, , , , , , ,


After a night in a non-descript hotel in Biarritz (French coast), we hit the road again yesterday and drove about 8 hours – clear across Spain to the small village of Sancti Spiritus.  That was the longest drive we have ever done in one day!  We arrived at the “casa rural” around 8 pm to find the door locked and the windows shuttered.  Hmm.  We had a reservation…  We asked a group of passersby and they were so kind and called the manager.  She promptly showed up all flustered, with a plate of cured meat, a whole Spanish tortilla (potato omelet) and lots of rolls of toilet paper.  She was so nice and set us up wonderfully.  We even have a set of mountain bikes to use.  We had planned to drive into Portugal today but the warm welcome and the shepherd walking his flock of sheep home right past our window have made us decide to stay another night.  Now onto the real topic for today’s post.

Inside Orsay Museum - beautiful former train station

Inside Orsay Museum – beautiful former train station

Most museums in Paris (and elsewhere) offer free entry days.  These are often on the first Sunday of the month.  In my humble opinion, these are yet another false economy.  Who wants to see art while packed like commuters on a rush hour bus?  Not me.  Sure, it’s free but at what cost?

Most museums in Paris don’t charge for children under 18.  They also don’t charge for under 26 year olds from EU countries.  Paying 11 euros for an adult ticket allows me to see some wonderful art with my kids while Fahbio takes a break by himself. Or for 22 euros ($30), we can make a family outing of it.  Any day, not just on the first Sunday of the month.  (By the way, the free entry Sundays in Paris are generally only from October to March so not that convenient for most tourists.)

Museum ticket

Museum ticket

What about the “Paris Museum Pass” everyone is always talking about?  Don’t even go there!  You would have to be an incurable museum junkie with no other interests to get your money’s worth:

42 euros for 2 days – have to visit more than 4 museums in 2 days to benefit

56 euros for 4 days – have to visit more than 6 museums in 4 days to benefit

69 euros for 6 days – have to visit more than 7 museums in 6 days to benefit

The unfortunate thing about the museum pass is that the days have to be consecutive.  The museums in Paris are big and full of things to see.  One museum a day is plenty if you want to do it properly.  And I recommend a museum free day (not a free museum day, ha ha) after every day you spend in a museum.

Jardin du Luxembourg (French Senate)

Jardin du Luxembourg (French Senate)

So why does everyone get a museum pass?  So they don’t have to stand in line.  That is the big advantage of having the pass.   Particularly for those with a limited time in Paris.  If that is your reason for purchasing the pass, you have my blessing.  But it seems kind of pricey.  Can’t you avoid the lines some other way?

Why, yes.  Yes you can.

Get out of the museums and enjoy the sun! (Park behind Notre Dame de Paris)

Get out of the museums and enjoy the sun! (Park behind Notre Dame de Paris)

If you have a stroller or young children, you don’t have to stand in line.  Simply go to the door reserved for people with passes and they will let you right in.  I imagine that if you are with an elderly person or someone who can’t stand for long periods, it would be the same thing.

If you go when it is a beautiful sunny day or in the evening, you also won’t have to wait too long.  Never go to an art gallery on a miserable, rainy day!  You will be jammed in with all the other soggy people.

View of Paris from roof of Orsay Museum

View of Paris from roof of Orsay Museum

If you go to one of the worthwhile but less famous museums you won’t have to fight your way in and you might even find that there is no entry fee.  Museums like Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Musée du Quai Branly; and Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle.  Among many others.

If you go to L’Orangerie, you can buy a pass that will allow you to visit the Musée d’Orsay as well.  The pass allows you up to four days to get to the second museum and costs 16 euros.  This pass represents a saving of 7 euros, means that you don’t have to wait in line at the second museum and you can decide when you want to use it.  It covers two of the best museums in Paris.  You can buy it at either museum but it makes sense to get it at L’Orangerie which is the quieter of the two.

Take the stairs

Take the stairs

If you decide to go up the Eiffel tower, you can avoid the horrendous lines by walking up to the second level.   Lots of stairs.  But great views as you go up and you get an intimate experience of the structure.  There is a viewing platform and place to rest on the first level.  You never have to wait in line long if you take the stairs.  The queue for the lift is usually about 2 hours long.  If you need the lift, you can pay a premium and reserve and print your ticket online to save waiting.

So there you have my cost/benefit analysis of museum visits.  Je vous en prie.