06/01/2012 01:01 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How To Do Paris Quickly And Cheaply

People will tell you that you need a lot of money and a lot of time to do Paris.  Not so. My partner and I went to Paris for less than 48 hours in January, saw all the highlights, and best of all, didn't break the bank. Here's how!

  • When it comes to sightseeing, stick with the free stuff.

We travel very often so every dollar saved really counts for us.  Paris is a pricey destination, so we decided to cut corners on sightseeing costs by sticking to the free attractions the city had on offer.  Here is what we saw:

 Sacre Coeur Cathedral

Resting majestically atop the hill in Montmartre (one of Paris" best known districts), the Sacred Heart Cathedral's white domes are probably one of Paris' most recognizable landmarks after the Eiffel Tower.  From here you can also get the most amazing view of Paris- it's the second highest point in the city!

Notre Dame Cathedral
If you're not all cathedral-ed out, the famed Notre Dame is also free to peruse. We had the fortune of dropping in when mass was in session and were treated to music and the grand entrance of the holy men. I also took the opportunity to take a series of silly jumping photos out front.  Because that's just what you do when in gai Paris.

Stroll along the Champs-Elysées

Subject of many songs and literature, a stroll along the avenue is a must-do in Paris.  A walk along this chic street also means that you can hit up other important monuments in the city. The Arc de Triomphe sits stoically at the top of the avenue, while the Place de la Concorde is found at the end.

A Visit to the Louvre
 It's arguably one of Paris most visited attractions. Home to Mona Lisa and Venus, even if you don't like art, you have to go in (or at least take your picture outside the famed glass pyramid like we did- we hate museums, remember??). The Louvre costs anywhere from 10 to 14 euros to view various collections BUT it is FREE for visitors under the age of 18, school teachers of various subjects, and people who can prove they are unemployed, amongst others.  The Louvre is also FREE for everyone on the 1st Sunday of every month.  See the Louvre's website for a more detailed explanation.

Mandatory photo op in front of the Eiffel Tower
Sure, you can pay 4-13 Euros for a ticket to go part-way or fully to the top, but us budget-conscious travellers decided to fake it and take a picture in front for free.  Pourquoi pas?

Take in street performances near the Centre Pompidou

 It costs money to enter the Centre Pompidou, but hanging around in front and the watching street performers do their thing is free (and more fun, at least for me!).

We also visited the Petit Palais, walked around the Latin Quarter and around the highly entertaining, if a bit seedy, red light district found around Pigalle station.  All of these things were also free!

Walking past Moulin Rouge, which is found in the red light district near Pigalle
  • Eat in Paris on the cheap

Eating out in Paris, especially if you're not familiar with the city, or spending most of your time in the tourist areas, is expensive.  I was shocked at the prices of food and drink in restaurants- I somehow remember things costing way less the last time I was in Paris in 2008. At any rate, it is possible to eat cheaply and heartily.  My companion and I ate well during our stay, often opting to eat smaller, cheaper things during the day, then spending a bit more money to eat in the evening. My suggestions:

Indulge in street food

 Roadside stands selling delectable treats are a way of life in Paris. Even better, roadside fare is often dirt cheap in comparison to eating in restos.  My partner and I had crepes for 2 Euros each, a huge panini for 3.50 Euros, and ate pastries from the many boulangeries for as little as 65 cents of a Euro.

Set menus/ prix fixe specials are your friend
Fixed price menus typically give you more bang for your buck.  Whilst traipsing around the Latin Quarter, we were bombarded with an abundance of restos boasting three-course meals for as little as 10 Euros. Our hungry bellies couldn't say no. While it wasn't the most amazing tasting food, we had three courses (French onion soup, following by steak and fries, topped off with some ice cream for dessert) for the low price of 12 Euros per person including the service charge.
Despite mostly eating very cheaply, we did splash out (moderately) and spent 25 euros per person on a fabulous dinner at Chez Brigitte, a restaurant in the 17e arrondissment.
  • Save money on accommodation
Finding good, affordable accommodation in Paris can be a nightmare at any time of the year.  However, this task was even more difficult for us since we happened to be in the city smack dab during Paris Fashion Week. Don't despair, however: we stayed at the Quality Opera St. Lazare.  Extremely centrally located, this three-star hotel is simple, but very clean, and a steal at only $115 USD per night for a double room.  Even better was that our little room had the cutest balcony! Very Parisian.

  • Public transportation and your own two feet are the best way to get around
My partner and I found Paris to be very walkable and, since we enjoy walking, let our own two feet take us where we needed to go. We did, however, purchase an unlimited travel pass for Paris' extensive bus, metro, and rail system for the journeys that were too long to do on foot.  The Paris travel pass that we purchased was only 16 euros for two days of unlimited travel between Zones 1 and 3.

The above is only some of the things we did, ate, and saw during our short trip.  Contrary to popular belief, Paris can be done quickly (though we would all love more time to explore!) and cheaply.

What do you think of our itinerary and budgeting tips for 48 hours in Paris? Were we way off base?  Anything you'd like to add? Questions? 

More of Oneika the Traveller's travel adventures and stories