Where to stay
In Paris, you’ll find the best of the budget accommodation in the 19th arrondissement. It’s not as flashy as other parts of the city but, quite frankly, it’s all the better for it. The Hôtel Tréma was completely renovated in 2015. This boutique hotel offers single, double, and triple bedrooms and has its own à la carte restaurant. Just five minutes down the street is the Campanile Paris 19 – La Villette. Part of a large French hotel chain, it’s got plenty of amenities and a social atmosphere. Hostels in the 18th arrondissement are also an option worth considering.
Where to eat
Le Bouillon Chartier is Paris’ most famous low-cost eatery. As such, it is also its most crowded. Nonetheless, you can eat well here for under €10 (US$10.70). On a quiet square near the hustle and bustle of Gare du Nord, you’ll find La Pointe du Grouin, a reasonably priced Breton restaurant with a unique payment system. Instead of ordering your food and paying the bill at the end, you exchange cash for tokens at a machine by the door and hand these over when you want another dish or drink. At Septime, you can also have a three-course Michelin-starred lunch for just €32 (US$34).
Where to drink
Drinking on the cheap is surprisingly easy in Paris. It has dozens of dive bars and in areas like the 10th arrondissement and further north along the canal, which are geared towards young people, the prices aren’t too bad. For context, the average cost of a pint is €7.50 (US$8) and you’ll maybe pay around €4 (US$4.30) in these parts of town. Alternatively, if you want to be in the center of glitzy Paris but still having a good time then try the Rosa Bonheur, a converted barge on the Seine near the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides and Grand Palais.
What museums to see
To get the most out of Paris’ most famous museums (the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, and Centre Pompidou) then you want to try and schedule your trip so that you’re in town on the first Sunday of the month when they open their doors for free. Otherwise, if you’re over 25, you’ll be paying somewhere in the region of €15 (US$16) per ticket. However, the museums that are owned and run by the City of Paris are free all year round. For art lovers, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris is an absolute must.
What to do
Le Centquatre in the 19th arrondissement is a massive cultural center that was once a municipal mortuary. Its public spaces are used by artists, dancers, and musicians as free rehearsal space and its shops and cafés are budget friendly. To take in the Paris skyline without spending a centime, you can either climb the hill at Montmartre and fight it out with the crowds on the steps of the Sacré-Coeur or laugh in the face of luxury retailers by climbing to the rooftops of the Galeries Lafayette (which also runs free fashion shows at 3pm on Fridays) and Printemps department stores.
Where to day trip
The Promenade Plantée is one of those amazing places in Paris you never knew existed. Starting at Bastille, this raised garden pathway (the inspiration for Chelsea‘s High Line) leads you into the Bois de Vincennes, one of the green lungs of the city. If the weather’s nice, a day can easily be spent wandering around its woodlands and ponds. However, if you start to miss the city then head north to Montreuil, the trendiest of Paris’ inner suburbs. The walk will take about an hour and once you arrive you can reward yourself with a meal at one of its amazing and inexpensive restaurants.
What neighborhoods to check out
As well as the districts that border the canal and your new favorite place, Montreuil, worthwhile neighborhoods to check out if you want to have fun and still be able to pay the rent are Belleville and Paris’ Asian Quarter in the 13th arrondissement. The former, an artsy enclave in the 20th arrondissement is home to a bunch of hipster cafés as well as some of the best street art around. The latter has a host of great restaurants as well as an entirely different vibe to the rest of Paris given its extraordinary mix of cultures.
How to get around
If you want to save money, you don’t want to be buying metro tickets every five minutes. In any case, walking is the best way to discover any new city or rediscover one you thought was familiar. A word to the wise: don’t try to cross the city in a day. You, and most especially your feet, will only live to regret it. Instead, pick one arrondissement (handily marked out on most maps) at a time for exploration. If you do stay at the Hôtel Tréma or the Campanile Paris 19 then you’ll be well-placed to venture into Paris’ eastern districts.