Friday, December 26, 2008

Paris! Fun Cool Cheap FYI

For a trip on the Seine at a fraction of the cost of Bateaux-Mouches, buy a day (or longer) ticket for the Bato-bus.

Good free, drinkable tap water can be had by requesting "un carafe d'eau."

Puce de Montreuil flea market
Go treasure hunting at the Puce de Montreuil, a great flea market where you can find great second hand clothes. Avenue de la Porte de Montreuil.
Avenue de la Porte de Montreuil

Packed lunch in the sky
Take a packed lunch bought in the fine food department on to the rooftop of Le Printemps for the most luxurious/cheapest/freshest lunch with the best views over the city.

Cheap and cheerful shopping
Looking for some cheap and cheerful shopping? Fairly near the Gare du Nord is a wonderful shop called 'Taties'. It occopies a whole block and is a perfect Aladdin's cave full of bargains.

Shop at Comptoir du Marais
If, like me, you know that going to Paris means going clothes shopping then here is a treat: mens’ and ladies’ wear shop Comptoir du Marais.

It has two floors packed with stylish but wearable designs by young French designers and is unbelievably cheap! The shop has a tea room and small gallery where you can relax with your bags - inevitably full of clothes you have just bought. Tucked away at the end of Rue des Mauvais Garcons (street of the naughty boys) in the heart of gay Paris – this boutique is well-behaved wallet-pleasing fun.
8 rue de Moussy, 75004 Paris. + 33 1 4274 0606

Louvre for free
If you are under 26, you can visit the Louvre for free on Friday evenings. In an expensive city, this is more than just helpful euro-pinching.

You can arrive as the setting sun catches the top of the glass pyramid (making for the perfect ‘I heart Paris’ portrait) then dash to all the best bits while everyone is making their way out.

As you stand tête-à-tête with the Mona Lisa, you might finally realise what all the fuss is about.

Grab a bargain at the Marche d'Aligre
Forget those designer boutiques and get on the metro to head to the Place d'Aligre for a fascinating market full of clothes, antiques and world goods (particularly great for African crafts).

There really is something more enjoyable about grabbing a bargain at the market than flashing the credit card down the Champs Elysees!

Bar Ourcq
Friendly, cheap café on the side of the bassin de la villette. Not too 'bobo'. Drinks are cheap, you can help yourself to snacks - chorizo, crisps, marmite (yes, really!).

In summer you can borrow a set of balls to play pétanque. Has been non-smoking for years before the smoking ban.
68 quai de la loire, metro jaurés, 75019

The roof terrace of the Galeries Lafayette
The Galleries Lafayette is a stylish department store in Paris. By taking the escalator to the top floor and then walking up the single flight of stairs from the restaurant, you can walk out on to the roof terrace and get a splendid view over Paris.

The height is about the same as the first level of the Eiffel Tower - but you won't have to queue, you can stay as long as you like (so long as the shop is open!), and it's TOTALLY FREE!
Galeries Lafayette, 40 Boulevard Haussmann, Paris 75009

Nearest Metro: Chaussee d'Antin Lafayette

Discount designer shopping in the 14th
It's a short metro ride away from the glamour of high street shopping so was it worth it? While my Parisian friends told me they don't shop there, as the area is not very 'chic', I actually found some very good discounts and, surprisingly, some new season items, slightly discounted albeit with tiny flaws.

I found two great bargains at Cacharel that made the metro ride worthwhile. A cropped wollen jacket, rabbit-fur trimmed lapel €660 reduced to €120 and a frilly high-neck silk blouse reduced from €320 to €90.

There's also a great selection of clothes for children of all ages: girls’ embroidered cardigans at a ridiculous €30, boys' suits from €100 as well as lots of cashmere twin sets around €80-120. The ground floor is dedicated to monsieur.

Also impressive are the two Sonia Rykiel stores which had some wonderful knitted suits at very reasonable prices. As France’s 'queen of knits' you can be assured of quality and pick up tops in bright colours for under €100; her two stores had last season’s stock greatly reduced. You won’t believe the incredibly cute young girls and baby SR range. You’ll also find bags and shoes in those bright trademark colours. If you like these two brands, then ‘bon route’.

A few other stores promised Armani and Dolce & Gabbanna but disappointed. Others had a great selection of French brand names, Gerard Darel, Naf Naf but at the same price as the 5th! I did find some American Retro ‘timeless’ T-shirts for around €30. It is fun bargain hunting and, if I had more time, I would have done more shopping.

Shops are generally open Monday after 2pm then Tuesday to Saturday 10 am – 7pm. I found most opened during the lunch hour (however the smaller ones may close).
Cacharel – 114 rue d'Alésia, Métro: Alésia, t: 01 45 42 53 04 or more details at

Re the cafes, they're usually not going to be cheap, especially someplace "cool" or "hip". The moment you choose to sit down at a table, the prices of the coffee (and other - usually hot - beverage) shoots up by 2-3 times the price that you would pay if you stand at the b

Cafés, the pinnacle of French culture, operate with their own rules and regulations. These can get confusing. Here’s a crash course on how they work. Follow them and ensure a faux pas-free trip to France:

1. Say “bonjour” and make eye contact with the bartender if you walk by him, or to the waiter if he’s closest, as soon as you step inside. It’s polite, and once you do this, the waitstaff will know that you’re there.

2. It’s cheapest to stand at the bar to have your coffee, beer, or whatever. If you sit down inside you’ll pay a bit more; sitting outside on the terrace is the priciest option. The additional charge is for the waiter. What this means, by the by, is that the tip really is already added to the bill. You don’t have to leave a single centime for a tip if you don’t want to.

3. How to speak café: A “café” is an espresso with only sugar on the side. If you want something slightly more diluted, American-style, ask for a “café allongé.” Espresso with milk and sugar on the side is a “noisette.” If you want lots of steamed milk in your espresso ask for a “café au lait” or a “café crème.”

OK, good job. Now you can sit in that café all day. Even if the waiter asks you to pay because he’s going off shift, you can remain sitting. Read a book, write a novel, or just check people out as they walk by.

Unless included in your room rate, skip the over-priced hotel breakfast. Stop by a local cafe and have a Parisian breakfast of fresh croissants, pain au chocolat (chocolate-filled croissant) or pain au beurre (baguette and butter) with a cafe au lait.

Price: Croissants and bread, 2€/piece, Cafe au lait - 3€ for a total of 5€/person.

Budget Tip: Save 3 euros. Skip the cafe, purchase a pastries/croissants at a bakery for .90€. Drink coffee by standing at the bar (price differences will be posted behind the bar) for about 1€.

Metro to the Louvre - The stop is Palais Royal - Musee de Louvre. Cost for a metro ticket is 1.6€/ticket.

Budget Tip: Buy a carnet of metro tickets (10 tickets) for 11.40€. For an unlimited weekly pass (hebdomadaire) for the metro/bus called a Navigo or Carte Orange pay 16.80€ - a steal.

One of the best meal deals in Paris is the three-course fixed price lunch menu. You can eat a great meal for 12-15€ at a restaurant that charges 30-45€ and up for dinner.

Cafes are also great choices for a light meal. Cafe menus include salads and quiches for 7€ and sandwiches for 5€. Skip the expensive soft drinks (4-6€ for a Coke) and drink the house wine instead for under 3€ a glass .

Budget Tip: Buy a crepe or panini from a street vendor for 4€. Splurge for a Coke (2€) or pick-up one at a grocery store (1.3€).

Metro: Ride the Metro to Notre Dame Cathedral. The metro stop is Cite or Hotel de Ville.

Notre Dame Cathedral - Explore the Notre Dame Cathedral for free, wander through the gardens behind the Cathedral, then walk across the Pont St. Louis bridge to window shop on the historic island, Ile St. Louis.

Snack - Licking the windows (the French term for window shopping) has made you hungry. Grab an ice-cream cone at the most delicious ice creamery in Paris, Berthillon. 4€ for a cone.

Or, sit at a cafe at tip of Ile St. Louis and enjoy a beautiful view of the Seine and the Notre Dame. Try Le Flore en l'Ile at 42, quai d'Orlean. Budget 15€ for coffee or wine and a shared appetizer.

Metro: Ride the metro to the Eiffel Tower. The metro stop is Bir-Hakeim or Trocadero.

Visit the Louvre - See the Mona Lisa, egyptian artifacts, and the crown jewels among other artistic wonders of the world. 9€/ticket.

Budget Tips: Visit from 6 to 9:45pm on Wednesday or Friday evenings to beat the crowds and save 3€/ticket. Pay only 6€ to browse the 35,000 pieces of artwork in the Louvre.

Eiffel Tower: Ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower at sunset for a breathtaking view over Paris. Ticket price is 14€.

Celebrate your time in Paris with a glass of champagne with the view of a lifetime at Altitude 95 on the First stage of the Eiffel Tower. 9€/glass.

Budget Tip: Avoid the lines, burn off some calories and climb to the 2nd stage for a 10€ savings. Ticket price is under 4€.

Metro: Back to your hotel to freshen up for dinner.

Dinner - Paris has some of the most highly rated and expensive restaurants in the world. Unless the sky's the limit, budget 30-50€/person for a three course meal in a fine dining establishment. Add 15€ for a bottle of wine.

Budget Tip: Pick up the book Pudlow Paris before you leave home. The Parisian Bible for restaurant reviews, Pudlow gives excellent recommendations and pricing for great meals in Paris. You can't go wrong with Pudlow!

If you aren't up for a large meal, stop by a cafe and order a pasta, meat or fish dish for about 12€. Add carafe of house wine for 2 for 8€.

Budget Tip: Order a sandwich, crepe or panini off of a street vendor. Yummy and worth the 4€.

Instead of wasting excessive euros getting your hotel breakfast, which is probably way overpriced and consists of just a couple pastries and coffee, start your dining day like the French. Visit a local cafe and spend half or a quarter the price for a croissant or pastry and cafe au lait. Several French hotels I've visited have charged upwards or 20 euros per person for a very mediocre breakfast. Also, be sure you are not automatically being charged for breakfast, which is quite common. When you book your room or check in, inform them you do not want their breakfast. Or opt for just coffee in the room, typically much cheaper than full breakfast.
Indulge in one great big French meal a day, instead of spending cash on all three and cringing at your daily spending. Choose to have it at lunchtime as often as possible. You will usually get the same food served for dinner, but for less money. Get the prix fixe menu, which usually consists of a starter, main dish and dessert, sometimes also wine, for a low price.
Since you are already pretty stuffed from lunch, save cash by having a cheap sandwich and pastry for dinner. (Likewise, you can have the sandwich lunch and big three-course dinner instead). Sandwiches are very good, and usually cost around 3.5 euros almost anywhere in France. The chain of bakeries Le Brioche Doree, for instance, sells a sandwich, drink and a dessert for 5.5 euros. (Try their wonderful banana-chocolate tart!).

Willi's Wine Bar
Posted by JonHenley 11 August 2005
The owner is a Brit but the chef isn't and the food here is genuinely fabulous, with a three-course lunch and evening menu for €25-€28.
13 rue des Petits Champs; Tel: 01 42 61 05 09

The cafeteria opposite the Bibliotheque Nationale (Richelieu)
Posted by SLD1 15 October 2005
Good place for a light snack and a good coffee at a fraction of the cost at more pricey cafes.
Across the Street from the Bibliotheque Nationale Richelieu - 58 rue de Richelieu

Le Pantalon
Posted by noelito 21 October 2005
Cheap-as-chips student gaffe. Sorbonne local. The decor is very much student bedsit with a four-poster bed (ok maybe not that), metro sign and ... lazy students. Cheapest coffee in Paris, friendly bulldog and a mix of close-knit locals and students in between lessons. We went in once after an 8am lesson had been cancelled and the barman was all hungover and advised to go and get some croissants while he got the coffee going. Perfect nonchalance and schizophrenic music selection - think 2manydjs.
7 rue Royer Collard, 75005: N/A: RER Luxembourg

Le Tribal Cafe
Posted by noelito 21 October 2005
In the Indian quartier, down a hidden archway is an uncompromising and overcrowded bar-canteen. Be sure to get in just before 8pm and you'll get free mussels'n'chips or couscous, cheap beer and good quality Arab or house music to go with in. Very friendly atmosphere with impromptu dancing on tables - must be the free food.
3 cour des Petites Ecuries, 75010: 00 33 (0) 1 47705708

Chez Casimir
Posted by JonHenley 11 August 2005
Run by the same chef as the more upmarket Chez Michel almost next door, this is the bare-table, stripped-down, half-price and totally delicious Paris bistro par excellence.
6 rue de Belzunce, a few 100 yards from the Gare du Nord; Tel: 01 48 78 28 80

The restaurant in BHV dept store
Posted by tommytoofresh 8 September 2005
An old, old tip, this. Slap bang in the centre of the city, you'll probably have passed by this huge department store on a number of occasions if you've been to Paris. If you fancy a good cheap meal with an excellent view then grab a plate in the restaurant on one of the upper floors. Admittedly the decor is somewhat drab, and you're unlikely to bump into any of Paris's chic set (most of the clientelle look like octogenarians) but if you get a table by the window then none of that matters. This is also a good spot for using the toilet if you get caught short.
BHV, 52/64 Rue de Rivoli, near Hotel de Ville metro.

Le Potager du pere Thierry
Posted by pierro57 14 September 2005
It's just a humble cafe/lunch spot and I almost feel I'm betraying the place by recommending it but it was a lucky find on the way up to Sacre Coeur. Nice staff and great sandwiches & soup.
16 rue des Trois Freres, 75018 Paris

Have a beer with God at the Lèche Vin
Posted by jordanpouille 14 October 2005
Le "Lèche-vin" (=lick wine) is a bizarre and noisy bar, near rue de la Roquette, Bastille. The place is frequented by locals, including La Sorbonne rugby players because of its cheap pints of lager (4.10 euros) and the friendly atmosphere. But what makes it interesting is his "décor". Thousands of crucifixes, yellowed pictures of former popes, religious paintings are stuck absolutely everywhere in the bar... except in their gloomy Turkish toilets where every single space is filled with porn pictures. An hilarious experience!
Tel. 01-43-55-98-91, at 15 rue Daval 75011, near Métro Bastille.

Bus tour of paris
Posted by Iknowsit 15 October 2005
If you don't have much time (and let's face it, who does when visiting Paris), take a bus tour, open-top during the warm weather. Getting around above ground as opposed to the metro means you can get a taste of 'street life' as you go and you can get off and on almost wherever you like. See (the main bits of) Paris in a day - or a couple of hours if you really, really have to return the same day...
Via the Web or tourist leaflets in your hotel and most bus stops in the centre of Paris on the main tourist routes e.g all the way up the Champs Elysee.

Crêperie Saint-Germain
Posted by nestoria 17 October 2005
Fantastic crêpes, good quality food, mesmerizing decor, interesting music, accommodating young waitresses, very good prices. Not to be missed!
33, rue Saint-André-des-Arts,75006, Paris
Métro : Métro : Saint-Michel/ Bus : 24, 27, 38, 85, 96
MAP url,hr%3brg5470%3d0bx1r,bb6%7c_%3d%3a%28ad670%3dSC_qrysuy%28llaag%3d0,rb%3b7%3bb5m-r2qfj5m%3be10h%284&pcat=

The Bombardier pub
The Bombardier is a typical British pub stuck between the stunning Panthéon and the Saint Etienne du Mont Church. That might explain why the setting is so different. Everything inside is made of wood and old stones just like the monuments outside. You won't meet as many "Grands Hommes" as in the Panthéon but big screens will help you to support your favourite football or rugby team.

Before the match, go for the delicious "Fish in beer batter" meal. Food is very original, just like beers. Try the old fashioned "Bombardier Cask" beer during the Happy Hours (16h00 to 21h00. Opens at 8 am and closes at 2. am, 7 days a week.
Bombardier, place du Panthéon - 75005 Paris.Tel.:01 43 54 79 22. How to go: metro Maubert-Mutualité, line 10 or RER B Luxembourg.

Le Pantalon
When I was a happy Sorbonne student, me and my "Amphithéâtre" mates used to meet up at this hidden but crowdy pub after class. Drinks are cheap, the landlord's pitbull doesn't bite and the setting is great. Inside, the Pantalon (Trousers) looks like a microscopic Parisian street where all customers can leave their artistic touch or simply stick their chewing gum under the table. Happy hour between 17h30 and 19h30. Open at 10 am till 2 am, everyday.
Le Pantalon, near the Panthéon 7, rue Royer Collard 75006. RER or Métro Luxembourg. Tel:01 40 51 85 85

Breakfast at a Patisserie
Many hotel deals in Paris don't include breakfast, but breakfast may be available at extra cost. The charge is often extortionate and the quality poor, so why not breakfast with the locals at a patisserie? It's a perfect excuse to try the delicious croissants and pastries when they're freshly baked, and could save you a fortune. Don't be afraid to try one of the patisserie chains, as the food is still delicious and set price menus with pastries and hot drinks are often available (saving even more money).
All over Paris

Pomme de Pain
If you are in Paris and are travelling on a limited budget you can sometimes find some brilliant cafes and patisseries. However, for cheap, quick and tasty food go to a Pomme de Pain, for great baguettes and lovely French puddings. They have restaurants across the French capital, including on the Champs-Elysees. If you're stuck for time, cash or both give a Pomme de Pain a try.
Restaurants across Paris;

Le Petit Prince de Paris
If you are staying in or near the Latin Quarter and are looking for a budget restaurant, with great atmosphere serving really excellent food, then look no futher than Le Petit Prince.

It is very popular with the locals so booking is pretty essential. I ate there on a wet Tuesday evening in February: by 8:30 the place was full and I saw a number of disappointed people turned away.

The fixed-price menu is imaginative, using quality ingredients, and the food is beautifully presented. For a good, reasonably priced bottle of wine, search the 'Coup de Coeur' section of the list.

The only slight drawback with the restaurant is that some of the tables are very close together which may bother those who like a bit of privacy - but, being France, everyone else just minds their own business and concentrates on enjoying the good food and drink!
Rue de Lanneau, off Rue St Jacques, near the Sorbonne.
Nearest Metro station is Maubert Mutualite.

There are eight stops on both banks of the river, and you can get on and off as you fancy. All the stops are alongside tourist attractions, such as Notre Dame or the Eifel Tower, and there is a useful little outline map of the major sights to be seen from the boat when you buy your ticket.

It is not only a splendid way of seeing some of the main attractions of the city, is is a delightful way of getting about from one end of Paris to the other.
Eight stops from the Eifel Tower to the Botanic Gardens, including Hotel de Ville, Notre Dame, etc. There is a web-site.

Bread for lunch
If travelling on a budget, instead of spending 10-20 Euros each on lunch at a cafe, grab a couple of baguettes or quiches and a pastry at one of the many delicious pâtisseries or boulangeries on the Ille de la Cite. Walk down the steps on the north side of the island to sit and wave at the tourists on the Batobuses.

Take plenty of change
Take a small amount of euros in coinage: specifically 1 euro, 50 cent & 20 cent pieces.

This will facilitate a speedy entrance to the Metro system using the automated ticket machines, and a fast exit from the mayhem of Gare du Nord!

Chartier soup kitchen
Catering on a budget in Paris – then head for Chartier, Opera Quarter, an old 19th Century soup kitchen with listed décor, which offers a bustling atmosphere and inexpensive basic French food.

This cavernous restaurant caters today, as it always has, to people on a budget. Be prepared to share one of the long trestle tables with other diners but that adds to the fun of the Chartier experience. You never know who you’ll be sitting next to in Paris!

Chez Marianne
A lovely little Jewish/Greekish deli in the Jewish part of the Marais. They have a cosy little restaurant attached where you can select from the deli items. Great value for money, high quality and very tasty. Plenty of Parisien(ne)s.
2, Rue Hospitalières St Gervais
75004 Paris, France
+33 1 42 72 18 86

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