From the glimmer of the Eiffel Tower to the taste of French wine and baguettes, Paris is a daydream-worthy destination. Though the city of lights might seem like a place of glamor and indulgence, turning this daydream into reality can still be accomplished on a budget.

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PLAN AHEAD

You’ll be able to find better deals if you book accommodation in advance. While hotels can be pricey, you can save money by staying in a hostel or couchsurfing. While you might pay more for accommodation in the center of the city, you’ll also save money on transportation, especially if you plan on going out a lot at night. If you’re staying in a central location, you’ll be able to walk more instead of spending a significant amount of money on taxis.

You can also save money by visiting Paris during the first Sunday of any month — admission to many museums is free on these days. On the first Sunday of the month from October to March, you can even visit the Louvre for free. There are various other deals available on certain days too.

If you love museums but want to avoid the crowds on the first Sunday of the month, consider buying a Paris Museum Pass that will give you free entry to more than 50 museums and monuments in the city. There are three different options to choose from: a two-day pass for 48 euro, a four-day pass for 62 euro, and a six-day pass for 74 euro. Think about how many of the included museums and monuments you intend to visit before you purchase the pass: there are various free attractions to take advantage of in Paris as well.

ENJOY FREE ATTRACTIONS

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Though many of the museums and monuments in Paris will cost you some money, there are also plenty of places to go and sights to see for free. Museums with free entrance include the  Musée Curie, a museum dedicated to radiological research and scientist Marie Curie, and the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris, which is devoted to any form of contemporary art. Explore the beauty of outdoor gardens and parks, like Jardin du Luxembourg and Promenade plantée. Admission to the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, one of the most famous attractions in the city, is also free. Access to the gardens at the Chateau de Versailles is free except during Musical Fountain shows and Musical Gardens if you enter from the gate on the Boulevard de la Reine. Most of the garden is accessible from this entrance, and you can rent bikes and canoes.

USE THE STAIRS

If going to the top of the Eiffel Tour is essential to you, taking the stairs instead of the elevator will save you money. Walking to the second floor costs only 10 euro, compared to the 16 you’ll pay if you take the elevator to the second floor. To go all the way to the top, you’ll pay 19 euro to take the stairs then the elevator, or 25 euro for the elevator.

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TAKE A WALK

To save money, walk whenever possible. If you need to travel longer distances, use public transit instead of taxis. With an extensive subway system, spending extra money on taxis won’t be necessary. Depending on how often you plan on using public transit, you might want to buy a “carnet” — a pack of ten bus and metro tickets that is cheaper than buying the tickets individually.

If you arrive at Charles de Gaulle Airport, save money by taking public transportation into the city. Taking the train (line B on the RER) or bus will cost much less than a taxi.

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Walking around Paris is a great way to admire the architecture and experience life in the French capital city. Bringing a water bottle will also help you stick to your budget. Around town you’ll find water fountains where you can fill up your water bottle for free instead of buying bottled water. Some of them even provide free sparkling water.

ORDER FROM THE LUNCH MENU

You may not want to eat out while in Paris — after all, you can save money by buying bread, cheese, and other foods from grocery stores and markets. Their hours vary, but the markets typically open early in the morning and close earlier in the afternoon. At local grocery stores, you’ll also find affordable wine, water, and snacks. Head to Chez Nicos for crepes costing around 1.50-5 euro or Mi-Va-Mi for affordable falafel.

If you want to eat out, consider going for lunch instead of dinner. Restaurants throughout the city offer two- or three-course meals at a fixed price for lunch. You’ll find options for about 10-20 euro. Avoid restaurants around the major tourist attractions, where prices will likely be higher. Be sure to ask for tap water at restaurants — it’s free and safe to drink, but if you just ask for water, the restaurant might try to charge you for bottled.

TREAT YOURSELF A LITTLE

Though it might seem difficult to indulge while on a limited budget, it’s not impossible. You can treat yourself to wine and espresso in the City of Lights without feeling like you’re spending all of your money on drinks. At Le Caminito Cabaret, espresso costs just one euro. The food there is also relatively affordable. Shops such as La Dernière Goutte offer free wine tastings at certain dates and times. Check their calendars in advance to sip some wine at no cost.

With a little extra planning, your time in Paris will be très magnifique.

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Header image by Pedro Lastra

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Paige Sheffield
Paige Sheffield is a writer and traveler from Michigan. Though she’s traveled to various places, she often finds herself going back to China. She has lived in Beijing and Chengdu. Regardless of where she goes, she’s always on the lookout for the best places to enjoy a cup of coffee or tea.