I have generated a list of reasons why you should go to Paris before you are 25, but realistically there is one main reason that rules them all: if you are a European citizen, you can do 90% things for free. That’s right – just as you are probably entering adult life and likely to be broke, you can visit one of Europe’s most expensive cities and do as much touristy things as you like for free. Because that is just how great Paris is.
1. The Pantheon
The Pantheon is located in the heart of the Latin Quarter and I believe it is an underestimated Paris attraction. It was one of those things we would have skipped, had we not been able to go in for free (yes, this one is in the free-if-you-are-under-25 category). Originally built as a church, it got turned into a mausoleum during the French Revolution so as to have a place of burial for the great French men that had fallen. Prominent French names such as Voltaire and Victor Hugo are all buried here. And my personal favorite: the great Marie Curie is buried here together with her husband Pierre. However, it is not just the impressive crypt what makes this a worthy stop, but it is also the interior. Between the high ceiling, the detail in the decorations and the huge sculptures, it leaves you speechless the minute you step your foot in the door. But as if that wasn’t enough, you can also go up to the dome as part of a guided tour included in the entrance price. Although I can’t speak for myself since I haven’t gotten a chance to go up yet, I hear you get some of the best views over the city.
2. The views from the top of Notre Dame
The Disney classic the Hunchback of Notre Dame was one of my favorite movies as a kid (and it still is) and consequently, I am a big fan of this cathedral. You can go in for free, and you should, because the inside is nearly as impressive as the outside. There is always a queue, but don’t let that scare you – there is nobody at the door stopping people from going in, so the queue moves ridiculous fast.
Unfortunately, the same doesn’t apply to the queue to go up the towers. This queue is generally long, and it moves very slowly. You can definitely get to other viewing points around the city a lot quicker, however this is the only one where you will be able to get up close and personal with the gargoyles (unfortunately, it is just the gargoyles, no Quasimodo). However, even though the standard price is 8,50€, as a European resident under 25, this is one of the cool things you get to do for free. I also don’t need to tell you just how amazing the views over Paris are from this point – they extend as far as La Defense and Sacre Coeur in Montmartre.
3. Rodin Museum Sculpture Garden
The gardens of the Rodin Museum are located right in the centre of Paris, only about a 5 – 10 minute walk from the Eiffel Tower. And yet despite their central location, they make you feel completely disconnected from the rest of the city. They are as nice as the Tuleries gardens, except a lot quieter, more structured and much more accessible. We only discovered it in our last visit Paris, having missed it all the previous times, so I feel it is definitely another underestimated attraction. One of the many perks of the gardens is, that you can pay a separate entry fee if you’d like to skip the museum, as we did. It is free entry if you are a european citizen under 25, but there is also a concession if you are under 25 but not a european citizen, meaning you only have to pay 2 € to get in. On top of that, if you don’t fall under any of those categories, there is free entry on the first Sunday of every month, much like in the majority of other museums in Paris.
4. The views from the Eiffel Tower
After getting so used to getting a free pass everywhere, you might be surprised to hear that there is no way of escaping paying for this one. With that said, and even though a visit to Paris wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower, you can avoid paying by simply not going up. The views are nice of course, but not any nicer than those from Notre Dame or the Arc de Triumph. The more I go to Paris, the less I seem to like the Eiffel Tower for some reason. If however, you are still determined to do it, the cheapest option is to take the stairs. You will get a concession if you are a European citizen under 25, and it will only cost you 3€, as opposed to 7€ (assuming you are happy to get some exercise done and take the stairs – it is more expensive to take the lift).
5. Museum du Louvre
I found hard to believe what the fuss was about when it came to the Louvre. I managed to visit Paris more than three times and I always avoided it. However, since we could both get in for free (yes, european and under 25 – again), we decided to bite the bullet and check it out once for all. We didn’t even have to queue at all, we could just walk straight in, and show our IDs instead of a ticket. And I must admit I was very pleasantly surprised – it really is a fantastic museum. However, do not go in without a plan. Pick an area that you would like to see otherwise you will get overwhelmed fairly quickly. Also, you know when people say, just skip the Mona Lisa, it’s not worth it? Listen to them! We didn’t and we regretted it. It really was a huge disappointment. It wasn’t only the fact that it was small, but also the fact that it is enclosed in a glass, surrounded by a 1 – 2 metre perimetre, followed by hundreds of pushy tourists. The painting just opposite to it was 10 times better!
6. Views from the Arc de Triomphe
You would never guess I love city views, would you? First of all, if you didn’t guess from the title of this point, you can go up the Arc de Triomphe – I am always surprised at the amount of people that are not aware of this. Secondly, if you are trying to reach the Arc, whatever you do, DO NOT attempt to cross the road. Traffic is always crazy in this roundabout and there is just no need – there is an underground tunnel from the Champs-Elysees, as well as from the other side. Again, something not everybody seems to be aware of. The entry price is 8€ for an adult, and surprise, surprise: free for european citizens under 25. Unlike the Louvre however, you do still have to queue and get the free ticket.
To be honest, the last couple of times we have been to Paris, we have skipped the crowds at the Eiffel Tower and gone up the Arc instead. It is a lot less crowded, and I find the views nicer. Because the arc is located in the middle of a roundabout, the 360 degree views are very characteristic, and unlike anywhere else. Also, it stays open until late (up to 11 pm during spring/summer, 10.30 pm during autumn/winter), so it is a great spot to enjoy views of the beautiful Paris at night.
I was tempted to leave Versailles out of the list, because I genuinely don’t like it. However, believe it or not, both the Palace and the Gardens fall under the free-for-europeans-under-25 category. Therefore, this makes for a great cheap day trip from Paris. The only down-side are the queues. We went really early in the morning, in the middle of the week, in the middle of September. You would think that was low season, but we were still waiting for more than 30 minutes before we could go in and we were constantly having to push around people when visiting the interior of the castle. I can’t imagine what kind of hell it must be like to visit in the middle of summer!
Moving on to the gardens, be warned: if you are lucky enough to be in the free-entry category, this only applies if there is nothing happening in the gardens. We had to pay 7 € each because apparently it was musical fountains day (which happens a couple of days per week). After getting all excited, it turns out that all this was, was that some music was being played through speakers in certain areas of the park. I’m not even kidding! (the trials and tribulations of the Versailles gardens will definitely be another blog post). We did however had the opportunity to rent a rowing boat and had a very relaxing and fun time rowing around the lake. If only because of that, I would still recommend a visit to the gardens.
8. Disneyland Paris
Last but not least is of course Disneyland Paris – I just could not write a list of reasons to go to Paris and not include Disneyland in it. After all, what else would you do with all the money you have been saving from the previous free-entries?
Your twenties is definitely one of the best times to go to Disneyland. If you have not been as a child, do not be fooled into thinking it is a themed park for children – it is as much fun for adults and actually, out of all the Disneyland parks in the world, the one in Paris is probably the one with the most thrilling rides. If on the other hand, you did visit as a child, you’d be surprised how much better it is going back in your twenties! You will be hooked and are likely to come back for the decades to follow (at least that’s my plan anyway). As far as day trips from Paris go, I can’t see it getting much better than the happiest place on Earth!
All in all, there is no doubt where you should be booking your next holiday to if you are under 25. And even if you aren’t, like Aurdrey Hepburn says – Paris is always a good idea!