This cheap weekend itinerary, covering Paris’ major sites as well as ones often overlooked, lets you explore and enjoy Parisian life on a budget.
Paris, France is undoubtedly one of the world’s most famous and beloved cities. Most people would like to spend a few months in Paris on an unlimited budget. While that may not be realistic, the good thing is that it’s easy to have a cheap weekend in Paris. The following is a weekend itinerary covering some of Paris’ famous landmarks, museums and parks. To stay within budget, stick to Paris’ wonderful creperies, bakeries and brasseries to fuel the body for a weekend full of sightseeing.
Friday evening: Notre Dame and river cruise
The Notre Dame de Paris, also known as the Notre Dame Cathedral, is one of Europe’s most celebrated examples of French Gothic architecture. The Notre Dame is open every day from 8:00 AM to 6:45 PM, or until 7:45 PM on Saturdays and Sundays. Within the church are many areas to pray, light a candle, and simply admire the stained glass windows. During certain months of the year, the cathedral projects films, operas and other performances for free around 9:00 – 9:30 PM.
One of the best and most romantic ways to get acclimated to Paris is to take a sightseeing cruise along the river Seine. Located near the Notre-Dame next to the Pont Neuf bridge, Bateaux Vedettes du Pont-Neuf conducts one hour tours as late as 10:30PM. The cost, when researching was 12 Euros per adult but special promotions on their website can save you up to 4 Euros per person. You can also print out a coupon for 2 Euros off if you prefer to purchase at the ticket booth. Provided with commentary, the cruise takes you past some of Paris’ most famous sights, including the Musee d’Orsay, Louvre, Place de la Concorde, and the Eiffel Tower. Many of the monuments are lit up at night, casting a warm and haunting glow over the river. From the boat, you can view the most famous sight of all – the Eiffel Tower, which is lit for five minutes every hour on the hour.
Saturday: Sacre-Coeur, Luxembourg Gardens, Sainte-Chapelle, Place de Vosges, and the Marais
Start off the day by visiting the Basilique du Sacre Coeur de Montmartre (The Sacred-Heart Basilica of Montmartre) in the 17th arrondissement, before the crowds arrive. A Roman Catholic Church located in Paris’ highest natural point, the landmark provides a great view of the city. The tourist crowds do attract scam artists so avoid eye contact and keep moving even if someone calls out to you.
The streets of Montmartre can make a unique date idea in Paris, which has managed to retain its hippie vibe despite the tourists pretending to be Amelie, is full of street performers and artists that make for great entertainment.
From Montmartre, head to the Luxembourg Gardens to relax amongst its well-manicured lawns, flowers, pond, and statutes of France’s queens. Set against the Luxembourg Palace, which currently houses the French Senate, it’s easy to imagine Marie de Medici strolling around with her servants.
While Notre Dame’s stained glass windows are beautiful, the ultimate is Sainte-Chapelle’s stained glass windows. The stained glass windows cover all sides of the upper chapel. The effect of the sun streaming through the multicoloured windows depicting the biblical story of humanity impresses even those who aren’t religious. Sainte-Chapelle is open until 6 PM (the ticket desk closes 30 minutes earlier) and costs 8 Euros.
Walk along Rue de Rivoli to Place de Vosges, a square surrounded by identically-designed 15th-century buildings. On any given day, the park is filled with the laughter and rough play of children while their mothers take a rest on the benches. The lower levels of the bordering buildings, the arcades, are filled with shops and cafes.
The quarter in which the Place de Vosges is located, the Marais, is filled with the Medieval and Renaissance-style alleys and buildings that are hard to find in 19th century-dominated Paris. Spend the night exploring the neighbourhood’s shops, cafes, and ethnic restaurants.
Sunday – Louvre, Tuileries Gardens, Rodin, Champs Elysees, and the Arc de Triomphe
On the first Sunday of each month, you can view the Mona Lisa for free at the Louvre. If you’re not able to make it the first Sunday and/or rather not deal with the crowds, visit the Louvre on Friday evening instead when the museum is open until 10 PM.
Bordering the Louvre are the Tuileries Gardens, Paris’ oldest public park. Scattered throughout the park are whimsical sculptures representing Greek mythological figures and stories. Numerous benches, shaded areas, a pond, and a fountain make it a great spot to relax, picnic and people-watch after a few hours spent in the Louvre.
The Musee Rodin, housed in the 18th century former hotel across from the Louvre, is also free on the first Sunday of every month. Rodin’s most famous sculpture, The Thinker, is showcased in the museum’s garden. Both the Louvre and the Musee Rodin is always free for visitors under the age of 18.
To end the weekend, stroll along the Champs Elysees to end up at the Arc de Triomphe. Built by Napoleon Bonaparte to celebrate his military successes, the terrace at the top provides a panoramic view of the city. Be warned though that the view comes at a steep price: 280 steps up a spiral staircase. The monument is open until 10:30 or 11:00 PM, with the last admission 30 minutes before closing.