellas, activities and wooden terraces, the urban beach is always buzzing with families, friends and pets. Known as Paris Plages, this seaside environment was built so that locals can make the most of the hot weather, providing them with plenty of chillout spaces in the city. You can make the most of these areas free of charge.