48 hours in Paris: our budget and itinerary!

People will tell you that you need a lot of money and a lot of time to do Paris.  Not so. Liebling and I went to Paris for less that 48 hours a few weeks ago, saw all the highlights, and best of all, didn’t break the bank. What’s more, you can do what we did in 24 hours. Here’s how!

  • When it comes to sightseeing, stick with the free stuff.

We travel very often so every dollar saved really counts for us.  Paris is a pricey destination, so we decided to cut corners on sightseeing costs by sticking to the free attractions the city had on offer.  Here is what we saw:
 Sacre Coeur Cathedral

Resting majestically atop the hill in Montmartre (one of Paris’ best known districts), the Sacred Heart Cathedral’s white domes are probably one of Paris’ most recognizable landmarks after the Eiffel Tower.  From here you can also get the most amazing view of Paris- it’s the second highest point in the city!

Notre Dame Cathedral
If you’re not all cathedral-ed out, the famed Notre Dame is also free to peruse.  Liebling and I had the fortune of dropping in when mass was in session and were treated to music and the grand entrance of the holy men. I also took the opportunity to take a series of silly jumping photos out front.  Because that’s just what you do when in gai Paris.

Stroll along the Champs-Elysées

Subject of many songs and literature, a stroll along the avenue is a must-do in Paris.  A walk along this chic street also means that you can hit up other important monuments in the city. The Arc de Triomphe sits stoically at the top of the avenue, while the Place de la Concordeis found at the end.

A Visit to the Louvre

It’s arguably one of Paris most visited attractions. Home to Mona Lisa and Venus, even if you don’t like art, you have to go in (or at least take your picture outside the famed glass pyramid like we did- we hate museums, remember??). The Louvre costs anywhere from 10 to 14 euros to view various collections BUT it is FREE for visitors under the age of 18, school teachers of various subjects, and people who can prove they are unemployed, amongst others.  The Louvre is also FREE for everyone on the 1st Sunday of every month.  See the Louvre’s website for a more detailed explanation.

Mandatory photo op in front of the Eiffel Tower

Sure, you can pay 4-13 Euros for a ticket to go part-way or fully to the top, but us budget-conscious travellers decided to fake it and take a picture in front for free.  Pourquoi pas?

Take in street performances near the Centre Pompidou

It costs money to enter the Centre Pompidou, but hanging around in front and the watching street performers do their thing is free (and more fun, at least for me!).

We also visited the Petit Palais, walked around the Latin Quarter and around the highly entertaining, if a bit seedy, red light district found around Pigalle station.  All of these things were also free!

Walking past Moulin Rouge, which is found in the red light district near Pigalle
  • Eat in Paris on the cheap

Eating out in Paris, especially if you’re not familiar with the city, or spending most of your time in the tourist areas, is EXPENSIVE.  I was shocked at the prices of food and drink in restaurants- I somehow remember things costing way less the last time I was in Paris in 2008. At any rate, it is possible to cheaply and heartily.  Liebling and I ate cheaply during our stay, often opting to eat smaller, cheaper things during the day, then spending a bit more money to eat well in the evening. My suggestions:

Indulge in street food

Roadside stands selling delectable treats are a way of life in Paris. Even better, roadside fare is often dirt cheap in comparison to eating in restos.  Liebling and I had crepes for 2 Euros each, a huge panini for 3.50 Euros, and ate pastries from the many boulangeries for as little as 65 cents of a Euro.

Set menus/ prix fixe specials are your friend

Fixed price menus typically give you more bang for your buck.  Whilst traipsing around the Latin Quarter, we were bombarded with an abundance of restos boasting three-course meals for as little as 10 Euros. Our hungry bellies couldn’t say no. While it wasn’t the most amazing tasting food, we had three courses (French onion soup, following by steak and fries, topped off with some ice cream for dessert) for the low price of 12 Euros per person including the service charge.

Despite mostly eating very cheaply, we did splash out (moderately) and spent 25 euros per person on a fabulous dinner at Chez Brigitte, a restaurant in the 17e arrondissment.  Of course, that was the one night I forgot to bring my camera, so unfortunately I don’t have any pictures (boo!).

  • Save money on accommodation
Let Hostel Bookers hook you up

Finding good, affordable accommodation in Paris can be a nightmare at any time of the year.  However, this task was even more difficult for us since we happened to be in the city smack dab during Paris Fashion Week (eek!). However, the lovely folks at Hostel Bookers offered Liebling and I a room for the night at the Quality Opera St. Lazare.  Extremely centrally located, this three-star hotel is simple, but very clean, and a steal at only $115 USD per night for a double room.  Even better was that our little room had the cutest balcony! Very Parisian.

  • Public transportation and your own two feet are the best way to get around

Get yourself a Paris Metro pass

Liebling and I found Paris to be very walkable and, since we enjoy walking, let our own two feet take us where we needed to go. We did, however, purchase an unlimited travel pass for Paris’ extensive bus, metro, and rail system for the journeys that were too long to do on foot.  The Paris travel pass that we purchased was only 16 euros for two days of unlimited travel between Zones 1 and 3.

The above is only some of the things we did, ate, and saw during our short trip.  Contrary to popular belief, Paris can be done quickly (though we would all love more time to explore!) and cheaply.

What do you think of our itinerary and budgeting tips for 48 hours in Paris? Were we way off base?  Anything you’d like to add? Questions? Do you think you could do the same thing in 24 hours in Paris?

Psst! Don’t forget to “like” me on Facebook if you haven’t already! Your support is much appreciated!


  • D.J. - The World of Deej says:

    Sounds like a great couple days…And sweet place to stay for only $115!

  • Deidre says:

    Sounds amazing! I've never been too Paris (unless hanging out in the airport counts)! SO this sounds like an absolutely amazing way to see the city. And probably much how I would like to see it – I love walking around and free things are my fave 🙂

  • Emily in Chile says:

    Great tips, and I love that picture of you eating a crepe!

  • This Battered Suitcase says:

    Wonderful tips! I miss the street food in Paris, especially the crepes! I do remember being horrified at the price of my hostel back in 2007, so I can only imagine what it is like now…

  • 'Lara says:

    Wonderful tips…this was basically what I did in Dubai, stuck to the cheap stuff and avoided buying the unnecessary things.

  • Tatiana says:

    Very cool! I was worried that Paris would be an expensive trip, but this sounds SO do-able! Thanks for sharing these tips!

  • Shells says:

    I love your idea of sticking to the free attractions. On my very first trip to Paris (and France) I did go all the way out and pay to get into the Eiffel Tower, Le Louvre and all the other major attractions, but that's something I'm willing to do if it's my first ever visit to any country. On my second visit to Paris I pretty much did what you guys did and enjoyed myself just as much.

    As I get older I'm slowly growing out of the hostel scene in favour of more comfortable accommodation, but on occasion I still do it to meet other travellers or if I'm broke and can't afford anything else lol. Food, on the other hand, is non-negotiable. Eating well is very important to me! I do love my belly! As such, I tend to stay away from street food, so the fixed menus were indeed my friend when I last visited the city of lights, but not just at any restaurant. I have a 3.5 (if I'm broke) to 4 star minimum for any restaurant I eat in. I have a weakness for sweets, though, so I'm a bit more flexible with desserts. I have tried those delicious crepes and would highly recommend them as well.

    In the grand scheme things, though, I personally can't travel like this. I need more time to explore and absorb the culture of the country I'm visiting. I want to take in as much as I can for the money I spent, even if I got the air fare and accommodation at a super bargain. My personal rule of thumb is no less than 4 nights in any European destination and no less than 7-14 nights (closer to 14 actually) in long haul destinations. If my budget doesn't allow such a set up, I won't travel. There are so many places I want to see in the world that it's likely I'll not go back to the country I'm visiting for a while so I want to take in as much as I can while I'm there. But that's me! Different strokes for different folks. I think for those who like, and have the time and money to invest in these quick, spontaneous trips you give great advice! My travelling habits probably increase my overall costs, but it works for me! 🙂

  • Crystal says:

    Mmmmm crepes! I had such a craving for one the other day. Lucky for me, there is a crepe guy just outside the entrance to the castle where I work. It might be dangerous though, because I have to pass by him every time I work!

    My tip for keeping costs down in the City of Lights would be to look into renting an apparthotel instead of just a normal hotel room. Appart hotels allow you to have access to you own little kitchenette, so you can buy some groceries in town and make food in your room. They have a bunch of them scattered around Paris, and you save a ton not having to eat out 3 meals a day! They are the same price as a regular room (and sometimes even cheaper) and I know a lot of friends who were so happy they went that route.

    Hope you are having a blast in Dubai!!

  • AngelQT says:

    Thanks! Love this! And I had no idea about Hostel Bookers…keep the posts coming on traveling on the cheap…any ideas for places in Germany or Belgium?…

  • Try Anything Once Terri says:

    When I went to Paris, I was super duper broke. We did many of the same things. I stayed in a really, really basic hostel that included a really basic breakfast. We shopped at the supermarket for lunch and then would have a nicer but still cheap dinner. We also walked everywhere and took Le Metro. I'd love to go back to Paris and splurge a bit. 🙂

  • caribbelle says:

    If you know your way around Paris can be very affordable, however I'm more than willing to splurge on the hotel and food. I'm usually traveling for the food anyway lol ;).

  • rhymeswithvienna says:

    I love these suggestions! Free and inexpensive are always the way to go. I also feel you can find something interesting and unexpected when you go outside the ordinary path.

  • Melissa says:

    Actually I think all or at least a number of museums are free on the first Sunday of the month. So if you are able to plan your trip with this in mind (as I did when I went with my mum) you can hit up a few. We went to the Louvre and Centre Pompidou.

  • Anonymous says:

    Great tips! I miss Paris; I hope one day I can return to Paris.

    BTW: Did you know that the word "panini" refers to more than one sandwich/bread, and "panino" refers to one? So, you would say "I ate a huge panino, and she ate two panini." for example. Just a tip :).

  • Anonymous says:

    thanks for the tips because i do plan to visit paris and europe in general one day. but i have a question for you. i'm a vegan. do you know anything about the vegan/vegetarian scene there? are there even any places that would cater to vegans or vegetarians? please fill me in if you can.


  • Anonymous says:

    OMG!!! Im so Jealous of you Oneika, I so wish I could travel the world and seek out the adventures of traveling and staying entertain by new scenery.You and Lieling seem so enthusiastic on travels, Im so glad you all have so much fun. My husband and I are planning a over the seas trip, but we have no clue on where to visit, since you're a expert on travel please recommend some places to visit???? P.S. Congrats on the Big Chop, you look Fantastic!!!

  • Andi of My Beautiful Adventures says:

    I think ANY city is affordable if you plan it just right! I love your tips and pics. The place you stayed at looked really nice too. I miss Paris!!!

  • Oneika says:


  • Oneika says:

    I highly recommend it but go during spring or summer when the weather is nicer!

  • Oneika says:

    haha thanks, it was so tasty! I regretted not having a second!

  • Oneika says:

    Prices only seem to be going up!

  • Oneika says:

    Exactly! Not too difficult at all!

  • Oneika says:

    Yay! Glad you found them useful!

  • Oneika says:

    Thanks for your comment! I do short trips and longer ones and never can go without travelling for too long… 🙂 But it all depends on your personal preference! Ive been to Paris a bunch of times so decided to cover the essentials on this trip!

  • Oneika says:

    Yes, I forgot that you were the authority!! Appart hotels are such a great idea! I did that when I was in Buenos Aires and it was such a great bargain. We actually tried to get one it Paris but it was fully booked.. wah!

  • Oneika says:

    Will definitely ask Liebling for his tips on Germany… And I was just in Brussels so will try to do a post on that as well!

  • Oneika says:

    I totally agree that a trip can have a totally different feel depending on whether or not you have a student visa! Get your hubby to take you on your birthday.. lol

  • Oneika says:

    haha! I think that in France it s totally worth it to splurge on the food if you can!

  • Oneika says:

    So true!!

  • Oneika says:

    I should have put a full list! You are absolutely right!

  • Oneika says:

    Yes, I did! I took a few years of Italian in elementary school LOL. But I know refers to it as 'a panini' and in French it's the same; you would say 'j'aimerais un panini poulet' for example… 🙂

  • Oneika says:

    Hmm, I'm not sure, will investigate!!!

  • Oneika says:

    Aww thanks so much for your lovely comment! I would love to help. What type of vacay are you looking for? Relaxing or adventurous or a mixture of both? How much time will you have? Would you like a place with tons of history? Or mind-blowing scenery?

  • Oneika says:

    And thanks! I haven't had it this short in years! After having dreadlocks, having an afro is taking some getting used to.. 🙂

  • Oneika says:

    I agree! Planning and budgeting are essential! Thanks Andi!

  • kvowels says:

    Have yet to make it to Paris, but when I do, I will have this writing bookmarked. Merci beaucoup (I will stick to Spanish from here on out!)

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks! let me know what you find. btw, have fun in dubai!!!!


  • Sofia says:

    I love your blog Oneika, long time lurker first time poster 🙂
    How hard is it to navigate Paris if you don't speak French? i had found a dirt cheap flight to Paris last year but i balked because i was scared to travel alone and also because of the language barrier.

  • Femke says:

    Great advice! Just one tip, it is often cheaper to buy a "carnet" of 10 tickets in the metro than a metro pass. Especially in the summer or spring, because it's more fun to enjoy a lovely walk by the Seine than to be on the dark underground 😉
    Students who want to visit museums on a low budget should try to get a museum pass. You're allowed to skip the queues at most museums (at the louvre, that might save you 2 hours!) and it's money well spent if you're planning to visit the Louvre, centre pompidou, musee d'orsay and the top the Arc de triomph in just one weekend.

  • LadyLittlefoot says:

    Love this post. Makes me want to go back. I was in Paris over night last year on the way to Barcelona, I saw so much. Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, walking along the Seine, walking past the Louvre and just absorbing all the sights. I am hoping to go back at the end of year for a weekend trip.

    I will keep your tips in mind!

  • eMerly says:

    Great advice! I would also suggest taking a city bus. It's a fun way to see the city and it's a lot cheaper then the tourist buses. And all the buses eventually end up at the metro where it won't be too hard to figure out how to get back to your hotel. Plus getting lost is part of the fun of traveling.

  • Great tips for my favorite city in the world! I must say, that stain on the concrete in the photo of you jumping at Notre Dame is rather ominous looking:)

  • You have just whetted my appetite even more to visit Paris. I’ve wanted to go there since I was a teen, but I let life get in the way. Your tips on visiting without breaking the bank is very encouraging. Now to get the kiddies passports so they can travel too.

  • Arlette says:

    First, I absolutely love your blog. Seeing you travel to all these places is such an inspiration. Secondly, I’m glad I clicked on this post! My best friend and I are flying to Paris this Monday and a lot of your tips are very helpful. I can’t wait to get there! 😀

    • Oneika says:

      Thanks Arlette!! Lucky you, going to Paris! How long for?

      • Arlette says:

        Just got back from my trip and we were in Paris for two days and Madrid for two days. I really enjoyed visiting the city(even though it was freezing) and walking around almost felt like home, except for the fact everyone spoke French. LOL! But I will definitely go back again. 🙂

  • Ashley says:

    I have a question about the hotels in Europe in general (we will be taking a whirlwind trip to rome, florence, paris and barcelona) and do they all typically charge per person, per night? Essentially, the price that is shown is doubled once I put in that there will be 2 people staying.

  • AJ says:

    Paris is soooo much nicer in the Autumn and Winter when there are not the crowds. Nice weather doesn’t make for a great trip, its what you do when you get there that makes it nice.
    J’adore Paris, have been five times 🙂 Will always go back in a heartbeat!

  • Crista says:

    Lovely read. I was in Paris in June and used http://Www.airbnb.com and parisbb.com to book my rooms. They were whole apartments though which was AWESOME:)!!! I’ll never stay in a hotel again;)!

  • Crista says:

    Sorry it was airbnb.com and http://www.2binparis.com ;). Le Marais LOVELY apartment with gorgeous everything for 130 a night. Going back in March:)!!

  • Musement says:

    Here’s a suggestion for what tourists should do before visiting Paris: book cultural tours and art experiences with Musement (www.musement.com). You’ll get interesting insider knowledge and skip the line for many museums, saving more time to explore the city!

  • leslie ward says:

    U enjoyed Paris more than I did. I have to go back.

  • Donna March Anderson says:

    Please advise the Web site I need to go to for air fair that I can afford again.

  • Kamila says:

    I am going to paris next weekend, very unplaned and unprepared for that! And very on a budget. I will spend 16 hours together in a bus and just 1.5 day in Paris. Thank you for your post, you gave me hope that less than 48 hours can still be enough! 😀

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