MISSION (IM)POSSIBLE? EXPLORING PARIS WITHOUT SPENDING A PENNY

“Money, money, money”, ABBA stated it saying “must be funny in a rich man’s world”. And we couldn’t agree more. Being student is a challenge to your wallet and especially when you are living in a beautiful but really expensive city like Paris. 

So we challenged ourselves to live a day in Paris without spending a penny for our activities. Would it be possible? Would it be fun? Would you be able to do the same next weekend with your friends? We wanted to find out for you, so off we went to check some free locations in Paris.

Where did it start? After a delicious pain au chocolat from the boulangerie¹ we headed to metro station St. Paul, to go on a vintage store tour. This is a good way to shop on a budget and to find treasures nobody else will have. Even though we didn’t buy anything to stick to the mission (definitely coming back with money), we had fun trying crazy clothes on and dressing up. Our favorite vintage stores were Noir Kennedy, FREE’P’STAR or Coiffeur Vintage.

Our next stop was the Chinese New Year’s celebration, near Centre Georges Pompidou. One could see Chinese decorations hanging from walls and street lamps, cutely dressed children with balloons and we were all in the middle of it.

Free day in Paris, Chinese New Year's - Decoration
Free day in Paris, Chinese New Year’s – Decoration
Free day in Paris, Chinese New Year's - Family
Free day in Paris, Chinese New Year’s – Family

Then the waiting part: Along with hundreds of other people, we were waiting to catch up on the big parade. Yes, this is also part of a low-budget day: Patience and luck! Then finally it came! We were standing in the first row when the parade passed. We spotted different Chinese communities in which we were excited to see community of “pret-à-porter”: Extraordinary make up and costumes, colors, glitter and confetti on the floor, confetti in the hair, confetti everywhere!

Free day in Paris, Chinese New Year's - Prêt-à-porter I
Free day in Paris, Chinese New Year’s – Prêt-à-porter I
Free day in Paris, Chinese New Year's - Prêt-à-porter II
Free day in Paris, Chinese New Year’s – Prêt-à-porter II
Free day in Paris, Chinese New Year's - FUN
Free day in Paris, Chinese New Year’s – FUN
Free day in Paris, Chinese New Year's - Parade
Free day in Paris, Chinese New Year’s – Parade

Even “pandas” and clowns were part of the celebration. After the parade was over we were walking by a little restaurant when a nice guy started making conversation and invited us inside for a glass of wine – his treat.

Free day in Paris, Chinese New Year's - Clown
Free day in Paris, Chinese New Year’s – Clown
Free day in Paris, Chinese New Year's - Panda
Free day in Paris, Chinese New Year’s – Panda

To make our free day more diversified, we decided to leave the party and join one of Paris’ museums with free entrance. Should we go to Musée d’Orsay, to Louvre or to the Centre Georges Pompidou? We have to admit, that it was the first Sunday of the month, which means the choice of free museums was more varied than it is only a usual day. Nevertheless, you can find a free exhibition almost everyday (see list of tips at the end). We finally decided to take Pompidou to check out the surrealism exhibition that would soon be over (3rd of March) and the museum’s permanent collection as well.

Free day in Paris, Surrealism exhibition I
Free day in Paris, Surrealism exhibition I
Free day in Paris, Surrealism exhibition II
Free day in Paris, Surrealism exhibition II

With the sun going down and the sky turning blue-purplish, we strolled around the multicultural area of Canal St. Martin. While agreeing on coming back during summer with our loved ones, we found this cute burrito place called El Nopal. Our mouths watered from standing outside and watching them prepare the Mexican food. With only the two of us, the tiny restaurant was filled. We caught the only two seats and enjoyed our burrón.

Free day in Paris, El Nopal
Free day in Paris, El Nopal

While eating we had a look at the list that we had with the day’s plans. Surprise, the list was not even half done and it was already 18h30. We still wanted to go to La Promenade Plantée, a 4.5 km long railroad track with nice views, to Théâtre du Lucernaire, a cultural meeting point with a cinema, a theater, a bar and lots of other cost-free attractions. We decided on going some other time when daylight lasts longer and the weather gets warmer. So contrary to what people will have you believe, our day mission proved it possible: you can discover Paris with no money (just make sure snacks are handy)!

FURTHER TIPS

*MUSEUMS
If you are interested in joining museums without an entrance fee, look here.
The David Lynch exhibition in La Maison Européenne De La Photographie is free every Wednesday between 17h and 20h. 
– The exhibition Brassaï, ‘Pour l’amour de Paris has daily free entry, but it is only open until the 8th of March.
– If you want to take advantage of the first Sunday of every month where several museums open their doors for free, then click here.

*BARS
If you want to enjoy a glass of wine or a beer with friends and still treat your wallet with care, then click here


[1] Of course we had to eat and spend money on the food. That means the description of our “free-day” only concerns the activities and not the food. The food budget is up to you.

By Bárbara Ménéndez and Charleen Horn

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