While renowned as the most heavily visited country by tourists, France hasn’t exactly earned a reputation for being a cheap place. Boutiques embellished with Hermes, Prada, and Rodarte can be looked at as a culprit; exceptional gastronomic and wine culture can be looked at as another. Despite this, France can be just as accessible to the frugal traveler. The country isn’t limited to the rich, in fact, the finer things are still readily available for prices under 15 USD or 13 EUR a day. It is a land of artists, so maybe this means you have to get creative.
In this article, you’ll read about budget activities from all different regions of France. The food, landscape, and culture open before you in this comprehensive guide.
In search of lost croissants (2-3 USD/1,50-2,50 EUR)
Starting your day in France is the best option, bar none. Why? The boulangeries of course! Or rather, what’s inside of the boulangeries. Delicate, layered, but simple treats can be the basis for an expedition unlike any other in France. So I ask you—can you find the perfect croissant?
Start off with the boulangeries in your area, look for ones where there’s people queuing or crowding around, and make sure to get there early when the vendors still have a smile on their faces and their shops smell like melted butter. Then, try croissants recommended by your favorite food bloggers, but never rely on Yelp reviews. It is faux-pas to Yelp in France, because all cities—with the possible exception of Paris—are walking cities. The smells and sounds of the great boulangeries should be enough of a clue. However, to start you off in Paris, find a list of the city’s best croissants below.
- Blé Sucré: 7 Rue Antoine Vollon, 75012 Paris, France
Written about by NYtimes food, Bon Appetit Magazine, David Lebowitz and more, this widely acclaimed boulangerie in the 12th gets marks for its pastries across the board, but their croissants are formidable too.
- 134 rdt: 134 rue de Turenne, 75003 Paris
On the outskirts of Le Marais, a chic neighborhood in the 3rd, lies this unforgettable croissant. It is often called the essential croissant of Paris.
- Gontran Cherrier: 22 rue Caulaincourt - 75018 Paris
Nearby the flat where I stayed in Batignolles, the coveted croissant of the 17th makes it’s best appearance in Gontran Cherrier, a boulanger whose acclaim has spread internationally to Singapore and Japan.
Street performances, dance & art (free)
Depending on which area of France you are in, you will experience all different forms of street music, dance, and artwork. From Paris to Lyon, most of the major cities have singers, break dancers and traditional dancers hoping to please crowds, and let them have a good time.
In the South, near the border of Spain, it is common to see troops of flamenco dancers in all their splendor. Guitar, hand claps, and graceful footwork makes for a lovely performance. There are many places where you can join in on the fun as well. If you happen to be in Paris on a Friday, head to Rosa Bonheur sur Seine for an open-air area, where they dance the night away.
Through the thick of Camargue in southwestern France (4.50-13.50 USD/4-12 EUR)
Pink flamingos stretch their lanky necks to catch the day’s meal, while black bulls graze the green grass; these are some of the vibrant sights at Camargue, a national park in the South of France. Located near Nîmes and Arles, you can rent bikes for a day from the two cities, and enjoy the untamed land.
You can rent bikes for prices as low as 4.50 USD or 4 EUR per day in Nîmes, and 13.50 USD or 12 EUR per day in Arles. This is a gateway into the freedom of the wild, giving you complete control of your route, and your day. The biking routes top a little over an hour from Nîmes, and around 45 minutes from Arles.
Christmas time in Paris (>3 USD/ >2.50 EUR)
Bedazzled with dangling lights, full of ornate displays of winter scenes, and puppet ballerinas are the windows of Printemps and Galeries Lafayette between the major subway stops of Opera and Gare Saint-Lazare. Christmas is here. There is something magical in the chaos of materialism. Everyone is in festive moods, Snapchats are taken, and the most luxurious brands flaunt their best items hoping to be a part of the story. The lovely displays in front of the stores are set-up from early November through the New Year.
Sitting down and enjoying a hot chocolate will normally cost around 3 USD or 2.50 EUR, but enjoying a hot chocolate while Parisiennes flail around with designer clothing bags is priceless.
A taste of Southern France (>6 USD/ >5.25 EUR)
You can’t go wrong with olives, caviar, seafood, and tapenades spread out over the marketplace. An incredible way to spend a Sunday is with a freshly baked baguette in one hand, and a sampling of each of the spreads in the other. Walking around a marketplace has never been so rewarding. Les Halles marketplace in Nimes has a variety of regional options, such as mouthwatering oysters, giant prawns, and dishes containing bull.
Museums other than the Louvre (>10 USD/ >9 EUR)
We all know the Louvre is a must-see. The iconic pyramid has been a guest on pretty much any person’s timeline who has visited France (while the French laugh at the cliché). France is imbued with historical significance, and this means there are museums strewn out across the country. Stunning galleries of paintings and artifacts dwell in pretty much every metropolis. Try the Marmottan Monet Museum (Musee Marmottan Monet) in the posh 16th arrondissement of Paris, or Paul Cezanne’s Studio in Aix-en-Provence, where the influential painter was from, or the Marc Chagall Museum in Nice.
Protip: Bring a student I.D. or Visa, even if it has expired. The reduced tariffs are well-worth the extra effort.
There we have it
If you are traveling in France and need ideas for inexpensive travel, these hand selected experiences are sure to please. So until next time, bonne journeé, and remember that making the most out of your trip doesn’t necessarily mean paying the most.
Get Trip101 in your inbox