Paris for Free Every Month: Things to do for free all year long in Paris
By Hannah Monahan
City life is expensive anywhere. Everything has a price and only those who are the most thrifty can find the deals. The City of Light is no different. Paris is one of the most visited and most expensive cities in Europe. With so much history, beautiful monuments, and museums, everywhere has a cost of entre these days.
With Lydie Thomas’s book Your Guide to Visit Paris for Free you will find wonderful deals and cost conscious things to do in the city. Visit museums, palaces, the EiffelTower, and enjoy some fun attractions all for little or no cost. Within the book there is a list of free activities around the city during certain months. And because things are always changing or being added to the list of free in Paris.
Lydie Thomas currently lives just outside San Francisco with her husband and two children. Born and raised in the South of France, she moved to Paris and lived there for several years as an adult where she met her husband. She and her family summer in France and always try to find the best of Paris, for a low cost. Thomas has filled this book with her knowledge of the city and the frugal finds she has found.
Excerpt from Your Guide to Visit Paris for Free
Free Events During the Year
Ice skate in front of Hôtel de Ville (City Hall)
Métro: Hôtel de Ville (M1 and 11)
Ice-skating is free and skate rental is 5 Euros. There is also an area to sled in the afternoons during the week and from 10-6pm on week-ends.
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year can be celebrates in January or February depending on the lunar calendar. The parade will be held in the 13th arrondissement.
Ice skate in front of the Tour Montparnasse (Montparnasse Tower)
Located in front of the Montparnasse railway station
Métro: Montparnasse-Beinvenüe (M 4, 6, 12, 13)
Ice skating is free and skate rental is 5 Euros.
Carnaval de Paris
It is held on the 3rd Sunday of February. Think a French Halloween with rides, street activities and people in costume throwing confettis.
La course des garcons de café- Waiters’ race
Waiters run a distance of 2.5 kilometers from the Place des Vosges to the Place Baudoyer holding a tray with a bottle of Orangina, a filled glass and a bottle opener.
Tous à l’Opera- Everybody at the Opera
Two days dedicated to the Opera. Operas are open to all and activities are planned all day.
Printemps de Rues- Spring in the Street
Performances by jugglers, acrobats, clowns, and magicians during two days in the 10th arrondissement.
Nuit des Musées- Night at the Museum
Enjoy a night at some of the Parisian museums.
Fête du Pain- Bread Celebration
During the course of seven days in May, you can enjoy workshops and special events on the theme of the bread around the Saint Day of St Honoré, the Patron Saint of the Bakers.
Fête de la Musique- Music Celebration
Every June 21st, on the day of the summer solstice, France celebrates the Fête de la Musique. Concerts and dances will be held in almost every French city and village.
At the end of June, the parade will parade along Paris with a lot of partying happening in the Quartier du Marais.
The Opéra Garnier, the Comédie Francaise, and the Opéra Bastille have a free concert early afternoon. Make sure you arrive around 11 am for a seat.
Métro: Opéra (M 3, 7 and 8)
Métro: Rambuteau (M 11), Châtelet (M 1,4,7,11 and 14)
Métro: Batille (L 1, 5 and 8)
July 14- Fête Nationale or Bastille Day
Military parades on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées in the morning and you can enjoy concerts, dances, balls, and firework displays all day and night.
10 am Champs-Elysées
The ‘défilé’ as we call it will start at 10 am with the arrival of the Président of the République.
10:35 am: défilé in the sky.
10:40 am: défilé of the troops starts.
11:25 am: defile of the helicopters
Between 10:30 pm and 10:45 pm, watch the Eiffel Tower fireworks. A nice view is from the Bridge Alexander III (It is the bridge that takes you from the Grand Palais/ Avenue des Champs Elysees to the Invalides). The fireworks will be launched from the Trocadéro and the Iena Bridge. Should you want to be close to the Eiffel Tower, you have to go to the Champs de Mars.
The bouquet final of the fireworks will announce the start of the bals populaire (dances), the firemen dances and the concerts all around the capital. The firemen dances (bals des pompiers) are usually free. If you see a wine barrel go around the crowd, drop some Euros as a donation.
July 14th at the Château de Versailles
You could skip the defile and the Champs Elysees and spend your day in Versailles where a grand Republican picnic will be held close to the Grand Canal. Please wear white for this special event. You will enjoy dances and live music. The Palais de Versailes and the Trianon will be open free of charge for the public.
Free Open Air Cinema at the Parc de la Villette
Mid-July to Mid-August, check the website for the actual dates
Bring a picnic and drinks. Bring a folding chair (or rent one there for 7 Euros or 5 transats for 20 Euros) or at least a blanket and enjoy a movie almost every night. Movies are shown in their original language with French subtitles.
Arrival of the Tour de France
Avenue de Champs-Elysées
The pack usually arrives the third week of July. The cyclers will finish their Tour de France by riding several turns on the Champs-Elysées. The winner is wearing a yellow jersey.
Paris Plage or Paris Beaches
Part of Paris along the banks will be transformed into a beachside. You will not be able to swim in the Seine but you will be having fun on a sandy beach while still staying in the City of Light. It starts around July 20th and lasts one month.
The beaches are voie Georges Pompidou (Paris 4) and from the Bassin la Villette to Stalingrad (Paris 19).
Journée du Patrimoine
Every national monument and museum will be open to the public on that day (the date change every year but it will be in September). Some monuments are never open to the public like Hôtel de Ville de Paris, La Sorbonne, Musée Maxium’s, the Elysée Matignon, Grand Loge de France (Franc-Maçons), les coulisses du Grand Rex as well as many others.
November 11th- Armistice Day
Commemoration of the end of the 1st World War. The Président de la République will bring flowers to the Unknown Soldier grave under the Arc de Triomphe.
Admire the windows of the Grands Magasins.
Or as Americans call them: the department stores. Le Printemps, Les Galeries Lafayette or La Samaritaine windows will be magically decorated. Walk along the Avenue Haussman and be enchanted.
Admire the lights
The Champs-Elysées will be magical as will the other big avenues in Paris. Do not miss the Christmas tree in front of Notre Dame de Paris.
Créches de Noel – Nativity Scene at Notre Dame de Paris
From the beginning of December till the end of January, come admire the Nativity Scene in the grandiose setting of Notre Dame de Paris. Videos, giant screen, and lights are mixed to create a unique experience not to be missed if you are in the City of Light during these months.
Marchés de Noël- Christmas Markets
You will find some in Saint Germain de Prés, Montparnasse, la Défense (on the Parvis), along the Champs-Elysées and Place de la Nation. They are open daily from around 10 am to 8 pm.
Admire Eiffel Tower light show
It happens every evening in December at 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, and 11pm.
Buy this book on Amazon: Your Guide to Visit Paris for Free
Hannah Monahan is an editorial assistant at GoNOMAD and a communications major at the University of Mass in Amherst. She updates the Travel News Notes blog on GoNOMAD.com.