Paris in spring, you say? How about Paris in spring on the cheap? Today, American expat Amanda and her French boyfriend are telling us about $21 Airbnbs, three-course meals for $9.50, and tons of free museums and galleries!
Hi! I’m Amanda. Last year I relocated to Paris to be with my French boyfriend. I adore living in Paris, and have had the most wonderful time delving into the French language, culture and cuisine. You can check out my blog, Gourmanderie, for my kitchen and Paris escapades!
For this article, I collaborated with my boyfriend to identify things that can help you visit Paris in a way that won’t leave you broke but will give you a taste of la vie Parisienne. We hope this helps!
Cheap Lodging in Paris
Airbnb tends to be the cheapest year-round lodging option in Paris, as their prices don’t fluctuate as much as hostels and hotels. There are plenty of Parisians opting to rent their spare bedrooms (or lounge rooms!), and rates start at around 20 euros per night. Bonus: you get to see what it’s like inside a Parisian home!
If you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s a $40 credit towards your first booking!
Living room couch – 15.50 euros
This lodging is only 20 minutes to Paris’ center plus your own kitchen to cook in! Has access to a train and two metro lines which will definitely come in handy.
Private room – 19 euros
A nice looking place with plenty of privacy that’s only forty minutes from Paris’ center. While it’s in the suburbs the host does mention that there is a night bus (which usually runs by the hour) after 1 am.
There’s a tonne of hostels in Paris, but prices, as mentioned, can fluctuate rather dramatically.
St Christopher’s Inn Canal – dorm bed 16.50 euros
A 12-bed mixed dorm at St Christoper’s Inn Canal is about 16.50 euros a night during the week in the off season, but increases to more than 50 euros in the summer.
The Loft Boutique Hotel – dorm bed 23 euros
If sharing a room with 12 people is more than you can handle, The Loft Boutique Hotel do ‘deluxe dorm’ bed from 23 euros, sharing with 5 other people, in the off season.
Airbnb and Hostel Tip
Consider staying in one of Paris’ outer arrondissements. In outer arrondissements, such as the 13th, 14th, 18th, 19th and 20th, the lodging can sometimes be cheaper while still offering the convenience of the metro (subway) and numerous bus lines, which can take you anywhere in Paris.
There are also Airbnbs and hostels in the banlieue (the suburbs) that can be notably cheaper than options in the arrondissements, but I advise you to look into the area’s public transport as you may end up spending everything you save (and more!) on catching cabs!
There’s a sizable Couchsurfing community in Paris! You’ll sleep anywhere from a couch to your own bed, and you even might be able to hang out with your host, if they have the time.
Of course, you can always swap homes with a Parisian! A website like HomeExchange is a good place to start.
Cheap Food in Paris
Foyer de la Madeleine – 8.50 euros for a 3 course lunch
La Madeleine is a historical 900 year-old neo-classical church. Few know that deep in its basement is a volunteer-run restaurant that serves 3-course French meals under a vaulted ceiling!
Flunch – from 7 euros a meal
Canteen-style buffet isn’t very common in France, but this is exactly what the restaurant chain, Flunch, specialises in. While Flunch doesn’t have the coolest ambiance, they do serve the best version of fast food that I’ve ever encountered and, best of all, you can order wine!
Crepes – Starting at 4 euros at creperies dotted all over Paris
Something cheap and very French that you can get at nearly any time of day is a crepe. My boyfriend and I like to sometimes grab a crepe from La Creperie at 12 Rue Soufflot, in the 5th, and then stroll over to the nearby Luxembourg Gardens to people watch while we devour our cheese, ham and mushroom crepes! Google map ‘Creperie Paris’ to find one near you!
Bakeries and Markets
Head to a bakery and a market to prepare an easy picnic basket! Sandwiches and quiches can start from 3.50 euros (if you’re not buying in a touristic area) and you can buy all sorts of fruits, vegetables, cheeses.
Depending on the market, you can also buy some ready made foods like paella, falafel, roast chicken and potato gratin from one of Paris’ many quintessential marches. I love Marche D’Aligre, Marche des Enfants Rouges and the market that goes from Place Monge to Rue Mouffetard (which Hemingway mentions in A Moveable Feast!)
There’s a law that ensures that all bakeries that have the words ‘boulangerie’ or ‘boulangere’ in their shop title must make their bread on site. If the bakery doesn’t have these words in their shop name, then it’s probable that their bread is made elsewhere. Just so you know!
Falafel and Kebabs – Starting at 5 euros
A simple pita sandwiches can start from about 5 euros, especially if you’re happy to order to-go. Like creperies, falafel shops can be found all over Paris. There are plenty of famous falafel shops but you can always go somewhere that is lesser-known but with lots of great Google or Yelp reviews.
Cheap Things to do in Paris
Museums and Galleries – free
Even some of Paris’ most famous museums, such as Musee D’Orsay and the Louvre, can be visited for free! Dozens of museums and galleries offer free entry on the first Sunday of every month – just go early as the queues can stretch on.
Even cooler is that full-time students, teachers and people under the age of 26 can get free entry into plenty of museums, such as Musee national Picasso and the Chateau de Versailles, all year round!
There are also lots of museums and galleries that are always free, including Maison de Victor Hugo, parts of Notre Dame and the world’s oldest botanical garden, Jardin des Plantes. Here are some others.
Take a Flanerie – free
Paris is famous for being a walkable city. A flaneur is a person who strolls, loafs and saunters around town while observing society, and this remains a respectable pastime in Paris (here’s a wonderful quote by Charles Baudelaire about the flaneur).
Some beautiful places to engage in a flanerie are along the banks of The Seine, Montmartre (the home of Amelie!), the Latin Quarter, the 5km Coulee Verte (which used to be a railroad) and the route that takes you from The Louvre, down the length of Champs Elysees and then to the Arc de Triomphe.
Walking tours – 5 euros or donation
There’s a Meetup group that does regular walking tours of all the different neighbourhoods of Paris for only five euros, and it’s a neat way to step off the beaten path and venture into more hidden aspects of Paris. There’s also tours run by the group, Discovery Walks, which are paid for by donation.
Flea markets and thrift shopping
Two of my favourite places to shop while I’m abroad (and in general) are at local thrift-shops and flea markets! Places to thrift shop in Paris are Ma Ressourcerie, Emmaus stores (which are like the equivalent to The Salvation Army) and Ma Petite Rockette.
Yoga – 6 euros
A great way to de-cramp after your plane journey is to head to a yoga class! Affordable Yoga in Paris do one-hour classes for 6 euros. If you don’t speak French, you’re in luck! All classes at Affordable Yoga are conducted in English.
That’s it! I hope that this in-exhaustive list can help you somehow. Bon voyage and all the best for your Paris adventure!
Thanks so much for sharing, Amanda! Any other expats or Parisiennes who can share their tips?
P.S. How to live out of a suitcase – glamorously