Backpacking is one of the best ways to experience Paris without breaking the bank, making it the most popular choice for students and other explorers who want to see the world on a reasonable budget. However, when people think of backpacking they typically visualise a tired, disheveled individual carrying their worldly possessions on their back and having no idea where they’ll rest their head at night. This doesn’t have to be the case, and this guide to backpacking in Paris will show you exactly how to take advantage of all the city has to offer while venturing off the beaten track. No matter your budget, you’ll be able to have the vacation of a lifetime, as long as you know where to stay and the cheapest places to buy croissants.
One of the biggest ways to save money while backpacking in Paris is knowing which tourist attractions you can visit for little to no money. There are a multitude of world famous places to see and activities to enjoy without breaking the bank, and these are just a few of them. For the amateur photographer, there are plenty opportunities to hone your skills and capture beautiful images around Paris. You can easily spend a few days taking photographs at Paris’ iconic places of interest such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and the city’s many historic churches. You can journey to the Moulin Rouge and snap a few shots of the world famous windmill located at the front of the auditorium, then climb to the top of Montmartre hill for breathtaking stills of the entire city. While you’re on the hunt for inspiration, you’re knocking a few must-sees off your list at the same time.
As long as you avoid the many four and five star restaurants and expensive eateries geared towards tourists, you’ll be able to eat comfortably on a limited budget in Paris. The best places to get good, cheap food in the city are bakeries, bistros, small supermarkets, and fast food such as falafels and kebabs. As long as you try eating as the French do, you should have no trouble staying on budget. Beer in the city is very expensive, so its recommended that you enjoy some bargain wine or stay hydrated with bottled water. Mealtimes are another great way to enjoy free activities in Paris, aside from the cost of food of course. You can quickly and easily set up a picnic at the foot of the Eiffel tower, sit back and enjoy people watching in the shadow of this iconic symbol of engineering and architecture.
Working off those extra calories will cost you a small fee if you decide to climb the steps of the Eiffel Tower. The reward is definitely worth the effort though, since the views are absolutely magnificent at the top. Its cheaper than the viewing room inside the tower, and the experience is guaranteed to be infinitely more memorable. If you’d rather stay closer to the ground, after your picnic you can head to one of the free museums and art galleries scattered around the city. A few that don’t charge entrance fees are the Lafayette and Maeght museums, as well as the Musee de la Vie Romantique and the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. If you’re in Paris on the first Sunday of any month, you can visit the Orsay Museum, Musee d’Art Moderne and the Pompidou Center at no charge. For the art lover under the age of 26, the Louvre and the Conciergerie are available to you every day of the year that the museum is open.
Another relaxing activity you can indulge in while backpacking in Paris involves connecting with nature. There are over 400 scenic public parks and gardens all over Paris. You can relax in Parc de la Butte-du-Chapeau-Rouge, Parc du Champs de Mars located between the Eiffel Tower and Ecole Militaire, Parc Monceau and Parc Villette to name a few. Parc Monceau, located in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, features a classical colonnade built in 1778, a lovely location to sit and ponder your existence while gazing into the pond of water lilies in its shadow.
When you feel like interacting with other tourists and experiencing more mainstream sightseeing, you can take advantage of the affordable hop on hop off tours available throughout the city. These tours offer the flexibility of choosing the sights you want to see, and your pass allows you to board any bus on any of the routes taken during the duration of the tour, usually ranging from one to five days. Free walking tours are also a viable option, if you can spare the tip you’re encouraged to give the guide at the end. The Pompidou Centre also offers entertainment for those on a tight budget, with talented street performers putting on a show for tourists and locals alike. Sunset is the best time to visit the Sacre Coeur Basilica, as you’ll find yourself surrounded by crowds of people looking to take in views of the city. If you wait around after dark, you’ll see the lights of the Eiffel Tower from a distance.
Of course, on arriving in Paris many backpackers tackle the issue of where they’ll be making camp, so to speak, at the end of the day. Some of the low cost housing options you can try are Aloha Hostel, La Montclair, Vintage Hostel Gare du Nord, Oops Design Hostel, Trendy Hostel, BVJ Champs Elysees Monceau, Woodstock Hostel and St. Christopher’s Inn Canal, one of the more popular hostels among backpackers. The prices are very affordable in comparison with Paris’ hotels, ranging from $25 to $50 per night, although the cheaper options are usually shared dorms. If you find that your hostel is not to your taste, you can always switch to another as long as there is availability.
As you can see, while Paris is one of the more expensive cities in Europe, its possible to fully experience and enjoy everything this historic destination has to offer on a limited budget.
Photo by bronwyn quilliam