Transportation and Eating
Walk if you can rather than use the expensive Metro. Again, a strategically placed hotel or rental will help with this. To save money on meals, stop at a patisserie in the morning and have an inexpensive, delicious, buttery (if unhealthy, but whatever, you’re in Paris!) pastry. The patisserie around the corner from our hotel had the most savory croissants and brioche au chocolat for about 2 euros. For lunch, buy a sandwich and opt to eat it away from the restaurant. Not only can you save a lot of money, but if you picnic along the Seine or in the Jardin des Tuileries, you will be treated to some spectacular people-watching. Also, fill up on lunch specials. One day I was able to order a quiche, soda, and dessert from a restaurant special for only 6 euros.
Take in as many free attractions as possible. Lucky you, this means the gorgeous public gardens and elegant cathedrals.
Don’t wait in line at Notre Dame! Get there at 7:30 for a short, fast moving entrance line. Saint-Chapelle was beautiful, but my friend and I felt it wasn’t really worth the entrance price as it was undergoing restoration at the time. Save your money until the restoration is complete and visit the free cathedrals in Paris instead.
Musee D’Orsay entrée gratuite? Oui!
My friend and I also discovered that you can slip into the Musee D’Orsay without a ticket about 30 minutes prior to closing. Of course, that gives you little chance to see the art, but we were able to take in the Impressionist floor (which was what I cared most to see) for free. If you need to save a little, you can here.
Coffee, Water, and Wifi
I love coffee. I thrive on my morning cuppa. What a disappointment to discover that coffee is not only very expensive, but you get very little of it (clearly Parisians aren’t as dependent on caffeine as we are). I had minor caffeine withdrawals while there, and had to rely on the mini coca colas available in the supermarket for caffeinated perks. Cheaper than coffee, this is a good way to get in some extra caffeine, and the small size is perfect for stowing in your purse. Note that Starbucks is really the only place in the city to get a good-sized cup of (mostly) good coffee. Order the Cafe de la semaine and say “oui” to whipped cream on top (it does cost a little extra, but it’s worth it!). Oh, and Starbucks is also a great place to log onto free wifi. Of course.
When eating out, remember to ask for tap water. Specifically ask for it in a carafe. Do not just ask for water, as they will charge you. Carafe water is free though.
More Food Ideas
Visit the grocery stores for snacks and food. I bought fresh fruit and the above-mentioned sodas. I think I bought some other items but can’t remember. One thing I do remember is that the refrigerated sections were barely cold. Yogurt was runny. I usually rely on yogurt for getting through the day, but skipped it here. I’m sure it was perfectly safe, I just personally can’t stand runny yogurt.
How To Shop Unlike a Tourist
Totally ignore the cheesy tourist shops around the visitor attractions. Head for one of the numerous flea markets for cheap, unusual souvenirs to take home. There are also unique food options and excellent treasure-hunting opportunities here. I also enjoyed perusing the bookstalls along the Seine, but don’t expect inexpensive prices here – simply enjoy browsing and who knows? You may find a book you’ve been looking for the world over.
If you are in Paris, slow down. Don’t try to take it all in right away, in one trip. Take your time meandering, opt for a bicycle tour (we used Bike About Paris – highly recommended!), or just sit in a beautiful place and soak in the enchanted city.