A Millennial’s Guide to Cheap Paris
Paris may be a permanent chart-topping fixture on rankings of “World’s Most Expensive Cities”, but that doesn’t mean Penny Pinchers will be limited to self-catered picnics in the Luxembourg Gardens or free street performances. While discounts are often generous with the under 28 student crowd, affordable experiences for the rest of us bordering middle age and beyond are harder to come by. Here’s a list of four thrifty ideas to make the most of Paris dining, culture, and nightlife without sacrificing a memorable event for a tight budget.
- Fine Dining If there is one thing I’ve learned after eight years in Paris, it’s that typical French cuisine isn’t always synonymous with pricy Michelin starred establishments and you can eat very well in France for very little. Initially known for attracting the working class with simple, yet hearty meals in convivial and unpretentious settings, the historic Bouillon style restaurant has been making a contemporary comeback in recent years amongst locals and tourists alike. With a three-course meal including wine for about 25 euro a person, you can indulge in classic French cuisine without feeling too guilty when the check comes. Don’t be surprised if you bump elbows with your table neighbors or when the snappy waiter scribbles your order directly on the tablecloth; a traditional Bouillon experience will feel more like a theatrical performance than a relaxing meal! Thanks to the 120-year-old Belle Epoque décor, my favorite is the Bouillon Chartier, but those with more modern tastes will enjoy the popular Bouillon Pigalle.
Bouillon Chartier 7 rue du Fauboug Montmartre, 75009 Paris
2. Theater A respected aspect of French culture is La Vie Bohème, or Bohemian lifestyle; which is all about embracing life and the arts through frugal and simple living. Fortunately you don’t need to sell your own amateur art to buy tickets to the theater because even an impoverished poet can get an aristocratic red velvet chair to see a Molière performance. About 30 minutes before every show at the 18th century Comédie Française, the Petit Bureau ticket counter opens up and sells last minute seats for 5 euro each. Make sure you come early; the line can get long especially with popular shows.
Comédie Francaise Place Colette 75001 Paris
3. Entertainment You don’t need to pay VIP prices to enjoy an evening show followed by a Parisian soirée. Instead of paying hundreds for Moulin Rouge tickets, why not combine two classic nightlife experiences; a cabaret show and late-night clubbing- at what I consider to be Paris’s best kept secret, Aux Trois Mailletz. Skip the restaurant upstairs and head down to the 13th century cellar where Jazz Royalty like Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong once performed. For a cover charge that wouldn’t get you past the Coat Check at Lido, you can spend hours in the intimate presence of up-and-coming musicians as they belt out a variety of modern and classic hits until dawn. The best part? They hop up and dance on the tables you are seated at! If you’re lucky, they might even pull you up there with them.
Aux Trois Mailletz 56 rue Galande 75005 Paris
4. Museums While Ernest Hemingway claimed in his iconic Paris memoir “A Moveable Feast” that hunger was good discipline and an empty stomach heighted one’s appreciation for art; I strongly discourage any intentional fasting while visiting Paris museums, even if you are as broke as Papa Hem was in 1920’s Paris. Museums are always free for anyone under 26, but thanks to a long-standing initiative that allows free entry for everyone on the first Sunday of each month; you won’t have to fight the urge to eat Monet’s Water Lilies because you sacrificed breakfast to pay for a Musée de l’Orangerie ticket.