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Free and Alternative Things to do in Paris

Doing a study abroad period in a city not so far from home does have its perks. Not only does it mean cheap travel home (I got a return coach journey for only £3 more than it costs me to get between Nottingham and Preston. This seems logical), it also means beaucoup de visitors! In exchange for my family, friends and boyfriend smuggling cheddar cheese, baked beans and Marmite across the Channel, I like to offer something in return besides my dazzling company – Gemma’s Guided Tours of Bastille and East Paris.

Although I can’t say this is a list of things to do in Paris that the guidebooks won’t tell you about (because guidebooks now tell you about things that ‘aren’t in the guidebooks’ and I’m out of a job), here are my favourite free things to do in Paris after you’ve exhausted Eiffel Tower selfies.


1. Canal Saint Martin

This is the place I tell people I go running along. In reality, I ran by the canal twice and both times stopped for an excessive amount of time taking photos and then ended up in the various book shops alongside it (but you know, if I was wearing tracksuit bottoms, I had the intention of exercising so it definitely counts). Aside from (pretending to go) running, the Canal Saint Martin is a great location for autumn walks, hipster watching and baguette- based picnics with friends.


Canal Saint Martin, also featuring wine bars that were used in old French films (Hotel Du Nord)


2. Jazz clubs

I’m currently doing a module called “Political Anthropology of the Jazzistic Field” (yes, jazzistic is definitely a word) and this means that every Tuesday, I go to the local free-entry-complete-with-jamming-session jazz club, Le Pop-Up du Label, because obviously I’m taking this course very seriously and listening to jazz whilst drinking wine = revising. There is a whole plethora of jazz clubs in Paris, including alternative ‘free jazz’ improvisation nights at La Java where Edith Piaf used to sing. 3 parts über-cool, 1 part pretentious.


I’m basically Audrey Hepburn…


3. Place des Vosges

Tip number one here is to learn how to pronounce ‘Vosges’ – mispronouncing it repeatedly does not fill people with confidence or convince them that you are a trustworthy tour guide. A really cute place to sit and read, the square is framed with fountains and trees to make you feel like you’re chilling in a garden straight out of Pride and Prejudice. To make you feel even more literary, you can visit Victor Hugo’s house for free here (but in all honesty, it’s a bit dull and much more fun to sit and pretend to be Elizabeth Bennett in the garden itself).


That Jane Austen life 

4. Bois de Vincennes

Paris is flanked by two woods and the nearest to me is Bois de Vincennes, where you can escape cars, breathe country air and generally just pretend you’re in Center Parcs for a few hours. There’s even a medieval château, but I really just go to pick up conkers and pretend I’m 5 again.


Sometimes you’ve just got to get out of Paris  

I will be on the lookout in the coming weeks for more free and fun things to do in Paris – and, no, this is totally not just an excuse to avoid essay writing.

Edited by India Jayne-Trainor

English gal in Paris.
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