_ Dear Skyscanner,_
I’d love to go to Paris but I’ve heard it’s very expensive. Are there any good budget options for visiting the French capital?
Let me clear up a couple of things about Paris. It doesn’t have to be expensive and it doesn’t have to be clichéd, you just need to know where to go to avoid the over-hyped and the over-priced. Here’s my guide to the City of Light.
Where to stay
Hotel du 7e Art is a quirky Art Deco-style hotel that celebrates French cinema in each of its unique 23 bedrooms. You’ll get an idea about it eccentricity from the website – expect kitsch but fun decor, memorabilia and even staff. It’s on rue Saint Paul, right in the Marais, and costs from £65 for a single and £85 for a double room.
Also check out Hôtel du Collège de France, a budget hotel in the Latin Quarter, a great alternative if you’ve already stayed in the Marais. The 29-bedroom hotel is two-star, and a little old school in the decor stakes, but is comfortable and clean, and doubles cost from £82 a night. That’s not bad given you’re only a short walk from Notre Dame.
Another central gem is the Hotel du Bois, a cute boutique hotel with doubles from £106 a night. It’s a short walk from the Arc de Triomphe and has attractive contemporary decor and 39 bedrooms.
Where to eat
Le Pre Verre is a Left Bank restaurant with artistic flair in the decor and cooking stakes, but with prices that don’t break the bank – particularly the £12 set lunch (starter, main course, glass of wine and coffee). Foie gras, duck and suckling pig feature, but there are also fish dishes and even the odd vegetarian dish – some mean feat in Paris! Just make sure you book ahead.
Le Domaine de Lintillac in the 2nd arrondissement is a handsome, red-fronted restaurant on rue St Augustin, moments from Place de l’Opera and the Bourse, the Paris stock exchange. It’s one of a mini-chain of restaurants, but don’t let that put you off – this is authentic Gallic dining, from the red chequered table cloths to a choice of eight different foie gras dishes, complete with toaster on the table so you can have warm bread with your pate. There’s also confit of duck, black pudding, and creamy desserts. Needless to say, this isn’t a menu for vegetarians. Three courses without wine cost around £15.
The Art Deco is as popular as the food at Le Café du Commerce in the 15th arrondissement. It has French favourites at £17 for two courses, so is a little more pricey but is worth it for the buzz.
What to do
The Eiffel Tower is where the coaches disgorge, but for a quieter and equally sensational view, try the Tour Montparnasse. The glass and steel building is less iconic than the famous tower but offers you views of its rival together with other benefits: there’s shorter queues than at Gustave Eiffel’s famous tower, and it’s £9 a ticket rather than £12, which means you’ve got change to buy a cafe au lait.
So what’s the best thing to do in a city you don’t know? Walk. And it costs nothing. The Seine offers the perfect Paris fairy tale, especially if you get up early and get there before the canoodling couples and pushy street artists.
The two natural islands on the Seine are quiet in the morning, particularly Ile de la Cit across the Pont St Louis footbridge (the other is Ile Saint Louis). The island is home to Notre Dame (it’s free and opens from 8am) Louis IX’s Sainte-Chapelle and the prison where Marie Antoinette was incarcerated. You can walk off the island over Pont Neuf, the most famous bridge over the Seine. Just do it before 10am, then nip into an unprepossessing cafe on the Left Bank for a smug cup of coffee or a breakfast crepe while you watch the hordes amass.
The Kiss and The Thinker are the statues that have made Rodin an almost-household name, but the museum dedicated to the painter and sculptor is less well-known. The Rodin Museum is in an attractive palace and has much to offer for an entry fee of just £4 (free for under 18s). There isn’t the queuing that you get at the Louvre and the building is set in stunning gardens that have a sculpture trail and are a tranquil spot for lazing and reading.
If you’re a bargain hunter, the Porte de Clignancourt flea market, or Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, will appeal – it’s on Saturday to Monday (often shuts up shop after lunch on Monday so don’t arrive after midday), and is a great place to pick up cheap clothes and knick-knacks. To get there, take the métro to Porte de Clignancourt on Line 4, and as with any market, the earlier the better. It opens at 9am on a Saturday and 10am on a Sunday.
If you’re planning on nipping about town by public transport, consider buying the Paris Visite card, which allows unlimited travel on the Métro, trains and buses, for around £9 for two days (there’s also one, three and five-day passes). The Paris museum pass, is good value and perfect for culture boffins as it offers queue-free entry to 60 museums in the city over two days, including the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay and the Pompidou, for £31.
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Answer by Ginny Light – TimesOnline travel editor
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