Paris Museums – Passes, Costs, Audioguides, and Scheduling

by Karen

Paris Museum Pass
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Mark & I ended up getting a 6-day Paris Museum pass for 69€. With it, you can go to any one of the 60 museums listed in their pamphlet, and there are a lot of major ones in there. I think the pass is well worth it, if you plan on going to a lot of museums, but you should probably figure out the costs before going. The pass is also sold as a 2-day (29€) pass and a 4-day (49€) pass. Even if you are a few euros shy of making up the cost of the pass, the convenience of skipping ticket lines altogether or going through a “fast lane” will help convince you of its value (you’re only in Paris for a limited amount of time, and your time is very valuable!).

Sometimes, a museum will have a special, temporary exhibition. Your Paris Museum Pass may or may not allow you free access into the exhibition as well, so it doesn’t hurt to stroll up to the exhibition bouncer and flash your pass.

You can buy your pass ahead of time online, but we bought it in Paris a few days before we used it. They are sold at major train stations (like Gare du Nord, look specifically for a tourist info booth), or at the museums themselves (look online for info). We were fortunate that one of our residences was near a museum on the list (Musée de Arts et Métiers), and it’s a small and quiet museum, so there was no fuss to get one. I wouldn’t recommend getting one at the major museums (i.e., Louvre) unless you go super early. There will be long lines for it as well.

When you get the pass (it’s really a thick pamphlet folded up to the size of a business card), you’ll see there’s a place to write your name and the date. DO NOT WRITE IN THE DATE. As soon as you write in the date, the pass is “activated”. Rather, you can just present your pass at the museum and someone will stamp it for you.
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Cost Savings Analysis

Here’s the breakdown of costs for each individual museum we attended whose admission is covered by the pass:
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Thus, if we hadn’t bought a museum pass, we would’ve had to pay a total of 102€ for all our entrance fees (I didn’t include the museums where we got in for free).

We had planned to go to three more museums as well, but we were just too tired so we decided to take an off-day. But even in 5 days, we’ve more than made up the cost of our passes.

(Note: If you are under 26 years old, these prices don’t apply to you, you’ll probably get in for free to all museums in Paris. Double-check to make sure!)

Free Museums / Attractions

Worth having its own section. These are all free to the public, and no pass is required:
– Musée Carnavalet, a museum about the history of Paris
– Notre-Dame Cathedral (not the Tower)
– Sacre-Coeur Basilica
– The Tuileries Gardens
– Walking around (but not going up) the Eiffel Tower
– Musée des Arts et Métiers (free after 6pm on Thursdays only)

Scheduling Our 6 Days

It is worth noting that different museums in Paris close on certain days, particularly Mondays & Tuesdays. You will have to check each museum’s schedule.

In addition, some of the same museums are open late on different days, so you will want to check on that too. Here is an incomplete list:

– Louvre – Open til 9:45p Weds & Fri
– Arc de Triomphe – Open til 10:20p daily
– Musée Rodin – Open til 8:45p Weds
– Musée d’Orsay – Open til 9:45p Thurs
– Musée des Arts et Métiers – Open til 9:45p Thurs

In order to fully take advantage of these hours (the term “min-maxing” comes to mind), we structured our schedule as thus:

Day 1, Sunday – Louvre (full-day), Arc de Triomphe (1hr)
Day 2, Monday – Louvre (full-day), Sacre-Coeur
Day 3, Tuesday – Notre-Dame Tower, Notre-Dame Crypts, Cluny Off-day
Day 4, Wednesday – Musée de l’Armée (5hrs), Musée Rodin (2.5hrs)
Day 5, Thursday – Musée l’Orangerie (4hrs), Musée d’Orsay (5hrs)
Day 6, Friday – Versailles (full-day)
Previous week: Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Musée des Arts et Métiers (free)

On days when museums were open late, we’d schedule half a day for one museum, and go to the other museum at night. It was a system that worked pretty well, since many museums usually close around 5pm.

There were other museums that we found interesting that weren’t covered by the pass; however, we didn’t go to them for lack of time, and will probably try again when we come back:

– Paris Catacombs – 8€
– Museum of Erotica – 8€
– Montparnasse Tower – 12€

Skipping Lines
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One of the main draws of the pass was the ability for us to skip ticket lines. This is true for a majority of museums, but for others we still had to wait. You’re pretty much waiting for the metal detector and bag check more than anything, and in most places you can’t skip this.

In particular:
– Musée l’Orangerie – had to wait in line for an hour, there is a “fast lane” for passholders, but it merges with the regular line. (There was a temp special exhibition going on though, so tons of people around)
– Musée d’Orsay – Separate line in the back, maybe a 15 min wait
– Louvre – passholder entrance is in the underground mall (Carrousel du Louvre), just walk right in.

Audioguides

We used a few audioguides while we were in the museums, including our free Rick Steves guides.

Here’s a review of them:

– Louvre – OH GOD YES, rent the 3DS, best audioguide ever. Lasts 6hrs on one charge. Includes 3 excellent guided tours. It also knows where you are in the museum via magical wifi properties. We had our own. Rick Steves had a good guide for this too, but we loved the 3DS so much more.
– Orangerie – it was ok, the museum is fairly small, so it depends on whether you feel an audioguide is worth it. Uses a standard audioguide handset. We shared one.
– Orsay – an iPod touch, worth it, but battery life sucks, expect to go back to the station and exchange your machine every few hours. The UI could be a bit better. We each had our own. Rick Steves’ podcast is very outdated, as the rooms have changed, but you can still listen to his commentary on the pieces, which are out of order.
– Armée – also an iPod touch, battery life sucked, had to exchange 3x. While it was good for the medieval armor section, it was not very good for the Louis XIV-Napoleon section (it essentially read the information placards throughout the museum, which are all readily available in English). We each had our own.
– Rodin – also a small museum, uses standard handset, but worth it, although we shared one.
– Versailles – it’s free, just get one! We used both Versailles’ official handset and Rick Steves’ guide, and both were pretty good.

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