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75+ Incredible, Fun & Free Things to do in Paris

Last Updated on 1st March 2023 by Sophie Nadeau

Paris is expensive. I get it. However, if you’re looking to save money when and cut costs when visiting Paris, then you’ve come to the right place! Though the city can be incredibly expensive if you’re eating out in fine dining restaurants and heading out on pricey day excursions, there are a myriad of ways to see the city and not break the bank. Here’s the best of free things to do in Paris!

Psst. If you’re planning to visit Paris, then we’ve created a gorgeous 100+ page eBook full of beautiful photos and insider tips by a local. Included you’ll find hidden gems, arrondissement guides, walking tours, suggested itineraries, and more. Find more information here.

How to visit Paris and not break the bank! Here's your ultimate guide to 75 of the very best epic, fun and amazing free things to do in Paris, France!

Editor’s note: I first wrote this post about the best free activities in Paris all the way back in 2015, a few weeks after I had first moved to Paris. Since that time, I’ve discovered plenty of other budget-friendly and free excursions to enjoy while in the French capital… Here’s your guide to the best of them!


#1 Stroll around the Jardin des Tuileries 

Home to the Orangerie and Monet’s lilies, the Jardin des Tuileries was originally created by Catherine de’ Medici in the 15th century as an accompaniment to the Palace des Tuileries (until it was burnt down in 1871). It became a public garden after the French revolution and has been enjoyed by Parisians and visitors ever since.

where to see the best fall foliage in paris, france: jardin des tuileries

#2 Wander down the Champs Élysées

After a stroll through the peaceful and calm gardens of the Tuileries (and perhaps a Parisian picnic or two), what better way to experience something a little different than to walk up Les Champs Élysées and bump into tourists and Parisians alike.

Besides, what could possibly be more Parisian than walking down its most famous street? ( as well as being one of the best free things in Paris) With a name reminiscent of Ancient Greek mythology’s Mount Olympus, this is the place for luxury shopping.

Famous the world over, where else could you find French brands residing in the shadows of the symbol of France, the Arc de Triomphe? The avenue is just under 2 km long and is completed by matching rows of impressive trees (great shade in the summer months)! Photo below: bird’s eye view of the avenue from the top of the Arc de Triomphe.

arc de triomphe

#3 Wander up to the Sacré Coeur

Presiding over Paris, the Roman Catholic Basilica of the Sacré Coeur was built between the late 1800s and the early 1900s. Surprisingly the basilica finds itself with pagan roots!

The Catholic building can be seen from almost every major viewpoint the city has to offer (it is the highest point of Paris, after all) and is the crown jewel of the trendy Montmartre district.

Tip: The basilica is open every day to the public from 6 am to 10:30 pm. Weekends are particularly busy and long waiting times are common. The street level interior of the Sacré-Coeur is completely free to visit.

I recommend getting to the church before 10 AM on a weekday if you really want to see the place without the crowds! Though you’ll have to purchase a ticket to get to the very top of the building, the view is most certainly worth it…

Buttes Chaumont: unusual places to see the sacre coeur in paris

#4 Check out the Musée de la Sculpture en Plein Air (Sculpture Garden) 

One of the best free things in Paris for art lovers is the outdoor sculpture garden. With magnificent views over the Seine, this free attraction is the perfect place to enjoy a lovely Parisian Picnic and people watch. The garden museum is open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, though is perhaps best viewed at sunset.

free things in paris

#5 Visit the Marché aux Fleurs (Flower market)

What better way to spend a sunny afternoon in the city of love than by surrounded by an abundance of fresh flowers and plants? Situated a short walk away from Notre Dame, a self-guided walking tour is surely in order! The market has been in operation since 1830, admired by green fingers and amateurs alike.


#6 Pay a visit to Notre Dame Cathedral

Please note that due to a terrible fire at Notre Dame in April of 2019, the cathedral is closed until further notice. It’s still possible to admire the ecclesiastical building from its exterior, but the interior will be closed for some time.

Notre Dame lies on its own island in the middle of the Seine, accessible only by pont (bridge). Whilst the tower itself is not free to visit, the rest of the Cathedral is. Widely regarded as being one of the most beautiful examples of gothic architecture in the world, there are free tours in English and French daily.

The basilica is also home to the crown of thorns. The most expensive Christian relic in history can be found at the back of the Notre Dame Cathedral. Its silhouette is visible from underneath the red cloth that constantly covers it apart from the first Friday of every month when it is possible to view and kiss the relic.

Tip: The cathedral is open every day to the public from 8 am to 7 pm. Weekends are particularly busy and long waiting times are things in paris

#7 Check out Pere Lachaise Cemetery

I don’t know what it is about cemeteries in Paris, but they are something of a major touristic attraction. The most famous, as well as largest, of Parisian graveyards and cemeteries, is that of Père Lachaise, a leafy cemetery in the 20e arrondissement of the city.

The final resting place of Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, and many others, this serene cemetery is the largest in Paris (110 acres to be precise). The cemetery is also the final resting place of one of medieval history’s most tragic couples; Heloise and Abelard.

The cemetery was created in 1804 and still accepts burials. However, the rules are that one has to be a resident of Paris or die in Paris to gain a place. Even then, there are waiting lists and plots are few and far between. It’s estimated that there are over 3 million human remains in the cemetery today.

free things in paris

#8 Borrow a book from Bibliotheque Forney

Close to the Seine and housed within a former mansion that once belonged to Archbishops in the 1700s, the beautiful architecture of Hôtel de Sens is some of the most stunning to be found anywhere in Le Marais. Today, you can visit Bibliotheque Forney for free.

If you want to get a library card to check out books, all you have to do is bring some ID, a passport photo, and fill out some paperwork.

Bibliothèque Forney: Studying in a Medieval Library in the Middle of Le Marais: inside details

#9 Discover the secret vineyards of Paris

You may well not know this, but once upon a time, the hills surrounding Paris were filled with vineyards. Today, only a handful of Parisian vineyards remain, the most famous being that of Montmartre. Elsewhere in the city, you’ll soon discover a small selection of vines in Parc Georges Brassens and in the park at Belleville.

hidden paris vineyards

#10 See sunrise at Trocadero

Whether you’re an early bird or night owl, you definitely should make sure to catch at least sunrise or sunset while in Paris, making an extra effort to head to the Seine for sunset. After all, the only thing more magical than seeing the Eiffel tower is seeing the Eiffel Tower surrounded by a candy coloured sky. 

If you make it your mission to do just one free thing in Paris, make it a sunrise excursion to Trocadero. After all, this open space’s proximity to the Eiffel Tower, as well as its Eastward facing position means that this is easily the best place to enjoy the sunrise in the French capital.

Though Trocadero gets fairly busy later in the day, visit before the sun rises and you’ll soon discover that you’ll largely have the place to yourself. Other stunning places to enjoy the sunrise in Paris (for free) include along the River Seine and from your own Parisian balcony (check here for the best hotel rates in Paris).

Hint: If you go to the Trocadéro for sunrise during the weekend, you’ll be pretty much alone. Parisians lie in. Sunset is another matter altogether. Just make sure to bring your camera along and have plenty of space left on your memory card- you’re going to want to snap plenty of photos!

sunrise at trocadero

#11 Take a free and self-guided Paris walking tour

I’ve said it before and no doubt I’ll say it again, if you’re looking to enjoy Paris like a local, then one of the best ways to see the city is on foot (so be sure to pack some comfortable walking shoes in your bag).

I’ve created a number of free and self-guided walking tours to help you plan your trip, including excursions to Le Marais, Montmartre, and Ile de la Cite.

Check here for my very best free Parisian walking tours!

A Quick Guide to Visiting Place des Vosges, Paris, France

#12 Peruse the Market of Saint-Paul

Deep in the heart of Le Marais, an area best-known for its Middle Ages history, many cobbled lanes, and a plethora of boutique shops, Village St Paul is steps away from some of the arrondissement’s busiest streets.

Filled with vintage shopping opportunities and free to visit, you could easily while away several hours, window shopping for hidden gems.

Village Saint Paul Paris antique market in Le Marais

#13 Uncover the hidden gems of Ile de la Cite

Looking for a love story featuring two doves from the Middle Ages? Or perhaps you’re in search of a flood indicator level marker from the 20th-century?

Well, you can find all this and more for a cost of nothing on the Seine’s largest natural island, Île de la Cité. Here’s your guide to the best hidden gems of the area.

Secret Spots in Ile de la Cite & A Complete Guide to the best of unusual, offbeat, hidden, and quirky things to do in the 1st and 4th arrondissements in Paris, France

#14 Uncover the hidden gems of Montmartre

Of course, the 18th arrondissement of Paris (i.e. Montmartre) is now much more popular than even just a few years ago, especially when it comes to Paris sightseeing.

Aside from the Sacré Coeur, the area’s other many small museums and forgotten mansion houses have become increasingly frequented by those searching out unique experiences to enjoy in Paris. Luckily, there are still plenty of hidden gems of Montmartre, if only you know where to look for them…

Château des Lys, Montmartre, France

#15 Admire the view from Galeries Lafayette rooftop terrace

For one of the best free views of Paris, you need to head to Boulevard Haussmann. The Galeries Lafayette flagship department store is one of the Grands Magasins of the city and its indoor Art-Deco Cupola framed by beautifully terraced floor levels is famed the world over.

But what truly steals the show when it comes to free top things to do in Paris is the spectacular view from the rooftop terrace at Galeries Lafayette. For the best view of iconic gems such as the Paris Opera Garnier and the Eiffel Tower, be sure to head to the terrace at sunset!

Galeries Lafayette Rooftop Terrace: one of the best panoramic views of Paris, France

#16 Relax in the Luxembourg Gardens

In the summer months, when the sun is shining and the plants are in full bloom, there is perhaps no better place to head to and read a good book than in the Luxembourg Gardens, which are blooming with colour and good vibes.

Close to the Paris Pantheon and not far from the Église Saint-Sulpice, attractions in this green space include the Medici Fountain and a central pond where you can rent mini toy wooden boats to race across the water in the summer months.

Seeking History at the Medici Fountain (La Fontaine Médicis), Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, France. Where to find the prettiest water feature in the French capital!

#17 Stroll along Canal Saint Martin

Forget the Seine. The hip, trendy, and cool district of Canal Saint-Martin can be found to the North East of the city in the 10th arrondissement. Home to oodles of street art and plenty of quirky bars, this is where the locals come to hang out.

Canal Saint-Martin is over 4 km long and was commissioned by Napoleon I in the early 1800s. It’s the perfect place to go cycling, walking, running or jogging and where all the locals hang out. As it’s slightly off the beaten tourist track (as opposed to the shops, cafés, and restaurants along the River Seine), prices are marginally lower to reflect the fact.

Highlights of the Canal include shopping in the many boutiques which line its two banks, as well as searching for street art (Miss Tic’s work can be found throughout the city but there’s plenty here in the 10e arrondissement), and eating some delicious vegan and reasonably priced food at Tien Hiang (14 Rue Bichat).

Other attractions include plenty of pretty corners and bridges you can meander over to see another side of the water. Though the area is, of course, free to visit, if you want to splurge a little, then you might want to consider booking a River Seine Cruise from Parc de la Villette.

Escape the crowds in Paris: canal st martin

#18 Admire the best of Parisian monuments from the banks of the River Seine

Wander along the banks of the River Seine and you’ll soon spy many of the Parisian monuments that are so synonymous with the city. For example the impressive former station, Musée d’Orsay, the former prison of the Conciergerie where Marie Antoinette was once held, and of course, La Tour Eiffel.

eiffel tower at sunrise

#19 Wander the medieval streets of Le Marais

Le Marais was once a marshy swamp that was converted into habitable land by monks during the Middle Ages. During the Haussmann overhaul of Paris during the 19th-century, Le Marais (literal translate ‘the swamp’) this area of the city largely escaped mass redesigns, resulting in many of the little lanes and old architecture being preserved for future generations.

Now, one of the best free things to do in France (as well as Paris, bien sûr!) is to wander around the little lanes and secret passages that form the 3rd and 4th arrondissements of the city.

While in the area, be sure not to miss out on Musée Carnavalet, as well as the many vegan coffee shops and cafés that can be found within the district.

hotel de vile le marais paris france

#20 Locate a secret vineyard in Butte Bergeyre

Accessible via only two pedestrian set of steps and one winding street, Butte Bergeyre is a charming micro-arrondissement in the 19th arrondissement of the city.

Filled with stunning art deco residences and villas, at the very top of this district there’s even a teeny tiny vineyard that provides wonderful views over the city and towards the Sacré-Coeur Basilica.

Butte Bergeyre, unusual places to see the sacre coeur in paris

#21 Relax in Parc des Buttes Chaumont

Home to a grotto, secret waterfall, and a mass of Greco-Roman Classical style follies, there is perhaps no other green space that’s such an oasis of calm in the heart of Paris.

The Parc des Buttes Chaumont can be found in the 19th arrondissement of Paris, is completely free to wander around, and was built at the behest of Napoleon III in the 19th-century. Of all the things to see in Paris, this 19th-arrondissement Park is off the beaten path but oh-so-worth-it!

Parc des Buttes Chaumont, 19e arrondissement, Paris, France: cherry blossom

#22 Enjoy the free museums of Paris

Though some of the more famous museums in the city are generally paid entry, there are a number of cultural spaces and museums in the city that are completely free to visit.

Some of the best free museums in Paris include the permanent collections at Maison Victor Hugo (former residence of the writer on Place des Vosges) and the permanent collections of Musée de la Vie Romantique.

In total, there are over a dozen free museums in Paris! Of all the best things to do in Paris (particularly so if it’s raining outside), the easiest way to get a culture fix is to head to one of the unique and quirky cultural institutions dotted around the capital city!

A Quick Guide to Visiting Place des Vosges, Paris, France

#23 Visit a museum on the first Sunday of the month

On the first Sunday of every month, many Parisian monuments and museums are free for everyone to visit. Of all the ways to tackle Paris on a budget, this is probably one of the best! After all, since 2000 all of the museums in the French capital are free to visit (with the exception of the Grand Palais).

As you can imagine, the free entrance is a real draw for many people and queues can build up pretty quickly! It’s also worth noting that plenty of museums and Parisian attractions (including the Arc de Triomphe) are free to visit for citizens of the EU under 26 years old.

Some of my favourite small museums in the city include Musée Jacquemart-André and the Musée de Montmartre. A complete guide to free museums in Paris, be it on the first Sunday of the month, or on other occasions, can be found on the Paris Tourist Information website here.

Artist's Atelier (Renoir) Musée de Montmartre

#24 Pick up a book from one of the many Anglophone bookshops in Paris

If you’re an anglophone, you love reading, and you love old things, you’re sure to love Shakespeare and Co. Founded in 1919, Shakespeare and Co. actually comprises of two neighbouring bookstores; one for antiquarian books, the other for more modern editions.

A little way down the street, towards the oldest tree in Paris and Square René Viviani, Shakespeare and Co. also run a quaint coffee shop overlooking the Seine.

Nearby, the Abbey Bookshop is lesser-known than its more famous counterpart but also well worth a wander around. Think: all the coffee and books stacked from floor to ceiling!

From the Abbey Bookshop to the ever-so-famous Shakespeare and Co, there’s no shortage of English language bookstores to be found throughout Paris.

Some of the best include the aesthetically pleasing Librairie Galignani on Rue de Rivoli and Berkeley Books of Paris in the 6th arrondissement of the city.

The Abbey Bookshop, Latin Quarter, Paris, France: entryway

#25 Explore the whimsical side of Montmartre

Of all Parisian arrondissements, the 18e district is that which has maintained its village vibe the best. So if you’re looking to experience Paris on a budget, then whisk your way up to the top of the Butte (fancy french word for ‘hill’) and see the iconic places which make Montmartre a dream destination.

Wander around the cobbled lanes, soak up some history, and perhaps even purchase yourself a crêpe or ice cream from one of the many vendors dotted around the district.

This is where many artists of the first half of the 20th-century acquired their inspiration, and it’s a dreamy destination that’s sure to inspire you should you visit today. Finally, a stroll around this district is 100% free. Here’s your full guide to Montmartre.

Montmartre photo diary: sinking house in paris

#26 Enjoy the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower

There is perhaps no landmark quite as iconic, nor quite so synonymous with Paris, as that of the Eiffel Tower. Known in French as ‘La Tour Eiffel,‘ during the evening from dusk until the early hours of the morning, the tower sparkles on the hour, every hour for five minutes. The light show is, of course, costs nothing to admire and can be spied from various viewpoints around the city.

sparkling eiffel tower

#27 Snap photos of the flowers in cherry blossom season

Following the dreary winter, the first glimpses of spring can be found in the form of pops of pink, all over the French capital. Some of the best places to enjoy the cherry blossom in Paris include around the base of the Eiffel Tower, in the pretty park next to Notre Dame, and in the gardens of Château de Sceaux on a day trip from Paris.

Square René-Viviani: A Parisian Park on a Former Cemetery in the Latin Quarter, Paris, France

#28 If it’s raining, be sure to check out the secret covered passages of Paris

One of the best free things to do in Paris, come rain or shine, is to explore the covered passages of Paris. Largely built in the 18th and 19th centuries, once upon a time, there were over a hundred and fifty covered arcades in the city, providing covered shopping experiences throughout the capital.

Today, only a handful of these passages remain as the precursor to the modern shopping malls of the modern era. All are free to visit and highlights of these passages include Passage des Panoramas (a must for stamp collectors) and Passage Jouffroy (a little off the beaten path).

Passage des Panoramas 9th arrondissement: How to visit the Oldest Covered Passage in Paris, one of the best rainy day activities in the City of Light, France

#29 Visit Place des Vosges, Paris’ first public planned square

On the site of a former palace, Place des Vosges is all brick architecture, covered arcades, and open green space. The first public planned square in Paris, this area of Le Marais is one of the best places to hang out in the summer months, while the terraces that line its sides are perfect for a drink.

Though you’ll have to pay for the drink, many places across Paris offer free nibbles when you purchase a beverage.

A Quick Guide to Visiting Place des Vosges, Paris, France

#30 Seek out the Da Vinci Code filming locations

For fans of Dan Brown, the Da Vinci Code likely needs no introduction. Following the (mis)adventures of Professor Robert Langdon, the University Lecturer travels across Europe breaking codes and following ancient riddles. Parts of the film are shot in Paris and you can see the Da Vinci Code filming locations in the city today.

Escape the crowds in Paris: st sulpice

#31 Seek out Gossip Girl filming locations

Exactly one episode of the popular New York City-based series, Gossip Girl, is filmed in the French capital. Now, fans of the series can follow in the footsteps of Blair and Serena by checking out these Gossip Girl filming locations in Paris.

where to see the best fall foliage in paris, france: musée d'orsay

#32 Seek out Amelie filming locations

When you combine a whimsical district with a coming of age tale, you get a movie buff favourite like Amelie. Largely filmed in the Canal Saint Martin and Montmartre districts of the city, now you can head to Paris and go in search of Amelie filming locations.

Canal Saint Martin Neighbourhood Guide: Things to do in the 10e arrondissement of Paris, France: sunset and reflections on the water

#33 Learn about some history at La Petite Ceinture

The Petite Ceinture is literally translated into English as the ‘little belt’ and is a former iron railway track that loops its way around the original Paris peripherique. Built in the 19th-century, the train track fell out of use with the introduction of the metro. Today, small parts of this railway survive, and here’s how you can even legally visit the Petite Ceinture!

Parc des Buttes Chaumont, 19e arrondissement, Paris, France: petite ceinture

#34 Admire Paris from afar at Parc de Saint-Cloud

For those in search of an oasis of calm, far away from the bright lights of the city, Parc de Saint-Cloud is all that remains of a once grand estate. Today, the pretty terraced garden provides wonderful views of Paris (including the Eiffel Tower) and are the perfect green space to wander around in the summer months.

Parc de Saint-Cloud: one of the most beautiful gardens in Europe and a green park in Paris, France

#35 Relax in Parc Monceau

Filled with 19th-century follies and all the beautiful foliage, Parc Monceau is completely free to enter and is found within the 8th arrondissement of Paris. Home to its own stunning carousel, as well as plenty of park benches, the green space was opened to the public as early as the 18th-century.

parc monceau

#36 Admire the unique architecture of the Paris Pagoda

Architecturally speaking, the Paris Pagoda is a welcome break from the rest of the Haussmannian era style buildings that are so prevalent in the rest of the 8th arrondissement. The Pagoda itself can be admired from the roadside and dates back to the early 20th century.

pagoda paris

#37 Marvel at the architecture of Notre Dame du Travail

In the 14th arrondissement, the traditional exterior of the Notre Dame du Travail church belies the quirky features to be found within the ecclesiastical building’s interior. For within the walls of this early 20th-century church, the frame is largely steel, with latticework detail and much of the decoration also in metalwork!

Notre Dame du Travail, 14e arrondissement, Paris: is this the quirkiest church in paris, france?

#38 Follow in the footsteps of Roman Paris

Between the crumbling walls of the former Roman bathhouses which can be found close to the Sorbonne University campus and the old Roman arena that’s no used as a football pitch, there’s no shortage of Roman locations to be found throughout Paris.

Though the city was not nearly important back in Roman Gaul as it is today, there are still plenty of unusual Roman sites dotted around the French capital. While the Arenes de Lutece is free to visit, you can only admire the Thermes de Cluny from the exterior if you don’t want to pay the entry fee.

In Search of Roman Paris: Ancient & Historic Roman sites in Paris, France

#39 Visit the flea market at Port Saint Ouen

The largest flea market in the world is based in St-Ouen, to the North of Paris. In total, the Marché Aux Puces (literally translated into English as ‘flea market’) consists of 14 markets; all carrying goods of varying time periods and styles. As such, it’s possible to find everything from dishes, to armchairs, to vintage clothing.

For example, I picked up a vintage postcard from when the Eiffel Tower was still the tallest man-made structure in the World for just €1! If you’re looking to pick up vintage postcards for a low cost, then I highly recommend also heading to the Passage des Panoramas and checking out Prins Patrick. Once there, you’ll find authentic postcards for as little as €2 each!

If you’re looking to go looking for hidden treasures in a place where you never quite know what you’ll stumble upon next, then you simply must head to the Marché aux Puces de St Ouen.

Free to visit and wander around, there are both indoor and outdoor stalls to browse around and go window shopping for long lost gems at your leisure. The flea market can be found in the North of Paris and is best visited on the weekends when everything is actually open.

Escape the crowds in Paris: Marche aux puces de saint ouen

#40 Relax in Square René Viviani

In the springtime, Square René Viviani is home to some of the prettiest cherry blossoms in the city. Somewhere between the River Seine and Café Odette (where you’ll be able to purchase the most delicious Choux Buns in the city), this pretty green space belies its former history.

After all, the plot of land was used as a cemetery for the nearby Eglise Saint Julien le Pauvre. Today, the park is popular among tourists and locals alike, particularly in the summer months when Square Rene Viviani makes for the perfect picnic spot, or quiet space in which to read a book!

Square René-Viviani: A Parisian Park on a Former Cemetery in the Latin Quarter, Paris, France

#41 Seek out the best Eiffel Tower view

Thanks to its status as one of the tallest monuments, and even buildings, in Paris, there’s no shortage of Eiffel Tower views to be found across the French capital. Many of these viewpoints are free to enjoy so why not head outside and go and play some hide and seek with La Tour Eiffel?

eiffel tower hyperlapse

#42 Enjoy the sunset from Montmartre

When it comes to enjoying the golden hour in Paris, there’s no shortage of amazing sunset locations. However, one of the best free places to see the sunset in Paris is from the Parvis (Square) in front of the Sacré-Coeur basilica.

After all, thanks to the Butte’s prominent position above the rest of the city, you can see many of Paris’ more iconic attractions from here, including the Grand Department stores, and the hills on the far side of the city.

musée de montmartre

#43 Pay a visit to the final resting place of Saint Genevieve, the patroness of Paris

Hidden behind the much more famous Paris Pantheon, Eglise-Saint-Etienne-du-Mont is a beautiful masterpiece of the French Gothic meets intricate Renaissance.

Not only is the church home to the best-preserved rood screen (jubé in French) in Paris, but it’s also here, in a gilded glass tomb, where the only surviving relics of Saint Genevieve (the patroness of Paris) are alleged to lie.

Saint-Étienne-du-Mont: Final Resting Place of Saint Genevieve in Paris, france

#44 Peek inside Hôtel Dieu, the oldest hospital in Paris

Located next to Notre Dame Cathedral, Hôtel Dieu is the oldest surviving hospital in Paris. Founded many centuries ago, the courtyard of this hospital is free to visit and stroll around.

The entranceway can be found on the Parvis de Notre Dame. Just show the contents of your bag and stroll on through. However, remember that this hospital is still in operation so be quiet and respectful of the staff and patients!

Hotel-Dieu de Paris: A Peek Inside the Oldest Hospital in Paris

#45 Snap a photo of the Eiffel Tower from Avenue Rapp

Filled with stunning architecture and with unparalleled views of the Eiffel Tower, Avenue Rapp and the adjacent Square Rapp are free to wander along. Furthermore, the beautiful Art Nouveau buildings to be found in the area provide the perfect framing for that epic Tour Eiffel snap!

Square Rapp & Avenue Rapp: History & an Eiffel Tower View in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, France

#46 Search for the oldest house in Paris

Throughout Paris, specifically in Le Marais district of the city, there are numerous timber-framed houses to be spied. Pretty and many dating back decades, there is some debate as to exactly what the oldest house in the city is. So wander around the 3rd and 4th arrondissements for yourself and go in search for the oldest house in the city…

oldest house in paris

#47 Follow in the footsteps of Nicolas Flamel in Paris

For fans of the wizarding Harry Potter series, the name ‘Nicolas Flamel‘ likely needs no introduction. But what you may well not know is that Flamel was a real-life person, and he lived in Paris during the Middle Ages. Throughout the centuries since his lifetime, myth and legend surrounding Flamel have become abundant.

Though Flamel was not associated with the practice of alchemy until years after his death, JK Rowling likely heard of the scholar during her time studying abroad in Paris. Now, you can visit sites such as Flamel’s former home, as well as other wizarding locations across the capital.

Auberge Nicolas Flamel: Alchemy & A Historic House in Le Marais, Paris, France

#48 Visit the oldest umbrella repair shop in the French capital

In what is alleged to be the oldest passage of Paris, Passage de l’Ancre, the oldest umbrella repair shop in France is covered in trailing ivy and surrounded by greenery. In operation for well over fifty years, head to this small cobbled lane to snap photos for free or admire the shop front!

Passage de l'Ancre & Pep's, The Oldest Umbrella Repair Shop in Paris

#49 Snap photos of the prettiest streets in Paris

There’s no shortage of beautiful streets in Paris. That’s a fact! So if you’re looking for pretty lanes and ancient roads in which to snap photos, start in Le Marais, Montmartre, or Île de La Cité. Of course, everyone has heard of Rue Cremieux at this point, but have you seen photos of Rue Chanoinnesse or Rue de l’Abreuvoir?

Rue Cremieux, near Bastille, Paris, France: a pretty, pastel and candy coloured house facades in the heart of the French capital

#50 Visit Eglise Saint Philippe du Roule

In the 8th arrondissement, somewhere between Musée Jacquemart André and the Jardins des Champs-Élysées, the Church of Saint Philippe du Roule was built under the direction of Louis XV. Like most other churches in the city, this ecclesiastical building is free to visit, and highlights include several stunning frescoes and a series of wonderful carvings.

Eglise Saint-Philippe-du-Roule: The 8th Arrondissement Church Commissioned by Louis XV

#51 Discover the Paris Bouquinistes

Located all the way along the River Seine, the iconic green stalls of the Paris bouquinistes have become a fixed staple in the Parisian landscape. So much so, that the Seine is now dubbed as ‘the River between two bookshelves’ and the stalls themselves have been granted UNESCO world heritage status. As such, there’s no better place to go window shopping than along the banks of the Seine!

offbeat Paris destinations: wander along the seine and see the paris bouquinistes

#52 Snap photos of the magnolia in Paris

Before the fluffy cherry blossoms emerge, the first of the pink spring flowers come in the form of magnolia. Found throughout the city, some of the best places to enjoy magnolia in Paris include by Hôtel de Ville and within the walls of Palais Royal. Elsewhere in the city, plenty of pretty magnolia trees can be found in Jardin des Tuileries and at Parc de Bagatelle.

Where to see the very best magnolia trees in Paris France: Here's your complete guide to spotting spring blooms in the French capital!

#53 Snap photos of the wisteria in Paris

In the springtime, there’s not only the magnolia to seek out or the cherry blossom to spy when it comes to spring blooms. Instead, in around May, the streets of the city once again spring to life in floral decoration in the form of wisteria.

Some of the best places to enjoy the wisteria in Paris include on the side of Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole in the heart of Ile de la Cite close to Notre Dame, and along Rue de l’Abreuvoir in Montmartre.

When & Where to Find the Best Wisteria in Paris: Your complete guide on how to find the pretty late spring purple climber throughout the French capital. Montmartre, Ile de la Cite, Paris, France

#54 Discover La Butte aux Cailles micro-arrondissement

High on a hilltop above the rest of the 13th arrondissement of Paris, Butte Aux Cailles is one of the lost villages of Paris that still retains its small settlement charm to this day.

Today, if you want to escape the crowds of the rest of the city, wander around this little district, explore the Butte’s many cobbled lanes, and take photos at your leisure.

Butte Aux Cailles charming street in Paris, France

#55 Discover Villa Leandre micro-arrondissement 

Pretty and English-inspired, the art deco houses of Villa Leandre date back to the 1920s and can be found in the 18th arrondissement. This mini village vibe location is set along one cobbled lane, is perfect for a photo shoot, and even has a little humour with the sign at No. 10 saying ‘Downing Street’!

Villa Leandré: An English-Inspired Art-Deco Street in Montmartre, 18th arrondissement, Paris, France

#56 Search for the lost windmills of Paris

Back before Montmartre was absorbed into the fabric of Paris, the area was farmland. Populated by rolling farmed fields and many a windmill, today most of these features have been lost and forgotten.

However, a few such windmills still exist and so one of the more unusual free activities in the city is to go in search of the lost windmills of Paris.

Lost Paris Windmills: a quick history behind the longforgotten Montmartre Windmills, 18e, Paris, France

#57 Snap a photo beside La Maison Rose

You’ve probably seen it on Instagram, or at the very least, printed somewhere in your Parisian guidebook. La Maison Rose (the Pink House) of Montmartre is almost as famous as the district itself thanks to its pretty façade and trailing ivy.

And so, if you’re looking for one of the best free things to do in Paris, be sure to head to La Maison Rose at sunrise and snap a photo beside this iconic landmark!

10 very good reasons to love Montmartre. And why you should visit the 18e arrondissement in Paris, France!

#58 Search for futuristic architecture at the Jardin des Colonnes

In the 14th arrondissement of Paris, an area South of the Seine and often overlooked in favour of more famous nearby districts, the ever-so-futuristic Jardin des Colonnes is all glass panelling and concrete pillars.

Free to enter, snap photos of this beautiful space and enjoy the architecture that’s so different from the Haussmann style that’s so synonymous with the rest of the city.

Wandering around the 14e yesterday (I'd visited the area in search of the iron frame of Notre Dame du Travail), I stumbled on this architectural quirk that doesn't quite fit the stereotype of 'Haussmannian Palace'. Instead, the circular building is covered in reflective windows and surrounds a garden filled with fragrant lavender.

#59 Relax in Square Marcel Bleustein Blanchet

In a place where many venture past but few wander into, Square Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet is a welcome respite from the crowds in the rest of the 18th arrondissement. It’s also here where you’ll find plenty of benches, a fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower, and beautiful trailing wisteria in springtime.

unusual places to see the sacre coeur in paris

#60 Visit a former Cistercian College in the Latin Quarter

Once used to house Cistercian brothers who attended the nearby Sorbonne University, Collège des Bernardins is in the Latin Quarter. Though you’ll have to pay to enter some of the exhibitions within this beautiful space, the entrance hall itself is filled with vaulted ceilings and is free to wander around.

My Secret Paris locations: Collège des Bernardins: an ancient cistercian school in the heart of Paris, France!

#61 Enjoy the sights of Paris at night

Between the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower and the long light trails Hôtel de Ville (Paris’ town Hall) casts on the River Seine, Paris may well be just as beautiful at night as during the day. After all, stroll around the city after dark and you’ll soon see the French capital from an entirely new perspective, all for free!

During the winter, many churches and basilicas within the city hold free evening choir and carol services. If you fancy doing more during the evening than simply enjoying dinner or watching a show, then there are a plethora of things to do in Paris at night!

Paris in October: What to See, Where to Go & All the Eats!

#62 Snap a photo of Le Consulat Café

One of the most iconic Parisian cafés to be found anywhere in the French capital is easily Le Consulat. Situated in the heart of Montmartre, not far from Place du Tertre and besides the oldest street in Montmartre, Le Consulat has been serving hot beverage and fresh food to locals and tourists alike for decades.

Le Consulat Café: a historic coffee house in the heart of Montmartre, Paris, France

#63 Marvel at the Colonnes de Buren

Looking for a modern art installation in Paris that you can climb on, snap photos of, or simply marvel at? Well, one of the more controversial sites in Paris when it was first erected during the 20th-century, the Colonnes de Buren can be found within the walls of Palais Royal.

Free to enter and wander around, if you want to snap beautiful photos of these iconic columns, be sure to arrive earlier in the day rather than later!

Colonnes de Buren, Palais Royal, Paris, France

#64 Check out the art in the metro

Though not exactly as much of a ‘free’ activity as some of the other items on this list of budget things to do, if you’re looking to see Paris for less, then no doubt you’ll want to take advantage of its extensive public transport system in the form of the metro.

Well, many a metro station has been decorated unusually, including Arts et Metiers and the tiled letters at Concorde. For more art inspiration, check out my guide to unusual metro stations in Paris.

If you have the chance to see just one metro station, then the replicas of iconic works of art at Louvre-Rivoli from the Louvre museum are particularly special! For more information about Parisian transportation, check out my guide on how to use the Paris metro.

Behind the Scenes of the Paris Metro Line 14 Extension

#65 Head off the beaten track and escape the crowds

Whether it’s heading to a different waterway other than The Seine to enjoy a picnic or checking out a small house museum rather than the Louvre, there’s no shortage of ways to escape the crowds in Paris when it comes to looking for cool and free activities.

Some of my favourite spaces include the woods at Vincennes and the Canal Saint Martin district in the 10th arrondissement. If you’re thinking of taking a town day trip from the city, though you’ll have to pay for the public transport (bien sûr), some of the best French towns close to the French capital include Meaux, Versailles, and Senlis.

Château de Vincennes day trip from Paris, France:

#66 Explore the Cité Florale micro-arrondissement

In the 13th arrondissement of Paris, Cité Florale (literally translated as ‘floral city’), is all modern villas surrounded by leafy suburbs and covered in trailing plants. While each house in the area has its own small garden, all the streets in the micro-arrondissement are named for flowers.

Free to wander around, this often forgotten village in the heart of the capital is an oasis of calm in an otherwise bustling city. Most of the houses date back to the 1920s and 1930s and were built in such a style so as to compensate from the lack of ability to build heavy structures on site!

Cité Florale, 13e arrondissement, Paris, France

#67 Relax in Parc André-Citroën

Home to a hot air balloon and parts of the Petite Ceinture, Parc André-Citroën is so-called because it’s situated on the site of a former Citröen factory. Now, the green space is in the 15th arrondissement of Paris and is surrounded by futuristic architecture, while the park itself is full of shrubs and grassy lawns.

reflective building Parc Andre Citroen, 15e arrondissement, Paris, France

#68 Enjoy the free museums during the annual Nuit Blanche 

From the Louvre to Musée d’Orsay, for one night of the year, every year, the Nuit Blanche (white night) generally takes place in the early autumn. Held for over fifteen years, this event showcases performances, artists, and plenty of exhibition spaces from 7 PM right through to 7 AM.

Most of the events/ performances/ museums are free to visit and there’s also free public transport offered between venue spaces. As such, if you’re visiting Paris in October, then a night of free museums and other cultural institutions is an absolute must while in the French capital!

Best Museums in Paris you should know about: top 10 culture hubs in the city of lights, France

#69 Look for the oldest tree in Paris

Steps away from the iconic Shakespeare and Company bookshop, the oldest tree in Paris is said to date all the way back to the 17th-century. Oh, the stories this tree could tell!

Free to visit and marvel at, you’ll spy the tree at the back of Square René-Viviani and not far from Odette, a pastry shop which happens to bake the most delicious choux pastries to be found anywhere in Paris.

In search of the oldest tree in Paris, France, (and it's within view of Notre Dame). A visit to Square René Viviani, 5th arrondissement, Latin, Quarter, France!

#70 In summer, check out the Jardin des Tuileries funfair

In the summer months, an amusement park is held at the side of the Jardin des Tuileries. Abundant with rides and food kiosks, my favourite ride is the swinging chairs where you can glean a bird’s eye view over the city (if you don’t feel dizzy from all the spinning…) Though you’ll have to pay a fee to go on many of the rides, a wander around the funfair itself is free!

jardin des tuileries funfair

#71 In summer, enjoy the Paris Plages

Every summer, during July and August, when the weather is at its warmest and the sun shines down on the city for hours on end, certain areas of the city are transformed into mini beaches, or the ‘Paris Plages‘ as they are so-called. The most famous of these is that along the Seine, close to Notre Dame.

However, unlike many beaches in France, you’re not allowed to swim in the water. Instead, this sandy stretch is simply for relaxing! For a few euro, you can also purchase an ice cream or refreshing cool drink to sip alongside the River Seine.

paris plages

#72 In winter, enjoy the Galeries Lafayette Christmas tree

Each year, the busy and bustling Galeries Lafayette flagship store on Boulevard Haussmann is decked out with an impressively large Christmas tree. Each year is a different theme, usually based on the sponsor of the tree (past sponsors have been films, watchmakers, and high-end designers).

If you’re looking for what to do in France during Christmastime, then it’s worth noting that the store itself is free to visit and I’m more than certain you’ll love wandering inside to snap a photo (or two) of the festive tree! Otherwise, come January time, Galeries Lafayette holds one of its two annual sales!

Galeries Lafayette Christmas tree: feeling festive in Paris, France

#73 In winter, enjoy some of the best Christmas decorations in Paris

Each year, many of the larger department stores in Paris, such as the Dior Flagship store, as well as the Louis Vuitton shop on Place Vendôme display beautiful decorations that you’ll totally want to snap on a visit to the French capital.

Elsewhere in the city, many storefronts are decked out for the holiday season, while many streets are strung with twinkling lights.

If you’re looking for some of the most beautiful free Christmas illuminations in Paris, then you simply must head to one of the five large Parisian department stores, notably the Printemps and Galeries Lafayette flagship stores along Boulevard Haussmann and not far from Opera Garnier.

After all, it’s here where you’ll soon discover beautiful Christmas window displays which change throughout the seasons.

Christian Dior Atelier Design House, Avenue Montaigne, Paris, France: the Dior Balloon in Paris!

#74 In winter, check out the Paris Christmas markets

Some of my favourite winter-inspired markets in Paris include that of the Tuileries Garden, as well as the expansive market at La Defense. Though you’ll have to pay a small amount to indulge in some vin chaud or purchase a small gift/ souvenir to bring home from your travels, the Christmas markets themselves are free to enter.

Some other Christmas markets in Paris worth checking out include the tiny independent stalls in Abbesses of the 18th arrondissement of Montmartre and the Alsatian Christmas Market at Gare de l’Est.

If you have a little more time while in the City of Light, take a day trip to the medieval city of Provins where you’ll find a bustling festive market full of foodie-focused stalls and twinkling lights.

What's on? Paris in December guide. Here are the very best things to do in Paris during the end of the year suggested activities, things to do in December in Parsi, France, cafés and what to wear!

#75 Get a little Lost in Paris!

Of all the free things in Paris on this list, this is probably my favourite activity of all. Wander along the Seine, explore the little alleyways of Paris and watch the world go by. Besides, what better way to experience local culture and customs and the best of Parisian activities than by seeing them yourself?

Below, I’m pictured on the Pont Alexandre III. It is often hailed as one of the most beautiful bridges in the world. Honestly, there are fewer things that are more pleasant than spending an afternoon walking around the city of lights!

And so, if you’re looking for what to do in Paris, then simply stroll out the door with no end goal in sight and simply see where your feet take you!

free things in paris

#76 Enjoy free movies at Parc de la Villette

If you thought that outdoor cinema screenings were a thing of the past, then it’s time to think again! Each summer, during July and August in Paris, there are a plethora of movie screenings in Parc de la Villette, as well as other outdoor cinemas across Paris.

Movies tend to be screened in their original language and so, even if you don’t speak French, you may well be able to see an English language film! The best part of watching a film is that, not only is it free access without reservations onto the grass lawn where the screenings take place, but you’re also free to bring your own picnic to sit back and watch the film with as well. Find more details here.

Enjoy free movies at Parc de la Villette

#77 See the Parisian carousels!

If you’re visiting Paris with children, then it’s well worth noting that one of the best things to do in Paris with kids is to head to the beautiful carousels of Paris. Though you’ll have to pay to ride on them (at a cost of a few euro per ride), the ‘manèges’ as they are so-called in English can be found dotted across the city, including at Trocadéro, at the base of Montmartre, and in the Jardin des Plantes.

Eiffel Tower at sunrise with a piece of the Trocadero carousel

#78 Attend the Féte des Vendanges de Montmartre (Montmartre grape harvest festival)

Every year, typically during the first or second weekend of October (depending on the harvest time and the weather of that particular year), the Montmartre Grape Harvest Festival is a free-to-attend celebration attracting upwards of 500,000 visitors.

Head to the 18th arrondissement during this time and you’ll soon discover a plethora of events; from dances to music performances, there’s no shortage of fun to be had at this Parisian festival. Please note that some events are paid, though the majority are free.

Montmartre Grape Harvest Festival, 18th arrondissement, Paris, France

#79 Check out Cimetière du Calvaire

Located in the shadows of the impressive Sacré-Coeur Basilica domes, the Cimetière du Calvaire (Calvaire Cemetery) is not only the smallest cemetery in Paris but also the oldest. Dating all the way back to the 17th-century, the graveyard is located on the site of a 7th-century Merovingian burial ground.

As a result of its age and prominence in the history of the 9th (once known as Montmartre d’en bas) and 18th arrondissements, the cemetery is filled with many burials of note.

Some of the most important include that of the man for which the bougainvillaea flower is named, as well as the family who created Moulin de la Galette, one of the few surviving windmills of Paris.

Today, the cemetery is one of the most secretive spots in Montmartre, not least because many Parisians don’t even know of its existence! Instead, the cemetery is open only one day of the year, on the 1st of November (La Toussaint, a public holiday in France) and though this Parisian destination is free to visit, it can only be seen via French guided tour.

Cimetière du Calvaire, Paris' Oldest & Smallest Cemetery in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, France

#80 See the Statue of Liberty!

Yes, you read that correctly! One of the most unusual things to do in Paris is simply to go and see one of the many Parisian replica Statues of Liberty (the same as that of Ellis Island in New York City). There are two statues at the Arts et Métiers museum, though the best known is that of Pont de Grenelle and is a quarter-sized replica of the original.

How to See the Paris Statue of Liberty, Pont de Grenelle, 15th arrondissement, Paris, France

#81 Visit Musée Cognacq-Jay

One of the best-kept secret museums of Paris is that of Musée Cognacq, a former mansion house turned house museum. Featuring collections largely compiled during the first few decades of the 20th-century, the impressive selection of arts and furniture within the abode boast several Canaletto paintings.

Another impressive piece in the collection is a painting which is one Rembrandt’s earliest works. Today, the museum’s permanent collections are completely free to visit and are the perfect place to while away a couple of hours. Please note that special exhibitions are still pay-to-visit, with reduced prices for concessions.

Visit Musée Cognacq-Jay

#82 Search for unique public clocks and timepieces in Paris

Of all the free things to do in Paris, one of the most uncommon activities that many visitors don’t think to do is to go in search of the most unusual and unique public clocks and timepieces dotted around the city.

Some of our favourites include the Defender of Time in Le Marais area of the city, as well as the oldest public clock in Paris, which is to be found on the side of the Conciergerie in the heart of Île de la Cité.

Defender of Time Clock

#83 Discover bridges in Paris

Of course, asides from the major manmade landmarks and attractions in Paris, one of the most iocnic features of the city is the river Seine. Though the city began on Île de la Cité, it soon spread to both banks of the river, which have since been referred to as Rive Gauche (left bank) and Rive Droite (right bank). Today, there are a staggering 37 bridges in intra-muros Paris that you can wander across.

Pont Neuf, a bridge dating back to the 17th-century

#84 Go in search of Art Nouveau architecture

When you think Paris, you probably think of the classical sandy stoned building style that’s known as Haussmannian. What you may well not know about is that there’s also a fair bit of Art Nouveau in Paris to be discovered too. For more inspiration, check out our guide to the best of Art Nouveau in Paris.

14 Rue d'Abbeville: The Art-Deco House Hiding in the 9th Arrondissement

#85 Admire the Jardin des Serres d’auteuil

If you’re looking for a relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of busy city life, then you should head to the greenhouses in the Jardin des serres d’Auteuil. Situated on the fringes of the Bois de Boulogne, the greenhouses are part of one of four botanical gardens in Paris.

In total, there are five hothouses which date back to the latter half of the 19th-century and boast countless beautiful plants.

#86 Search for sparkling water

As well as being able to ask for free water to accompany your meals in restaurants, there are free drinking fountains all across the french capital, and there have been ever since the 19th-century in the form of the Wallace Fountains.

And while searching for free water fountains doesn’t sound that exciting, many locals and visitors alike don’t actually know that there are also several sparkling water fountains that distribute free sparkling water across the city.

If you want to learn even more about the history of drinking water prior to your visit to Paris, then I highly recommend watching ‘Les pieds sur Terre’ episode of Down to Earth on Netflix with Zac Efron, which is all about the ‘eau de Paris’.

#87 Visit Musée Bourdelle

Yet another museum whose permanent collections are completely free for everyone to visit is that of Musée Bourdelle, which can be found in the 15th arrondissement of Paris.

This cultural hub is set against the backdrop of the former home of artist Antoine Bourdelle, who was once a pupil of Rodin. The museum is open from Tuesdays through to Sundays.

#87 Visit the Château de la Reine Blanche

The Gobelins family were wealthy tapestry manufacturers during the middle ages, and today a popular métro station (metro line 7) is even named after this illustrious family. And located in the 13e arrondissement of Paris, down a little winding lane, you’ll find their former mansion residence, Château de la Reine Blanche.

During the summer months, free tours of the grounds take place on a regular basis. The tours are also held on heritage days throughout September, though if you’re visiting during any other time of the year the château is well worth a look from the outside. 

Château de la Reine Blanche, Îlot de la Reine Blanche, 13e arrondissement, paris, france: home to the gobelin family

#88 Lick some windows around Le Marais

No, I don’t mean literally. Window shopping is ‘vitrine lèche’ (window licking in French). Le Marais is full of little friperie shops and independent boutiques. The narrow roads date back centuries and are one of the only parts of the city to have escaped the dramatic Hausmmannian overhaul of architecture in the 1800s.

As a result, the winding maze of alleyways that form Le Marais are littered with tiny independent boutiques, cafés, bars, and shops selling a mass of luxury goods ranging from Roman glass to limited edition prints to gelato.

It’s possible to spend an entire day meandering through the little side streets, walkways and arcades that form Le Marais. While there, make sure to check out Place des Vosges, a beautiful brick façade park.

#89 Maison de Balzac

One of the most famous residents to have lived in Passy in the 16th arrondissement is Honoré Balzac. Today, his former home has been transformed into a delightful small museum and has been set up much as it would have appeared during the 19th-century. The permanent collections of the museum are free to visit.

Maison de Balzac

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Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, travel, pizza, and history. A fan of all things France related, she runs when she’s not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming something sweet. She currently splits her time between Paris and London. Subscribe to Sophie’s YouTube Channel.

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Best Places to Travel With Your Best Friend –

Friday 9th of July 2021

[…] transportation, get an all-inclusive museum pass, stay in a hostel that’s actually cute, and wander the streets for free because the city is just that entertaining. Whether you aggressively sightsee or end up […]

Nina | Lemons and Luggage

Saturday 29th of February 2020

Paris is my favorite city in the world, but like you said, it can be quite expensive, so thanks for these amazing tips!

saguna gupta

Monday 15th of July 2019

hi, I am born in dec 1992. do you have an idea if i ll be eligible for the under 26 free entry to the museums ?

Anselmo Cossetim Junior

Thursday 4th of July 2019

I love Paris, if I had the time and (money) I did not even have to do an itinerary haha


Saturday 29th of February 2020

I am heading in Paris in June and can't wait to try out some of the things on your incredible list. Flower markets, oldest house and Nicholas Flammel area first I think. Thanks for sharing.


Saturday 25th of May 2019

What a great list of things to do. I love wandering the streets of Paris. There is so much to see beside the main attractions. And you get a totally different feel for a city that way. Will make sure I check out some of your suggestions next time I am over there

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