7 Awesome Paris Activities That Are Absolutely Free

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7 Awesome Paris Activities That Are Absolutely Free
Petit Palais, Paris

Petit Palais by Corey Frye

The world’s most popular city didn’t build its reputation solely on Chanel bags and twelve-euro Diet Cokes. Creative locals know that the most rewarding Parisian pleasures often don’t cost a single centime. Whether you’re after art, music, or even free food, here are seven ways to paint the town red without dropping any green.

1. Take the price of admission to the Petit Palais’ Fine Arts Museum (0€), divide it by the 1300 works on display, and you’ve got more value than you can shake a selfie stick at. You might not find any paintings your grandmother back home has heard of, but the collection inside this Belle Époque mini-palace is more than respectable with offerings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Cézanne, Degas and Monet. With all those euros you’ve saved on free art, grabbing a java jolt at the nearby garden café is a no-brainer. (Avenue Winston Churchill, 8th arrondissement)

Fragonard museum in Paris

courtesy of Fragonard Parfumeur

2. Follow your nose to the Fragonard Perfume Museum and find out what makes Parisians smell so much better than the rest of us. Located just an atomizer-spritz’s distance from the Opéra Garnier, a short-and-sweet (and free) guided tour leads you through a former Haussmannian home, where millennia of perfume history are laid out in a series of stylish rooms. You’ll finish downstairs with a complimentary sniffing of the company’s latest fragrances, with no obligation to buy. (9 rue Scribe, 9th arrondissement)

St Eustache Church

St Eustache Church by Pavel Krok/ Wikipedia

3. If Notre Dame was Alec Baldwin, the Saint-Eustache Church would be one of those lesser-known brothers that deserves the limelight but is constantly overshadowed by his glitzier sibling. Besides boasting such accomplishments as hosting the funeral of Mozart’s mother and displaying an original Rubens on its walls, at 5:30pm on Sundays the church’s renowned organ is the centerpiece of extraordinary free concerts of Bach, Mendelssohn, and more. (2 impasse Saint-Eustache, 1st arrondissement)

Design et Nature, Paris

Design et Nature/ by Corey Frye

4. For a free natural history fix (especially for bored youngsters in your group), a hidden safari oasis lurks along the fringes of bustling Place des Victoires. Design et Nature, a specialty shop showcasing stuffed and mounted animals of all kinds, gets you face to face with lions, zebras, polar bears, birds, insects, and anything else under the sun. (4 Rue d’Aboukir, 2nd arrondissement)

Passage Jouffroy, Paris

Passage Jouffroy by Corey Frye

5. Slap a vintage filter on your next window shopping excursion by exploring the covered passages of Paris. These 19th century glass-roofed arcades were the prototypes of today’s shopping malls, and the handful that remain offer a glimpse into the glamor and glitz of a bygone era. A favorite is Passage Jouffroy, where Victor Hugo once browsed for books and Chopin met mistress George Sand for clandestine cuddles. Their hotel of choice has been aptly renamed after the composer. (Passage entrance at 12 Boulevard Montmartre, 9th arrondissement.)

Shakespeare & Company, Paris

Shakespeare & Company by Corey Frye

6. If you’re looking to take a nibble of that moveable feast Hemingway was always on about, burrow your way into the comfy nooks of the Shakespeare & Company bookstore for its “Sunday Mad Hatter’s Tea Party”. These weekly literary readings, fueled by free tea and treats, offer a taste of the communal bohemian vibe that makes the Latin Quarter the Latin Quarter. Impromptu concerts on the house piano often add to the ambiance. (37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 5th arrondissement)

7. In a land where it seems impossible to get a free smile out of a Parisian waiter let alone free food, you may be surprised to find certain bars plating up dishes that fit snugly within your (non)budget. On Wednesday evenings follow the locals to Le Bouillon Belge for copious bowls of free mussels, or pop into the Tribal Café for complimentary couscous on Friday and Saturday nights. In both cases a drink purchase is required, but the grub is gratos which makes for an unbeatable value. Your grandmother back home would be so proud. (6 rue Planchat, 20th and 3 Cour des Petites Écuries, 10th, respectively)

moules frites

moules frites by Corey Frye

Lead photo credit : moules frites by Corey Frye

More in free things to do in Paris

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Corey is a highly sought-after tour guide and travel writer based in Paris. It all started on an NYC subway platform: he was strumming his guitar and singing a tune, she was a young Parisienne waiting for the train…and the rest is history. Corey also shares his discoveries on his blog A French Frye in Paris, as well as his Facebook page where he live-streams free weekly tours of the city. Private tours can be booked through his blog or by contacting him at [email protected].


  • Patricia A Hacker
    2021-01-15 12:50:03
    Patricia A Hacker
    so hoping this darn virus would be over and done with. I missed my trips to Paris in 2020. I usually go 3 times a year. My home away from home.


  • Mark Siano
    2019-03-06 06:37:16
    Mark Siano
    Do you ever do lectures back on the West Coast (Portland, Seattle, California, etc.?) I'm working on a new Erte Deco show and would love your input.


  • Nina Arora
    2018-03-16 09:04:36
    Nina Arora
    Always add prices where one will have to pay on a visit because I have no idea what eating and enjoying Parisian sights will cost for a week’s stay this spring!!


  • Gail Heppell
    2018-03-16 01:30:54
    Gail Heppell
    Great article and I really enjoyed the photos taken by Corey. I especially like the photo of Shakespeare and Co. with the flowering tree.


  • Madhumati Dutta
    2018-03-15 20:28:49
    Madhumati Dutta
    What is this 'grandmother back home' business?


  • Nicholas Cox
    2018-03-15 15:23:29
    Nicholas Cox
    Please don't forget Musée Curie - Located in Marie Curie’s original research laboratories, this historic museum focusses on radiological research. Open Wednesday to Saturday, from 1pm to 5pm; admission is free. 1 Rue Pierre et Marie Curie, 75005


  • Stephan
    2018-03-15 14:05:59
    Terri, I just discovered your reply. I usually get notices for such things but it never happened. You can email me at [email protected]


  • karen Levy
    2018-03-15 11:30:23
    karen Levy
    Can you recommend a moderately priced restaurant where I can have frogs legs. I am coming to Paris on April 1-10, 2018 Karen


  • Celia
    2017-06-02 09:51:43
    Thank you! All good things to know! Have just returned from Paris and did stumble upon Galleries Vivienne and Victor Hugo on Place des Vosges. Plan on returning next year so will bookmark this!


  • Terri
    2017-06-01 16:15:11
    Stephan...I have a sketch signed "Erte" that I bought in an antique store in Paris approx. 1979. I doubt it's real but have always wondered. Want it? (I don't do much social networking...can you email me?)


  • Stephan
    2016-05-18 18:02:27
    You will need to contact the Paris Art Deco Society. They are trying to schedule two days at the end of June for my talk on the life and art of Erte. It looks like it will be at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Cheers, Stephan


  • ellen count
    2015-10-24 16:55:54
    ellen count
    Tell more about your lecture, please?! Might be able to attend...


  • Stephan
    2015-10-22 20:06:00
    I will be enjoying Paris for the second time next spring. I will be giving a lecture for the Paris Art Deco Society. This article is very timely and most welcome. As I'll be on a budget, it has some very interesting and fun things to do. Thank you so much! Cheers, Stephan


  • martinn
    2015-10-22 19:06:22
    You could add all the City of Paris Museums such as Carnavalet,Cognacq Jay ( XVIIIth century collections), Victor Hugo on Place des Vosges, Vie romantique, Bourdelle ( sculptures, awesome workshop), Cernuschi ( Asian Arts)... The regular collections are free. Special exhibitions are not. Inside passages : Jouffroy became a bit of a Tourist trap. I prefer lively Panoramas, Verdeau close to auction house, Beautiful Galleries ( Vero Dodat and Vivienne) and arty Grand Cerf. As for St Eustache, I fully agree with you. You can also enjoy the kitschy "Départ des Halles" to celebrate the Halles moving to Rungis. There are many short stories around St Eustache, from pilory, competition with the Theater company, donator story....It s worth a visit and a lot quieter than the starred Notre Dame.