The choices of what to see in Paris on a budget is a challenge. It’s an expensive city. We only had three and a half days, even two weeks would probably not be enough to see and enjoy all the things this city has to offer. Therefore, with limited time and a tight budget, it was necessary to choose our ‘must-sees’ and plan how best to tick them all off.
All travellers would have their own preferences, but we decided that our list would have to include the main Museums. The Louvre, Musée d’Orsday, Musée de l’Orangerie, The Conciergerie, Notre Dame Tower and the Crypts, Arc de Triomphe were ‘must-visit’. Walking and a boat trip along the river gave us time to wander, stopping when we found something special to see or good to eat.
Thus, the plan was to use two days to see the ‘Importants’ and the third, to ‘do the rest’. The first afternoon and evening were mainly spent settling in before we went looking for something to eat. Our baguettes from a roadside stall were not nearly as nice as the ones you can get in Hanoi. A walk along the bank of the Seine and through the Latin Quarter taught us that the roads aren’t an easy grid. Take a map!
Paris on a budget
Once we identified things and places we couldn’t miss, we decided we’d be best served by organising an entry pass. That would get us in quickly to our preferred top spots – much better than standing for hours in a long queue.
Get a Pass
Before we left home, we went online to check what would be the best way to minimise cost and waiting time at our preferred top stops in Paris and identified The Paris Pass and the Paris Museum Pass as two methods which warranted further investigation.
The Paris Pass and The Paris Museum Pass both share a number of features in common:
- Both types of Pass are valid for either 2, 4 or 6 consecutive calendar days
- start using it as soon as possible on the first day to make the most effective use of your time.
- You don’t have to nominate the dates you want to use either when you purchase the Pass
- Your Pass is activated from your first use and you must sign and date the card then.
- Security people do check that this is done at entry into each attraction.
- Both Passes include entry to the permanent exhibits of more than 50 museums and monuments.
- Some places allow you to cut the queue
- You may visit multiple times within the validity of your pass
- i.e. you can go out for lunch and come back later
- Both Passes can be purchased online and shipped either locally or overseas for a charge
- The Paris Pass charges 2€ for self collection
- Paris Museum Pass may be self-collected at no additional cost
- Both Passes have a downloadable brochure and list all the sights and benefits available.
How much do they cost?
Please check their websites for the most recent costing.
Paris Museum Pass (Adult) :
2 Day 42.00€, 4 Day 56.00€, 6 Day 69.00€
Paris Pass (Adult) :
2 Day 122.00€, 4 Day 182€, 6 Day 219€
Extras with the Paris Pass:
- All public transport services between zones 1 to 3,
- Free Hop On/Hop Off bus tour,
- Seine River Cruise,
- free entry to Musée Grévin,
- Tour Montparnasse
- a Wine Tasting experience.
*** Important things to note:
Many of the Museums are closed one day a week, often Monday or Tuesday. Some offer free Entry on the first Sunday of the month. A number of museums have extended opening hours on certain days of the week. When planning your itinerary, check each of your preferred attractions in the list provided by the respective Pass website so you can visit the free entry places without wasting one of your valuable days or missing out because they are closed.
*** One of the places that you still have to queue is the Tower of Notre Dame. This is because you climb the steps in groups of about 20, every 15 minutes or so. The steps are narrow and there is no access for wheelchairs or strollers, so if you have disabled members in your party or children with you, they will not be allowed.
We opted to take a two day Museum Pass as we planned to do a lot of walking, We used our third day to visit the other places we wanted to see, at least from outside.
Was it good value?
We thought so, given that the places we managed to visit in two days would have cost us considerably more had we paid at each place. Not having to join a queue for most also saved us time. Our transport cost over two days was nil as we walked between all the places we wanted to see. Even over the three and a half days we paid less than 20€ each for trains and a river cruise. See our story about getting around Paris on a budget HERE.
Parks and gardens
Paris has parks and gardens in small unexpected corners in addition to the well known formal gardens. As you walk around the city, you come upon them suddenly you’ll meet people walking their dogs, children playing or just sitting having a picnic.
We were fortunate to walk through the Parc du Champ-de-Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower on a Saturday. There were many locals having a good time with their children and friends.
Churches and surprises
There are many beautiful churches in Paris and even the small ones can hide a surprising interior. While some are well known, like Notre Dame Cathedral, the nearby Sainte-Chapelle, Église Saint-Sulpice and the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur in Montmartre, there are many others tucked away around the city.
Some you will see from a cruise you may take on the river Seine. Others you may come across as you are walking and hear the bells. We found shops selling the most delicious (and expensive!) macarons and small family groceries. there was even even a florist selling wattle. You’ll walk past places with plaques telling you who’d lived there, and admire interesting artworks and books sold from the green boxes along the River Seine.
We stopped at a patisserie for a quick bite and smiled to see a woman feeding the seagulls on the Seine. And I will always wonder if he asked? And what she said…..