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Monday, October 21, 2013

The Best Free Things to Do in Paris

Arguably the most popular city in the world, over 70 million people visit Paris each year. What those 70 million people do and how much money they spend there runs the gamut, but one thing is certain: Paris isn’t cheap, and while it’s true that there are other cities that are more expensive, enjoying the many wonders Paris has to offer will still run you out of money if you aren’t wise. Thankfully, deals abound almost as much as wonders. So, go find that amazingly cheap flight to Paris.
These ideas will keep you solvent while still giving you a true taste of the city of love.

The Louvre
The Louvre is the world’s most visited museum and is a centerpiece of French history, art and the Paris cityscape. It began as a fortress in the 12th century and has undergone many changes — in use and form — since that time. It first opened as a museum in 1793 and now houses over 35,000 objects in a space that is more than 650,000 square feet.

Admission normally runs you €12, but it’s free if you’re:
  • Visiting on the first Sunday of each month 
  • Under 18 
  • Disabled (or assisting someone who is disabled)
  • A teacher of art, art history or the applied arts (proof is required) 
  • Visiting on July 14 (Bastille Day) 
The Louvre museum, Paris
The Louvre museum, Paris

Marie Curie’s Laboratory
Scientist Marie Curie’s laboratory has been painstakingly restored and is now a museum that is open and free to the public. Originally built for Marie and Pierre Curie by the University of Paris and the Institute Pasteur, it was here that the Curies continued their work on radioactivity after discovering polonium and radium. The museum contains some of the original instruments and furnishings from the laboratory as well as the Nobel prizes awarded to Curie and her colleagues. There are also exhibits and archives on the history of radioactivity and oncology.

Notre Dame
Gargoyles, flying buttresses, rose windows, an 8,000-pipe organ, the crown of thorns purportedly worn by Jesus during the crucifixion and an active Roman Catholic Church — the Cathedral of Notre Dame is unlike any other. It’s also always free to get in, take a guided tour, pray, rubberneck at the art and architecture, geek out about its history or celebrate mass. This massive gothic cathedral has been at the heart of Paris since it was finished in the 14th century. With 14 million people visiting it each year, Notre Dame is the most popular un-ticketed site in the whole city.

Notre Dame, Paris
Notre Dame, Paris

Free Couscous
When people think of Parisian culinary fare, it isn’t usually couscous that comes first to people’s minds. That being said, free couscous is somewhat ubiquitous on certain days and at certain times throughout the city. While you certainly shouldn’t forego some splurging on food and wine — it is Paris, after all — these restaurants and cafes will help subsidize your food budget, nicely.
  • Le Grenier serves complimentary couscous alongside live music on Saturday nights after 7 p.m. from September to April. 
  • Le Tribal Café offers free chicken couscous on Fridays and Saturdays and free mussels and fries on Wednesdays and Thursdays. 
  • Les Trois Frères has been offering free couscous on Thursday nights for 20 years. 
  • La Chôpe du Château Rouge serves free couscous after 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Jim Morrison’s Grave
Jim Morrison is buried at the cemetery of Père-Lachaise, which is the largest cemetery in Paris at 119 acres. Beautifully kept, it is a garden cemetery that has interred over 1 million bodies — many of them famous statespeople, artists, novelists and the like — over the years. When the lead singer for The Doors died in Paris at the age of 27, his gravesite became a very popular destination for fans, devotees and the merely curious, as it is covered in graffiti and has seen more than its share of vandals and mourners over the years. While you’re at the Père-Lachaise, you can also visit the graves of Balzac, Frederic Chopin, Moliere, Oscar Wilde, Simone de Beauvior and many more.

Père-Lachaise cemetery, Paris
Père-Lachaise cemetery, Paris

There is much that can be enjoyed and savored in Paris—even when money runs tight. With a little planning, a Paris vacation can be within almost any traveler’s budgetary reach.

About the Author: Donald Court is a contributing writer who travels extensively in Europe and across North America. He is currently writing a coffee table book about Canada’s National Parks.

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