If you had free access to essentially all the museums in Paris, and were given four days to visit as many as you wanted, where would you go?
Would you stick with the famed ones, the main ones, the classics? A full day in the Louvre? In the Musée d’Orsay? The Rodin Museum?
Or would you visit all the smaller ones and see more while escaping the crowds?
It’s certainly a tricky one, and it’s the exact task I was faced with last week after a “Paris Museum Pass” landed in my letterbox.
Full disclosure: The 4-day passes cost 66 euros per person, but I got mine for free because I run The Earful Tower podcast.
Anyway, like many tourists before me and like many who’ll follow after, I was faced with this daunting challenge of deciding how to spend my four days. I studied the map of the 55 museums on the pass and decided a few things:
- I wouldn’t visit any that were outside the city. That meant I was left with 34 museums.
- I would do a mix of the big ones and the small ones.
- I’d never spend too long in any museum, focusing on quantity of museums over length of visit.
- I’d spend each day in one area of Paris to avoid wasting time trekking between arrondissements.
- I’d do a lot of mad running about to make it more fun and to make my wife laugh
Now my wife, known in some circles as Lovely Lina, joined me for the whole adventure, which I thoroughly documented in my Instagram stories in a series of videos and photos. I’ve since archived these, meaning they’ll be available at the top of my profile page for you to view forevermore.
Anyway, I’m going to list out the practical information and more below, but if you would like to listen to the audio tale of this four-day adventure, I’d encourage you to check out the podcast version of it below. Hit play or find it wherever you find podcasts. Subscribe for bonus points.
OK, so before we get any further I suppose I’ll show you what our four days looked like, with a brief description of the museum in case you don’t recognise the name. I’ve also added little tips and reviews.
La Conciergerie – where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned before she was killed. The hallway is visually exceptional, much more so than the rest of the museum. You could go for that alone.
Sainte Chapelle – a stunning church with glorious stained-glass windows. There’s often a massive queue here so you’ve been warned. Tip: You can also go to the Palace of Justice next door. We just walked in and it was empty – what a building!
The Crypte Archéologique – the 3rd century city ramparts below the Notre Dame cathedral. Pretty impressive, but it won’t knock your socks off if you’re not into ancient ruins. I am, so it was fine 🙂
Note: We skipped the Notre Dame cathedral, because, even though it was right above, it seemed unlikely that we could top our recent after-hours visit here.
Nissim de Camondo – a private art collection in a fantastic town house. The staggering wealth was almost sickening, but the collection was so impressive and so was the house. Don’t leave Paris without seeing it.
The Orangerie – where you’ll find massive Monets and big crowds. Unfortunately the masses ruined it a little, Monet said that the paintings were meant to transport you to a place of peace and tranquility and that wasn’t the case… but the museum is certainly worth a look.
The Louvre – Mona Lisa and bigger crowds. But there’s a reason 15,000 people file past the Mona Lisa each day and that’s because the museum itself is gobsmackingly good. Tip: Go downstairs and see the ancient city walls and castle foundations. Philippe Auguste and his walls are a favourite on The Earful Tower.
Musee Gustave Moreau – another townhouse turned art museum. This one was a surprise package, recommended by the followers and for good reason. The central staircase alone is worth the price of admission!
Rodin Museum – super sculptures and an impressive garden. If you can get there on a sunny day you’re going to love it. Sit in the garden and have lunch! But even on a rainy day it’s worth it for the interior alone.
Napoleon’s Tomb – hands down one of the most impressive buildings in Paris. Plus not a queue in sight, at least when we visited. The tomb itself didn’t floor me, but the architecture did.
Musee d’Orsay – another stunner with impressionists and eye-watering views of the city. A lot of people asked me how to get to the clock pictured below, so here goes: Get to the very top floor and head to the north side of the building. Then walk the whole side of the building and you will pass two clocks. This pic was taken from the north western corner of the building, where there’s a restaurant. I stood on the far side of the restaurant and zoomed in across the diners.
Musee de Cluny – medieval museum with ruins and tapestries. Unfortunately parts of the museum are closed at the time of writing, but the plus side is that this means they’re letting everyone in for free. PS: That’s me pictured below, for those of you who are new around here. I host the podcast 🙂
Delacroix Museum – a small studio in a pretty setting. Are you a fan of Delacroix? Then this is a museum for you, with lots of his sketches and a few of his paintings. If you’re not a fan, then you could easily skip this one for another. No offence, Delacroix, love your work.
The Pantheon – where the greats of France are buried (and another jaw-dropping building). This place has the best museum doors in Paris, maybe in France (see below). The tombs downstairs are cool, but not nearly as impressive as the upstairs architecture.
Now, if you were to pay for all the museums we visited you’d be around 140 euros out of pocket (based on the fact that the museums are typically around 10 euros each).
Is it worth it to get the pass? I’d say yes. In fact, I would highly recommend it for several reasons.
- It’ll help you plan your trip a little better. I’d wager most people have a bucket list of the Louvre and the Orsay and perhaps don’t plan more
- It’ll open your eyes to some new places you’d never considered before. Like the Nissim de Camondo or the Gustave Moreau, which I’d have never seen if it wasn’t for the pass.
- It’ll let you skip a lot of queues. In the 14 places we visited, we managed to skip almost every queue we saw, which was fantastic – especially when you’re already doing so much walking.
Anyway, here’s the podcast episode again in case you didn’t click it before.
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That’s it! If you like these tips, be sure to check out The Earful Tower’s Guide to Paris.
Thanks for reading and happy museum hunting 🙂