Everyone says that Paris is pricey but, with a little imagination, you can experience this beautiful city on a budget
My partner and I were looking for a short break on a budget and ended up in Paris because we got flights for 1p! After we booked lots of people warned us how expensive it was, but that wasn't our experience at all. Instead we got exactly what we wanted: a short, inexpensive break which was culturally interesting and very romantic! The city is absolutely beautiful, especially if you go off season and wander a little outside the main tourist areas. Here's how we did it.
How to get there
There are a large number of operators flying into Paris, and several airports. We flew Ryanair into Beauvais on a 1p flights offer. Beware though - there is a bus journey which takes about an hour and a half and on the way back you must be there three hours and 15 minutes before you are due to travel. Our flight got in very early so the journey time didn't eat too much into our day. Tickets costs €14 each so factor this into your costs!
If you can travel with hand luggage only it is well worth it. No waiting around which is great if you don't have much time and you don't have to pay Ryanair's hold luggage fee.
Where to stay
There are lots of places to stay in Paris and the quality varies dramatically! Take care - you can get good cheap hotels but get recommendations and do your research as some are very poor - I've stayed in a few!!
We stayed in the Villa Pantheon next to the Latin Quarter and on the Rue des Ecoles close to the Sorbonne. It was perfect for us. The room was small but clean and well equipped. The bathroom was very nice and the staff were helpful. It was inexpensive and ideally placed for touring as it is near to transport links and just a short walk from the Pantheon and Notre Dame Cathedral. Double rooms are just over €100 a night which was much better value last year when the exchange rate was healthier but is still reasonable for a nice hotel in Paris. It was recommended to me by a friend who has a penchant for expensive things and itsn't easliy pleased so it comes highly recommended!
What to do
We had both been to Paris a number of times and had done most of the typical tourist things and wanted something different. Despite the cold we headed out with our trusty guidebook and followed a couple of the walking tours included in it. I would highly recommend this as I know Paris quite well and saw things I never knew were there!
Take a walk around Montmartre, don't be put off by the area around the Moulin Rouge which is busy and dirty! Instead head into the network of little streets behind, the atmosphere is relaxing and altogether different from the main street.
Make sure you take in the Sacré-Coeur - the church itself is beautiful and it is free to visit. Stand at the top of the steps outside and look at the views over the city. They are breathtaking, and also free! It started to snow as we were looking out over the city; you can't get much more romantic than that.
Nearby, The Moulin Radet (the corner of Rue Girardon) a former mill, is an interesting landmark which is now used as a restuarant. It is built in the same style as the Moulin Rouge but it is off the main throughfare which makes it more attractive. The Church of St Jean de Monmartre (Rue Cortot) - the first modern church in Paris is also worth a look if you are interested in art and history. It was built as an overflow for the Sacré-Coeur in the days when church attendances were considerably higher than they are today. It is built in brick and covered in mosaic like tiles which make it quite striking.
Another walking tour worth doing a little of is Les Passages . These are glass covered shopping areas built in the early 19th century. They are full of interesting shops but also have a back in time feeling about them which is quite special. The walk starts at the Metro Louvre-Rivoli and ends at Le Peletier but you can easily just visit a couple and move on. My favourite was the Passage Jouffroy (Boulevard Montmartre) which opened in 1846. It has an assortment of shops from boutiques to the very French second ahd book stores. Apparently Toulouse-Lautrec bought his walking sticks here!
The Latin Quarter provides an interesting taste of different cultures. The Mosquée de Paris is an oasis of calm in the city, stepping inside the complex into its Moorish courtyard is like being transported into another world. A short walk away you have the imposing Sorbonne and its multi-national students who give the area a vibrant and intellectual feel.
We didn't visit the Eiffel Tower this time - but if you haven't seen it you must go even to see it from the ground. Musée D'Orsay and the Louvre are definitely worth a visit. Many of the exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou are also free if you are looking to see some art. I would also recommend a walk along the river looking at the street vendors' carts for books and sketches. It's a little morbid but I found the Père-Lachaise Cemetery very interesting - Jim Morrison is buried there but the signs pointing out where his tomb are have been removed probably to protect it from the crowds - that hasn't worked too well and you will find it littered with subway tickets with hand written messages. Give that one a miss and have a wander round the rest of the grounds.
Where to eat
Eating in the main tourist areas is eye wateringly expensive! BUT many restaurants down the little streets of the Latin Quarter offer set price meals plus wine at a very reasonable price. We took a walk in the section between the Sorbonne and the river and found a couple of great little places (sadly I have forgotten their names). I love good food and I wasn't disappointed - not haute cuisine but good tasty stuff. Look out for the traditional looking venues with dark tables, red table cloths, candles in wine bottles and the Plat du Jour menu written on a blackboard outside. There are lots of food options on the Rue Mouffetard and during the day you can pick up snacks from the market stalls.
Where to drink
We did so much during the day that we weren't desperate to go out drinking. Instead we bought some nice wine and headed back to our nice comfy room to plan the next day's itinerary.
Final tip...buy your guidebook before you go - better still borrow one! Book shops in Paris are expensive for English books!!