How to have a long weekend in Paris for less than £100
Paris might be one of the world’s priciest cities, but a long weekend here doesn’t have to break the bank. Europe expert Qin Xie reveals where to find great value
With majestic architecture, world-class museums and a certain je ne sais quoi, Paris is justifiably one of Europe’s most yearned for city breaks. It also happens to be one of the world’s most expensive cities. Fortunately, there’s a glut of things you can do for free, or on a budget – perfect at a time when many of us need to make sure every pound stretches further. Here’s how to get your fill of culture, sights, shopping and eating out during a long weekend in the City of Lights with a spending budget of £100 per person – not including flights and accommodation.
Kick off your weekend at the Louvre, where admission is free after 6pm on the first Friday of every month (except July and August). Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa might be the star attraction here, but she’s joined by equally legendary works, including Alexandros of Antioch’s Venus de Milo and Michaelangelo’s Slaves.
When you’re ready, take the Métro to Pigalle. For tickets, either get a Navigo Easy pass for €2 (£1.72) or load tickets on to your phone via the Bonjour RATP app. A carnet of ten costs €16.90 (£14.50), which should last you the weekend.
Dinner is at Bouillon Pigalle, a casual bistro where the queue snakes out of the door without fail. Luckily, it doesn’t close until midnight. All the French classics are in abundance, whether you’re after escargots or beef bourguignon, and mains start from €9.40 (£8.07). The portions aren’t huge, so budget for around €15 (£12.87) for three courses.
Afterwards, meander uphill to the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur in Montmartre, from which you’ll find the most romantic view of the city lit up in all its glory.
Total spend: £27.37
Start the day by seeing the French capital’s most iconic sights and learning about their history on a guided tour. GuruWalk has a list of local guides offering themed walks ranging from history and culture to mysteries and legends. All tours are free, but a tip of €10 (£8.58) is recommended, so do bring cash. The most popular routes take a couple of hours. Starting from Hôtel de Ville, you’ll stop at Notre-Dame, Pont Neuf and the Louvre, before finishing at the Jardin des Tuileries.
Head for nearby Rue Saint-Honoré afterwards. With showstopping boutiques flanking both sides, name checking the likes of Chloé and Dior, this mile-long stretch is a riot for window shoppers. Take a beat at Terres de Café to rest your feet, enjoy speciality coffee from €2.50 (£2.15) and people-watch from its terrace.
The semi-pedestrianised district of Montorgueil, which is abuzz with restaurants, cafés and bars, shoots off here via the Rue du Louvre. Greek café Filakia is a lovely choice for lunch, serving freshly made pitas and mezzes, and its lunch deals start from €16 (£13.73) for a pita, side and drink.
Hop on the Métro to Père-Lachaise for the largest cemetery in Paris, and the final resting place of the likes of Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison and Édith Piaf. Famous tombs aside, this feels like a miniature city waiting to be explored, with wide, tree-lined boulevards and intricate burial architecture.
Five minutes away on foot is Le Piston Pélican on Rue de Bagnolet. The neighbourhood restaurant and bar has an outdoor terrace where you can perch and observe the world going by, and wines start from around €4 (£3.43) a glass.
Dinner is at Ground Control, a cultural space, shop and food hall near Gare de Lyon, a short Métro ride away. Taiwanese, South American and European cuisines are all represented here, but perhaps the most interesting outlet is La Résidence, where the food is cooked by refugees from Syria, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Tibet and Algeria. The eclectic menu features dishes such as vegetarian mafe, a West African stew made with roasted vegetables and a peanut butter sauce. Mains start from €11 (£9.44) and all profits go towards the Refugee Food association.
If you want to continue into the night, there are DJ sets at Ground Control every Saturday night, with free entry on most nights. And with four bars serving craft beers, natural wines and cocktails, you'll have plenty of options to keep drinks flowing.
Total spend: £37.33
Make a morning of it at Marché aux Puces de Paris Saint-Ouen, the city’s largest flea market. There’s no place quite like it: shops and stalls selling antiques and second-hand goods mingle with informal traders displaying their wares roadside. You’ll need to spend a decent amount of time sifting through gems to find a bargain, but the sheer number of sellers means there’s plenty to see.
Refuel nearby at Cambodian restaurant Le Mékong, about a ten-minute walk away. Family-run for more than 35 years, it serves dishes such as Cambodian fish stew and satay beef on the set menu, which costs a bargain €15.50 (£13.30) for two courses.
Spend the afternoon museum hopping. Most museums in Paris are free on the first Sunday of the month, but the Musée Picasso Paris is a great option to kick off your cultural renaissance. Housed in the Hôtel Salé, a Mazarin building that’s a sight to behold in itself, the collection contains thousands of pieces by the celebrated artist, ranging from sketches to paintings.
The museum is also well placed for exploring Le Marais, the most romantic of Parisian neighbourhoods, with cobbled streets, intimate gardens and design-centric boutiques. Place des Vosges is particularly attractive, with art dealers focusing on contemporary works around its perimeter.
For a sweet treat, head to the Yann Couvreur pâtisserie on Rue des Rosiers. The acclaimed pastry chef is known for his vanilla mille-feuilles, although you’ll have much better luck getting hold of the orange blossom chouquettes (French sugar puffs). It’s €2.50 (£2.15) for six. If you require somewhere to enjoy them, Jardin des Rosiers –Joseph Migneret is within striking distance.
For dinner, trattoria-style Italian beckons at Gusto Italia 218, where pizzas and pastas are the order of the day. The neighbourhood favourite has dishes that start from just €10 (£8.58) and it’s in a great location, too, just at the edge of Champ de Mars. It means that, after dinner, you can take a leisurely stroll up the softly lit avenues for unobstructed views of the Eiffel Tower. After 8pm, this Parisian landmark starts to sparkle, with the light show running for five minutes every hour on the hour.
Total spend: £24.03
Grand total: £88.73
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