Paris is expensive. Even with the current exchange rate, Paris is expensive. But that doesn't mean there's not lots to offer a budget conscious traveler. On my last visit to Paris we were able to maximize what we did (think great food) by doing some of the free things the city has to offer.
Trocadéro and Parc du Champs de Mars
There's nothing quite like your first look at the Eiffel Tower and for me, the best way to get that view is coming up from the Trocadéro Metro stop and seeing the hulking mass of the Tower from the viewing deck above the Jardins de Trocadéro. The steel beast looms large over the Seine and your first glimpse from this angle will endear its girded frame to you forever. Partner that with a quick walk across the Seine and a picnic at Parc du Champs de Mars for a perfect afternoon. If you make the trip at night, you may even get to see its famous sparkle.
A View of the City From Montmartre
For the most part, Paris is flat. That is until you visit the northern section and it's crown jewel, Montmartre. Seen from anywhere in the city, this district is spotlighted by the Basilique du Sacré Coeur at its highest point. A modern building when compared to Notre Dame and other churches in the city, Sacré Coeur offers a Byzantine-esque style architecture not seen anywhere else in the city. After perusing through the interior, make your way to the observation deck and through the ever-present souvenir sellers and street performers for a unique view of the city. Looking out towards the heart of the city, you can spot all the famous landmarks that Paris has to offer, and even a little bit of the Eiffel Tower, on a clear day.
During our last stay in Paris we called Rue Mouffetard home and this little cobblestoned street is easily one of the best in the city. A simple stroll down this market street will give you access to pretty much any type of food that you can imagine. On Saturdays, the street is closed off to traffic to form an open air market. Walk through and smell the gourmet cheeses, breads and sweets freshly made by artisans.
Cimitière du Père Lachaise
French philosophers like Foucault and Descartes loved to taklk about death so why not read some of their work while perusing some amazing funerary architecture in Cimitière du Père Lachaise. Located in the 20th Arrondissement, here you'll find the graves of The Doors singer Jim Morrison, Marcel Proust, Honoré de Balzac and Oscar Wilde. My first few times in Paris I avoided Père Lachaise in favor of the smaller Cimitière du Montmartre so that I could see the grave of French New Wave film director Francois Truffaut. While also a great place to spend an afternoon, Père Lachaise is by the far the better option.
Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris
No trip to Paris is complete without a stroll through the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris. Positioned at the literal heart of the city, Notre Dame is a gothic sight to behold. Inside, tourists walk along its outer edges taking in the art and history while local parishioners and Catholics from all over take part in the church's host of daily services. Make sure to walk along the backside of this medieval marvel for a beautiful look at its flying buttresses from the bridge over the Seine.
So grab a quick-lunch from a food stand and stroll at a leisurely pace along the Left Bank. There's so much to offer in Paris for free, you'll wonder why you hadn't gone there sooner.