Paris is known for being one of the most expensive cities in the world, with the prices of food and rent often making it difficult to envisage life without financial pressure. But if you want to enjoy the city without crippling your bank account, local businesses and government alike provide many free activities. Check out the following list of cultural, culinary and costless things to do in Paris.
MUSEUMS AND CULTURE
Most art galleries are free and open Tuesday to Saturday. Below are a few of the leaders. Click here for a more comprehensive list.
Galerie Daniel Templon
A top gallery exhibiting major French and international modern artists, Templon was one of the first galleries to exhibit Andy Warhol.
30, rue Beaubourg, 75003 Paris
01 42 72 14 10
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
With a Paris gallery and a converted factory in Pantin, Ropac hosts large-scale exhibitions of contemporary art.
7, rue Debelleyme, 75003 Paris
69, avenue du Général Leclerc, 93500 Pantin
01 42 72 99 00/01 55 89 01 10
This townhouse in the Marais showcases the hottest contemporary artists.
76, rue de Turenne, 75003 Paris
01 42 16 79 79
A photography gallery set up by former journalists inspired by the role photography plays in their field.
12 rue Saint Gilles, Paris 75003
08 99 23 33 72
Museums owned by the City of Paris have free permanent collections and only charge for their temporary exhibitions. We’ve collected a few highlights here.
Maison de Victor Hugo
The renowned writer wrote a large part of Les Miserables while living in his apartment, now a museum, on the Place des Vosges.
6, place des Vosges, 75004 Paris
01 42 72 10 16
Mémorial de la Shoah
This museum traces the history of the Jewish community in France.
17, rue Geoffroy-l’Asnier, 75004 Paris
01 42 77 44 72
Musée Curie–Institut du Radium
A science museum showcasing the lives, work and laboratories of several Nobel Prize-winning scientists, including Marie Curie.
1, rue Pierre et Marie Curie, 75005 Paris
01 56 24 55 33
Many state-owned museums are free at certain times. The Louvre, for example, offers free admission on the first Saturday of each month from 6pm to 9:45pm.
Paris’s cultural scene does not end with museums and galleries – here are a couple of miscellaneous free activities.
Fashion shows at Galeries Lafayette
Fun, 30-minute fashion shows are held in this famous department store every Friday at 3pm. Reserve online to guarantee a seat.
Galeries Lafayette, 40, boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris
Free Lectures at Collège de France
Throughout the year, the Collège holds free lectures, open to the public, by leading scholars on a wide range of topics.
Collège de France, 11, place Marcelin Berthelot, 75005 Paris
Model train workshops at Gare de l’Est
The model trains in the basement at Gare de l’Est can be enjoyed by children and adults every Saturday between 3pm and 6pm.
Gare de l’Est, Place du 11 novembre 1918, 75010 Paris
You can hear some great music from street musicians by just wandering through Paris, but if you want something a little more structured, look no further than these free concerts.
Free Organ recitals
Talented organists pump the pedals in this church on Sundays at 5:30pm.
Église Saint Eustache, 146, rue Rambuteau, 75001 Paris
01 42 36 31 05
American Church in Paris Sunday Concert Series
Musicians of all nationalities perform for free throughout much of the year on Sundays at 5pm.
American Church in Paris, 65, quai D’Orsay, 75007 Paris
01 40 62 05 00
Les Vocations d’Euterpe
This organization offers regular concerts by musicians from France’s top conservatories. Subscribe to their mailing list for details on one of Paris’s classical music scene’s hidden gems.
L’Eglise des Blancs manteaux
Each Tuesday night, free concerts are held at this church in the 4th arrondissement. The organisers are not yet online, but for a range of musical talent ,enquire at l’Eglise des Blancs manteaux, 12 Rue des blancs manteaux, 75004 Paris.
Paris is renowned for its cuisine, but this reputation comes with a high price tag. Thankfully, several local businesses and charities are here to help.
Couscous-merguez at Les Trois Frères
Each Thursday from 8:30pm, purchase a drink for €2 and then enjoy a free plate of couscous in a friendly restaurant – get there early to get a seat!
Les Trois Frères, 14 rue Léon, 75018 Paris
01 42 64 91 73
Couscous at Tribal Café
As above, spend €3 on a drink and you’ll be treated to a free plate of couscous! Fridays and Saturdays, 9pm-10pm.
Tribal Café, 3 cour des Petites Ecuries, 75010 Paris
01 47 70 57 08
Mussels at Le Bouillon Belge
Buy a drink for €2.90 and get a free dish of mussels to share, Wednesdays from 8pm.
Le Bouillon Belge, 6, rue Planchat, 75020 Paris
01 43 70 41 03
Meals for people with financial problems
Balanced meals are provided by the French charity Association L’Un Est L’Autre on Saturdays and Sundays at 11:45 and on Thursday evenings (except public holidays).
Association L’Un Est L’Autre, 7-15, avenue de la Porte de la Villette, 75019 Paris
VIEWS OF PARIS
The French capital is arguably best seen from above, and here’s how to do so without paying for a trip to the top of the Tour Eiffel or Tour Montparnasse.
Galeries Lafayette’s rooftop terrace
Climb to the seventh floor of Galeries Lafayette for a beautiful view of Paris’s famed rooftops.
Galeries Lafayette, 40, boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris
Lovely gardens line the walkway along this disused railway viaduct, providing a unique way to see the 12th arrondissement.
1, Coulée Verte René-Dumont, Avenue Daumesnil, 75012 Paris
Parc des Buttes Chaumont
Climb to the heights of this peaceful park for a view of the city.
1, rue Botzaris, 75019 Paris
SPORTS AND EXERCISE
Try a new sport or activity for free!
Qi Gong classes
Try out this hybrid Chinese martial art/meditation in the open air in one of Paris’s biggest parks, daily at 9am.
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, 1, rue Botzaris, 75019 Paris
Alternatively, give wutao a go this weekend in the 19th arrondissement. Classes are held on Saturdays and Sundays at 11am and 12:15pm.
Centquatre, 104, rue d’Aubervilliers, 75019 Paris
01 53 35 50 00
Outdoor yoga classes
Throughout the summer months, Wanderlust Paris hosts free yoga classes on a terrace overlooking the Seine.
Wanderlust, 32, quai d’Austeritz, 75013 Paris
Here are a few one-off events to look out for in the city.
La Nuit Blanche. Once a year, art installations fill the streets, and many museums and other attractions remain open late for free, with the Métro running all night to allow Parisians and tourists alike the chance to experience popular sites in a new way.
Open Air Cinema. During the summer, La Villette hosts an open-air cinema festival in the Parc de la Villette, featuring both commercially successful and less-known films.
Free Clothes Exchanges. Paris Friendly frequently organizes free “Troc Parties” (clothing exchanges) – bring along clothes you no longer wear and exchange them for someone else’s secondhand styles! www.paris-friendly.fr/loisirs-paris/bons_plans_paris_free_troc_party.php