Free things to do in Paris in winter 2014
Looking for free things to do in Paris can be a little bit tricky. The city receives more visitors every year than any other city in the world and local businesses do cash in on this by upping their prices. Old favourites such as the Mona Lisa, Eiffel Tower and boats on the Seine can jostle for a place in your holiday schedule with less well-known and newer attractions.
A mere 135 minutes away by train, the lure of a weekend in Paris is sometimes too much for Londoners to bear. If you get onto Eurostar early enough you can get very reasonable tickets, but once in the land of the gallic shrug one can find the city très cher.
Summer weekends can be spent lolling around the Jardin du Luxembourg watching the world go by, but once the Paris weather has turned colder trips require a bit more forethought in saving centimes.
Now far be it from me to dictate your holiday habits, but I would suggest that on a trip to Paris, you chose to splurge on one thing; be it a lovely hotel, a delicious meal or seeing an Opèra at Palais Garnier; enjoy that to the fullest, and then enjoy the rest of the trip in a more thrifty manner.
Do make sure to properly research and plan your splurge, there are few greater disappointments than forking out for something extravagant that turns out to be only ok.
Paris does have a reputation for being expensive and with good reason; eating in restaurants and visiting the main tourist attractions will set you back quite a few euros. If you intersperse them with some of the free activities below I am sure you will have a fabulous time and return home without the need to re mortgage your house.
They are a great way to wile away a winter morning and do a bit of mind enriching at the same time. Paris is brimming with museums of all shapes and sizes and no trip would be complete without visiting one. On the first Sunday of the month, entry to all museums in Paris is free, but they will be BUSY.
If you simply must see the Mona Lisa, then by all means brave the queues, but if you would prefer a more relaxed museum experience try Musee Carnavalet. This lovely, and always free, museum in the Marais tells the story of Paris, from ancient history to the present day. It is set in two old town houses and has lots of art as well as the exhibits.
For the more famous Museums of Paris, you can save a lot of money and queuing time with the Paris Pass. They offer FREE entry to over 60 of Paris' world famous historic monuments, museums and art galleries including The Louvre and Arc de Triomphe.
Eating a full-on meal for free might be a bit tricky, unless perhaps you befriend a local and they invite you over for dinner. There is however a way to fill your belly at least partly full.
Wandering round one of Paris' open-air food markets is a riot of sounds, smells and colours and can also offer a variety of snacks. Most stalls will offer a slice of cheese, ham or melon to sample, with no obligation to buy anything (although you may not be able to resist).
The Bastille Market on Sunday mornings is a great example of this, and you might even get a sip of wine as well. On other days the Marche Aligre near Gare du Lyon has great food and some brocante (flea market) stalls as well.
Of course the only truly free way to get anywhere is on foot and few cities lend themselves better to a wander than Paris. As long as you wrap up warm and maybe take an umbrella, walking the city is a wonderful winter activity.
Exploring a neighbourhood, such as Saint Germain or around the Place de la Contrascape, window shopping and absorbing Parisian life is hard to beat.
Compared to London, Paris has a rather astonishing number of churches, including a great number of spectacular ones. Notre Dame is famous for a good reason, but most neighbourhoods will have a lovely church that you can snoop around for free. Perfect for a sit down and some quiet reflection on your trip.
Getting to the top of the Eiffel Tower or Arc de Triomphe costs a fair amount and standing in a queue for hours is not so fun when you are trying to make every minute of a special weekend count. Paris is a pretty flat city, buildings rarely rise above four storeys, so you really do not have to get very high to get a stunning view.
To survey the city for free you can climb the famous Montmartre, which is fine, if you don't mind sharing your spot with hordes of tourists and people trying to sell you miniature Eiffel Towers. For a more tranquil place to appreciate the city, head to the 19th Arrondissement and Parc des Buttes Chaumont, a favourite of local Parisians and one of the most picturesque parks in Paris.
I hope this inspires you to try out some free things to do in Paris on your next trip. Grab a scarf and gloves, hop on the train and explore Paris in the winter without battering the plastic. Let us know your top tips for visiting Paris and join in the conversation.
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