From bargain wines to bike-sharing – locals reveal how to live cheaply in Paris

From bargain wines to bike-sharing - locals reveal how to live cheaply in Paris
The city's markets offer goof value produce. Photo: AFP
Cheap wine, bargain lunches and bike-sharing - our readers reveal all about how to live in Paris on a budget.

The Economist Intelligence Unit has declared Paris the most expensive city in the world to live, tying with Hong Kong and Zurich for the top spot.

However, those who know the capital will also know that there are tricks to get around more cheaply – you just need to know about them.

Here are some of our readers' top tips to make ends meet in the capital.

Food

Unsurprisingly for a culture that likes its grub, some of the greatest savings could be made on food, with many people recommending Paris' excellent markets for good quality, inexpensive food.

Kieran Colfer, who lives in Paris' 11th arrondissement, said: “Don't buy your fruit, veg and meat in the shops, find your local marché at the weekend (Bastille, Belleville, Place d'Italie) and buy it all there for less than half the price. 

“And for the really cheap stuff, find the fruit and veg stalls with the Algerian/Moroccan guys.”

Helen Ho added: “Food market at Bastille, has reasonable prices. Flea markets are also great, the one in the north of Paris has many bargains to be found.”

Alistair Sweeney, formerly of Paris' 6th arrodissement, swore by “BBQ chicken and oysters at the Montparnasse street market.”

Paris has a lot of different food markets that pop up on a weekly or twice-weekly basis. Photo: AFP

Eating out

There are undoubtedly many expensive restaurants in the capital – dinner at the George V will set you back over €300 – and many restaurants, particularly near tourist hotspots, charge hefty prices for fairly basic food.

The lockdown has put paid to dinner out for the moment, but when things reopen there will be good deals to be had, particularly with lunchtime set menus.

Ellen Fetu said: “A full 3-course bistro meal, at noon, can be cheap.”

Susan Wakefield suggested: “Stop by Café du Sully for a café-au-lait for €2 and if you’re hungry your local French bistro always has a spectacular canard (duck) for a cheap €12 roast duck dinner – as fine as any 4 star restaurant.”

Aeron Paul Gernimo added on Facebook: “Try Asian restaurant food. You can get around €6-10 per meal, max at €12-15 with drinks. It is expensive but compared to the norm of Paris, it is pretty cheap actually.” 

READ ALSO From sushi to satay – where to find the best Asian food in Paris

Bouillons are another way to go if you want to eat well and more for less money.

These are large-sized bistros, serving generous portions of traditional French dishes for a fraction of the price. There is Bouillon Pigalle in the 18th, Bouillon Chartier in the 9th and Bouillon Chartier Montparnasse in the 6th.

A picnic in the Tuileries is cost effective and picturesque. Photo: AFP

Picnics

Many readers also suggested picnics in one of Paris' many beautiful parks as a budget eating option.

Susan Wakefield suggested: “Pick up a baguette et jambon for €1 and sit in the Tuileries for free.” 

Susan Grey said: “Delis sell cheeses, cold meats and salads. Then go and have a nice cake and chocolat chaud at Angelina’s.”

However we do not suggest that readers follow Ernest Hemingway's tip for a cheap dinner – kill and cook one of the pigeons that live in Paris' public squares.

Drink

If you like the odd tipple, Paris – and France in general – always offers good value on nice wines.

But other alcoholic drinks can also be bought cheaply in supermarkets.

Eléna Hutchison suggested: “Grab a pack of beers or a bottle of wine at the supermarket and head for the Quais de Seine in the summer, it's much cheaper than going to the bar and you get to enjoy a gorgeous view, some live music and meet new people!”

Many cafes offer cheaper rates if you drink at the bar, rather than in the seated areas.

One more thing: there is generally no shame in wanting to spend around €5 on a bottle of wine in France. Ask for a nice bottle of wine for roughly that price in your local wine shop (or in wine-selling chain Nicolas, where staff are often very knowledgeable) and they don't get offended – they will show you a selection of their wines depending on the occasion and what you will be serving with it.

On the non-alcoholic front, coffee is usually excellent and can be very good value – usually around €1.50 for an espresso.

READ ALSO The best free things to do in each Paris arrondissement

A dance performance outside the Louvre museum in April. Photo: AFP

Culture

On the cultural front although many of Paris' peak tourist attractions can be expensive, all museums are free on the first Sunday of the month, meaning you can see some of the world's greatest artworks in the Louvre or the Musée d'Orsay for nothing (once they reopen after lockdown, of course).

Heather Jacobs, who lives in the 17th arrondissement of Paris suggested: ” Movies – theatres often offer discount weeks (like €4  to see a film) and their popcorn and drinks are nothing compared to US cinemas.”

Eléna Hutchison added: “The €5 for the comédie française on Monday nights is a killer.”

Transport

Compared to other cities, Paris public transport system is relatively inexpensive, readers said.

Constance Lavergne-Poillaude pointed out: “Navigo pass – €75 monthly, compared to London Oyster at over £150.”

Mike August said: “Public transit is, of course, an amazing deal in Paris with the Navigo (certainly when compared to the cost of car ownership which is nearly mandatory in Los Angeles); our transport costs consequently were 85 percent lower in Paris than in California.”

Paris' bike-sharing schemes such as the popular Vélib' also offer a cheap and practical way to get around the often congested and busy city, with 30 minutes hire of a standard bike just €1 or €2 for an electric bike.

And of course you can always take the completely free option and walk – as capital cities go Paris is very compact and you can walk across the entire city in a couple of hours.

READ ALSO Paris is one of the world's most walkable cities, survey shows

Rent

Sadly, no-one had any suggestions to make to shave any money off Paris' famously high rents.

But maybe that's just the price you pay for living in what is also one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

And if that's not enough, France's healthcare and education systems mean that you will be unlikely to be paying out for private healthcare or sky-high school fees.

Ellen Fetu, who lives in Paris' 15th arrondissement, concluded: “It's all relative. We live like locals and not tourists and earn a larger salary than we would have elsewhere.”   

Do you know about a great way to save money in Paris? Email us at [email protected]

 


Member comments

  1. Deli food followed by hot chocolate and cake at Angelina’s?? So very, very far from cheap! What kind of budget are some of these people on??!

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