15 Tips To Get More Out Of Your Paris Museum Visits
Do you know this feeling too? You start your research for your weekend trip, open up your internet browser and as soon as you start searching, there are so much fun and interesting events popping up, so much practical information, that you feel kind of overwhelmed and just don’t know where to start anymore. This is kind of what happened to us while doing our research for our upcoming visit to Paris recently. The French capital has so much on offer from a cultural and many other points of views, that making a choice what to do and which museum to pick is tricky, especially when you’d like to avoid missing out on something special.
There’s a huge number of museums and galleries with high quality art exhibitions, permanent and temporary ones, some for free, some at a cost, some in the open air, others only inside, plus, the city is huge, so it is impossible to see everything you’d like to see in only a couple of days and thus choices have to be made, somehow… Determined to make the best out of our Paris art weekend, we did further research into Paris’ museums and art scene, which resulted in this post with tips to get the most out of your Paris museum visits. Some of these tips are very Paris specific, others would just as much apply to visiting any other city.
With entrance fees up to fourteen Euros per museum costs for visiting museums in Paris can add up quickly. To save on these costs, there are a number of things you can do:1Visit Paris the first weekend of the month and plan your museum visits for Sunday. Many of Paris’ main museums – like the Centre Pompidou, the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée National Picasso – are free every first Sunday of the month. Even the Louvre, albeit only in low season from October to March. Check here for the list of the museums participating. 2There are a number of museums free of charge every single day of the year. Think of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Maison Balzac and many more. Paris’ tourism board has a handy overview of the city’s free museums here. 3Paris is not for nothing called one of the best art cities in the world (the best for sure?). Apart from a large number of museums, you’ll find an abundance of art galleries, which are generally of good quality – of course taste dependant – and free to visit. 4It’s not only inside where you’ll find the art. There are many open air places throughout Paris where you’ll find sculpture parks, art in public spaces and stunning architecture. Think only of the La Défense area, where modern architecture is combined with a sculpture route through the area, the Stravinsky fountain – by Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely – and the Jardins de Tuileries, but there are many others. 5When you’re mainly aiming for visiting the well-known museums like the Louvre and the Centre Pompidou and you can’t make use of the above free options, a good value deal is the Paris Museum Pass, at least when you visit more than four museums and/or monuments (based upon a 2-day card). Apart from being valid in a large number of museums, it’s also valid for some of the main tourist attractions, like the Arc de Triomph and the Notre Dame Cathedral. In our post Is The Paris Museum Pass Worth Your Money we evaluate when the pass is actually most valuable. For more details about the Paris Museum Pass click here.
Having saved some money, the next question is how to enjoy your Paris museum visits best:6If you really want to make the most out of your museum visit and don’t like to waste time queuing at the museum entrance (who does really?), book your entrance ticket online (as far as you don’t use the Paris Museum Pass, which apart from money, also saves you time queuing). More and more museums offer this possibility these days. Just check out the official museum website of a specific museum to find out. In many cases, the ticket purchase part of the websites are unfortunately still only available in French. 7When we’re visiting a city – and even in our home town of Amsterdam – we’re always surprised to learn that most museums are closed at night, even in the weekends. Paris wouldn’t be the world’s culture capital without quite some museums with late night openings, especially during high season. Apart from having a fun night out, you’ll often experience it’s much more quite at night as well. So, why not enjoy Paris in the fresh air and sun daytime and go for a pre-dinner exhibition later? An added bonus we would say! 8In many countries museums are generally closed on Monday. Whether it is all the tourists flocking to Paris for their long weekend getaway or another reason, Paris’ museums decided not to close all at the same day and you’ll find plenty of museums open on Monday. Here you’ll find a handy overview of when which museum is closed. 9With some art we personally feel that it’s best enjoyed with as few people around you as possible. Think of Mark Rothko’s paintings, or – since we’re talking about Paris – Monet’s water lilies. Although Parisians are generally not that loud, this peace and quiet is hard to find in Paris’ museums, unless you make sure you’re there as early as possible. Do make sure to check out what time a museum opens, some open very early, others only towards lunch time (depending on the day of the week). 10Where some museums might provide both French and English information (and occasionally another language) about the exhibitions and such, other museums may only provide all information in French. If you don’t understand French, make sure to pick up an audio guide in your language to learn more about the museum’s collection, or go for the modern way and download the museum smartphone app where available. 11Your feet will probably be very grateful for the next tip. No, we’re not going into the bars and restaurants scene here. Instead we’re talking about locating and mapping the museums you’d like to visit in advance, so you can combine the visits to those museums that are close to each other all in one day. For example L’Orangerie, the Grand Palais and the Musee d’Orsay are all within short walking distance from each and could easily be visited at the same day. 12In other cities we’ve joined tour guides to walk us around a city or through an art venue, sometimes for free, sometimes against a fee. We often experience this as a great way to learn more about a city in a very short span of time and we feel that hearing stories from a local can be so much better than just reading them in a guide. So far we haven’t joined any tours in Paris, but we can see us doing so next time. 13For the adventurous ones reading this, why not use a bike to go from one location to the other? You’ll find rental bikes of Velib all around the city and the first 30 minutes are free. When you plan on using these bikes, do take into account that they are popular with Parisians as well and that after parking your bike in one of the official parking spots, it could be gone when you come out of the place you visited. Thus, always have a plan B when there are no bikes left. 14If you’re younger than 18 or 26, a student, a teacher, unemployed or have a handicap, you can get free access to some museums upon prove of your ‘status’, a big money saver for some and especially for those visiting with families with young children! 15Last but not least, for more inspiration and tips what museums to visit or when to go, make sure to check out our other article about Paris:
We would love to hear if you have any other tips for visiting Paris’ art-scene and museums. Feel free to share your Paris Museum tips with us and other readers in the comments.