While Paris paints a picture of fine wine, the Eiffel Tower and berets for most, for me it painted a picture of my bank account quickly draining. Every person I had ever spoken to about Paris prior to going had complained about how it’s so expensive which makes it unenjoyable. Since I was four months into my time abroad when I visited the city, my budget was a bit smaller. Even though I had to be more responsible with my spending, I was determined to still be bougie on a budget in the city of lights.
St. Christopher Inn
We decided to stay at the St. Christopher’s Inn by Gare du Nord. While the area is a bit dicey at night, overall the property is worth staying at due to its proximity to a major train station and low cost per night. The beds were super comfortable, the rooms/bathroom were incredibly clean, the staff was really helpful and the breakfast in the mornings at the bar/restaurant attached was perfect for what we needed. When being bougie on a budget, one must remember to allocate their money towards experiences, not lodging.
Okay, so the bike idea was not my favorite when one of my friend’s suggested it but a few hours later I was loving it. We didn’t pay for public transportation once during our time in Paris. Instead we used bikes that were apart of the bike sharing system scattered throughout the city. You would pay for a certain amount of time at a station and then return the bike or add more time on once it was up. Not only did the bikes wind up being super fun, but they were also a great way to burn some of the croissants off that we seemed to be eating all day.
I am not a big museum person but traveling to Paris and not seeing the Louvre is like going to D.C. and skipping The White House. To get in for free at Paris’s famous attraction, flash your study abroad student ID or plan your visit to be the first Sunday of the month. We managed to not pay a dime to see some of the most famous art in the world. As you can tell, I am one big art aficionado.
Maybe we didn’t have the budget to stay at a five star hotel, but spending a few hours on the grounds of Louis XVI’s magnificent palace for $25 transported us to a world where everything is covered in gold and the amount of luxury is never ending. Versailles was such a insane experience and it really showed the juxtaposition of lifestyles between the working class in France versus the nobility during the mid-late 1700’s.
Champagne In Front of the Eiffel Tower
Some say picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower, I say drink. My friends and I managed to find an economically friendly bottle champagne which we opened and sipped mid-day at a park across from the major attraction. It was nice to lay out in the grass and take in the view. The cheap, I mean economic, champagne was just a bougie cherry on top.
Ah, a show at the world renowned Palais Garnier. Sounds expensive right? Wrong. If you are able to sit in incredibly uncomfortable seats with three inches of legroom, you too can experience a show at the gorgeous opera house for $12 euros. I’m not going to lie, we didn’t make it through the whole ballet but I was able to pay homage to my love of the Phantom of the Opera. I highly recommend seeing a show if you can because it wound up being less than taking an actual tour.
Drinks With A View
As I said before, being bougie on a budget is all about allocating your money. I kept going back and forth about making a reservation at an incredibly expensive restaurant in Paris, but I realized that with my budget, it wouldn’t make sense to do it during this trip. Instead, I did one of my favorite things to compensate; drinks with a view. My friend and I really wanted to see the Eiffel Tower light up at midnight so we found a nice restaurant that faced it and ordered cocktails. Though I overpaid way too much for the five sip drink, it was way less than the meal would have been. At the stroke of midnight the Eiffel Tower began to sparkle and I really saw why Paris is such an enchanting city.
I know this may be a surprise, but I once again paid visit to a Jewish ghetto in Europe. Obviously the neighborhood of Le Marais is not a functioning ghetto anymore but an area that you can find bars, brasseries, boutique and vintage shops, art galleries, jewelry stores and many kosher restaurants and bakeries. Both of my favorite restaurants wound up being in this quaint neighborhood. Make sure to stop by L’As Du Fallafel for the best falafel and shawarma in Paris. We stood in the long line outside the restaurant and then devoured our food while walking around the cobblestone streets. I also highly recommend eating at Les Philosophies. This restaurant is a quintessential Parisian brasserie. All four of the people I was with ordered pumpkin soup and rabbit. To this day we still agree that this was one of the best meals we had during all five months we were abroad.
Shakespeare & Company
Shakespeare & Company is an independent bookstore located on the left bank. It use to be a place where writers as famous as Hemingway and Bounds would gather. This bookstore dates back to 1919 and is crammed with new and used books as well as a free reading library. Inside, you will find reading lovers on the hunt for great literature to add to their collection. Once you find a book, head over to the cafe next door, order a coffee and imagine you are a writer from the 1920’s. It’s an awesome experience and my book only cost me $10.
Skip the things you need to pay an entrance fee to and enjoy the many free attractions Paris has to offer. You can visit the Notre Dame, the famed Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Basilique du Sacre Coeur and Jardin des Tuileries without spending a dime.
Though many seem to think that in order to enjoy Paris you must spend a lot of money, my trip there proved that wrong. I enjoyed Paris to the fullest and didn’t feel like a budget traveler once. Don’t let a city that is known to be expensive stop you from visiting because there are always things to do that won’t break the bank. Being bougie on a budget in Paris was so easy and if you ever find yourself there, use this list to ensure a great time.