Paris is a destination that sits atop many bucket lists and travel destination dreams. Despite the reality that Paris can be an expensive city to indulge in, there are alternatives one can take to minimize the impact on a bank account and still get the enchanting experience of one of Europe’s most desired cities to visit.
Sleeping on a budget – Hostel Bastille
While this hostel is no Ritz Carlton, it gives you all you need in a lodging facility in Paris. A bed. When one is in a beautiful city like this, there is no reason to book a hotel or place to spend excessive amount of time in, there is just way too much to do and see.
Located at 6 Rue Trousseau in the Bastille district of Paris, this hostel is well located, walking distance to various attractions and right on the metro line. Wifi is available for select afternoon hours in the lobby, and everyone is actually locked out of their rooms from 10-3 everyday, forcing travelers to go out and enjoy the city. While this is slightly annoying upon first arriving in the city, when collapsing on a bed sounds equivalent to nirvana, after adjusting to the time change it is a rule that is tolerable, as it doesn’t allow for being lazy and missing out on the sights.
While a lot of things cost money to experience in Paris, there are a fair few that are completely free of charge, and several within walking distance of this hostel
Notre Dame de Paris
Meaning “Our Lady of Paris,” this famous Roman Catholic cathedral is a must see for its history and architecture. The line accumulates outside the main doors and a simple walk through tour is completely free, and donations are welcomed with the option to light a candle upon donating
Impressive stained glass windows, sculptures of biblical figures and gargoyles, and the architectural feat of the flying buttress all come together to make this Cathedral a beautiful site to visit, and the lack of a price tag makes it even more appealing.
The Lovers Bridge
Located a few blocks away from Notre Dame, this tourist/collectively created site in Paris has gained recent fame and interest on the internet from various celebrities locking their own locks on this bridge. Thousands of locks of different shapes and sizes are locked on this bridge, representative of couples love for each other, many locks have names or initials written on them. While it looks somewhat tacky amongst the classical style of this city, it is still a site worth visiting for the picture value as well as the opportunity to leave a piece of yourself in Paris, without risking arrest.
The Eiffel Tower
Day or night, the eiffel tower is a magnificent sight to see and experience. Going all the way up to the very top is fairly cheap, about 12 euro for “youth” (18-26 years old) and is a great thing to do with friends night or day. I personally love going all the way up at night to see the vast lights across the city and being in the tower when it sparkles (first 15 minutes at the top of every hour) is a breathtaking experience, and you can even purchase and drink champagne at the very top while taking in the view
French for “Sacred Heart” Sacré Coeur is a beautiful church that sits at the highest point in all of Paris. A bit of a hike to make it up to the plaza where the church sits, but definitely worth the walk. Caution is advised to tourists in this area, as pickpockets roam freely preying on naive and distracted travelers, especially those paying close attention to the various street performers. A walk through the cathedral is free of charge, but donations are appreciated. To get there, take the metro to the abbessess stop, which is a plaza with various vendors (try some vin chaud – hot wine, an interesting thing if you’re there in the winter) and climb up to the church from there
A street performer with the view from sacre coeur in the background
Not a far walk from Sacre Coeur (and its a downhill trek, fortunately) this iconic place is not as exciting as one would expect, but it was a unique spot to check out and take pictures at. Famous for the red windmill and the conception of the can-can dance, the Moulin Rouge has a rather seedy history which can still be felt today in this part of the Pigalle district of Paris. Not a must-see, but definitely worth the walk if one has time after a visit of Sacre Coeur.
A trick to visiting this famous museum is to go on the first Sunday of the month if your travel plans allow, because it is free of charge! If your travel plans do not coincide with the first part of the month, go anyway and pay for admission because the Louvre is not something to miss while in Paris.
An art museum that is sure to please people that do not have a preference for art museums, the Louvre boasts an impressive collection of galleries of sculptures, paintings and other works by famous artists from an enormous range of time periods. Of course the most famous painting that is at home here is the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, which will surprise you with its actual size. My personal favorite work housed here is the code of Hammurabi, a sculpture from Babylonian time carved with laws and regulations, the first known piece of written and recorded laws
Code of Hammurabi – Original Script
The Palace of Versailles
Located a brief train ride outside of the heart of Paris, the Palace of Versailles is a must see. The enormous chateau turned into a museum houses the famous hall of mirrors as well as sprawling gardens, preserved gold and other artifacts from when it was used for government affairs and housing royalty.
Entrance admission is fairly inexpensive for students, about $15. If you have a smartphone, just purchase the tickets and download them to your phone or save the confirmation email, as this is sufficient to gain access to the palace. Headsets are free and are very nice for gaining a lot of insight about the various artworks as well as historical information on the construction and changes that the palace went through over several centuries.
Champs-Elysées and the Arc du Triomphe
As a student, the posh upscale boutiques and expensive restaurants are far beyond my budget, making the Champs-Elysées more of a window-shopping destination, but it is a pretty walk and definitely puts comparable shopping walks such as “Rodeo Drive” in Los Angeles to shame. At the one end of the Champs-Elysees is the Arc du Triomphe, a monument in honor of French soldiers who have died throughout the various wars of the country’s history. To get to the Arc (it is in the middle of a busy roundabout street) one takes an underground passageway (don’t walk around the whole thing looking for a crosswalk, you won’t find one and you will look like an idiot). The Arc is a very nice monument to walk around and it is also possible to purchase a ticket to go to the very top to gain another skytop view of Paris different from the Eiffel Tower.
Food Review: Fondue
French fondue: a delicious conglomeration of melted cheeses served with small potatoes, toasted breads and meat for dipping. Delicious combination, and even though these dinners are typically more expensive, they are well worth it as they provide an excessive amount of food, more than enough for sharing.