There’s no denying that Paris has plenty to offer visitors; but it’s also very capable of purging the contents of your wallet and leaving you feeling rather cheated. However, this can be avoided if you steer clear of the usual tourist traps. Wiser travellers know that it’s easy to make the most of this beautiful city without going home in debt. Just like the struggling artists who have been making the city their home for years, you can experience the best of Paris on a meagre allowance.
Seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time is both romantic and inspiring… yet the climb to the top is anything but. It’s a battle of arduous queues, purse-pounding ticket prices and crowded walkways, all to take in the view. Ironic, given the fact it’s the one place in Paris you can’t see the Eiffel Tower. You can enjoy an equally breath-taking view of the city (and the tower) from Place du Tertre, beside the Sacré Coeur. The square is frequented by painters and artists at work, and there are no queues or tickets to deal with.
In fact, forget the Louvre as well. Let’s face it, most people go just to see the Mona Lisa, yet after the long trek to stand before it, one is left with a sorry sense of déjà vu. Realising it looks no different than it does on the postcards being sold along the Seine is rather anti-climactic (like most celebrities, the Mona Lisa is much smaller in real life). Instead, it’s worth checking out one of the many lesser-known but equally incredible museums which don’t cost a penny. There’s the Musee Bordelle for sculpture; Paris Modern Art Museum for contemporary works; Musee Carnavalet for the history of Paris; or Maison Victor Hugo for an insight into the life of France’s literary hero.
To sit outside a café and watch the people going by seems temptingly romantic, but your bubble will be unceremoniously burst when you’re charged 8 euros for a glass of coke. Better to leave the snide waiters and sky-high prices behind and go al fresco! There are local shops on every block selling lunch items – you can gather cheap baguettes and croissants from the boulangerie, cheese from the fromagerie, and, if you’re so inclined, a bottle of red wine is a pittance in Paris. Set up a picnic in the Champs de Mars beneath the Eiffel Tower, in the gardens of the Ile Saint-Louis, or anywhere along the Seine. And you won’t have to leave a tip.
In the movies, Paris hotels usually feature plush-carpeted suites with velvet drapes, an unhindered view of the Eiffel Tower, and a little bowing French butler to cater to one’s every whim. Oh, and the guests all look like Angelina Jolie. While this is somewhat of a myth, you can still live up your fantasy, whether its at a hotel hosting the France Poker Series
, a hotel hosting a movie premier, or simply a hotel with a luxury bar and sommelier to boot.
If you want to chill out with a good book on your French holiday, it’s worth knowing you don’t even have to fork out for one. Cultured locals know to drop into the famous Shakespeare and Company bookshop on the Left Bank, just across from the Notre Dame. The books on the first floor are for sale, but upstairs is a three-roomed reading library. Recline on one of the odd chairs or a pull out bed and take your pick from one of the hundreds of tomes lining every wall.
Give Paris a shot, you won’t regret the things to do in the city.