The Paris Museum Pass provides unlimited admission to over 50 museums and monuments in and around Paris, France for “free” without waiting in line. In this review, we’ll take a look at whether the Paris Museum Pass is worth purchasing (in other words, it’s not actually free admission to those museums–it’s an all-inclusive paid pass) and offer some tips about getting the most bang for your buck out of the Paris Museum Pass.
Like pretty much every city pass of this nature, the Paris Museum Pass may not be a good deal for you. It really depends upon your circumstances, how many days you have in the city, and what you want to see. With that in mind, we’ll break down the pros and cons of the Paris Museum Pass. In so doing, we’ll help you decide whether the Paris Museum Pass is right for you, and if so, how to get the most value out of your pass. We’ll start by sharing our own experience using the Paris Museum Pass along with an honest assessment of whether the pass is “worth it.”
After four other trips to Paris, we finally bought the Paris Museum Pass on our most recent trip. Before this, we had never used it. We had long wanted to visit Musée du Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and other famous museums in France, but we invariably find ourselves meandering the city, enamored with its beauty. We did less of that on our fifth trip to Paris, and honestly, that’s probably the biggest downside of the Paris Museum Pass…
What I mean by that is with the Paris Museum Pass, you’re to some degree committing to spending large chunks of your day inside museums. These are absolutely stunning museums, and by this point, for us it was actually a bit awkward that we’d never visited the Louvre after several trips to Paris. I certainly don’t regret spending hours touring these breath-taking galleries.
On the other hand, if it’s your first trip to Paris, arguably a more quintessential Parisian experience is simply wandering the streets, stopping in cafes, and drinking up the intoxicating atmosphere that makes Paris Paris. Seeing points of interest is great, and Paris has a surplus of beautiful ones, but the heart of the experience is what a commando tourist might view as the mundane aspects of day-to-day life.
This is all a roundabout way of saying that if you only have a couple of days in Paris, I’d recommend not getting the Paris Museum Pass. Instead, spend your time exploring and doing a few points of interest. Pay as you go at those so you don’t feel beholden to the “GO GO GO!” mentality that an all-inclusive option like the Paris Museum Pass imbues.
That is, unless you have restraint and are fine losing money with the Paris Museum Pass. As we’ll discuss below, it does offer value beyond the cost of admission at many museums and other points of interest…
With inclusive passes like the Paris Museum Pass, the top consideration is normally whether it will actually save you money. In order to answer that, the first question to ask is whether the pass in question includes places you want to visit. Without a doubt, the Paris Museum Pass does. This includes virtually all of the top points of interest in Paris, with the notable exception being the Eiffel Tower.
The second question is whether the individual ticket costs versus the inclusive pass offer a monetary savings. Depending upon your preferences, there’s actually a reasonable chance the Paris Museum Pass will not save you money. Many museums included in the pass are relatively low-cost and are time-intensive, meaning you might only hit 2 stops per day depending upon how exhaustive your visit is.
This is especially true of places like the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay. If you’re really into art, you could spend a full day (or more) at each of these, and the same could probably be said for other museums in Paris, as well. Now, the average tourist is probably not going to make an exhaustive visit, instead seeking a taste of what several museums have to offer, but the point stands.
Or does it? The Paris Museum Pass offers something fairly unique to passes like this, at least in my experience: the ability to skip the ticket line. Over the course of our 2-day Paris Museum Pass, this saved us a total of at least 2 hours.
Even if you only visit Musée du Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and Arc de Triomphe over the course of a 2-day pass (highly unlikely), I’d still recommend the Paris Museum Pass for the convenience-factor, even though it’d be a money-loser.
In our case, we managed to visit Musée du Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Guimet Museum of Asian Art, Musée de l’Orangerie, Sainte-Chapelle, and Conciergerie over the course of a 2-day pass. We would’ve also visited Arc de Triomphe, but when we arrived, it was closed due to technical difficulties. With this itinerary, we came out ahead, but not by a significant margin.
In terms of tips, the biggest first: buy the Paris Museum Pass at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport when you arrive in France. There are kiosks throughout the airport, and directions are unnecessary here because you’ll certainly stumble upon one or a few. They are clearly-marked, and usually sell other tickets (such as for transportation) in addition to the Paris Museum Pass.
The reason for buying your Paris Museum Pass at the airport is because there will be little to no line for it there. Since you the Paris Museum Pass is not activated until you write the start date on the back in pen, it doesn’t matter if you plan on using it later in your trip (we visited Disneyland Paris before the city), just buy it at the airport.
Since one of the big advantages we’re touting about this pass is its line-skipping ability, you absolutely do not want to buy it at Musée du Louvre. If you buy it there, you’re suddenly standing in a long line, defeating one of the pass’ main benefits.
If you do forget to buy the Paris Museum Pass at the airport, there are a number of other visitor centers that sell the Paris Museum Pass. Failing that, start your itinerary with the least popular place, and buy it at their ticket window. There is no need to buy it online in advance of your trip; you’re just wasting money on shipping if you do.
My second significant tip is to not be over-zealous with your itinerary. There are around a dozen or more places included in the Paris Museum Pass that would be the #1 point of interest were they located in other cities. Due to this, there’s a tendency to build an itinerary that includes more attractions than you can (or should) realistically visit per day.
Having a full schedule is nice, but having an inflexible itinerary is not a good idea. You don’t want a cursory experience in the sake of “seeing it all,” as that really amounts to seeing nothing, and being exhausted in the process.
The necessity of having a flexible, more relaxed schedule also means it’s not entirely possible to calculate the value of your potential savings before purchasing the Paris Museum Pass. This is another reason we recommend buying it without much regard for savings.
The next important tip is to be mindful of where the entry line is located for Paris Museum Passholders. While the pass enables you to bypass the ticket window line, you still have to wait in security lines at pretty much every place you visit. However, these security lines are (usually) significantly shorter for passholders.
At some places we visited, it was not readily-apparent where the line was located for Paris Museum Passholders. For example, at Sainte-Chapelle, there was just one mass of people that stretched around a corner. However, one of us walked forward around that corner to scout out the actual entrance, and there was a separate line (with no one in it) for the Paris Museum Pass. (Once we got out of the main line, several others followed, so clearly we were not the only ones confused.)
Even at the Louvre, there was a bit of confusion (entry there is basically organized chaos), as there was a clearly-marked line for the Paris Museum Pass, but it was closed off. After a couple of minutes, we noticed a staff person at a different location waving those with the pass into a separate line.
At most other places, the entry process was completely painless. Almost everywhere, there’s a picture of the pass on signage, or at least the words “Paris Museum Pass” in English.
Speaking of security, be mindful of bag policies. In the last couple of years, security throughout Paris has become more strict, and many of the museums and attractions included in the pass are fairly restrictive on what you can bring inside. Bags are typically still allowed, albeit with size limitations. My camera bag was too large for Musée d’Orsay, so I left it in our hotel.
Research policies of every place you intend upon visiting, and plan around the most restrictive location each day. Several museums do offer bag/coat check or have lockers, so this is not usually a huge issue…except probably for photographers and others who travel like sherpas.
Now, some value maximization of the Paris Museum Pass. I know this will be important to a lot of people despite my flippant “who cares, get it anyway” attitude, so I’ll indulge you…
The easiest way to get your money’s worth out of the Paris Museum Pass is to visit the places it includes that are not museums. The reason for this is simple: they take far less time to experience. For example, you can complete a thorough visit of both Sainte-Chapelle and Conciergerie (which are steps from one another) in under 2 hours. By contrast, you might only hit one gallery of the Louvre in that time.
By sprinkling in a mix of monuments and other non-museum points of interest into your itinerary, you’re pretty much guaranteeing that you’ll come out ahead.
Another way to ensure you get your value out of the Paris Museum Pass is by consulting their “Evening Events” page. This will give you an idea of what is open late during your visit, so you can get a truly full day out of the pass. Arc de Triomphe is almost always the latest thing open, and an evening stroll along the Champs-Élysées followed by views from the top is a great cap to any day in Paris.
We also visited the Louvre on one of its late-night evenings, and this was a fantastic experience. While the museum was crowded when we arrived, by sunset the galleries were far less busy. (Of course, there was still a horde of people around the Mona Lisa!)
One thing I’d caution against is using the Paris Museum Pass to visit points of interest outside of the city. For example, Versailles is included in the Paris Museum Pass. Versailles is absolutely breathtaking, and a must-do for a lot of visitors to France. However, getting there, touring the palace and its gardens, and getting back is an all-day affair.
If you only have the 2-day pass, using one of those days to visit a spot outside the city almost guarantees you aren’t getting your money’s worth. Instead, either visit Versailles on a day you don’t use the Paris Museum Pass, or upgrade to the 4-day pass. The incremental price increase of the 4-day or 6-day passes makes the math on places outside the city work out.
In the end, this post is a pretty long-winded endorsement for the Paris Museum Pass. For most visitors to Paris, it’s an excellent buy. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or have been to France numerous times, I’d recommend it even if you only plan on visiting a few places it includes. The value in saved time is arguably more significant than the money you’ll save, making the Paris Museum Pass a great option.
Planning your own trip to Paris, France? Check out our posts about Paris for more ideas of what to do in the City of Lights. If you’re venturing beyond Paris, you’ll also want to consult our France posts, which cover a variety of places, from Normandy to the Loire Valley. In addition to these posts, I recommend planning with Rick Steves Paris and Rick Steves France guidebooks.
Have you used the Paris Museum Pass? Which museums, monuments, and other attractions did you visit with the pass? Did you get value out of the pass from a strictly monetary perspective? Would you recommend it even without that value for the sake of being able to skip ticket lines? Any other tips or recommendations you have regarding the Paris Museum Pass? Any questions? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your thoughts in the comments below!