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Paris on a budget: 12 low cost tips

SOME of the large Paris museums are looking to increase their entrance fees after the opera house raised its ticket prices by an average 10% for better seats.They say running costs, such as insurance for art transport, have risen while state subsidies have dropped.

Paris is known as an expensive city to live in or visit but not everything has to break the bank. In fact the Opéra de Paris has also dropped ticket prices by 20% on Monday nights and Saturday mornings.

Facts like that are bread-and-butter to American Jenna-Marie Warnecke, who started after becoming passionate about finding ways to eke out her stay.

Ms Warnecke, a freelance writer, said she was impressed by Paris on a visit in 2010 when she lived in New York. “When I went home I was desperate to change my life... I had always wanted to live abroad and this was the moment so for a year and a half I worked hard, saved money and moved.”

Learning to count the pennies proved useful for living in Paris and her four month trip has extended to two years, she explained when we met in one of her favourite districts, the Marais, a colourful area which is Paris’s gay village as well as a traditionally Jewish area.

She said her relationship with Paris was not “love at first sight”, but “Paris is like a lover who comes up behind you and puts his arms around you gently and nuzzles your neck.
One day I realised ‘I’m in love with Paris,’ and that made me strive to stay for so long. I had to look for cheap things to do, because when the money ran out I’d have to leave.
Of course there are innumerable ways to spend your money, and if you have plenty it’s very easy, but I don’t think anybody should be dissuaded from coming by the expense.

She said she found ideas by reading “tons of blogs” daily and the free newspaper A nous Paris, as well as asking friends for tips.

“In June and July you can’t walk outside without stumbling on a free event. It turns out it’s easy to have fun for less, even here. Now I’m used to not spending my money – I get annoyed when I have to. I’ll go to a museum and scoff at a €9 ticket because I know there are so many free galleries and free museum days.

But I also know when it’s worth it to spend money – if I find a great vintage dress, for example, or a great souvenir for a loved one back home. For experiences as well, like an orchestra concert at the Sainte-Chapelle. And once in a while I’ll indulge in a nice meal with a friend.
It’s these experiences that define my time here that are worth the splurge.”

Here are some of the top tips Connexion has rounded up, with the help of Ms Warnecke, who visited some of the suggested spots with us in the Marais area.

1 Free summer events are numerous – especially on June 21, la Fête de la Musique, when there are many free concerts of all styles (See: Ms Warnecke said: “It’s a great thing to do, one of my favourites.

You can look for certain things that appeal to you on the website - the same goes for the Nuit Blanche [on the first Saturday night of October when museums open all night and hold events].

However I like to just walk about the city and happen on things. There’s music in the streets and some free indoor events like concerts at the Archives Nationales [60 rue des Francs Bourgeois in the Marais].

In the spring I love the Jazz festival in Saint-Germain-des-Prés [May 15-25]. They have concerts of all genres of jazz all around that [central South Bank] area.
I went to a tribute to Sidney Bechet in the mairie of the 6e, in an opulent hall - an incredible concert, free, in the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday.”

2 Free museum Sundays (the first of the month) are a great way to see top attractions including the Louvre, the Pompidou Centre’s Musée Nationale d’Art Moderne and the Quai Branly museum [culture from around the world]:

Ms Warnecke said: “It’s something you’ll want to do, but they can be quite overwhelming. There’s so much to choose from and so many people, and you may have to queue. So you should bring a snack, be patient and wear comfortable shoes.”

The Paris museums pass enables you to queue jump on non-free days and saves money if you are doing several museums:

3 Other interesting, but less well-known, museums are free all the time and less busy, such as the Marais’ Musée Carnavalet, rue de Sévigné.

A grand building which was formerly an aristocratic family’s home, it has a large permanent collection dedicated to the history of the city.

It includes paintings from different eras from images of 1950s bistrot scenes to elegant ladies in big dresses arriving for a ball in the 1890s or a 1930s roof garden volleyball scene.

The eclectic collection also includes a reconstruction of an old pharmacy shop and one of Proust’s bedroom, where he wrote In Search of Lost Time, with his actual bed and writing desk.

Literary fans may also enjoy the Maison de Victor Hugo, nearby at 6 Place des Vosges, where the novelist lived for 16 years and whose main areas are also free, including the Hugo family’s apartments on the second floor where his life is evoked through personal objects, writings and art.

4 Ménilmontant (10e) has “loads of cheap bars and great places to hang out”, such as Demain c’est loin (9 rue Julien Lacroix), near the impressive Notre-Dame de la Croix church.

“There’s a lively, welcoming spirit and it’s very cheap and sometimes they have livebands,” Ms Warnecke said. It adjoins Belleville (20e), where La Bellevilloise ( on rue Boyer is a great venue for inexpensive concerts.

This part of eastern Paris also has beautiful free parks with views of the city including le parc de Belleville with its panorama of the Eiffel Tower and le parc des Buttes-Chaumont from which you can see the Sacré- Coeur.
Nearby is the quirky La Campagne à Paris, north of the Porte de Bagnolet metro station, a peaceful network of streets with pretty houses and gardens and cobbled streets making for an interesting escape from the bustle.
It is between Blvd Mortier, rue du Capitaine-Ferber and rue Géo-Chavez.

Take the chance to spot celebrity resting places in nearby Père Lachaise cemetery, also free, unless you sign up for a guided tour at €8.

5 Second-hand goods shops have some great bargains, with L’Interloque ( in the Montmartre district being among the best.
This is a chain of half a dozen shops packed full of clothes, books, hi-fis, dishes, ornaments... each with a different selection, such as a good selection of decent quality bikes at 7 rue de Trétaigne or children’s toys 22 rue Duc.

Shop assistant Stéphane Pollet said: “We give all these objects a second life. Some we clean up and resell, some we reuse the materials to make something else and some we have recycled.”

People either bring in their no longer needed items, or have them picked up in the local area. “There’s a green ethos to it, so it doesn’t end up at the tip” Mr Pollet said. They call it a ressourcerie.

There is a workshop making sure bikes are in good working order - they sell for around €60-100 depending on condition.

Bargains when Connexion visited included a landscape painting for €6, €3 for a wall clock, €6 jumpers, €5 for pottery kitchen jars, €15 for hiking boots...

In the rue Duc shop there were chic bags and women’s clothes. Checking out a stylish pink jacket for €8, primary school teacher Lau rence Laux, 53, said: “I love it; I’ve bought coats for €3 in here before.”

6 Legendary South Bank English-language bookshop Shakespeare and Co has a welcoming atmosphere, with enthusiastic staff – and allows people to hang out in its free reading library upstairs.

“We encourage people to sit down and relax and stay as long as they like,” said assistant Octavia Horgan, from New Zealand.
“We’re open until 11pm so a lot of people come in and while away the hours.

“Everything on sale outside is second hand and very reasonably priced. And we have events which we list on our free bookmarks, such as writers reading from their work, which cost nothing and usually we offer some wine.”

If you are an aspiring writer, you can do the “tumbleweed programme” - staying in the bookshop for up to several months in return for helping open up and close and doing a couple of hours’ book shelving.

7 Eat falafel in the Marais – there are several venues doing takeaways of this tasty middle eastern vegetarian speciality of chickpea balls in pitta, drizzled with sesame-based sauce.

L’As Du Fallafel on rue des Rosiers is the best-known and claims to be “always imitated, never bettered.” It is open until around 1am. A huge sandwich is €5.50.
Its sign proclaims it is “under the control of the Paris Beth-din” – ie. it’s Kosher food.

8 Vintage Désir – near L’As Du Fallafel on the same side of the street - says coiffeur over the door - however it is in fact a very good-value vintage clothes shop.
It has a dressing room to try items on. Bargains we spotted included hats for €5, €10 for handbags and dresses and a pink “Jackie O” style coat also at €10.

Take care – some “vintage” shops are actually very expensive, for rare high-quality items like Chanel dresses costing hundreds.
Budget second-hand “thrift shops” are known as friperies.

9 A one-day pass for Paris’s Vélib’ bike hire scheme costs just €1.70, after which the first 30 minutes of any trip – before you put the bike back in a stand – is free.

Weekly passes are €8, or otherwise there are annual ones, including concessionary rates.
Using special elevated “V+” stations gives you an extra free 15 minutes each time.

10 The cheapest way to use the Paris Métro is a weekly Carte Navigo (monthly versions are also available) with sliding scales depending on how many zones you want to use – eg. €19.80 for a week’s travel in central Paris (zones one and two).

For under- 26s, the ticket jeunes week-end, for use on one weekend day, is a bargain – at, for example, €3.65 for zones one to two or €7.85 for one to five.
Ticket mobilis is similar for older people, and also inexpensive, for example €6.60 for the central zones. Or if you will be staying several days but making fewer than around four trips a day, you could go for a carnet (book) of 10 single tickets, costing (at full adult price) €13.30 for 10, instead of €17 if you buy them one by one.

11 The Hôtel de Ville de Paris (town hall) installs a free ice skating rink outside in the winter – until March 2, with skates on loan for €5.

It also has temporary gardens in summer and other events like installing large screens for sporting events. The building also houses a beautiful wooden library that is free to join, including city archive material, and the Galerie des Bibilothèques, the council’s exhibition space, with inexpensive (about 5€) temporary shows about Paris’s history - a recent one was about songs with Paris theme.

12 You can use free wi-fi in many of Paris’s public parks, which include the well-known ones like the Tuileries, or little oases like the Square Léopold Achille in the Marais – a good place to take a rest and check your email


I was delighted to stumble across quartier Saint-Pierre, it was refreshing to find restaurants with prices I’m more used to in Bordeaux. C.M.

The Promenade Plantée is a lovely 3km walk at rooftop height, giving interesting views, an easy walk, beautiful gardens and plants, water, benches to sit on, parks to stop off at, places where you can descend to eat or drink, Vélib bikes to hire nearby etc and all for free! J.C.

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