Paris. The city where romance was invented and food was perfected. It’s a metropolis of iconic landmarks, legendary art galleries and stunning sunset views.
In other words, this is somewhere almost every student wants to visit. And, rather annoyingly, it’s a place almost no student can afford!
While Paris will always be a more boujie option for a weekend away, if a visit to this beautiful city is on your bucket list, you need to make it happen (preferably without breaking the bank!)
Here’s a handy guide to cutting costs on your travels:
Where Do I Stay?
I may be a bit biased but staying in the Montmartre region in Paris was probably one of my greatest brain waves. For those uncultured donkeys who have no idea, this is the area of Paris that the great impressionist painters lived and worked. We’re talking big names like Van Gogh and Monet! In fact, you can go and see the house where Van Gogh lived during his time there.
The Montmartre region is a trendy and lively part of the city, but the main appeal is how removed it is from the main tourist hub around the river Seine. I spent my first evening in Paris this summer strolling through these charming cobbled streets. I got to admire musicians serenading diners, couples dancing in the street, wine being poured in abundance, and all against a picturesque backdrop of pastel coloured buildings and a view of the city.
During the day, the legacy of the impressionist painters can still be seen in the street artists that the line the roads and the bustling market stalls. They sell everything from fresh fruit to leather jackets to water colour paintings.
Staying in Montmartre means being only a short walk from the Sacre-Coeur. Perch yourself down on one of the steps up to this awe-inspiring basilica and watch the sun set over Paris. Being a short walk away from “home”, you won’t have to worry about making your way back to your hostel or hotel at night.
Talking of sunset sights, head to the top of Galeries Lafayette shopping centre to get another free insta-worthy snap of dusk settling over the Paris skyline. You can get all this without having to spend a penny trekking to the top of the Eiffel Tower!
Book in advance and hostels in this area can be as little as £30 a night.
Where Do I Eat?
As expected, taking a look at the prices while searching for something to eat in Paris can be enough to put you off your macarons. There are, however, some things you can keep in mind when eating out. We’ll call it damage control.
Crepes may just be the most iconic food in Paris. Light, delicious and versatile. These little circles of goodness are a must for any traveller who wants to inject some Parisian magic into their blood-stream. My advice is to not turn your nose up at street vendors. Crepes are crepes. A nice café might dress it up a bit but you’ll be getting the same product. Around the Concorde, I noticed a price difference of 2.50 euros at a street stall and 6 euros in a café. A simple tip, but one that can easily be forgotten when caught up in the moment.
When you fancy sitting down for a meal after a long day of trying to take a picture that looks like you’re picking up the Eiffel tower (I see you!), it can be easy to resign yourself to the first restaurant you find. But prices can differ dramatically by just a couple hundred metres so it’s worth shopping around!
For example, the Notre Dame cathedral is a very popular spot for tourists and predictably the cafes round there are way out of a student’s price range. But, walk across the Seine to the Shakespeare and Company bookshop (great shop!) and wander down the streets behind it to find lovely restaurants offering great deals.
Set menu deals can be a life saver when on a budget. They are a great way to get a taste of authentic French cuisine for a quarter of the price at the fancier restaurants.
What Should I Do?
I’m sure you could name a few things to do in Paris off the top of your head, but it’s a bit harder to think of things that won’t push you into bankruptcy. Well, here are some ideas to help you along:
Under 26-year olds residents of the EU get free entry to national museums like the Louvree and Musee Du Orsay but only if you bring your passport along for proof. Be sure to ask for this deal when at the ticket desk or you may get charged the full price. You can see a stunning array of art here and at no cost at all!
If shopping is more your thing, take advantage of the great transport system and head to Bercy Villlage. I stumbled upon this fairy-light strewn courtyard by accident while waiting for my overnight bus, but I was happily surprised! This used to be where the largest wine market in the world was held. You’ll still find plenty of historic buildings selling fine French goods, as well as a collection of restaurants to check out.
For more sophisticated entertainment, I recommend getting the Get The Guide app. Here, you can find tickets for theatres shows on the day for as little as 20 euros, as well as cheap or even free guided tours of the city. If you’re staying in a hostel, be sure to enquiry at reception about free walking tours in your area – there’s guaranteed to be one and they give you a great background of the city.
An often-overlooked part of Paris is the many parks they have. Not only is having a wander through green spaces incredibly relaxing, but it’s also completely free, and you get to see another side of this fast-paced city. Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in the 19th arrondissement is a particular favourite. This green wonderland is dotted with waterfalls, mysterious temples, bridges and caves to explore. You can also get a stunning view of the city from the hilltops!
How do I get there in the first place?
You can get great deals on Eurostar trains to Paris direct and via Lille (if you fancy adding a quaint French village to your travel checklist). However, it’s not the only means of getting around.
Travelling by bus is by far the least expensive mode of transport though, admittedly, it’s also one of the least comfortable. Booking an overnight bus will make it a lot more bearable, plus you can take in lovely views of France that you’d miss out on a fast train or a plane.
So, there you have it. Paris has made a name for itself as being incredibly expensive for tourists but, with a bit of planning and help from Unifresher, you can make it as cost-effective as it’s ever going to be!