Treasures of Paris await budget-conscious traveler

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A musician plays her violin to entertain passers-by in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral at sunset on an August night in Paris.  CX MATIASH/ASSOCIATED PRESS
A musician plays her violin to entertain passers-by in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral at sunset on an August night in Paris.

PARIS — Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world – and it knows it. That’s why the French capital – ranked among the world’s priciest and most visited – can afford to charge tourists so dearly for sampling its timeless beauty and world-class cuisine. But there’s a whole world out there for the budget-conscious traveler. Here are five things that prove that Paris knows the best things in life are free.

TUILERIES GARDENS: In search of a safe haven away from the stresses of the city? Paris has just the answer with the Tuileries gardens – sitting tranquilly in the heart of the capital between the Louvre Museum and the Place de la Concorde. Looking down the Champs Elysees and onto the Arc de Triomphe, the 400-year-old gardens offer not just one of the best city-views in the world, but a place to relax with ornate fountains, magical statues and fresh air. Despite their age, the old public gardens keep their eye on the younger generation, boasting a wonderful children’s play area and a carnival in summer.

THE SACRE COEUR: The landmark white domes of this basilica indelibly mark the Paris skyline, located at the city’s highest point on the Montmartre hill. Come here to experience a panoramic view of Paris’ historic rooftops or to be entertained by numerous spectacles by Parisian street artists. But there are equal delights to be found inside the church, which features the world’s largest apse mosaic, in the dome above the altar, designed by Luc-Olivier Merson.

PARIS BEACH AND ICE RINK: Paris might be 93 miles from the sea, but that doesn’t stop cash-strapped tourists in search of a beach holiday. Every year since 2002, the French capital has run “Paris Plages” or “Paris Beaches,” a free summer event that transforms several spots along the Seine river into beaches, thanks to more than 1,000 tons of sand that’s trucked in. So pull up a lounge chair, and don’t forget to buy sunblock along with a croissant.

For the winter traveler, Paris offers a free ice-rink outside the city hall from December to March.

DROUOT AUCTION HOUSE: Going, going, gone. Marie Antoinette’s slippers, the iconic hat of mime artist Marcel Marceau, Edith Piaf’s black dress – even a piece of the Eiffel Tower: You can see it all going under the hammer at this famous auction house in Paris’ central 9th district. With 16 functioning auctions rooms, it’s the world’s largest auction house open to the public. Anyone can stroll in for free from Monday to Saturday to delve into the fascinating establishment’s cabinet of curiosities.

ROMANCE: Paris is proof that the French live for love – with amorous couples often found kissing on park benches, street corners, or walking wistfully hand in hand along the banks of the river Seine. So take the person you love for a romantic walk along the banks of Paris’ two magical islands, the Ile Saint-Louis and the Ile de la Cite.

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