Some of the best things in life and in Paris…
Located by the Arc de Triomphe on the south side of the Champs-Elysees offering free maps, brochures, reservations, information and help. Metro: Charles de Gaulle-Etoile
Most major museums are free the first Sunday of the month, even the Louvre. The Louvre is also free if you are 17, and offers discounted admission on Wednesdays and Fridays after 6:45 PM and it’s open until 9:45. Metro: Louvre Rivoli (go to the entrance in the station and avoid the lines)
Musee Carnavalet, a Paris history museum in the Marais with a beautiful vine-covered courtyard, is always free, 10 AM to 6 PM; closed Monday, 23 rue de Sevigne. Metro: Saint Paul
Top-floor terrace of the Galeries Lafayette department store by the Opera Garnier, 40 boulevard Haussmann. Metro: Opera Garnier
Montmartre: Not only is this neighborhood an interesting sight in itself, Montmartre is the highest point in Paris and offers panoramic views across the city; walk up the steps or even better, take the funicular. Metro: Abbesses, and walk up
Institut du Monde Arabe: The 9th floor has great views of Notre Dame and the Seine. Metro: Cardinal Lemoine
GARDENS and PARKS: Espaces Vertes (Green Spaces)
Gardens are all free and perfect for picnics! As cafes are the living rooms of Paris, gardens are the backyards. Some to stroll in:
Champs de Mars: Under the Eiffel Tower, need I say more? Metro: Tour Eiffel or Bir-Hakeim
Jardin des Tuileries: Walk from the Louvre through the statue-filled Tuileries to the Champs-Elysees towards the Arc de Triomphe, and enjoy sculptures by Picasso, Maillol and Rodin. Metro: Tuileries or you can start from the Louvre
Jardin du Luxembourg: Flowers, fountains, fruit trees, and statues of famous French women. Be sure to find the grotto-like Medici fountain; the nearby palace is the home of the French legislature and was the Nazi headquarters during the occupation of Paris during World War II. This is the Parisians’ favorite garden. Metro (RER): Luxembourg
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont: A park in Paris where you can actually sit on the grass, complete with a waterfall, grottoes, fake Greek temple, and great views of Paris in an angle you haven’t seen. Metro: Buttes-Chaumont
Jardin des Plantes: With a labyrinth, rose and iris botanical gardens, aquarium, four museums (not free), and the world’s oldest zoo, this giant park is a nice left bank chill space. Metro: Jussieu
Bois du Boulogne: A vast wooded expanse on the east side of Paris, you can visit the Bagatelle garden (1.5 euro) for the roses, peacocks, and miniature chateau. Avoid the area at night but during the day it is lovely! Metro: Pont de Neuilly
Bois de Vincennes: Want to see a medieval castle in Paris? These bois (woods) are for you. You can also visit a large zoo, carnival, miniature train, two lakes (you can rent boats) and a Buddhist temple. Metro (RER): Vincennes
The two giant department stores behind the Opera Garnier host free fashion shows every week, reservations required. Both stores also offer 10% off coupons when you present your passport.
Galeries Lafayette: Shows are year round on Fridays at 3 PM in the Salon Opera on the 7th floor. Metro: Opera or Chaussee d’Antin.
Printemps: Shows are year round on Tuesdays, and on Fridays as well from March through October, 10 AM in the auditorium on the 7th floor of the Printemps de la Mode building. Schedule changes often so double-check before you go. Metro: Havre-Caumartin
ORGAN AND CHOIR CONCERTS:
Experience the acoustic and architectural glory of the grand churches and cathedrals of Paris simultaneously during a free, spine-tingling concert!
Notre-Dame de Paris: Free choir concerts the fourth Tuesday of each month at 8:30 PM and free organ recitals every Sunday at 4:30 PM. Metro: Cite
Eglise de la Madeleine: Free organ concerts every other Sunday at 4 PM. Metro: Madeleine
Saint-Sulpice: Free concerts Sundays at 10 AM. Metro: Saint-Sulpice
Saint-Merri: Free concerts Sundays at 4 PM and Saturdays at 9 PM, September through July. Metro: Hotel de Ville
Graveyards as a tourist attraction? In Paris, yes! Legions of famous artists, writers, dignitaries, poets, musicians and singers rest eternally in the beautiful, Gothic, crumbling cemeteries of Paris. Please note that the cemeteries close at 6 PM sharp and you will be locked in.
Pere Lachaise Cemetery: Over 70,000 people are buried here in the largest cemetery in the world! It’s also a beautiful sculpture garden, if you are into that creepy sort of thing. Buried here: Edith Piaf, Moliere, Heloise and Abelard, La Fontaine, Chopin, Corot, Delacroix, Proust, Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt, Gertrude Stein, and most famously: American poet Jim Morrison. If you don’t want to get lost, buy a map at any entry gate for 2 euro. Metro: Pere-Lachaise.
Montmartre Cemetery: Visit Stendhal, Degas, Zola, and Nijinsky. Metro: Place de Clichy
Montparnasse Cemetery: Here lies Baudelaire, Sartre and de Beauvoir, Citroen, Bertoldi (sculptor of the Statue of Liberty), Garnier and Dreyfus. Metro: Raspail or Edgar Quinet
CHURCHES, CATHEDRALS, AND BASILICAS:
Almost all churches in Paris are free to enter. To light a candle is approximately 2 euro more.
Saint-Sulpice: Probably most well-known in the U.S. for it’s role in the best-selling book The Da Vinci Code, this church really does contain an unusual copper line in the floor leading to an obelisk which is used to measure the solstice. Also home to a mural by Delacroix (in the first chapel on your right as you enter), Saint-Sulpice epitomizes the Catholic Counter-Reformation; it’s grandiose impose was meant to reiterate the glory of God (and the Catholic Church) in an age when Protestantism was taking hold in much of Europe. It’s organ is the largest in France. Metro: St-Sulpice
Saint-Germain-des-Pres: Saint-Germain ‘of the fields’ was once located far outside the village walls of Paris but is now the heart of the chic 6th arrondissement on the left bank. Originally built to shelter a relic of the cross in 542 CE, the church has been restored and remodeled many times and is now an incongruent blend of simple Romanesque architecture and pretentious Baroque. Right around the corner towards the river Seine is a appealing little garden square with a Picasso statue, perfect for a sight-seeing break. Metro: St-Germain
Notre-Dame: Our Lady resides in the center of Paris on the Ile de la Cite on one of the earliest sites of the city where the Celtic tribe Parisii made their home over 2,000 years ago. Watch your wallets outside this tourist hot spot but don’t let that stop you from stepping on Point Zero, a small circle of metal out front which marks the center of Paris (and guarantees you will return to the City of Light). Once inside, crane your neck in amazement at the western rose window which has been in place for over seven centuries. Amble around the ambulatory and if you get to the cathedral early, before 9 AM, for about 6 euro you can climb the north tower and experience inspiring vistas of Paris and the Seine as well as rub shoulders with the excellent 19th century restored gargoyles! (after 9 AM the line gets long and the gargoyles get crowded). Metro: Cite
Sacre-Coeur: The bright white chateau-landon stone of the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur on Montmartre secretes calcite when it gets wet, bleaching itself even whiter with every Paris rainy day. The interesting neo-Byzantinian architecture is eye-catching and the interior is almost always quiet and hushed, nice for some reflection before you head out to explore the neighborhood of Montmartre, once the bohemian epicenter of the world. Metro: Abbesses
International Jazz Festival at La Defense: Free concerts on the esplanade on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays in June. Metro (RER): La Defense Grand Arche
Festival Classique au Vert: Classic music festivals from May to September at the Parc Floral in the Bois de Vincennes. Metro: Chateau de Vincennes
Quartier d’Ete: Free theatre, concert, and dance events throughout Paris from July 15 to August 15.
It’s free to browse in the sixteen sales rooms of art and antiques going up for auction at the Hotel Drouot on from mid-September to mid-July, usually on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 11 AM to 6 PM, though the schedule can change. Auctions are open to the public, 9 rue Drouot. Metro: Richelieu-Drouot