Tag Archives: cheap

Tea/Coffee & Cake in Paris for 4€ or Less!

Skip the tourist-targets with over-priced and water-downed coffees, and head instead to the deliciously priced cafés I’ve listed below for an authentic Parisian repose.


Au Thé Gourmand

Located on a quintessential European backstreet near the Pantheon, this unassuming café sells only homemade pâtisseries and offers over twenty flavors of hot and iced teas. For 2€ I got the biggest, chocolaty-est slice of cake I’ve ever received from a café or bakery. While the cappuccino wasn’t quite on the same level, I got a larger mug than most cafés in that area would’ve given and it came with a complimentary drop of meringue—all for 2€20. A carved wooden pillar divides the small room in two, potted plants liven each table and funky handmade jewelry is on sale near the cash register. A great stop for lunch break with a colleague, a slice of quiche on the go, or an afternoon gossip session with a friend.


Café Maure de la Mosquée de Paris

If the city’s chaos becomes too stressful, step through the stone archway to Café Maure, one of the most sensually pleasing and calming cafes I’ve ever visited. Two quaint courtyards, overflowing with evergreen foliage, accept costumers year-round. During winter months, a canvas ceiling blocks the wind and heaters keep vitality and warmth. Dark blues and greens branch out in a flowery motif along the tiled walls, sweet sheesha smoke perfumes the air, and tiny birds flutter around, searching for crumbs. Don’t miss the 2€ hot mint tea paired with a 2€ syrup-soaked pastry. A crowded boutique adjoins the café, packed with traditional North African products such as woven handbags, beaded jewelry and an array of colorful decorations.








Le Salon by Thé des Écrivains

Tucked behind the picturesque Place des Vosges, this softly lit salon pays homage to the natural relationship between books and tea. Neatly stacked multicolored notebooks, journals, photo albums, and notepads, all handmade with cotton paper, rest alongside shelves of over 5,000 books, artisanal pottery and whimsical furnishings. Translating to “Writer’s Tea,” the Thé des Écrivains brand captures the essence of a literary culture within a single steaming cup. Ask for a cup of le thé des philosophes chinois (Chinese philosopher’s tea) and savor its mix of green and black teas, lotus and jasmine infusions and sprinkle of poppy while contemplating life and confronting a blank page.


Ten Belles

If not for the mass of attractive hipsters loitering outside with cigarettes, the plain pinewood storefront of Ten Belles would easily go unnoticed. Their culinary approach, however, is anything but simple. The menu originate from that special combination of Anglophone-inspired recipes with French-quality ingredients. Their cappuccinos, light and delicately balanced, with just enough froth and no need for sugar, arrive adorned with milk-flower swirls. Come here to take refuge with a good book and a hot cup during the seemingly endless cold days of a Parisian winter.











Centre Culturel Pouya

Established to preserve Iranian culture, the Centre Culturel Pouya offers courses in traditional dance, theatre and yoga. Stone slabs with embroidered cushions comprise half the seating, but couches and chairs are available as well. Large photographs displaying Persian music festivals hang next to ancient instruments and bookshelves full of Iranian literature. The teas, served liberally, come with their spices still soaking on the bottom. Candles and warm lamplight give the room an intimate atmosphere, making it perfect for an alternative first date.











The AntiCafé charges for time, not for usage. The first hour costs 4€ and every hour after that is 3€. Enter, get an usage card from the front desk to track the elapsed time, and commence free access to coffee, tea, snacks, Wi-Fi, printing, scanning and board games. Snack items include pastries, cakes, fruits, bread, Nutella, honey, chocolate powder, olive oil and vinegar. The environment is rather studious; when I went essentially everyone stayed bent over a Macbook, scribbling on graphed paper or reading a book. The only people having conversations were those who walked straight to the conference room (rentable to anyone who needs space for a business meeting, birthday party, etc.). Overall, a cost-effective and opportune escape from home, whether to work on a project in the company of strangers or avoid washing dishes.

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Affordable Shopping in Paris, Part 2

Chine Machine – founded by a native New Yorker, this blue-washed thrift shop near Abbesses gets its inspiration from the SoHo district of NYC. Although chine means “to hunt,” unlike most second-hand stores in Paris the Chine Machine has a very organized, open layout. The decor is as funky and chic as its merchandise: pictures and posters cover the stone walls, weathered chests overflow with sale items, vintage TV sets display belts and glasses, bright-lipped mannequins flaunt perfectly mismatched styles. Prices start low but range rather high for big-name designer finds. Everyone needs to splurge once in a while, right?


Vintage Desir – probably the only vintage friperies in Paris that don’t have starting prices of 50€. Vintage Desir has two central touristy locations, one in the Marais amongst the ever-crowded falafel eateries (don’t be fooled by the bold “COIFFEUR” lettering left by the previous owner), and one off the Abbesses metro stop in Montmartre. Both have crowded, narrow aisles full of fun throw-back items. Come here to find sequin-heavy dresses, colorful blouses, stacks of hats, furs and plenty of leather purses, all within a student budget.











L’Interloque – “La Ressourcerie – L’Interloque’s main goal is to reduce waste and advocate responsible consumption by taking in unwanted or nonfunctional objects to recycle, upcycle, repair and/or reuse. They play an active role in educating the quartier about environmental protection, offer free pickups to anyone unable to transport their old items and offer employment primarily to those recovering from hard times. Any useful items they sell in one of their three boutiques on rue de Trétaigne, in a garage-sale or flea market-esque fashion, offering furniture, decorations, books, clothing, dishware, DVDs and other miscellaneous household items.








Eileen – relatively unknown (every time I’ve gone I’ve shared the shop with women older than forty), this tiny, cramped store is without a doubt the best-priced friperie in Paris. Located next to the Arenes de Lutece, its discreet façade, dirty windows and messy arrangement of clothing may intimidate most. Admittedly, shopping here is a bit of a challenge; the majority of the clothing is piled 2.5 feet or so high in the middle, with racks of dresses and jackets bordering it. I actually took off my shoes once so I could climb to dig at the back of the pile. Despite being disorganized, the clothes—jeans, dresses, coats, scarves, purses—are in great condition and often come from well-known brands. I’ve found Minelli leather derbies for 6€, Zara shirts for 2€ and Aubade lingerie for 1€.

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Affordable Shopping in Paris

Walking around Saint-Germain-des-Prés on a warm spring afternoon with barely 10€ in my wallet, dozens of boutiques tempt me with their superfluous indulgences: chocolates, wines, cheeses, spices, olive oils, shoes, books, hats, scarves, antiques…almost anything conceivable has a boutique dedicated to it in Paris. I swoon over a shop stacked with handcrafted teakettles, declaring to myself that I need to splurge and buy one…until I turn the pot over and realize its artisanal craftsmanship costs 150€. Sometimes in Paris even window-shopping seems too expensive.


While I appreciate the authenticity and excellence these boutiques provide, it’s hard not to miss the inexpensive (albeit mass-produced and unoriginal) items sold by Walmart or Target, more affordable to a post-college grad like myself. And although I can prevent myself from buying outrageously priced teapots, a 5€ chocolate pastry is more difficult to resist. So in order to keep my budget in check, when it comes to shopping for clothes, toiletries or home goods, I need to stay determinedly frugal and creative.

Here are the best bargains I’ve uncovered in Paris to date:


HEMA, a Dutch-based discount store, is one of the few places in France that sells a mixture of home goods, clothes,toiletries and food at affordable prices. The style is as chic as IKEA, though the inventory has slightly less quality. Still, it’s a great place for young adults buying their first apartment or students crammed into dormitories to find the same look at a reduced price. About a dozen are scattered throughout the city.

Clothes and Home Goods

Since it’s creation in 1985, the Emmaus organization and its boutiques have employed financially distressed or recovering individuals as one of their many tactics to fight against poverty. Items donated to the store are cleaned, fixed or upcycled if necessary, and sold at very low prices. Many locations exist, and each boutique is set up differently. This large variety causes the stores to lack consistency, but with enough time and patience a desired will turn up eventually. Emmaus often holds special events, dedicating a store solely to one type of item (shoes, books, kitchenware) for a day. I recommend getting there early—Emmaus is a local favorite. A list of my preferred locations is below. 

  • 5 Rue Curial – Metro Riquet – the best of the Emmaus Boutiques, located inside the interesting and artistic Cent-Quatre, is great for finding both vintage and brand-name items
  • 4 Passage de Flandre – Metro Riquet – across the street from the Cent-Quatre, this shop has a large selection of furniture, books and decorations
  • 54 Rue de Charonne– Metro Ledru-Rollin – great for shoe or book shopping
  • 191 Rue Alesia – Metro Plaisance – clothes only

Thrift Shops

Free ‘P’ Star – Metros Hotel de Ville and Saint Paul – three locations in the heart of Paris. Loved by hipsters and fashionistas alike, the clothes are quirky and trendy, the majority of which cost less than 20€. My favorite: bins overflowing with clothes and scarves for 1€ apiece. Sure, you may have to pass an hour or so digging for the perfect item, but isn’t it worth it?

By Flowers Vintage – Metro Pigalle – a haphazard mixture of clothing from the mid-1900’s through the 1990’s. The selection is a bit temperamental, with chic pieces and eclectic oddities ranging from cheap to expensive. The clientele is a busy mixture of tourists and regulars, so hitting the shop on a weekday morning would be best.

Guerrisol – Metro Place de Clichy – while often disorganized, Guerrisol offers a large variety of clothes in good shape and not at all expensive. Guerrisol offers clothes for all ages, so it may be more difficult to find a more fashionable piece when searching through the racks.


With nearly a hundred markets to choose from, it’s never hard to find fresh food in Paris.  Covered markets are open permanently, while the open-air markets usually set up several mornings a week. Bonus: markets usually have several stands selling eclectic merchandise and others hold mini flea markets. Find a complete list of markets by arrondissement here.

Feel free to post your own affordable discoveries in the comments!

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