The City of Lights. The City of Love. Whatever you’d like to call it, excitement and mystery are definitely at the heart of the picturesque and much-celebrated French capital of Paris.
Visit in time for summer, when Paris lets its hair down and all the storybook stereotypes come true. Think markets and musicians, artists and architecture, cafes and courtyards, and a wealth of free and budget activities perfect for a family of Francophiles.
If you’re on a budget and travelling with your family – follow these tips and we are sure you will fall in love with Paris.
1. Invest in a Paris Museums Pass
Depending on your staying power and the age-range of your family, it might be worth snagging yourselves a Paris Museums Pass. This handy ticket allows entry into major museums like Musee d’Orsay, Picasso Museum, Musee Rodin, the Pompidou, the Conciergerie and the Orangerie. It is only worth the euros if you intend to cover a lot of ground and visit several attractions every day. Not ideal with younger kids, this is one to consider for the artistically-inclined teen interested in history and prepared to pack a lot in.
2. Keep your eyes peeled for freebies
There are a multitude of museums and a gaggle of galleries with occasional free entry – on the first Sunday of the month the Louvre and several of its arty cousins open their doors for free so do your research.
3. Picnic in the gardens
Paris is famous for its green spaces, and summer is the best season to make the most of them. You’ll see lots of families and kids in the Tuileries garden, Place des Vosges, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont and especially in the Luxembourg Gardens, where littlies can launch small-scale sail boats in the fountains.
4. Eat from the markets
Eating out occasionally at a Parisian café is a delight worth savouring in this foodie hub – but packing lunch will save you a lot. Wander through weekly markets like the Marche des Batignolles, Marché Bastille and Marché d’Aligre (there are hundreds more!) for excellent fresh produce – just check what day they’re open.
5. Use the metro
Buying yourself a ‘carnet’ or pack of ten train tickets will make your transfers a breeze. Using the underground metro system is a quick and easy way from sight to sight in Paris. If your family is a bit older and happy on their feet, the best method of transport around Paris is walking on foot.
6. Wander the streets
A simple wander through the streets of Paris is a marvel in its own right. Walk around Montmartre and up to Sacré Coeur, stroll by the Seine, or stand beneath the Eiffel Tower. Many of the city’s iconic monuments are impressive enough from their exterior – the Opera Garnier of Phantom of the Opera fame, the Notre Dame and its gothic gargoyles, the controversial pyramids of the Louvre and the picture-perfect Arc de Triomphe offer great photo ops from the outside. You don’t need to spend a penny!
I visited Paris in July, the middle of summer. The lines may have been long but so were the days, and the warm weather and high spirits made my stay an absolute delight. I arrived in the early evening, just in time for my first Nutella crepe from a street vendor on a bicycle. I stayed in a tiny apartment in Le Marais – the historic café and arts district – which was an easy walk from Notre Dame and Ile de la Cité and an easy train ride from everywhere else. By using Airbnb I was able to snag a cute, well-maintained, centrally-located stay for a reasonable price. Staying in an apartment meant I was self-sufficient, felt like a local and could stock my fridge with baguette and cheese for some money-saving homemade meals. Family-friendly youth hostels are another great budget option.
Read more on postcard-perfect Paris with these stories:
And from Sylvia, one of our junior reporters, Six Surprising Things to Do in Paris