With its worldwide reputation as a centre of culture, fashion and good food, Paris is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway. Despite the city being notoriously expensive, it is very possible to visit on a student budget and have an exciting few days.
The most obvious tourist activities in Paris include climbing the Eiffel Tower or attending the Moulin Rouge, but there are plenty of other activities that will still allow you to enjoy the city. If you opt to use the Eiffel Tower’s stairs, you can buy a student ticket for 5,20€. Follow this with a picnic in the nearby gardens and enjoy a rather scenic glass of French wine.
Picnics are the best way to experience French cuisine on a budget – you can buy bread, cheese, wine and European biscuits for under 10€. Otherwise, fresh croissants from local bakeries are staples in the Parisian diet.
We treated ourselves to a more expensive lunch at the beautifully decorated Pink Mamma restaurant in Montmartre, after seeing photos of the interior floating around on aesthetic travel blogs for years. The restaurant specialises in steak and pizza and is definitely an essential visit if you are a keen Instagram user.
Also in Montmartre is the Sacré Coeur, a Roman Catholic church decorated inside with incredible religious art that offers incredible views of the whole of Paris if you can brave the 300 steps to the top of its dome. You can take a funicular to the top of the hill on which it sits, and find quaint ice cream and souvenir shops in the shady streets behind it.
The fare for the funicular is conveniently included in the cost of a Metro pass, which is an essential purchase for a trip to Paris, no matter how long. A two day pass for the central zones will set you back around 20€. Paris’ Metro system is excellent for tourism, with stops everywhere and efficient service, so it definitely isn’t worth shelling out for taxis if you are able to deal with the many stairs and high temperatures of the underground.
The Arc de Triomphe also offers breath-taking views as well as a small exhibition on its history in the rafters, but again this comes at the price of sore legs as there are 284 steps to the viewing area at the top. It is located at the end of the Avenue de Champs-Élysées, a shopping street filled with designer stores and international names, perfect if you have some extra cash to splash.
A key money saving tip for EU citizens is to take advantage of the many museums and monuments which offer free entry for EU passport holders under 26, such as the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe and the Palace of Versailles. You will still have to queue up for tickets so make sure to check when attractions are quietest to avoid the queues.
The Palace of Versailles makes for an easy day trip just outside Paris – less than an hour on the overground train. It boasts huge ornamental gardens and incredible ceilings for those interested in heritage or French history.
If art is your thing, there are enough art galleries in Paris to last a lifetime. The Louvre is the most famous, and rightly so, as it holds 338,000 pieces. There is also the Musée de l’Orangerie, near the Louvre in the Tuileries Gardens, and the Musée d’Orsay which holds paintings by famous artists such as Cézanne and Van Gogh.
After a long day exploring what Paris has to offer, head to the independent bars dotted all over the city. The Marais district is home to a thriving LGBTQ+ scene, Pop In bar and club is popular with indie lovers and Chez Georges ‘cave bar’ is frequented by students and tourists alike.
You can get a return ticket to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport for as little as £53 in early March, but expect to pay more if you are travelling in peak holiday times as August flights tend to hover around £80. The Eurostar is also an option but often tends to be more expensive than flying, especially once you factor in travel to a Eurostar station.
Paris is a notoriously expensive city but it is definitely possible to have a great time on a student budget – just avoid purchases in tourist areas and you can do Paris rather cheaply. With guaranteed delicious food and plenty of museums, monuments, and beautiful buildings, it is definitely worth a visit!