Paris is the diamond in the tiara of Western Europe, famous for its beautiful architecture, abundance of art, high fashion, romantic atmosphere, and mouth-watering food. Unfortunately for those of us with a tight student budget, it’s also notorious for its high prices. Here’s why you shouldn’t be put off.
Trying to find cheap accommodation can seem daunting. If you’re not particular about staying in a hotel, Paris has a thriving network of hostels, which offer beds in great locations for great prices. Not the most luxurious, but often an even better, more sociable experience of the city. Paris has a convenient transport pass called the Paris Visite pass, which allows you travel on all transport, including the Metro and buses, at any time of day in the centre of the city. But, of course, walking is free and many attractions are within easy distance of each other. If you pick a particular arrondissement each day it’s rewarding to walk the streets between destinations; you never know what you may find tucked around a corner or down a side street. This is where Paris excels – away from the tourist traps, boutiques and bistros are so easy to stumble upon. Just make sure you have a good map.
But if it’s the tourist traps you’re after on a checklist tour of Paris, it’s worth noting that many attractions, including the Notre Dame, the Panthéon and the Arc de Triomphe, offer free admission for EU students – just show them your passport. Many museums share in this too – like The Musée d’Orsay and the Picasso Museum, whereas The Louvre is free to students every Friday evening. Many more are always free, so seek them out.
For fresh air, the banks of The Seine are well worth wandering down, and many stretches have riverside markets to peruse – and maybe find a few bargains. Paris has pockets of green space all over the city, but the most beautiful large gardens are the Jardin de Luxembourg and the Jardin de Tuilerries. Charmingly, both are scattered with stacks of chairs which you can move about at your own pleasure, so a good afternoon can be whiled away in beautiful surroundings, watching Parisian life go by. A picnic is never a bad idea; a baguette is all of ninety cents and wine and a packet of crisps can easily be found cheaply too.
The Montmartre area is famous for its rich artistic, lively atmosphere evoked by its large street markets. Whereas the Latin Quarter is home to little bookshops and street cafes, and most of Paris’ independent cinema scene. Some cinemas show films in English with subtitles and frequently show Hollywood classics. Shakespeare & Company, an English language bookshop, can also be found in the quarter. Crammed with teetering shelves of books just waiting to be taken away and read in a garden somewhere, it also wins bonus points for being based on the original shop Hemingway frequented years ago.
Père Lachaise Cemetery is a slightly different attraction, a sprawling metropolis of tombstones and memorials. A wide array of famous names are buried here, including Molière, Edith Piaf, Chopin, Oscar Wilde, and notoriously, Jim Morrison. Wandering through the pathways stirs up a slightly morbid curiosity perhaps, but the large ostentatious tombs are fascinating to look at, and the scale of the cemetery is something to be marvelled at too – you are well advised to pick up a map on your way in.
A bit of general advice for you now; never order a soft drink from a cafe if you’re not prepared to pay €5, and keep away from restaurants too close to big attractions or along major roads like the Champs-Élysées, as they always increase their prices. Paris also has a wonderful abundance of crêperies, which provide a warm filling meal, often for around €3. So, there’s no excuse not to visit Paris as a student.
Featured image from codart.nl.