Fun + Lifestyle

Pinch or Splurge: Paris on a Little or a Lot


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  • You can have a fabulous trip at any price point
  • The timing of your trip can make a big difference in your flight and activity costs
  • Try hostels and Airbnb if you’re pinching pennies; go for the ornate luxury of the Ritz if you’re looking to splurge

Who doesn’t love to travel?

Seeing amazing architecture and art, practicing your language skills, meeting new people from different cultures, and eating authentic food are excellent ways to spend your time away from the firm—but traveling costs money. However, you can go almost anywhere and have a great experience whether you’re at the beginning of your career and have a little bit of money or you’re a seasoned, successful lawyer with a lot of cash to throw around.

You can visit Paris, the City of Light, and enjoy your trip whether you have to pinch pennies or are able to splurge as much as you want. Like most cities popular with tourists, Paris can be quite expensive if you don’t know how to get around breaking the bank to enjoy yourself. You can slash your travel costs by making some smart choices about where you go and when.

Pinch

One of the best things you can do to save money is to book the most expensive parts of your trip in advance. Buy your plane ticket and lock down where you’ll stay months before your travel date. Of course, you’ll also save money just by choosing to travel in the off-season, which is from mid-November to mid-March—best for those who don’t require warm weather to enjoy a vacation. The most popular and most expensive time to travel to Paris is from late May through the end of August, so even if you don’t travel during the off-season, you’ll still save money by traveling at any time other than in those months.

Accommodations: You will save quite a bit of money simply by avoiding hotels altogether—choose Airbnb or hostels instead. If you’re going with Airbnb, be aware that many of the most desirable locations are not private residences, but instead are owned by giant companies and cost almost as much as a hotel. Aim for Airbnb locations a little further out from the usual tourist locations to get a better price and a higher chance of a “real” Airbnb experience.

Transportation: Paris is a walking city, so you’ll be able to walk to many of the places you want to go—bring a sturdy pair of shoes! For places that are too far too walk, there are many options for public transportation. You can save a few bucks by buying a 10-pack of metro/bus tickets. There are also many Hop-on/Hop-off tours that go around the city, and you can book online to save a bit. The most important thing to remember is to avoid taxis.

Things to Do: Like most large cities that attract tourists, visiting attractions and doing fun things in Paris can cost a pretty penny. But also like most large cities that attract tourists, there are ways to go places, see things, and have great experiences for free or almost free.

  • Many Paris museums are free on the first Sunday of the month between October and March—we’re talking the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Musée des Arts et Métiers, and many more. If your plan is to hit more museums than you can get to in one day, a Paris Museum Pass will pay for itself after three museums. You get free or discounted admission to about 60 museums and monuments, and also get to skip the lines. Passes are available for two, four, or six days.
  • The city offers plenty of free attractions year-round, including free walking tours. One of the best is Paris Greeters, where locals show you around their city. (Please tip!) On your own, window-shop the luxury boutiques along the Champs-Élysées, walk along the Seine, or check out the street art around Canal St Martin. The Musée d’Art Moderne, The Paris History Museum, most churches, cemeteries, and parks will cost you nothing to see.
  • Paris has many events and festivals, many free, throughout much of the year. During the famous La Nuit des musées on the third Saturday of May, museums stay open late and entrance is free, with many museums planning special concerts, shows, and readings for the occasion. On June 21, the Fête de la musique (Festival of music) takes place not only in Paris but also in the surrounding towns. Live bands, singers, DJs, and amateur musicians perform in the streets everywhere, and just about every kind of music is represented.

Food: It’s France, so the food is not to be taken lightly.

  • Don’t eat breakfast at hotels. Most cafés offer a light, affordable breakfast.
  • Eat your most substantial meal at midday, when many restaurants offer a full meal for less than 15 euros. (Cafés are great for people-watching, too.) You can also pick up a sandwich or other lunch fixings at outdoor markets, and have a picnic in a park.
  • Avoid touristy areas when going out to dinner. A great rule of thumb is to walk at least five blocks away from any tourist location for more reasonable (and usually, more delicious) local cuisine. Websites like La Fourchette and The Fork help you find good and reasonably priced food. The Fork even offers deep discounts at over 1,000 restaurants in the city.
  • Do your drinking at hostels even if you’re not staying in one, since they have the best happy hour deals. If you drink at a café, do so at the bar, since many places charge less at the bar than they do at tables.

Splurge

When you’re at the point in your career where price is no object, the sky is the limit for what you can do and where you can go. Of course, you’re still going to want to do some of the cool, free things that everyone visiting Paris should experience. Don’t forget to people-watch while sitting at a café, or walk along the Seine, or enjoy whatever free events and festivals are happening during your visit. The one great thing about splurging is that you can travel at whatever time of year you prefer—the only drawback to traveling to Paris during the peak season from late May through the end of August is how many other people will also be there.

Accommodations: Where your splurge will really count is where you choose to stay—and Paris is nothing if not dripping in opportunities to lay your head somewhere luxurious. The iconic Plaza Athénée has been featured in movies like “The Devil Wears Prada” and shows like “Sex and the City,” and features a perfect view of the Eiffel tower. Le Meurice is an extravagant hotel right in the city center. And of course, you can’t go wrong with the Ritz—everybody knows about the Ritz! Kings and queens have stayed here, and rooms feature ornate brocades, oil paintings, and fancy chandeliers.

Transportation: You’ll definitely want to do quite a bit of walking in the City of Light, and even hop on public transportation here and there. But when it comes to getting from the airport to your extravagant hotel, go ahead and spring for the taxi.

Things to Do: Since you’re doing Paris in luxury, you have no worries about when to go to museums and other attractions.

  • Did you know that you can get private tours with museum curators at over a dozen museums? These tours often offer access to exclusive collections not always available to the general public. Check out Viator or Paris Muse, two companies known for their knowledgeable tour guides.
  • Who wouldn’t enjoy personalized wine tours that include private cellar visits, tastings, and pairings in every region? Try Le Connoisseur for luxury wine tours, gastronomy tours, and more.
  • Unique and fabulous tours abound in Paris. Jewelry tours, perfume tours, fashion tours—whatever cool thing you can imagine experiencing and learning about can be presented to you.

Food: What dining opportunities await when money isn’t a worry?

  • Gourmet food and gourmet food tours are not hard to find in Paris (it’s…Paris!)—Le Connoisseur can also help you with that. Everywhere you go, though, you’ll find walking and eating tours, chocolate tours, gourmet food and market tours—you can find every possible kind of tour involving food in this city of deliciousness.
  • Do your drinking at the most extravagant hotels you can find—Bar Kléber at The Peninsula Hotel, Le Bar Tuileries at the Westin, and Le Bar at the Four Seasons are just a few of the swanky places you can drop many a euro on drinks.
  • Dining at the most exclusive restaurants in Paris means you’ll be able to avoid most of the usual tourists—most people can’t afford to eat at these Michelin-starred establishments run by world-renowned chefs. Try Le Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower, Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenée, or Restaurant Guy Savoy—if you can get a reservation. You’ll need to plan these meals well in advance of your trip.

No matter how much you are able or willing to spend, Paris is an unforgettable experience. Enjoy!