Budget Savvy Paris Guide

 I'm a budget traveler so, when I saw a deal for 4 nights in Paris+ flight for $500, I jumped on it! That’s right – 4 nights in a Marriot hotel plus a flight on British Airways round trip for $500. I was so excited about it. I was telling everyone I knew about it in hopes someone would go in on it with me. My mom made a spontaneous decision to go with me and we were all set!

How did I find this deal? Well…

I get weekly emails from TravelZoo.com with their top 20 deals. I saw one for Paris from NYC and checked the dates -  I had a 3 day weekend! The deal was for four nights, we only stayed three of them. So if only I could have gotten even one day off we could have stayed a day longer for the same price! But, it was still a good deal and three full days in Paris is awesome. So we booked the deal and packed our bags. I highly recommend signing up for travelzoo.com's weekly email with their top 20 deals. They are always really great, but usually leave from the coasts (NYC, DC, LA) so keep this in mind.

Here’s how we spent a budget friendly 3 days in Paris

Total Cost: $720

3 Days

1 city

How We Saved:

Paris is a very expensive city. You should plan ahead so that you don’t overspend! Here’s how we saved money while in Paris

  1. We bought a Paris Pass – the 2 day pass was $129 a person and included entry to everything we visited as well as unlimited use of trains and buses. It's on sale right now!!! This saved us money and time. Each place had an entry cost of $10 - $20 and a train ticket is $14.50 for 10 rides or a weekly pass for $22.50 plus $5 for an activation fee. We calculated it and found we saved over $40 with the Paris pass.
  2. We didn’t eat at corner cafes – while iconic and cute, they are more expensive. Stop in for a coffee or chocolate chaud (hot chocolate) instead and save money by going to little spots off the main corners so that you can save! One evening we stopped at a corner spot full of tourists their menu included items for around $20 - $25 dollars. We went around the corner and the same type of things for $10 - $15 less than 1 block away!
  3. We didn’t pay for guided tours inside museums or monuments – there are many self-guided tours (like at Versailles, included with admission) and they can end up being very pricey. I didn’t see any on Viator for less than $70 and we didn't find them needed.
  4. We did take a group walking tour the day we got there – this was a good use of our money. When you first get to a city, you can end up wasting a lot of time trying to figure it out, no matter how much research you've done. We used Babylon Tours. Our guide gave us tips on when to visit different things (like ways to save money!), told us a ton of history, and was able to answer all our questions. We booked through Babylon Tours who does guided walking tours on the hour every hour (as long as you book ahead of time on their website). There tours are all limited to 12 people and walk through the main part of Paris with a minimum of 2 people to start a new tour time. Well, we started a new tour time and we ended up being alone! It was the perfect introduction to Paris and only $32 a person.
  5. We went in the off season – the lines were short, things were on sale, and hotels/flights are on sale. Don’t be afraid to visit Paris/Europe in winter! It's their off season and deals are just waiting to be taken!
  6. We ate a large breakfast at our hotel each morning – this curbed our hunger throughout the day. We ate lighter lunches and larger dinners. Saving us money on our meals!

Note: For the purpose of this post, I’ll put in prices of all museums and attractions. However, know we saved because everything was included on our Paris pass so we went through special lines at many museums (skipped the line – this was especially helpful at Versailles) except the walking tour and Eiffel Tower lunch.

Important! Many museums (as in all the major ones) in Paris are closed on Tuesdays. Check before you go and plan for this!

Day 1

Walking tour ($38 a person)

When I visit a new city, I like to do something on the first day to get to know the city better. This tour ended up being the perfect one. We had a great time, even though it was VERY cold. It was supposed to be a group tour, but because of the cold (?), we ended up being the only ones –  it was a private tour! We made stops outside major landmarks in Paris and learned about the history of the city. Our guide was informative and even pointed us to what ended up being our favorite spot for sweets – Laduree at the end of our tour. During our tour, our guide showed us a shop where we could get a sandwich. We got an extra-long ham and cheese and two coffees for $13.50 which we split between the two of us.


Pro-tip: When packing for winter in Paris, pack extra socks, gloves, hats and scarves. Layer up with sweaters and long sleeve tops so that you are still able to take advantage of the city.


 

Laduree ($7.50 for tea, $10.50 for 4 macaroons)

This was an absolutely adorable shop that I couldn’t get enough of. The macaroons were delicious and the atmosphere was so fun. They had tons of delicious teas and it was the perfect thing to do after a long, cold walk through the city. We relaxed and enjoyed this cafe.

Musee D’Orsay ($11)

After this, we went straight to Musee D’Orsay which was located right across the Seine. This museum is definitely worth a visit. The building was built as a train station for the World’s Fair in the 1800s and instead of demolishing it, it was turned into a museum! What I loved most about this museum was its impressionist art. There were beautiful pieces by Monet, Rodin, Van Gogh, Renior, and many more. It was such a unique space and we loved exploring the different galleries.

One note about this museum is that there are two clocks you can see from the outside of the museum and inside. They are very cool spots to look through. We had a hard time finding them at first. We walked all the way up 5 flights not realizing how far up it was – take an elevator on the outside entrance side and save time/energy!


Pro-tip: Musee D’Orsay is open late on Thursdays. If you come in on Thursday, you can plan this later in the day and still have time to see the whole museum.


We grabbed French fries and cabob sandwiches next to our hotel for $7.00 before crashing. This place was cute because locals kept stopping in and getting their baguettes for 85 cents as they made our food.

Day 2

Sainte Chappelle ($10)

This was definitely a highlight of the trip. This church ended up being so gorgeous. It’s full of stained glass windows and looks beautiful as the sun comes into the windows.


Pro-tip: Go in the morning! We got there right as it opened at 9:30 and no one was there! We saw it when it was almost completely empty – it was gorgeous!


Concierge ($7)

This was a quick walk through, but we learned a lot about the revolution in France and saw where Marie Antoinette was kept in jail before being executed. Very good spot to visit to really understand the history of the revolution in France!

Notre Dame and Catacombs (Notre Dame – free, Catacombs - $10)

The church is gorgeous and the catacombs were also really cool. The entrance to the catacombs is located in front of the cathedral. Inside the catacombs, there were Roman and medieval ruins which were really interesting to see. Definitely worth a few minutes of your time!

 

 

Lunch on the Eiffel Tower ($42)

Talk about lunch with a view! This was such a fun experience. First, when you get there you have to go through security, then you have to get your tickets to get upstairs. Then you go through another round of security (and skip the line!) to get off at the second floor. It’s a great view! Once there, we went straight to the table and service was quick. The food was good and we had an awesome view from the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. The lunch included wine, an appetizer, entrée, and dessert. The best part was really the view and getting to go straight up to enjoy lunch.


Pro-tip: We booked a month in advance in winter and it was already sold out for 1:00 and sold out for the next day. So make sure you book in advance to enjoy this experience.


Catacombs ($13)

This was our original plan – until we got there and it said it’s closed until February 9th! I had checked the website just the week before, but I guess it had just been decided. We missed the catacombs which makes me very sad because I had heard wonderful things. Keep this on your list of places to visit!

Walk to Luxomberg Gardens through Latin Quarter (free)

Luxomberg gardens were not all that exciting in winter, but still beautiful. We chose to walk instead of take the train so we could pass through the gardens and see them in the winter. The fountain was still working and there were people sitting outside. We enjoyed walking through because kids had just gotten out of school and were playing soccer in the park.

Pantheon ($7)

We kept walking until we got to the Pantheon located in the Latin Quarter. The Pantheon was an interesting visit because we got to learn about Napoleon and see a gorgeous building while doing it. The catacombs have the tombs of important French leaders, writers, and advocates of social justice. The tombs were a very interesting addition, but none of the signs were in English which led to us having a quick visit.


Pro-tip: Yes, Paris is cold in winter. This doesn’t mean you can't walk around in the winter and enjoy the beautiful buildings and gardens! Wear warm clothing and comfy boots. Enjoy strolling down the streets.


Musee de Quai Branly ($10)

This museum had a huge collection of indigenous art from all over the world. The building itself is very modern and fun to walk through. The museum is one very large floor and includes ancient artifacts as well as modern ones. We spent about 45 minutes in the museum.

Boat cruise on the Seine ($12)

This was part of our Paris Pass and we had heard that it was a great way to see more of Paris which sounded perfect after a long day of walking. We wish we had known a few things…

  1. you have to wait outside until the boat leaves
  2. be there 15 minutes early to secure a spot
  3. they don’t give you headsets, instead they have little phone like devices that you put up to your ear and headphone jacks – bring your own headphones
  4. there are bathrooms on the boat
  5. there is no food for purchase, there are vending machines as you wait in line

With that being said, we were disappointed with the overall experience and lack of information we found online. Hopefully you will use this info and not make the same mistakes we did!

Day 3

Versailles ($20 without water fountain show)

If you have a full day or it’s summer or the gardens are in full bloom, I would probably recommend a tour. However, because it was winter and we only had limited time, we decided against a tour. There is an audio tour you can do included with admission. This ended up being a really informative audio tour and we felt like it was suffice at the end. We then explored the gardens and walked down the street. We found a half day in winter to be more than enough time to see the main palace and the gardens. However, if there was more time, it would have been great to explore more.


Pro-Tip: Walk down Rue Royal and you will get to a market with tons of great little spots where you can easily buy lunch or a snack. We got delicious cheese, baguettes, chocolate, and souvenirs at the flea market outside. We then found a little crepe shop around the corner and had a delicious lunch for just $10.50 that included a savory crepe, sweet crepe, and drink.


 

Arc de Triomphe ($12)

We got an incredible view of Paris! We had the Paris Pass and were able to go around the line. I’m not going to lie though, the stairs were scary and it felt a little bit like they would never end since it was our third day of walking all over Paris! The view is worth your time!

Women’s March

I know this isn’t something everyone gets to do, but it was just so cool – had to mention that we went and it was incredible to be a part of.

Louvre ($15)

The Louvre is the largest museum in the world and is totally confusing. We spent two hours here and I feel like I was confused the whole time about where we were at. We definitely didn't see everything, but we were happy with what we saw and felt like if we stayed much longer we may have gone crazy. The map is honestly not very helpful. Instead, use the arrows on the signs that take you the direction of the most famous pieces in the museum. You can use these to orient yourself as you may get lost.

Our favorite part was the medieval castle found under the Louvre when it was excavated in the 1980s. You walk through the mote to get through and then through the inside. It was a fun experience!


Pro-tip: The Louvre is open late on Fridays. Plan to visit on Friday even after a full day and still have time to see the Louvre!


Montmartre (free)

We made reservations at a restaurant that had highly rated reviews in Montmartre called Loco. Loco ended up being our choice because it was not French (I know a little crazy…), but the French are known for their food and we wanted to see how French cooks elevated other cuisine as well. We ate Argentinian steak for just $22 – way cheaper than the states! Little did we know that our restaurant was located right next to some famous passages in Paris.

Back in the 1800s and early 1900s, people covered these back roads up and made them into luxury streets and they are actually all private roads to this day. We happened upon Passage Jouffroy it was full of book stores, toy shops, and artists’ studios. I ended up buying an old print from the early 1900s while there for only $4. It was a great places to stroll through before dinner!

Sacre Ceour (free)

After dinner, we made our way to Sacre Ceour to see the newest basilica in France. It's located at the very top of a hill and overlooks the whole city. We loved the view and the church. We came in during the service and were able to listen to the nuns all singing beautiful songs. Then we passed lively bars and little music shows going on that evening. It was a nice end to our trip to Paris!


Pro-tip: Be careful when visiting at night. We had a few different people hit on us and ask us where we were going as we were walking there. Be safe as you walk at night!


And there you have it! Paris is one of those places everyone should visit. 3 days felt like just enough time (although we packed in a lot and could have used another day). Have you been to Paris? What was the best part for you? I would love to know your favorites and money saving tips for Paris too!

 

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  • I totally agree with everything you said about the Paris Pass. My boyfriend and I went last February and I opted for us to get the pass because I HATE crowds and lines! However, we realized we aren’t museum people and ended up just doing the less boring (in our eyes) stuff like the free wine tasting that comes with it and the river cruise! Along with the wax Museum and other little things that people don’t normally do! So cool you got to eat at the Eiffel Tower, we definitely didn’t book in time for that but looked like you and your mom had a great time! For future, we ate at this place called Monsieur Bleu that was a 5 star restaurant at a 3 star price and had an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower! 🙂 Cheers!

    • Yes – totally agree. It’s all about picking the right time of day for touristy places so they aren’t over crowded. The only one where there were tons of people was Versailles. That’s a fun way to do Paris too! There’s so much to see and do!

  • blair villanueva

    OMG hundred folds! $500 for these??!! That’s awesome! You are a certified travel savvy 🙂

    And your travel photos are so gorgeous and Pinteresting!

    • Thank you! Yes – we got an incredible deal. Totally recommend websites with good deals, they do exist!

  • Great recap of your holiday in Paris 🙂 It’s great that you got to experience the walking tour as private guests because of the cold haha. Versailles was definitely gorgeous. I hope it was not too crowded when you were there.

    • Yes! It’s fun to feel like a VIP without the price tag. 😊 It was pretty crowded l, but still very enjoyable. Couldn’t imagine a visit without it honestly!

  • This was super helpful! I am always looking of ways to save on my vacation and because of that, i’ve had to avoid places that are typically “tourist traps.”

    LOVE LOVE LOVE your photography in this post.

    • I know what you mean. So many tourist traps in Paris. Thank you so much!

  • Cannot believe you found such a good deal to go to Paris!! That is amazing. I have been to Paris a couple of times, but am dying to go back. I am definitely going to sign up for Travel Zoo’s top 20 deals!!

    • They have great deals each week! Glad the post was helpful! 🙂

  • You nailed it. That is actually a budget traveling and taking your mom along might be a great fun. Loved your pictures.

    • Thank you! I had so much fun and my mom is a world traveller too so it was perfect. Thanks for reading!

  • A super deal; usually a tourist person spend double of the price to see all the main attractions of Paris, you really got a big deal!! Paris is superb, a romantic city, a must-see of Europe and a lifetime experience for everyone!! Great travel experience with your mom 😀 congrats, thanks for sharing, beautiful pics too

    • Exactly! I went years ago for a day, but this was so much more fun. Thank you for the compliment on the pics too!

  • I’m headed to Europe this winter and spending several days in Paris! This was super helpful!

  • That sounds like a great day! I’m glad to know about Travelzoo too. I love to do all those things in Paris, especially the Musee d’Orsay.

  • That’s a very good deal from the US! You actually covered quite a lot in your 3 days, a very complete itinerary! Such a pity that you couldn’t make it o the Catacombs. I’ve been to Paris twice but I wasn’t able to make it there either. Apparently it’s a very unique experience, so considering that I can fly from Dublin for about €30 return, hopefully I can include it in a future trip! 🙂

  • Wow you chose great spots all over the French capital! And you did everything in 3 days, congrats! Anyway it looks like you had a very good time in Paris 🙂

  • Sharon Ramsey

    Meghan’s mom here – she had this trip planned to a T! Another tip on the boat ride – look at the map of the route before choosing a seat. We knew the oldest part of Paris was an island, but we didn’t know we would have to pick a certain side to see Notre Dame. With the low ceiling, we barely got a glimpse. In the summer, just sit on top! Also, save money by staying at a nice hotel outside the attractions but close to a train station. The trains were great. Finally, we found the French to pretty nice people!