10 free things to do in Paris
This is an article that I originally submitted to Matador Network (and for which I spent a good half a day running around Paris taking photographs). But bauhw-bauhw, seems like I WON'T be getting the $40 cheque for that piece :( (Guess they're publishing, I don't know, 10 free things to do in Pyongyang instead) (No, I'm not bitter). ANYWHOOO.. waste not want not, I say! Here's the article that did NOT make me rich and famous.
Haute-couture, champagne, Michelin-star restaurants — it’s true that on first reflection Paris seems out of reach to all but the most cashed-up of luxury travelers. But even if your budget is a little more George Orwell Down and Out than Marie Antoinette “let them eat cake”, there are many things to do in Paris that are not going to break the bank.
1. Go for a jog around the Luxembourg Gardens
Make like a local and go for a run in Paris’ most elegant garden, the Jardin du Luxembourg, situated in Paris’s 6th arrondissement (where not much else comes for free!). As you do your laps around the 25 hectares of pristine lawns and pastel flowerbeds, watch out for the children sailing boats in the Medici fountain, and old men playing pétanque.
2. Soak up views of Paris from Sacré Cœur
What you save in money you will spend in energy walking up the hundreds of steps that make up the Butte Montmartre, which will lead you to the Sacré Cœur church. There is always a throng of activity at its feet: loved-up couples taking selfies; harp-playing street performers; and (it must be said) the occasional pick-pocket! It is also a great lookout point for panoramic views of the city
3. Practice your language skills at the “I love you” wall
A little further down the hill in the same district of Montmartre you will find the lesser-known “I love you” wall, or le mur des je t’aime. An initiative of the artist Frédéric Baron, the wall features the words “I love you” in more than 300 languages and is designed to act as a mirror which reflects love and peace.
4. Browse weird and wonderful antiques at Le marché aux puces de Saint Ouen
Entry is free, but I can’t guarantee that you won’t fall in love with an expensive antique at the flea markets of Saint Ouen! Open from Saturday to Monday, this is a place where you can find anything and everything from Louis XIV gilt mirrors to stuffed-cats. You will also find several trendy cafes scattered amongst the bric-a-brac.
5. Hang out with the hipsters at the Canal St Martin
This is an area of Paris that was immortalized in the quirky French film Amélie and has been the favorite haunt of bobos — the French version of hipsters — ever since. Window-shop the boutiques which line the Canal, take a shot for your Instagram atop one of its bridges, or else bring a bottle of rosé and drink it while dangling your feet above the water.
6. Take a breath of fresh air at the Parc des Buttes Chaumont
You will scratch your head and wonder if you’re still in Paris after setting foot into this steep and rugged park, whose distinctive appearance is explained by the fact that it has been built on top of an old quarry. Be sure not to miss the man-made waterfall and cave-like grotto, as well as the Temple de la Sibylle — a tower perched in the middle of an artificial lake — with views facing Montmartre.
7. Discover the original Highline Park along the Promenade Plantée
If you have ever heard of New York’s Highline Park, it may surprise you to learn that the Parisians were actually the first to implement the concept, transforming this disused railway track into an elevated promenade in1988 (11 years before the New Yorkers!). Dodge the local joggers as you transect the 12th arrondissement of Paris across the 4.5 kilometer track.
8. Check out Paris’ most colorful street at the Rue Crémieux
While you’re in the 12th arrondissement, don't miss the Rue Crémieux, which resists the grey Haussmannian facade typical of other Parisian streets in favour of a rainbow of pastel-colored house fronts. Your Instagram feed will thank you for the colorful pics (even if the locals who reside in the street may not!).
9. Picnic at the Square du vert Galant
Grab yourself some friends, a bottle of wine, a baguette and some French cheese and rendez-vous to the western point of the Île de la Cité. Behind the statue of Napoleon you will find steps leading to a small garden. Either pull up a space of grass next to the guitar-playing, pot-smoking students, or else perch yourself on the pavement directly abutting the river and enjoy the impression of floating above the Seine.
10. Watch the Eiffel tower lit up at night
As soon as night falls, the Eiffel tower dazzles with a 5-minute light show until 2am in summer, and 1am throughout the rest of the year. The best viewpoint to enjoy the spectacle is from one of the péniche (boat) bars which line the Berges sur Seine.
So I'm curious.. What do you think of my ten free things? What free things would you suggest to do in Paris?