By Nikki Bayley
Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but it can also be one of the most expensive, unless, of course, you read this. Want to experience the city of light like a local? You just need a little insider know-how before you go.
The best view in Paris
The problem with the Eiffel Tower is you can't see it once you're up it! Instead, cross to the Left Bank, to the incredibly ugly Montparnasse Tower. Find the entrance to the restaurant and bar (free, if you don't go up the viewing platform). The Montparnasse 56 bar is a tacky, black-and-silver 80s hangover with one of the most exciting views in Paris. Skip the not-so-great cocktails and have a glass of champagne to watch the sunset & see the Eiffel Tower do its light-up sparkly thing for five minutes, on the hour, from 9pm.
Get on a Velib'
Cycling in Paris is a pleasure on the Velib' bikes. Easy to use, you just need a credit or debit card with £150 available which is 'held' as a deposit. It's just €1.70 for a 24-hour pass or €8 for a week. You can take a bike as often as you like and your first 30 minutes are free! The game is to return the bike before you get charged. Got an iPhone? Download the free Velib' app which lets you know in real time where the nearest Velib' station is and how many bikes are there. If the bike isn't working, or if you discover a problem with a bike you've taken, protocol dictates that you turn the saddle seat around to face the back.
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Sail the Seine
The Batobus is an ideal way to get around as a tourist. A day pass lets you hop on and off as they go up and down the Seine passing monuments including the Champs Elysee, Louvre and Eiffel Tower. It's €15 for a day pass and there are eight stops. Get a picnic from a market and spend a calm hour watching the beauty of Paris pass you by as you stuff yourself with bread and cheese.
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[Related feature: 10 alternative city breaks]
Every first Sunday of the month, entrance to all the museums across the city is free. Beware - queues can be overwhelming, so arrive very early or an hour before they close.
Escape the crowds
Far less touristy, and far more intellectual than Pere Lachaise on the Right Bank, is the Montparnasse Cemetery. OK, so there's no Jim Morrisson, but instead you'll find the graves of Serge Gainsbourg, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. Importantly, there are rarely any crowds, so you can get into the right 'moodily wandering a Paris cemetery' frame of mind.
Buy a 'carnet' of tickets (get them from the metro rather than from a shop or from the Eurostar as they tend to sell older tickets which often don't work): That's 10 tickets for €12.50. You can use these on the bus, metro & RER. The tickets are valid for 90 minutes. On the bus, you can use as a transfer between two bus lines. On the metro you can use between metro/RER. On the RER, hang on to the ticket - you'll need to it to get out again.
There are 82 regular food markets in Paris, along with three organic food markets (marchés biologiques). The Marché Président Wilson is one of the biggest (Wed/Sat) and the Maubert Market (Tue, Thu, Sat) is thought to be the oldest, but really any that you visit will be fun and a good chance to try some cheeses, hams and other produce.
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Finding a decent cup of coffee
Despite its reputation as a city of coffee drinking, on the whole, French coffee is terrible! Fortunately there are a few places that you can go and get your latte fix - try La Cafeotheque on 52, rue de l’Hôtel de Ville (4th), KooKa BooRa on 62, rue des Martyrs (9th) or Caldo Freddo on 34, rue Montorgueil (1st). To save money in bars and brasseries, sit or stand at the bar and have a 'noisette' (coffee with a dash of milk), a 'cafe' (an espresso) or a 'cafe au lait' which usually comes with a pot of steamed milk on the side. Your coffee will be almost half the price than if you sit at a table.
Tipping is not expected as a 15 per cent service charge is always included on your bill. Leaving a couple of euros if you've been treated well is fine though.
Ditch the Louvre, it's too big and the Mona Lisa is probably one of the world's greatest disappointments (it's so small). Instead get a combined ticket to to Musee D'Orsay and Musee de L'Orangerie. The Orsay is gorgeous; light and bright, just across the river from the Louvre. It used to be a station and still has the iconic clock. You can wander around and see plenty of bonbons from Van Gough, Gauguin to Renoir, Degas and Klimt. The Musee de L'Orangerie has the famous Waterlilies - a truly breathtaking sight. Eight huge paintings curve around two rooms in diffused light.