Anyone who has visited Paris can tell you: it’s not necessarily cheap. Many of the big attractions have an entry fee, with the option to spend plenty more on special exhibits, onsite restaurants and all the souvenirs your little heart can handle. Sightseeing in Paris can add up, and when you factor in the cost of transportation, lodging, shopping and food, a short trip to the city has the potential to get a little spendy.
But I’m here to tell you that visiting the city of lights doesn’t have to be expensive. Taking the time to research your options and plan ahead can save you a lot in the long run. When it comes to sightseeing, I recommend looking into the Paris Museum Pass. The pass grants access to over 60 monuments and museums in or close to the city, including Versailles, the Louvre, and the Arc de Triomphe, and can be used as much or as little as you like. Fancy climbing the towers of Notre Dame every morning of your trip? With the Paris Museum Pass, you can!
But the important question to ask before buying the Paris Museum Pass is, is it worth it? Sure, the pass may grant access to dozens of attractions, but how many will you actually visit? Not all major attractions are included, and I’m sure there are a few spots on your wishlist, like the beautiful Tuileries gardens or the banks of the Seine River, that are absolutely free to visit. So before you go running off to buy the Museum Pass, let’s talk about the different options available, and what’s included.
Paris Museum Pass
The Paris Museum Pass, as mentioned above, gives the user access to over 60 monuments and museums in or close to the city. Popular attractions include the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the chateau and grounds of Versailles and Fontainebleau, the Conciergerie and the Arc de Triomphe, as well as a slew of lesser-known places like the Museum of Decorative Arts or the former home of Auguste Rodin. Click here to see the full list of included attractions.
In addition to unlimited entry to those sites, the pass includes a special “fast track” entry at some attractions, most notably the Louvre. That means less time spent in line and more time to get to know the city.
Adult Pricing: 2 Days / 48 € ◊ 4 Days / 62 € ◊ 6 Days / 74 €
The Paris Pass includes everything in the Paris Museum Pass and then some. Additional monuments include the stunning Paris Opera House and panoramic views at the Montparnasse Tower, as well as the opportunity to take a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, a sightseeing river cruise, and even a wine tasting experience! In addition to the listed monuments, the pass includes an unlimited transportation card for use on the Metro, RER, Buses, Trams and SNCF for Paris travel zones 1-3, and a detailed guidebook with attraction opening times, directions and a map of the city. Please note that while admission to Versailles is included in the Paris Pass, transportation is not, since it is in Zone 4.
Adult Pricing: 2 Days / 129€ ◊ 3 Days / 159€ ◊ 4 Days / 189€ ◊ 6 Days: 229€
Pricing as of November 28, 2016.
The passes offer an excellent value, assuming that you use them frequently enough. The best way to decide if one of these passes is right for you is simply to list out all the places you are interested in seeing, including the ones not included in the pass. Include things like the Eiffel Tower, which has a separate admission fee, as well as places that are free to visit. They will take time away from your Paris Pass sightseeing, after all! Be realistic about the number of places you will visit in a day. One to three attractions is my recommendation, though you could squeeze in more if you are really ambitious (or have feet of steel). The Paris Pass website lists current pricing for the included attractions, making it easy to figure out what you would spend by buying everything separately.
Taking the time to map your trip out, however loosely, will give you a better idea of how much you could potentially save. If it saves you money, go ahead and book your pass! You can choose to buy online and have the pass mailed to you, or buy it in person at any one of the included attractions. Just remember that the pass is only good for a certain number of calendar days, beginning the moment you first use it. If you arrive at 5 PM, don’t waste your 4-day pass on the first evening or it will take one full day off of your card. Find something to do that does not require the pass, like a climb up the Eiffel Tower or a picnic in one of Paris’s many free gardens.
Of course, there are many benefits to the pass aside from saving a little cash. Remember that you will have access to shorter lines at many attractions and you won’t have to queue to buy individual tickets at every single place you visit. Just show your card and breeze on in. It’s easy to be spontaneous when your pass gets you in anytime during operating hours, for as long or as short a visit as you like. Another cool bonus is that you may be able to see lesser-known attractions that were not on the wishlist to begin with!
A couple of months before we arrived in Paris, Dan and I made a list of all the places we were interested in seeing and made a loose timeline for our visit to see how realistic our wishlist was. We priced out the ones we expected to have time for, remembering to factor in spots like the Eiffel Tower that were not already included in the Museum Pass or the Paris Pass. Then it was as simple as comparing our estimated sightseeing cost and number of days against the various pass options. We planned on walking a lot and would not have time for the extra options like the hop-on-hop-off tour, so the Paris Pass was not a good value for us. In the end, it made the most financial sense for us to buy the 4 day Museum Pass and pay for transportation as needed once we arrived.
So what did we see? Here is a quick rundown of the places we saw.
- INCLUDED IN THE PARIS MUSEUM PASS: the Louvre (12€), the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral (10€), the Musée d’Orsay (12€), Sainte-Chapelle(10€), and Versailles (18€).
- NOT INCLUDED/SEPARATE COST: the Palais Garnier (included in the Paris Pass but not in the Museum Pass) and taking an elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower
- FREE: the interior of Notre Dame, the Tuileries.
Initially, we wanted to use the Museum Pass to visit the top of the Arc de Triomphe and make quick stops at the Musée Rodin and the Musée de l’Orangerie. We wanted to make the most of a prepaid pass, in other words, but wound up dedicating a lot more of our time to lingering in restaurants, wandering the beautiful city streets, and revisiting favorite spots like Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower.
Even though we missed out on three attractions originally on our wish list, the pass was an excellent value for us. We paid 62€ apiece for our passes, and the total price we would have spent had we paid for the included attractions separately was…62€! We broke even, but considering the ease of visiting each attraction and the fact that we skipped the line and literally walked right into the Louvre with no wait, I feel like the time saved was more valuable than anything we could have paid for.
The only negative we found in the pass was that there was no fast track entry at Versailles when we visited. We wasted some time trying to find a special access line, and upon further inspection of our pass, we discovered that the fast track entry may not apply during peak periods. We visited in May. What is the point of a faster line if you can’t use it when it’s busy? Mind-boggling. Aside from that, we were pleased by the convenience and value the pass offered.
Now for the most important question of all. Having used the Paris Museum Pass, would I buy it again? The answer is that I’m not sure. Is it an incredible value? Yes, absolutely. If my next trip includes a lot of sightseeing to places included, like the Congiergerie or the Panthéon, I would be thrilled to buy the Paris Museum Pass again.
If, however, I’m visiting Paris to eat, drink, and soak up the city, without doing a lot of sightseeing, then the pass wouldn’t be a great value for me, would it? In the end, the pass is only valuable if it suits your sightseeing itinerary and style. I 100% recommend at least checking the pass out before a big trip to Paris, and if there are a few attractions included that you were going to visit anyway, then go for it! We loved using it, and for anyone looking to see all the big-name spots (and dozens of smaller ones, too), I consider it a must-have.