Navigating the maze of Paris museum ticket options can be a nightmare. The goal? Avoid lines, save money, feel like the savvy traveler your friends think you are. The problem? The amount of time you spend trying to avoid standing in line is instead spent in front of your computer comparing the different ticketing options.
And without the mime and accordion player accompaniment. I spend a large part of my time updating the museum section of guidebooks, correcting the sightseeing section of this site, and helping my tour clients find the best option for each museum. So if I’m still confused, I have a feeling I’m not the only one.
Here are some tips that you might want to note for your next visit to a Paris museum, particularly handy if you have an outdated guidebook (or, if you live here, you haven’t visited in a long time).
Sainte Chapelle is problematic. If it wasn’t so dang gorgeous, I’d tell people not to bother. There is no way to buy tickets in advance (they are only good the day you buy them). And there’s that pesky lunch break closure in the middle of the day that no other monument in Paris has (weekdays 1-2pm). First you have to go through the airport-style metal detector (because of the courthouse), which takes forever, then you stand at another line for a ticket once you’re inside at the chapel. The only way around this is to have a Museum Pass or a joint ticket from the Conciergerie next door (there’s never a line there). Those with these tickets can usually stand in a different (shorter) line next to the long line before going through security, and then go straight into the chapel without having to buy a ticket. Sometimes this second line is blocked off. Try it anyway and see if anyone stops you (when you see the line, you’ll see it’s worth a try), have your pass or ticket ready to show the guard.
The Centre Pompidou has great panoramic views over Paris from the top floor. It used to be possible to see these views if you were on your way to lunch or dinner at Georges, the restaurant up there (it has its own red elevator to the right of the entrance). You can also see it if you have a museum ticket. But if you just want to see the view and can’t be bothered eating or looking at art, you can now get a Panorama Ticket for €3. It’s probably the smartest thing a Paris museum has done in a long time.
Not everyone is organized enough to buy Louvre tickets in advance. If you just show up, and there’s a huge line at the Pyramid entrance, take the stairs down either side of the Arc du Carrousel (the arch with the horses on top of it between the Pyramid and the Tuileries Gardens, you can’t miss it). It’s a side entrance into the Carrousel du Louvre commercial center. Once inside where the inverted pyramid is found, there is usually a line for those with tickets and those without tickets to go through the security. If there’s no line here, go inside to the main hall (under the large pyramid you can see from outside) and the shortest lines are usually those for the self-serve ticket machines. American credit cards don’t usually work in these (we don’t have microchips on our cards like the rest of the world), but they do take cash. If there was a huge line back before security for those without tickets, go into the commercial center towards the metro entrance (you’ll see the signs), and look for the Civette de la Carrousel (a tabac smoke shop). There is usually a big sign stating “Get Museum Passes Here”. They sell passes, as well as just Louvre tickets. Get the one you need and you can skip all of the big lines. Note that there’s no longer discounted entrance after 6pm on Wednesday and Friday night.
Look for joint tickets for major museums. Save money and time if you go to the less-crowded one first to get your tickets: the Conciergere & Ste Chapelle, the Orangerie & the Musée d’Orsay, the Rodin Museum & the Musée d’Orsay, the Louvre & the Delacroix Museum, the Open Tour Bus & Batobus Tour.
These are just a few ideas. I’m sure I’ll be able to add to this list as the tour season gets into full swing this summer, but feel free to add any of your own creative solutions into the comments section below.
Hey Sandy, don't stress! And don't bother with the Museum Pass. Stop by the Louvre for photo op (in front of the Arc du Caroussel (looks like a small Arc de Triomphe across from the Pyramid), and pre-purchase/print tickets for the Eiffel Tower (on the official website is cheapest and you get a timed entry to avoid waiting), for the Orsay/Orangerie (there are discounted joint tickets on their website available). No entry fee to Notre Dame, and if there are huge lines for the St Chapelle (that's a security line, not a ticket line…you can't skip it with a museum pass) skip it entirely. Two days will fly by like you won't believe, don't spend it in crowded tourist sites. Take the time to go to a market or even a crepe stand and sit with the kids on the Pont des Arts or along the Rive Gauche or Rive Droit Berges and enjoy the people and boat watching while you eat and rest your feet. 🙂
I am so stressed – we arrive on a monday morning in june and leave wed morning so I have 2 days with jet lagged teenagers. I want them to see the louvre and we all want to do the Orangerie and musée d' orsay and notre dame/San Chapelle and eiffel tower and be outside enjoying paris in june. I am trying to figure out if I need to buy a separate timed/tour ticket for any of the museums to be able to get into them because of lines or if the Paris Museum Pass is sufficient. The louvre will be a driveby to satisfy the kids, more time I hope in Orsay ( on tuesday) and Orangerie (monday). plus I promised shopping 🙂 Should I bail on the Louvre? but still get the Paris Museum Pass?
I haven't tried that, but I'm sure you could just call them and ask, it's a small museum. But you can also get Louvre tix online in advance on the Louvre website, or just go on one of the evening openings when it's not crowded.
Have you bought Louvre tickets (combo) at the Musee Delacroix. I've tried to verify this but have not had any luck. (going to Paris in Dec with kids and looking for ways to avoid the queues)
Thanks for the reminder Els. I listed other options for last-minute ticket purchase because a lot of travelers actually change or make plans on the go and need to know how to avoid the lines if they don't have advance tickets. Also, I should add that once you get the museum pass at La Civette in the Carrousel du Louvre that you can exit back to the surface outside and enter the museum directly through the entrance at the Passage Richelieu (between the Cour Napoléon and the Place du Palais-Royal) where there are never lines.
As from September 2011, you can book your ticket in advance via the Louvre website.