[LAST UPDATED: 19 Jan 2017] It is well knows fact that Paris sightseeing have terrifying long queues. It is sad that tourists don’t know about some simple tricks and spend hours of their precious vacation time waiting in the lines in Paris.
I have been to all the main tourist spots, stayed in all the queues, made some mistake, and have decided to write this post so that people learn from my experience.
People who know me well, know – I HATE waiting, I hate all kinds of queues. If I have the possibility to avoid it, I will find it and use it.
Here is how to not waste your vacation queuing in Paris, enjoy!
6 places in Paris with the longest queues, and how to skip the line by simply avoiding it:
1. The Eiffel tower
There’s no secret that the Eiffel Tower is probably one of the most busy tourist destination in Paris, and maybe the world! Lines are getting bigger each year and you probably would spend a few more hours visiting the beautiful city instead of waiting in the queue. Fortunately, you have a couple of options:
If you want priority access to skip the huge lines and a guided tour, you should take this Skip the line Eiffel Tower Tour.
You can buy your ticket to the Eiffel Tower here for a normal visit with no guide. It is easy, you don’t even have to print it, just show it from your phone. Just make sure to buy your ticket at least a couple of days in advance (better 4-5 days in advance), because the online spots are fast to sold out. If this fails, you still have option 1.
If you are looking for an exclusive visit, this friendly private tour provides priority access along with an entertaining guide. It’s great for families with children as well!
If it happened and it is sold out online and you really have to see the tower tomorrow, no worries, you can just come there regularly and wait in the line with everybody.
2. Notre Dame de Paris
The entrance to the cathedral is free. Even though the queue there is moving quite fast I never understood its purpose to be honest. The capacity of the cathedral is biiig, you will see it when you get inside. The queue is long only because there are many tourists crowding inside right near the entrance to take a picture. It is so spacious inside, it can fit an army, but for some reason people prefer to crowd inside the cathedral right in front of the entrance making others wait for hours outside.
Nobody manages the queue, it is self organized, so what I usually do is – I sneak in right near the entrance (shht..). If somebody of the visitors once decided there needs to be a queue, I do not see a point of following him. Why would I?
Of course this advice works only if you are traveling alone or with 1 more person. You cannot really cut the line if you are traveling as a big family.
Talking about Notre Dame, did you know that there are free tours inside the cathedral in many languages? Click here to find yours.
3. The Towers of Notre Dame
For a couple of months I was passing by this place, saw a terrifying queue and I didn’t go there.
Unfortunately, unless you are going with an organized tour, there is no way to avoid it, even if you have Paris Museum Pass. The entrance in this case will be free for you, but it won’t give you any priority, you will have to wait with everybody in a loooong line. What you can do is to come 40 minutes before the opening (it opens at 10 a.m.). Yes, either way you will have to wait at least 40 minutes. But otherwise, if you come later, you will stay in the queue for at least 1 h 30 min. Do you really want that?
If you are traveling with a family or a big group of people, you can divide, one part stays in the queue, the other one goes see the cathedral/drink coffee/play in the park and then you change. That is the only solution I see, sorry. The other solution can be skipping this attraction. If you have less than 3 days in Paris, I would suggest not to waste time on that.
If you don’t want to wake up early and wait in the queue forever, I have some good news for you! Getting this “Skip the line” tour will give you a permission to both attractions – Notre Dame towers AND the Sainte-Chapelle cathedral (also incredible queues!). You will discover all the mysteries of the dark ages with an English speaking guide in a small tour without staying in ANY lines.
If you wish to visit JUST the Notre Dame without Sainte-Chapelle, this tour will give you a Skip the Line access without any hustle!
The info about the open hours and the price of Notre Dame Towers is here.
4. Louvre museum
Considering the fact that Musee de Louvre is the most visited museum in the world, the staff is doing their work great!
It really depends on the day, sometimes you can be lucky and go through the main gate almost without waiting, but usually it is extremely crowded and the waiting time is loooong. Here is my advice how to skip the lines in Louvre museum:
Solution 1: Use the Porte des Lions entrance.
As you can see on this map (better quality downloadable here), there are 3 entrances to the museum. Do not choose the most obvious one, that is where you will wait the most.
There is this Porte des Lions secret entrance, that not many people know about! Try that one first, it is the best and almost NOONE knows about it! If it is closed for a technical reasons, head to Carrousel de Louvre entrance (underground shopping mall). The main one (Pyramid entrance) is always crowded, avoid it any cost.
More info about entrances and their working hours here.
Solution 2: Take a Louvre Museum prioritized entry or a guided tour
For a bit extra you can skip the line and enjoy the masterpieces of Louvre with a professional tour guide. One cool advantage – by taking this tour you can also see the Mona Lisa without any hassle! For more info please go here.
However, if you want to take a guided group tour of the world famous museum and skip the line, this is a great deal!
Moreover, if you want your own guide, you can get a private tour here.
Visiting with kids? There are special family guided tours that makes it interesting for all ages. You can find the family tour here.
If you want to have an upgrade to a all knowledgeable historian guide, you can take the scholar tour. Please pay attention that you still need to purchase your ticket (or skip the line ticket), because this tour does not include it.
Solution 3: Get Paris Museum Pass.
Paris Museum Pass can also be a solution, it will give you a fast access to the Louvre and 60 more museums in Paris! You can find the complete list of the museums here.
Solution 4: Buy your ticket online.
Even though it is an option, I am not giving it as Number 1, as the procedure is a bit complicated – you will have to pick up your ticket in one of the stores in Paris, or have it posted to you. Not comfortable.
Also, what you can do is to go to FNAC and buy it from there. FNAC is a huge retail store of books, magazines, CDs and so on. Located everywhere in the city center, more info here.
By the way, when you are inside the museum, I highly recommend to take a 3D guide to navigate your visit, it is super cool!
Solution 5: Visit Louvre on Wednesday or Friday evening
REALLY awesome info: Not many tourists don’t know that, but on Wednesdays and Fridays Louvre museum is open to the public until late (until 9:45 p.m. to be exact). On all the other days Louvre is closed at 6 p.m. (on Tuesdays it is closed for the whole day). So, take advantage of that, go after 6 p.m. and you will have Mona Lisa only for yourself!
PRO TIP: Many people know that if you are a European citizen younger than 26, you can get in Louvre for free. But not many know that you can do it free of charge even if you are not from Europe (still, you have to be younger than 26 though). Just come on Friday after 6 p.m. (the museum is closing at 9 45 p.m. that day) and you will get to LOUVRE MUSEUM FOR FREE!
Congratz, you have just saved yourself 9 Euro just by being smart! 😉
5. Musee d’Orsay
Solution 1: Go there on Thursday after 6 p.m.
The majority of people don’t know that the museum is open late (till 9 p.m.) every Thursday. Thus, after 6 p.m. the queue will be short – max. 1o minutes. As a nice bonus the ticket also will cost you less – 8 50€ instead of 11€.
Solution 2: Get a Skip the Line: Musée d’Orsay Tour with a guide
If you would like to know more about the art pieces and you happen not to be an expert, I would say get the small walking group tour with a cool professional guide. It will allow you to SKIP THE WHOLE line, and also learn so much about the largest collection of Impressionist art. Musée d’Orsay is my favourite museum in Paris and I highly recommend taking a tour!
Solution 3: Get Musée d’Orsay – Musée Rodin Passport
Rodin museum is also an interesting museum of sculptures, I do recommend it for a visit!
What you can do is take a combined ticket that will allow you to visit both museums in 1 ticket.
Go to Musee Rodin first, and get your double ticket there. Again, it will be cheaper this way – 15 € for both museums instead of 18€.
And here’s even more! In the Rodin museum there will be a queue as well (shorter), but here is what you do to skip that queue as well:
just go in front where the guard is, and tell him you want to buy the ticket not from the cash register, but from the automatic machine. The machine is inside, but nobody knows it is there obviously. But now you do, tell him you want to buy it from the automatic machine, he will let you pass with no problem! 😉
Note: The ticket is only valid if you use it in the same day.
Solution 4: Get Musée d’Orsay /Musée de l’Orangerie Passport.
Musee de l’Orangerie is a museum with an magnificent collection of impressionist art located in Tuilerie garden.
You can do the same as with Rodin museum – first go to Orangerie and then to Orsay skipping the queue. It will again be cheaper – 16€ instead of 20€.
Note: the ticket is only valid if you use it within 4 days.
6. Catacombs of Paris
The catacombs (described in more details here) of Paris are great, one of the creepiest things I have visited!
It also takes the longest to get in, unfortunately.
For whatever reason, no tickets online are sold (hopefully, they will change it one day!). You can only get your ticket on the cash register. Yes, that means staying in a looong queue not even being sure you will get in today.
Right after you get off Denfert-Rochereau metro station you will see this long line leading to the famous crypt.
My advice – if you arrive to the Catacombs an hour before closing, and see a huge line, don’t even bother to wait. You won’t go inside that day. As the crypt is not that big, the capacity of the place is only 200 people, so they let people in groups of 200 every 45 minutes. Make your calculation if it is worth it for you to wait or it is better come back another day.
Again, arriving to the place 30 minutes before the opening usually helps to save at least an hour waiting in the line. More info about the schedule is here.
Update: GOOD NEWS – 2 alternatives!
Solution 1: There is a way to get through the incredibly long queue – you can take Skip the line Catacombs tour! Sure, it will be more expensive, but this way you won’t have to spend 2 hours (at least) in the line and you will get to discover the extensive underground labyrinth with a great guide in a small group. I would totally go for this option! Get tickets in advance, there are only limited amount of tickets available!
Solution 2: Alternatively, if you are looking to visit with a private group, you can explore the Catacombs with the “Full Access Small Group Guided Tour”, which you can buy here.
A place that has no queue, but is just as awesome:
Montparnasse is Paris’ skyscraper that recently opened a view point. It is cool for the following reasons:
- – the overview is higher than for the Eiffel tower and you can actually see THE Tower from there;
- – as it is new, it was build with all the high-tech standards. Elevators – so, no exhausting climbing. There are touch screens that will tell you what you see in front of you in your language. A great way to get to know the city!
- – and finally, people still don’t know about it, so it is no pushing, no rushing, you can stay as long as you want and NO QUEUE at all!
Where to stay in Paris
In case you are looking for a good accommodation, I have some great options for you depending on your budget:
- Luxury stay – Le Roi de Sicile (located in trendy Marais district and offers stylish apartments), La Cour du 5ème (This hotel right in the heart of Parisfeatures a fireplace, antique furniture and a seating area)
- Great value for money – La Maison de Léa (7-minute walk away from Bastille, La Maison de Léa offers contemporary B&B accommodations with individually decorated rooms), Helussi Hôtel (book this one in advance as it gets sold out quickly! 15 minutes walk from Montmartre, close to the metro, stylish decor and a free sauna for all hotel guests)
- Budget stay – La Maison Rouge (this hotel is a great choice for travelers interested in parks, ambiance and gourmet food), Chambre d’hôte des Artistes (this B&B is located in the 2nd district of Paris, in the center of the capital, this hotel has fabulous reviews, book in advance!).
Don’t be scared by all those queuing pictures – Paris can get that full sometimes, but certainly not all the time. It also makes sense to know your enemy from before and how to fight it. There are ways to go over the system if you are a smart traveler and skip the line by avoiding it!
If you read this article careful enough, it surely can save you hours of your time. The time that you could have used much more useful than just getting bored in the queue, right?
I hope I gave you some valuable advice in this article and you will use them!
And remember – Don’t avoid the place, avoid the queue! 😉
I also travel around France and write about many French cities, might be useful for you!
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Have a great time in the city of lights!