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As experienced budget travelers, we love to save money, but sometimes it’s just worth it to pay a bit more for something in Paris. After all, you probably flew from somewhere quite far away so why get the worst when a few cents more can get you something even better? Selective splurging won’t break the bank, but it could make the difference between liking Paris and loving it.
Here are a few things to consider cracking open the piggy bank for during a trip to the French capital. For just a little bit more, you can get much better quality when it comes to these Paris essentials:
Skip the grocery store baguettes, please! While some are passable, few can stand up to the real thing. Go to a bakery—a real one, not the chain Paul—and order a baguette. The Monoprix version or the version that you heat up in your oven may seem enticing at 60-80 cents, but spare yourself.
Do as the locals do and splurge on a baguette à la tradition, or just “une tradition”. It’ll be more expensive at around €1.20, but you won’t feel like you’ve been cheated out of those extra centimes.
Cafés are wonderful places to hang out, chat with friends, and most importantly people watch. But the coffee often just isn’t stellar. Spend a few extra cents to discover the coffee that has put Paris on the map as a coffee-lover’s play land. You might have to fight a few hipsters and cough up €2.50 instead of going for the super cheap €1 espressos, but consider it a treat.
Does anyone really need an Eiffel Tower keychain? OK, it’s €1, and maybe it is kind of adorable, but if you’re bringing someone back a gift, or you want to bring yourself something truly Parisian, you may have to shell out a few more coins.
Consider gourmet chocolate from French chocolatier Jacques Genin (€11) packaged in a reusable metal box or French praslines from Mazet (€4-10) for something a bit different.
The daily menu at a café or bistro is usually a steal, and with a plat du jour (dish of the day) around €10-15, often with a starter, it’ll be affordable. But know what you’re getting into, since many times such places are simply reheating prepared or frozen meals.
If you want a really good meal, main dishes that start around €15-20 (or more) will be largely different from those starting in the single digits. I love the cheap meals at Chartier, in the bustling old-world dining room, but it’s not where I go for a good meal. My favorite restaurants have plats that hover around the €15-20 range, and the difference is palpable.
Big name chocolate chains don’t disappoint, but once you realize that shops like Jeff de Bruges or DeNeuville are everywhere, they become less special. Spend a bit more on shops like Patrick Roger or Henri LeRoux in St-Germain for some really exceptional chocolates and candies—just maybe buy fewer.
It seems like our mantra for Paris, but location really does mean everything. Stay somewhere central and you won’t waste time taking the Metro, even if it costs a bit more. Fortunately we’ve found the clean, welcoming, and cheap hotels in the inner districts of Paris, so there’s no reason to go down to the tip of the 14th arrondissement for your hotel.
The various free walking tours of Paris are all good options for backpackers and those looking for an overview of the city—though remember it’s not really free, as you’ll need to tip your guide.
But for travelers looking for a more in-depth view of the city, or for a more specialized experience, look up a tour company for it and allot a bit of money to having a real guided tour. A company like Paris by Mouth has food specialists who can give foodies the tour they’ve dreamed of—it’ll just cost a bit more.
Even if it’s free, don’t wait until the first Sunday of the month to go to the Louvre or the Orsay, please! The lines are abhorrent. Is saving €12 really worth spending over an hour in line? Time is money, people…
What do you find is worth splurging on when you visit Paris? Leave a comment below!