You are traveling to Paris for the first time, yay! You would like to take it easy but your time in Paris is limited and you want to get the most of the City of Light. Because it is your first time in Paris, you want to see the Paris tourist attractions or at least some of them. You have seen Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower sooo many times in books, travel magazines, postcards and finally you have the opportunity to see them live.
But maybe you forgot that Paris is one of the most visited cities of this planet. You won’t be alone. Actually, there are thousands of people planning their very first time in Paris during your same dates. And probably these thousands of people also want to visit the Paris tourist attractions, which means long, very long queues.
Sounds scary? It may be . . .
Despite we enjoy talking about the alternative, more local side of Paris we are not here to tell you to avoid these places, just avoid the queues! And how can you avoid the lines in Paris? You just need some planning and the right information. Because information is power. So don’t look further, we are going to give you some cool info and our best tips to spend less time in line and also to pay less. Go on reading . . .
This is the list of the 6 most popular museums and monuments (by number of visitors) in the city*:
Louvre Museum 8.7M visitors
The Eiffel Tower 6.9M visitors
Musée d Orsay 3.4M visitors
Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie 1.9M visitors
Grand Palais 1.77M visitors
Arc de Triomphe 1.76M visitors
*Latest Published Source : Bilan de l’Activité Touristique de l’Année 2015 by Paris Région
We added the Paris Catacombs to the list because lately everybody wants to visit the Catacombs : -)
For each of these Paris attractions we are going to give you the best day and the best time slot to visit, during high season and low season. Also, are going to tell you how to visit these Paris tourist attractions for less money or even for free.
HOW TO AVOID THE LINES IN PARIS: WARNING
This information comes from many sources: museums’ websites, other Paris websites and also from our personal experience. This is not rocket science: we cannot promise that you won’t find long lines during the best time slots for these Paris tourist attractions. Also, during one time slot considered as “very strong” lines might be significantly shorter if it rains a lot, if it is too cold or if there is a heat wave, just to give you some examples. So please take all this information with a grain of salt. Zero queues do not exist in Paris but if you follow our advice at least you won’t hate Paris when you leave.
NB: colors on the tables correspond to estimated waiting time by time slot: green means less waiting time while red means very long lines. High Season in Paris is from 1st April to 31th October and Low Season in Paris is from 1st November to 31st March, with the exception of Christmas holidays.
Address: Rue de Rivoli, Paris 1
Metro: Palais-Royal – Musée du Louvre (L1, 7), Louvre Rivoli (L1); Velib Station #1.025
Website: www.louvre.fr; tickets available online
We like Louvre Museum a lot and we visit it at least twice a year, usually when it is free. You can check our super guide with all the information and our best tips to visit the Louvre like a pro.
Best time to visit Louvre Museum
How to pay less /how to visit the Louvre for FREE
The ticket for Louvre Museum costs 15€. However, there are some opportunities to visit the Louvre for free:
* Louvre Museum is FREE for all visitors the first Sunday of every month, from October to March.
** It is FREE for all visitors on 14th July (France’s National Day), during Les Journées du Patrimoine (next edition on 16 and 17 September 2017) and during La Nuit des Musées (next edition end of May 2018)
** The Louvre is always FREE for people under 25 years from a country within the European Union.
*** The Louvre Museum is FREE for people under 25 years, all countries, on night openings (Wednesday and Friday) from 6pm to 9.45pm
Check for other FREE admission opportunities on Louvre Museum website
THE EIFFEL TOWER
Address: Champ de Mars, 5 Avenue Anatole France, Paris 7
Metro: Bir-Hakeim (L6), Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel (RER C); Velib Station #7.025, 7.023
Website: www.toureiffel.paris; tickets available online
We prefer to see Paris with the Eiffel Tower than Paris from the Eiffel Tower but we understand that Eiffel Tower is a rock star and all rock stars have rave fans! As you can see on the tables below, the Eiffel Tower never rests. However, you cannot do much to avoid the lines in Paris Eiffel Tower, especially in high season (lines up to 2 hours during “very strong” time slots).
Best time to visit the Eiffel Tower
How to pay less /how to visit the Eiffel Tower for FREE
The Eiffel Tower admission with the lift to the top included costs 17€. Unfortunately the entrance to the Eiffel Tower is never free but there are some reduced options:
* The entrance ticket to the lift up to the top costs 14.5€ for people under 24 years.
** The Eiffel Tower admission to the lift up to the second floor costs 11€ for adults and 8.5€ for people under 24 years.
*** You can climb the Eiffel Tower stairs up to the second floor for 7€ (adults) or 5€ (people under 24 years).
Check for other reduced admission opportunities on Eiffel Tower website
MUSÉE D ORSAY
Address: 1 rue de la Légion d’Honneur, Paris 7
Metro: Solférino, L12 and Musée d’Orsay, RER C; Velib Station #7.007
Website: www.musee-orsay.fr; tickets available online
Best time to visit Musée d Orsay
If you want to visit Musée d Orsay during the week, avoid Tuesdays: it is when Paris has the Louvre closed !
How to pay less /how to visit Musée d Orsay for FREE
The regular price of 12€ corresponds to Musée d Orsay permanent collection + temporary exhibition. However, there are some opportunities to visit the Orsay for less money or even for free:
* Admission tickets from 4.30 pm (except Thursdays) and from 6.30 pm on Thursdays cost 9€.
** Admission tickets for people between 18-25 year old who are not citizens or long-term residents of an EU member state cost 9€.
*** Musée d Orsay is FREE for all visitors on the first Sunday of every month, during Les Journées du Patrimoine (next edition on 16 and 17 September 2017) and La Nuit des Musées (next edition end May 2018)
**** Musée d Orsay is always FREE for people under 25 years from a country within the European Union.
Check for other FREE admission opportunities on Musée d Orsay website
CITÉ DES SCIENCES ET DE L’INDUSTRIE
Address: 30 avenue Corentin Cariou, Paris 19
Metro: Porte de la Villette (L7, T3b); Vélib station #
Website : www.cite-sciences.fr ; tickets available online
Best time to visit Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie
How to pay less /how to visit Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie for FREE
The admission ticket for la Cité is 12€. Apart from this ticket, there is a reduced ticket for 9€ for people under 25 years old or people 65 + years old.
There are few possibilities to visit this museum for FREE apart from and La Nuit des Musées (next edition end May 2018). Other options are basically for people living in France (i.e. job-seekers in France).
Address: 3 Avenue du Général Eisenhower, Paris 8
Metro: Champs Elysées-Clemenceau, L1 and 13 ; Velib Station #8.029
Website: grandpalais.fr ; tickets available online
Best time to visit Grand Palais
This is the most difficult museum to predict because in Grand Palais there are always 2-3 different exhibitions at the same time but in different spaces. If you want to visit Grand Palais to see its amazing central nave, be sure that you choose the right exhibition (you can check the exhibitions’ location online). Also, the waiting time will depend on the success of the exhibitions.
Below, we show you the waiting times for one of the current exhibitions (at the time of writing). We have been following these diagrams for the last months and more or less all the exhibitions in Grand Palais show the same pattern. As you can see, Grand Palais does not make the difference between high /low season but between out of school holidays (in France) /on school holidays.
Check the waiting times for your chosen exhibition on Grand Palais website
How to pay less /how to visit Grand Palais for FREE
Admission tickets in Grand Palais cost around 14€. This is one of the most difficult museums to beat and apart from the weekend of Les Journées du Patrimoine (next edition on 16 and 17 September 2017) and La Nuit des Musées (next edition on 20th May 2017) there are few options to visit it for FREE. People visit Grand Palais when they visit one of its exhibitions. Because you want to see La Grande Nef be sure that the exhibition you want to see is located there. It is possible to get a reduced ticket (around 10€) for people under 25 years old.
ARC DE TRIOMPHE
Address: Place Charles de Gaulle, Paris 8
Metro: Charles de Gaulle Etoile (L6, 1, 2, RER A); Vélib station #8.028, 8.056, 8.057
Website: arc-de-triomphe.monuments-nationaux.fr ; tickets available online
Best time to visit Arc de Triomphe
This one is EASY! We always go to the top of Arc de Triomphe when it is free and never found a long line . . .
How to pay less /how to visit Arc de Triomphe for FREE
Admission tickets for Arc de Triomphe cost 12€. A reduced ticket of 9€ is available for tourism professionals, people from non UE countries under 25 years old and foreign teachers.
FREE opportunities to visit Arc de Triomphe include:
* The first Sunday of every month, from October to March for all people.
** During Les Journées du Patrimoine (next edition on 16 and 17 September 2017).
*** Always FREE for people under 25 years from a country within the European Union.
Check for other FREE admission opportunities on Arc de Triomphe website
Address: 1 Av. du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, Paris 14
Metro : Denfert-Rochereau (L4, 6, RER B); Velib Station #14.005
Website: www.catacombes.paris.fr; tickets available online
Best time to visit Paris Catacombs
How to pay less /how to visit Paris Catacombs for FREE
Admission tickets to visit the Catacombs of Paris cost 12€. There is a reduced ticket of 10€ for young people (from 18 years to 26 years) and for residents in Rome (Paris – Rome are twinned). A proof of residence (ie. invoice with your name and address in Rome) will be requested. Maybe the Catacombs of Paris will be for free to visit during Les Journées du Patrimoine (next edition on 16 and 17 September 2017) but you don’t want to do that queue . . .
The Paris Catacombs propose online tickets (skip the line tickets) for 27€ (!!), entrance + audio guide.
HOW TO AVOID THE LINES IN PARIS: OUR TIPS
Try to avoid high season, when waiting lines are longer. January, February, November and December (except during Christmas) are the months with less waiting lines.
Avoid bank holidays and French school holidays, when parents need to do anything to keep their bored kids busy. You can find the school holidays dates in France here.
Make a list with your must-see sights and with the help of our graphics choose the best day and the best time slot for each of them.
Purchase your tickets online whenever possible.
If you are in Paris only for the weekend, choose Saturday to visit the main sights. On Saturdays Parisians do the groceries or other household tasks, go shopping or other personal things.
Be an early bird. Arriving there before the opening means shorter waiting line and less crowds once you are inside.
If you are interested in a temporary exhibition, especially if it is a successful one, avoid the two first weeks and the two last weeks.
Bring lots of water, some snacks and something to protect you against the sun, rain or cold weather. A book or your kindle (lighter) or your ipod to keep your entertained is not a bad idea either. We give you some ideas at the end of the post.
Take it easy. You can start a conversation with your neighbors, maybe you can share useful tips or good eating addresses in Paris while waiting.
And if in the end you decide that queuing is not for you, have a look at our list of FREE Museums of Paris. They are very cute and most of them, despite being totally for free, don’t see many visitors!
Tour Eiffel picture via flikr CC @Mohamed Yahya
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