In Paris, I rented a little attic apartment in the 9º arrondisement for 3 weeks. I enjoyed overlooking the iconic Parisian rooftops and hearing our neighbour singing French jazz in the evenings. Being out of the tourist epicentre allowed me to greater appreciate true Parisian life (and attempt to live like locals). This is a city which is truly romantic once you strip back the tourist hoards and ever-present smell of urine. I am convinced that nothing feels as lovely as a glass of red overlooking the sunset after a day of galleries and culture.
It is easy to get caught up in the iconic tourist-trappings, but there is definitely more to Paris than meets the eye. Exploring Paris can be expensive because people will do these iconic things anyway. In my guide I will try and focus on ways to explore Paris without spending too much.
The Eiffel Tower is definitely famous for a reason!
Where To Go
- The Louvre goes without saying and is one of the most spectacular galleries in the world. Don’t be one of the people that just goes in for the Mona Lisa… sit back and enjoy the art around you because it is gorgeous. On the first Sunday of certain months, the gallery is free but this means it is incredibly crowded. On Friday nights from 6pm to 9:45pm the galleries are free for all under 26s of any nationality, just remember to bring your ID!
- Other galleries that are worth forking out for are the Orangerie (housing Monet’s Waterlilly paintings), Musée d’Orsay and the Centre Pompidou
- There are so many galleries in Paris that I couldn’t possibly name them all! If there is a certain style of art you are interested in, I’m sure there will be a gallery to suit.
The Louvre at night
- The Jardin du Luxembourg is on the Rive Gauche and is stunning. Filled with Parisians reading books and relaxing amongst the greenery.
- Visit Palais Royal and the Tuilleries for some well-manicured French beauty
- Bois de Boloulogne is a bit further out, but beautiful for bike riding
CULTURAL SITES AND AREAS
- Although it can be pricey… you are in Paris, so it is probably a good idea to either climb the Eiffel tower or go up the Arc de Triomphe as soak up the views. However if you’ve done this before, it probably isn’t an activity that needs repeating
- Walking along the Champs-Élysées will give you a true sense of Parisian glamour despite your backpacker budget probably not allowing a splurge on such designer goods.
- Notre Dame is free and a very beautiful church – although it can be frustrating to experience it with such large crowds of people not obeying the ‘silence’ rule and photographing everything. Try to go at a less busy time.
- The whole Montmatre area is beautiful and has some of the most spectacular views of the city. Definitely worth a look!
- Rue Montorgueil is a nice area to stroll around.
- Head out to the Palace of Versailles for the day. It is extravagant and absolutely beautiful.
The Palace of Versailles is worth a day trip
Where To Stay
Paris is expensive and the hostels are pretty crap for what you pay. There were some really fabulous AirBNB places dotted throughout the city and this will give a great local experience – which is what we recommend.
Avoid some areas, like around Gare du Nord because it can be dodgy and the hostels can be bad. I had a horrendous experience in a hostel near the station (I’m talking rats, gangs and some very dodgy dudes). If you do want the hostel experience, St Christopher’s Hostel sounds really good if you’re looking to stay cheaply.
When staying in Paris, it is nice to be out of the touristy centre to avoid crowds and crazy prices. If you don’t think you would be able to walk or ride the distance into the city from your accommodation, you may be too far out. The metro is not very pleasant and Paris is better seen by walking or bike riding than underground. I recommend the 9º /10º arrondisement as we had a great time here, and there were loads of restaurants, boulangeries and cafés nearby.
Book your accommodation in advance to save a lot of cash!
What To Eat
Meals out are expensive here, especially in the central arrondisements, cook in your apartment or hostel if you can. Although full meals will cost you, going to a small boulangerie/pâtisserie provides you with many small treats and nibbles for a great price. Things like éclairs, quiches and croissants are everywhere (thank the Lord!).
Coffee is not too badly priced in Paris, and when searching for coffee or snacks, head off the main boulevards and streets and it will cost you more than half the price.
When To Go
I am convinced that Spring is the best time to visit Paris. It’s when the trees and gardens are getting their colour but it’s not yet stifling hot. Depending on how much you enjoy gardens and galleries will influence how much time you spend in this city. I was happy to be there for three weeks, but some people find that a couple of days is enough to suffice – depends what you’re into.
How To Get Around
Walking around Paris is lovely – as the architecture and streets are what makes the city so stunning. The metro is a lot faster, but quite dirty and you do not get the same sense of atmosphere.
The rent-a-bikes (Velib) are a student’s dream. As they are free for under 30mins… if you are really keen for free transport around Paris, here’s the go:
- Plan out on a map where you want to go for the day
- Look up the locations of Velib stations along your journey and draw them out on your map (ensure they aren’t too spaced out from each other)
- Get your code online or at a Velib station
- Get a bike
- Ride for 25 minutes and then swap the bike at a station on your map for a new one
- Repeat this bike swapping until you get to your destination
Doing it like this will be completely free. It might be a bit of a hassle at times – but totally worth it to save entirely on transport costs and get around a lot quicker than walking!
Sunsets from the bridges along the Seine are second to none
Nightlife in Paris is quite different to the rest of Europe as people don’t tend to talk to people they don’t know. Which is okay if you’re travelling with a partner or with friends. If you are solo, try and meet up with people from a hostel or go on a pub crawl.
I went to Chez Jeanette which was the local pub for students near where I stayed. This had cheap drinks and a great atmosphere. Check near your accommodation for some student hang outs and they will tend to be lively and good fun.