Paris on a budget can be difficult. Seeing Paris in 48 hours can also be difficult. Can both be done simultaneously? Keep reading and you’ll find out.
Disclaimer: I was never in love with Paris. Never saw it as the romantic “City of Love” like so many others have. But when I had to try and find the cheapest flights to take after Norwegian cancelled my trip to Norway, Paris ended up being pretty much my only option. Although I spent most of the week I had on that side of the ocean in Lisbon (check out the top 5 things to do in Lisbon and how to get to Sintra from Lisbon), I still had 2 days to kill in Paris, so I had to make the most of it.
Where I stayed
I ended up staying in 2 different hostels in Paris, since I was there for one day at the beginning of the week and 1 day at the end of the week. I spent my first night staying at Le Village Montmartre, which was–you guessed it–located in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris. For €26/night, it was AWESOME. They have an absolutely stunning terrace with 4 rooms off of it with a mindblowing view of the Basilique-du Sacre Couer (located literally 2 blocks away!!!) and ensuite rooms with separate toilet and showers. For an extra €5 you can get a fresh breakfast made to order, but I just grabbed a couple of croissants the day before since I had an early flight. My second night (at the end of the week) was spent at St. Christopher’s Inn Gare du Nord. Located around the corner from Gare du Nord (the main train station in Paris), it was convenient for me since I was only back in Paris for about 15 hours, and didn’t have to worry about navigating the city very much with my pack. It was exactly what you’d expect from a hostel chain that size–clean, but an unfriendly environment and not very solo backpacker friendly. I honestly ended up there because I didn’t realize until about 2 weeks before arriving that I hadn’t book any accommodation, and it was the most decent inexpensive option (and again, convenience). I will say however, I thought it was SO cool that they were doing a family-style Thanksgiving dinner for only €5 (my night there was on American Thanksgiving). If I hadn’t made plans with friends I met at the beginning of the week, I probably would have opted for that, so A+ on that one, St. Christopher’s! While the hostel was massive and an absolute maze, I did appreciate the privacy curtains on all of the beds in the room. Sometimes when you’re in an environment where it’s not very solo-friendly, you just love to take some alone time, take a nap, or catch up with friends and family back home.
What’s there to do as a solo traveler?
This depends on your interests and budget, really. As I said before, I was never a huge fan of Paris. I’m also not huge on art museums, so I did not go to the Louvre or Musee d’Orsay. And because I’m a #budgetbackpacker, I decided not to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower or Arche de Triomphe. So…what on earth DID I DO??!
After settling down at my hostel, I started walking. I wandered the 2 blocks to the base of the hill that the Basilique-du Sacre Couer perches atop, wandered up the hill (dodging the DOZENS of scam artists on the way, may I add), snapped some photos, then decided to take the metro down to Place Saint Michel, where the FREE walking tour I was going to take was meeting. I grabbed myself a (delish) crepe at a small stand outside of the metro and carried it along as I wandered across the Seine to the recently-damaged Notre-Dame de Paris.
If you’ve read any of my city guide posts, you know how much I love free walking tours. I chose to go on a tour hosted by Sandeman’s New Europe, one of my FAVORITE tour companies in Europe. The concept of a free walking tour is simple: while you don’t have to pay up front for the tour, you should most definitely be tipping your guide at the end of the tour. The tour guides are freelance and work incredibly hard in order to give you the best tour possible, in exchange for a tip at the end. I have never had a bad experience on one of these tours and if a city you’re visiting has them, TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT! On the tour I was on, our guide took us through the Latin Quarter, across Ile de la Cite, along the Seine to the Louvre (where we obviously got our photos with the famous pyramid), and ended in the Tuileries Gardens. Fun fact: if you’re there for the month leading up to Christmas, they actually have a huge Christmas Market here as well! It was such a cool surprise to stumble upon, and the food was delicious and honestly not as overpriced as I assumed it would be–I paid around €10 for a huge plate of raclette with potatoes and sausage. Soooo rich but soooo worth it. The ferris wheel that is featured at this Christmas Market is only up 2 times a year–in the summer and during this Christmas Market. So cool! It reminds me of Budapest, in a way.
After exhausting myself on the walking tour, I opted to head back to my hostel for what I thought would be a quiet night. My quiet night turned into hanging out on the hostel terrace with a whole group of new friends, drinking cheap wine, and munching on cheese and baguettes until nearly 1am. Honestly…it was an amazing way to start my trip off!
After my one night in Paris, I headed to Lisbon the following morning to spend most of the week there. However, I did have to return to Paris, as I was flying home from there. Since it was Thanksgiving (and also the last night of my trip), I ended up making plans with a couple of the friends that I had met on my first night in Paris. We stocked up on copious bottles of wine, baguettes, and the makings for our own budget-style charcuterie board…IN FRONT OF THE EIFFEL TOWER. Yup, we had our Thanksgiving feast sitting in the (empty) fountains of the Trocadero Gardens, watching the spectacular glittering of the golden tower time and time again.