From rows of glossy patisseries to the glitzy boutiques of the Faubourg, temptation lies in wait everywhere in Paris. Blowing the budget on designer heels and Michelin-star meals can be oh so easy, but the best Parisian experiences don’t cost a cent.
Glitterati and penniless students alike enjoy summer’s petits plaisirs de la vie. Spend mornings checking out flea markets and slow afternoons getting purposefully lost in the city’s charming alleyways. From up-and-coming Belleville to bobo Montmartre, the hip heights of the Right Bank are just the ticket to sample summer in Paris on a shoestring.
Grab a buttery croissant from Du Pain et des Idées for a canalside breakfast, then give your quads a workout climbing up the history-laden hills. For a picnic with a twist, the fresh Vietnamese fare at hole-in-the-wall Rouleau de Printemps is a local fave. You needn’t sacrifice on style, either, thanks to Canal St Martin’s designer outlets.
After dark, make one of the area’s easy-going venues your HQ: shabby-chic Comptoir Général gets our vote, though La Bellevilloise has the better views.
Swap your euros for ‘grouins’, this Breton diner’s very own currency. Small plates (€4) are thrown together in no time, though you’ll need to retrieve them at the counter. Feast on smoked lard and steamed whelks; pig’s ear, snout and foot make an appearance on the menu, too. If you feel like splashing out, a lobster-laced salad or risotto will only set you back €10.
Opened in 1877 in the wake of the Commune, this hill-perched co-op’s managed to hold on to its bohemian vibe. These days, it’s more concerned with chi-chi brunches than revolutionary fervour. Head here for an eclectic programme of art, music and performances, or grab a table under ancient olive trees for veggie bibimbap and pulled-pork burgers. The rooftop views aren’t bad, either.
Parisians may blanch at the thought of crossing the périphérique, but this long-standing flea market is worth the trek beyond the ring road. Past the gauntlet of teenage-friendly tat, you’ll find charming open-air and covered markets with a village feel. From books to toys and vintage fashion, Marché Vernaison covers all the bases. You’ll need your finest French to bargain for the best prices.
Just off the Canal St Martin, rue de Marseille is Paris’s under-the-radar stomping ground for fashionistas on a budget. Les Petites, Claudie Pierlot and Maje all have ‘stock’ shops there, selling last-season designer wares at more wallet-friendly prices. There’s more of the same on nearby rue Beaurepaire; second-hand fave Frivoli has vintage treasures from the likes of YSL and Sonia Rykiel.
Queue up with Parisians in trendy Pigalle for affordable, old-school French favourites, from buttery pâté en croute to tender, herby tête de veau. The home-made cod brandade and beef tartare are served by frantic yet chipper waiters in proper black-and-white livery. It’s open seven days a week and doesn’t take reservations, but you should be able to squeeze in.
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Image credits: © Benoît Linero; © Benoît Linero; © Getty; © La Bellevilloise; © Alamy; © Getty; © Eurostar; © Lauremoussie; © Shutterstock; © Olivier de Lacaze