3 years, 10 months ago
It doesn’t pay to be too tourist in Paris. Literally, it doesn’t pay. In fact it will take your wallet, tip out all the money, strip your cards to the bone, hive off with any spare change and may – if feeling generous – let you hang on to the old receipts you had stuffed in the back. The closer you get to the 7e the tighter you’ll feel the squeeze. Anything within sight of the Eiffel Tower justifies a 200% mark-up whether it’s a bottle of Coke in Les Jardins de Trocadero or a glass of champagne for 20 euros at the top of the world’s most famous pylon. And if you want to head up Eiffel to eat, there’s probably a stall somewhere round the bottom where you can sell your children to cover the bill. Yes, the City of Lights is very light-fingered when it comes to parting its millions of annual visitors from their holiday cash.
But Parisians won’t stand for overpriced personal expenditure. Last year the mightily celebrated Piscine Molitor in the 16e opened its doors again after a long-awaited refurb. Sleek, smart and luxurious was the message and a day-ticket set you back 180 euros. ‘Mais NON’, cried the good folk of Paris and promptly boycotted the place en masse.
The moral of the story being: if you’re visiting the French capital and you’re thinking of continuing the tradition of eating when you get back home, play a little more local, do tourist wisely and avoid the traps at all times.
Here’s our top 10 stinge-free budget stretchers and we’ll take a round of applause for avoiding the city’s passion for complimentary couscous. We’ve based our 100 euros or less on a family of five looking for fun and accepting no substitutes.
1. Piscine Pontoise, Quartier Latin – 50 euros (5 people)
Overpriced and over-restored, vulgar and ugly were just a few scornful descriptions heaped on Piscine Molitor. Piscine Pontoise on the other hand gets nothing but praise and its Art Deco splendour deserves every bit of it. From the tiered galleries and traditional changing cabins to the sedate length of the single, original 33m pool, this is probably the most beautiful place to swim in Paris. It’s open from 0815 – midnight and costs just 10 euros per person. Piscine Pontoise, 17 Rue de Pontoise, 5e
2. La Cantine de la Cigale 100 euros (5 people)
Visiting the Sacre Coeur or touring the ‘toy’ shops of Pigalle is just the excuse you need for dropping into La Cantine de la Cigale. Very cool and casual but slickly focused on re-imagining the hearty ingredients of SW France, expect duck, cod, haricots, Pyrénées cheese, fantastic sausage, rich patés and excellent, down-to-earth wines. In typical ‘cantine’ tradition, food is served all day from 8am to 2am and one of the finest, most sizeable 2 course meals in the city will only set you back 20 euros each. La Cantine de la Cigale, 124 Boulevard Rochecouart, 18e. www.cafelacigale.com
3. La Louvre – 32 euros (2 adults and 3 children)
If you’re staying in Paris for weeks, get a Paris Pass and gorge on museums and transport bargains. Not got that long? You’ve got to at least see La Louvre. And, if you’re organised or youthful, it’s surprisingly reasonable. Because it takes a day at least to get to grips with the world’s largest museum they sell day-tickets. They’re just 16 euros per person and cover the entire permanent collection and the endearing Delacroix Museum as well. Under 18s visit free and if you’re an EU resident and aged between 18 and 25 you don’t pay either. Kind of makes up for the hiatus in Free Sunday Admission between April and September. www.louvre.fr
4. L’Opéra Garnier – 50 euros (5 people)
Opulent, magnificent and very, very glittery, L’Opéra Garnier is possibly the most astonishing building in a city that’s stuffed with astonishing buildings (most historic monuments in the world, in case you wondered). There’s even an underground cavern – inspiration for the love it or loathe it, Phantom of the Opera. A ticket to see enough extravagance to last several lifetimes costs just 10 euros per person and is valid for a whole year. www.operadeparis.fr
5. Tour Montparnasse – 57,60 euros (2 adults and 3 children)
The tallest building in the centre of Paris, Tour Montparnasse has an amazing 360° view of the city from the top and it’s never anywhere near as busy as the Eiffel Tower. Plus it’s the city’s ugliest building and if you’re looking out from it, you aren’t looking at it – worth the ticket price alone. www.tourmontparnasse56.com
6. THĒMAĒ Spa Mini Treats – 98 euros (2 x adults)
When the fashion editors of the world descend on Paris for they spa first, think later. Gorgeously exotic Thémaé in the 1e is all things tea applied to the art of beauty and relaxation – something Parisians never scrimp on. We can personally recommend the Hammam Ritual or the Instant Glow, Green Tea Facial. Themae Spa, 20-22 rue croix des Petits Champs
7. Vélib 7 Day City Cycle Hire – 35 euros (5 people)
Paris is coming down hard on cars these days, but you’d have to be mad to drive in the city centre anyway. Vélib stations all over the city let you cycle instead so you can go to places the Métro doesn’t, avoid taxis and get to know the city like a local, all you need is a bank card and id. Top recommended cycle route is the Promenade Plantée. www.velib.paris.fr
8. Hop On, Hop Off 2 Day Seine River Cruise – 63 euros (2 adults and 3 children)
You can’t miss the River Seine and its canals and tributaries and banks and bridges so use it well. Hop On, Hop Off River Cruises are the famous Bateaux Mouche only you aren’t stuck on a boat so when you spot a sight you want to see more of, you just hop off – then hop back on again. www.viator.com
9. Centre Aquatique de Neuilly-sur-Seine – 35 euros (2 adults and 3 children)
Spend the day sunbathing on the beach or swimming in one of four pools and meet the locals who love Neuilly’s Centre Aquatic. Half an hour from the centre of Paris and perfect to cool off in August when the Parisians have quit the city for their summer vacances – has a hammam and spa too. www.neuillysurseine.fr/espace-aquatique
10. Versailles’ Passport – 36 euros (2 adults and 3 children)
Versailles is vast and that’s even before you begin on the gardens. Go for the day and see everything with a Passport – children under 16 visit free and 18 – 25 year old EU residents don’t pay either. www.chateauversailles.fr