In the 1954 film Sabrina, Audrey Hepburn famously said: “Paris is always a good idea.” But anyone who’s experienced the holiday crowds or summer heatwaves can attest that springtime in Paris has a certain appeal (no offense, Audrey). A bike ride past the budding tulips in Luxembourg Garden and a glass of Pinot Noir outside on a breezy night is enough to leave you starry eyed for the City of Lights. Here’s how to see Paris like a local, without dipping too deep into your wallet.
Go for a Stroll
If it’s your first time in Paris, the Champs-Élysées should be at the top of your list. Start at the Arc de Triomphe and make your way down the grand boulevard, window shopping on the 1.2-mile walk toward the Place de la Concorde. To the west, tucked in the Jardin des Tuileries, is the Musée de l’Orangerie, home to Claude Monet’s iconic Water Lilies paintings. Buy a ticket for combined entrance for €16 ($18) to the Musée d’Orsay across the garden in the former Orsay train station. Built in 1900 and converted into a museum in 1986, the Musée d’Orsay holds the world’s largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art, with work by Monet, Manet, and Matisse.
Take a Coffee Break
Pass through the Tuileries garden, and grab a cup of coffee along the Rue de Faubourg Saint Honoré — home to Paris’ haute couture (Burberry and Hermès have their flagship stores here). Outdoor café Honor set up shop just over a year ago in a tucked-away courtyard off Saint Honoré. Composed of kiosque panels, the café can be reconfigured to open up in the warmer seasons. Snag a stool out front and choose among the menu of locally roasted coffee beans, croissants, and more; a coffee and the quiche will cost around €10 ($12). In the Marais, Boot Café, set in the former workshop of a shoe cobbler, is another favorite for sipping specialty coffee and pastries on the street.
Attend an Asian Dinner Party
The 13th arrondissement — home to the city’s “Chinatown” — sits inside a triangle formed by the Avenue de Choisy, Avenue d’Ivry, and Boulevard Masséna. Here you can find Asian markets, restaurants, and take-away spots. For traditional Thai, stop in Lao Lane Xang 2 for rich curries and soups at affordable prices. For a trendy take on traditional Korean, reserve a table at Hero in Saint-Denis. The menu — developed by the team behind Parisian hotspot Le Mary Celeste — is inspired to capture the spirit and energy of a night out in Seoul. Expect a table covered in banchan (traditional Korean small plates) and don’t leave without tasting the fried chicken with spicy Gochujang dipping sauce. Even the drinks here won’t set you back too much; bottles of Champagne start at €28 ($32) and cocktails from €10 ($12) that look — and taste — like a party in a glass.
Sip Wine at Sunset
A typical night in Paris starts with a glass of wine and almost too-easily ends with bottles of wine, with food becoming an afterthought. Luckily, neighborhood spots like La Buvette in the 11th arrondissement combines the two. One of the few restaurants open on Sunday evenings in Paris, the quaint wine bar serves small plates like terrine, octopus, sausage, and cheese — most for less than €10 ($12), alongside a selection of hard-to-find bottles of wine, like Julien Courtois’ Ancestral and Laurent Saillard’s La Pause, which can also be taken to go.
More Ways to Save
Travelers looking to spend a whirlwind weekend sightseeing in the city can save with the Paris Pass. Invest in a two-, three-, or four-day pass (from €129 or $144) that includes free access (and fast track entry) to more than 60 museums and monuments, as well as bus tours, discounts at shops and restaurants, and unlimited travel on the metro, RER, and city buses.