Paris: 5 free things to do

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Free things to do in Paris

Visiting Paris can be, how shall we say, très cher? But, several of its finest tourist sights don’t cost a euro-cent.

Here’s a list of our top five favorite free attractions.

1) Père Lachaise Cemetery

Frédéric Chopin, Guillaume Apollinaire, Honoré de Balzac, Édith Piaf… This cemetery is a “who’s who” of famous names, and not all of them French (Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, and other expats are buried there as well). Bring flowers to leave graveside or just stroll the cobblestone paths and well-landscaped grounds. Better yet, take a virtual tour on the cemetery’s web site. Check out Baron Haussmann’s mausoleum! Very schmancy.

Open: Monday through Saturday 8 AM to 6 PM and on Sundays from 9 AM to 6 PM.
Note: When sundown occurs before 6 PM, the cemetery closes at dusk.

2) The Seine and Islands

Man, if this river could talk! It has certainly seen its share of history, revolution, and passing love interests. Take a walk along the Left Bank and browse the local bookseller wares. The Seine’s stream flows to name a few). Cross the Pont-Neuf bridge for an added plaisir and visit Île de la Cité. Behind Notre Dame, cross the Pont St. Louis to visit the charming Île St. Louis.

3) The Eiffel Tower

Now, wait: Before you get all worked up, yes, it costs €11.50 to ride the elevator to the top of the tower. But, it costs rien de tout to take one of those novelty photos where you look like you’re giving it a pinch or kissing its pointer. And, here’s an added bonus: Each night at sundown, the Eiffel lights up the sky until 1 AM (2 AM during the summer months). Each hour on the hour after sundown, there’s a ten-minute light show, too.

4) Victor Hugo House

We first fell in love with Hugo when we read Les Misèrables (we finished it–we swear). Jean Val Jean is like a personal hero. Today, you can visit all permanent collections in Hugo’s first home—at the Hôtel de Rohan-Guéménée, which sits proudly on the gorgeous Place des Vosges in the Marais. Hugo lived here from 1832 to 1848. The collections, which are free to visit, showcase an impressive array of ancient Chinese pottery, original furnishings and beautiful classical paintings. Just don’t steal any bread.

Open: Tuesday through Sunday from 10 AM to 5:40 PM.

5) Sacré-Coeur Basilica

Sit on top of the world, or at least Paris, when you trek up to the glistening white “Sacred Heart” basilica, perched 420 feet above the City of Lights. While it costs €5 to climb up the spiral stairs of the famous white dome, there’s no charge to walk through the gorgeous Byzantine-style Basilica, built in 1875 after the Prussian and German invasions. Afterward, you’re free to traipse through the picturesque streets of Montmartre.

Open: Daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

About the author

Meredith Franco Meyers

About the author: Meredith earned an MFA in fiction writing at The New School in New York City. Her feature stories and articles have appeared in Ladies' Home Journal, American Baby, Self, Bridal Guide, Time Out New York, Fitness and more. She joined EuroCheapo in summer 2007.

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