Paris, France!!! *insert swooning sigh* I”ll start off by saying that my welcome to Paris was particularly memorable! The immigration officer, took my travel documents, exclaimed “Bob Marley!” then proceeded to serenade me with, “No Woman No Cry”. The joys of having a Jamaican passport!
I think it’s safe to say Paris is every traveller’s dream! Somehow we (unconsciously) view it as the pinnacle of travelling- a supreme accomplishment! Think about it, if someone toured Europe and didn’t visit Paris wouldn’t you be likely to think, “Then where did you go???!!! Why did you go???!!!”
What is Paris Really Like?
Paris is famous for fashion, architecture and food. Whilst I will rush to say I LOVED Paris (and can’t wait to go back!), I will be just as quick to say it may not necessarily be the image of perfection you often see portrayed. It is the city of lights and the city of love, yes! Is it charming, captivating? Absolutely! Will you feel like you’re floating on air? If you’re like me, you might! But just so you’ll have balanced expectations, several visitors have expressed disappointment in the state of public transportation and general cleanliness. Persons from this camp may tell you the city is over-rated. What I will say is, it’s a real place on earth where real people live, so it isn’t flawless: you might find litter, experience the smell of urine in the subway and spot graffiti, for example. Basically, don’t expect utopia and you should be fine!
Look for Budget-Friendly Fares & Hotels
My to visit Paris was in the spring, as a student. This meant budgeting was everything! In total, I spent approximately €100 on travel and accommodation for a 3-day stay! I’d say that was a huge win! One of the things that made this trip fit within a slim budget was a simple mentality, “I’ll perhaps get to visit again someday when I can do all the ideal things I’d like to, but for now, I’ll just aim for an appetizer type of trip”. So yes, like everyone else I wanted to take the Eurostar (Paris to London Train) and travel through the English Channel, but it was just too costly. So I opted to take Jet2, a budget airline, from Bradford to Paris and paid about €75 round trip! If you are travelling from the Americas (including the Caribbean), consider an airline such as TUI fly which often offers tickets to Europe (Belgium, Germany) for as little as half the cost of mainstream airlines- they are hidden gems! Go directly to their website instead of searching travel sites, where they aren’t usually listed. Once you’re already within Europe, it’s pretty affordable to move from country to country. When booking tickets, a common question is, “Which Paris airport is Best?”. We travelled to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France and found that we had uncomplicated access to the city via public transportation, so you may want to consider this port.
An “appetizer” mentality meant that I was fine staying in a lower end hotel in Paris. Our choice was “Hotel Premiere Classe”, which by the way was very clean and comfortable, and even provided complimentary breakfast! I travelled with two girlfriends— this cut costs significantly. We each paid a total of €25 for a shared room for 3 nights! So when it comes to Paris hotels, don’t be ashamed to scale down a bit once you’ve conducted your due research. Booking.com is a great place to find accommodations. They allow you to select your budget, landmarks you wish to be close to and in some cases, even allow free cancellations! Check it out below:
Just these tips alone will make your trip so much more financially feasible!
Things to Do in Paris, France
- Arc de Triomphe/Champs Élysées- this is first on the list because very unexpectedly, it “wow-ed” me the most. I expected the Eiffel Tower to have this effect, but the Arc caught me by surprise! I froze as I beheld it! The Arc de Triomphe was built on Napoleon’s orders after one of his victories. The monument recognizes French soldiers who fought and died during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. The arch is just so majestic to take in- a brilliant piece of architecture that caused me to scream uncontrollably on the inside, “This is it!!! I’m in Paris!!!”*Budgeting Tip: There is the option to climb the arch, where you can visit a museum and access a panoramic view of Paris at a cost. However just seeing it, which is free of cost, is awesome on its own.
- Boat Ride along the River Seine- this was nothing short of magical! The ideal option is a dinner cruise complete with live music, but again, with my appetizer budget, I opted for a scaled-down version, without food and music and it was still spectacular! You can find cruises leaving from Vedette Du Pont Neuf along the Seine— from my experience, no need to book the budget alternative in advance. I’d highly recommend doing your cruise in the evening/night when the bridges are illuminated! It’s intensely surreal! The ride will take you past the Eiffel Tower which lights up brilliantly at night and blinks for 5 minutes on the hour, every hour between nightfall and 1:00 am!
Night Cruise along the River Seine
3. Eiffel Tower- no rocket science, it’s the signature of Paris- the tallest structure in France and the second tallest in the world! Over 200 years old, this lattice tower constructed from wrought iron is the most visited (paid) iconic site on earth! It’s the one place you will need to get a selfie and it is simply beautiful. Very simple and very beautiful, particularly at night!
*Budgeting Tip: While you can upgrade your stay by paying to climb the tower or visiting restaurants on the two lower levels, it’s absolutely free to view and walk under the site.
4. Louvre Museum & Glass Pyramid- it’s Mona Lisa’s Hideaway and the home to a myriad of exquisite art pieces. The Louvre, which was once a palace, is the premier art museum in the world and also the largest. Aside from art, it showcases archaeological and architectural displays.
*Budgeting Tip: If you are a museum junkie, you may want to purchase the Museum Pass in Paris which costs €48 for 2 days and grants access to over 50 museums including the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe & Château de Versailles. It not only saves money but the time of having to join long lines for tickets.
5. The Notre Dame- feast your eyes on French Gothic architecture when you view this famed building which many of us know from Victor Hugo’s novel and Disney’s rendition of the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
6. Château de Versailles- you don’t really hear about this one readily on media and it is a train-ride away from central Paris, but oh so worth it! When travelling on a strict budget, my advice is, “splurge on one thing, if you can”. This was my one thing in Paris because I have a thing for palaces! It’s the most heavenly-looking place I’ve ever beheld- exuding royalty! With the pictures that follow, no explanation is needed!
What to Eat in Paris
For the cheapest restaurants in Paris, walk the alleys (off the central streets) and search for local, small bistros. There are plenty, so there’s a great chance you’ll find one that fits your budget and taste. Here are some food recommendations!
- Fillet Mignon- where the budget allows, pamper yourself with France’s popular seared beef fillet.
- Chocolate Chaud- Hot chocolate! Caution! Not because it’s hot, but because it’s not uncommon for Parisian cafes to charge extra if you choose to dine outside for a scenic view of the city!
- Crêpes- well well! Could we get any more French than this? Oh là là! Paid €6.50 for this treat.
- L’agneau (Lamb)- let’s go all out! We are in Paris after all! This ran me €12.50.
- Pain Au Chocolat- sweet bread filled with semi-sweet chocolate. Sold in supermarkets and great for an affordable breakfast.
My purpose in this article is to help you realize that trip to Paris you’ve always wanted to take, just might be possible! Take it from a girl coming from a small island (where visa requirements and the exchange rate weren’t in my favour)! If I could live out my dream, so can you! Hopefully, you’re encouraged to start saving and researching because it is a reachable goal! When the time comes…Bon voyage!
If Paris is on your bucket list, which sites are you most excited to see? If you’ve been, what were your thoughts? Is Paris everything it’s cracked up to be?