10 free things to do in Paris

The top 10 essential, offbeat and entertaining activities in Paris that will cost you nothing at all.

Here is our selection of totally free things to do.

1. Enjoy a stunning view

Galeries Lafayette - Terrasse, Paris © Alessandro Clemenza

Looking for a little-known rooftop from which to admire Paris spread out at your feet? Head to the terrace of the Galeries Lafayette Haussmann, which offers a superb view of some of the most beautiful sights and places in the French capital, including the Opéra Garnier, the Eiffel Tower and Montmartre. Make your way to the 8th floor of the store and you’ll find yourself in seventh heaven.

2. Stay zen

Tai-chi-chuan au Jardin Atlantique, Paris © OTCP - David Lefranc

Need to calm yourself down? Get a laid-back start to your day with a free open-air qi gong class in the idyllic setting of the Buttes-Chaumont park. Qi gong master Thoi Tin Cau is there at 9 o’ clock every morning to initiate you into this ancient Chinese art combining fluid movements with breathing exercises.

3. Cultivate yourself

Musée du Louvre, Paris © OTCP - David Lefranc - Ieoh Ming Peï

No stay in Paris is complete without a visit to the Louvre. Among the must-sees are the museum’s three grandes dames, who draw visitors from around the world: the Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Mona Lisa. If you’ve never seen them, or would like to admire them anew, you can do so for free. The museum offers free admission on the first Sunday of every month from October to March.

4. Get some fresh air

Jardin du Luxembourg © OTCP - David Lefranc

Running is the sport of choice in Paris these days. Everyone seems to be taking it up, so why not you? One of the top spots for runners is the Jardin du Luxembourg. It is an enchanting setting, and you can admire the sculptures in various parts of the gardens each time you stop for a breather. An excellent – and free – way to combine a workout and art appreciation.

5. Cruise along a canal

Canal Saint-Denis, Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, Paris © Paris Tourist Office - Photographe : Jacques Lebar

A ride along the canals of Paris is a good alternative way to explore the city. And now there’s a free way to experience a short trip on a canal. Le Millénaire, a shopping centre in the town of Aubervilliers (93), has started up a free boat service on the Canal Saint-Denis, running from the Corentin-Cariou metro station (Line 7) to the shopping centre. Hop on board!

6. Indulge your palate

Cours de cuisine, Paris © Thinkstock

Cookery courses are currently very popular in Paris, but cooking expertise doesn’t come cheap. If you’re keen to experiment with new recipes and original flavours but can’t afford to pay for lessons, take heart: the Fédération française de cuisine ® organizes free courses at food markets in Paris and the Ile-de-France region. Professional chefs will teach you to make dishes using fresh produce sourced from the market stalls. Places are limited, so make sure you register.

7. Quench your thirst

Fontaine Wallace Saint-Michel © OTCP - Amélie Dupont

Feeling thirsty? You don’t need to pay to get yourself a drink of water in Paris. The capital has nearly 260 public water fountains providing safe drinking water, including the Wallace fountains, an iconic part of the Paris landscape.

And if you prefer fizzy water to plain, Paris even has public fountains dispensing carbonated water in seven locations: Berges de Seine (7th), Jardin de Reuilly (12th), La Pétillante at the Eau de Paris headquarters (13th), Parc André-Citroën (15th), Parc Martin-Luther-King (17th) and Jardin d’Eole (18th), Square Séverine (20e).

8. Set off on a river cruise

Vedettes de Paris - Paris Montparnasse

If you’ve always wanted to sail along the Seine, you can fulfil your wish for free on your birthday. Vedettes de Paris will provide you with a free cruise + Champagne or + Gourmand to celebrate your special day. Give yourself a birthday treat!

9. Reinvent your look 

Coiffure cheveux bruns, Paris © Thinkstock

Parisian women are famed worldwide for their elegance. And in Paris, you can get a makeover without spending a cent.

To get a free haircut, head to the Franck de Roche Académie (but be prepared to emerge with a totally new look!). Make an appointment by calling 01 43 46 05 00, then go to the website Franck de Roche Académie and print out the ‘Coupe coiffage gratuit’ coupon.

Next, put your best face forward with a make-up session at the Make Up Art Academy. Just call 01 40 21 03 15 to make an appointment.

10. To whet your appetite

Apéritif olives © DR

There are places in Paris where you can stop off for light refreshments for no more than the price of a drink. Some popular neighbourhood establishments give you a little free snack with every drinks order.

At L'Olive (18th), during Happy Hour, chips are provided free of cost with every pint of beer you buy. At Penty (12th), a kémia (assortment of appetizers) is served with every drinks order, except coffee or mint tea. Le Culture Rapide (20th) puts on a free buffet spread on Friday evenings. At the Lockwood (2nd), you can enjoy a free aperitivo until 8.30pm.

Thursdays at Les Trois Frères (18th), you canhave a free plate of merguez sausages and couscous (at the bar) for the price of a single drink. Free couscous is served on Friday and Saturday evenings both at the Tribal Café (10th) and at Grenier (11th).

Make sure you get there early, though, for any chance of getting a table!

Musée du Louvre Adhérent

Museum
Pyramides du Louvre, Paris, 75001
Book

Every trip to the capital deserves a visit to the Louvre to discover the wealth of treasures it contains. The museum houses......

Vedettes de Paris Adhérent

Guided tours
  • Tour Eiffel - Invalides
Book

Discover the most beautiful tours with commentary in Paris with a sightseeing cruise on the Vedettes de Paris. Board your boat at......

Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann Adhérent

Department stores
40 boulevard Haussmann, Paris, 75009

A global event-based retail and fashion leader, Galeries Lafayette Haussmann has become a Paris icon since its creation in 1894,......

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

Park, garden, promenade
1 rue Botzaris, Paris, 75019

The Buttes-Chaumont Park, in the north-east of Paris, is one of the biggest and original green spaces in Paris, measuring 25......

Jardin du Luxembourg

Park, garden, promenade
Rue de Médicis - Rue de Vaugirard, Paris, 75006

Situated on the border between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter, the Luxembourg Gardens, inspired by the Boboli......

Canal Saint-Denis

Street, area of interest
Quai de la Gironde, Paris, 75019

The Canal Saint-Denis links the Canal de l’Ourcq to the Seine in front of the Ile Saint-Denis. A river shuttle boat service......

Fédération française de cuisine

Cooking schools
., Paris, 75

La Fédération française de cuisine, associée à la Mairie de Paris, organise des cours de cuisine gratuits. Pour ces cours, pas de......

Fontaines Wallace

Street, area of interest
Dant tout Paris, Paris, 75

The Wallace fountains form part of the architectural heritage of Paris. These small fountains, which can be found throughout......

Académie Franck de Roche

Jeu et détente
29 rue des Blancs Manteaux 75004 Paris, Paris, 75011

L'académie Franck de Roche propose des formations pour futurs coiffeurs. A la recherche de modèles pour ses élèves, l'académie......

Restaurant L’Olive

Bistro
8 rue l’Olive, Paris, 75018

L’Olive is a little restaurant situated in a pleasant and little-known pedestrian street in the 18th arrondissement. The food is......

Le Penty

Bar
11 rue de Cotte, Paris, 75012

Kémia is a type of appetizer that is eaten at aperitif time. It consists notably of spicy potatoes, spicy olives and beans with......

Culture Rapide

Bar
103 rue Julien Lacroix, Paris, 75020

Fans of slam and other poetic performances meet up in the Belleville neighbourhood at the Culture Rapide. This bar, like the......

Lockwood

Bar
73 rue d’Aboukir, Paris, 75002

A craze for typically Italian aperitivos and fun and friendly afterworks is taking over the capital. At the Lockwood, a bar in......

Restaurant Les 3 Frères

Traditional French cuisine
14 rue Léon, Paris, 75018

Situated in a little street in the Goutte d’Or neighbourhood, the Goutte d’Or offers its customers home-made merguez couscous......

Tribal Café

Bar
3 cour des Petites Écuries, Paris, 75010

Tribal Café is a bar with an oriental setting and atmosphere, located close to the Grands Boulevards. It serves free couscous on......

Le Grenier

Bar
152 rue Oberkampf, Paris, 75011

This little bar on Rue Oberkampf is a gypsy jazz concert venue with a cosy vibe, where couscous is served every Friday and......