Nomad by Trade

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Should You Buy A Paris Museum Pass?

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Opinions on the value of city passes vary widely, with some people viewing them as tourist scams and others seeing them as huge savings. When I was planning my visit to Paris, I did a lot of research into the options available and decided against the city passes I saw offered and instead bought just the two-day museum passes. The transportation, cruise, and Eiffel Tower add-ons that come with the city passes didn’t provide nearly the same value as the museum passes alone did based on our travel plans.

Paris, France from the top of Notre Dame

View from the top of Notre Dame

Are they right for you?

 

The potential value of the passes depends a lot on the way you like to travel and how you plan your itinerary. I’m a go-getter who’d be out the door first thing in the morning and going non-stop until everything closes if it were left to me. I’ll happily pack in four or five attractions in a single day. The museum passes are ideally suited to someone with my touring style because I can hit a bunch of locations in the same day for way less money than I would’ve spent otherwise.

The chief argument I see against the museum passes is the fact that no one will ever be able to visit all of the locations in that amount of time. And that’s true, at least if you want to have a meaningful visit. You could probably visit all of the sites for five minutes if you wanted to, but that would be kind of pointless because you’d be running from one to the next, showing your pass, snapping a picture, and then moving on. You can, however, have a good visit by selecting the top places you want to see and visiting a few each day.

The key to determining whether to buy them or not is to pick out the places you want to visit and decide how much time you want to dedicate to them. If you plan on devoting an entire day to the Louvre, the passes probably aren’t a good value for you. If you’re content with seeing the highlights of the Louvre over the course of 2-3 hours and moving on to something else, the pass might work out well for you. If you’re going to be in Paris for a week and want to take your time just soaking up the atmosphere instead of running from attraction to attraction, the pass probably won’t work out in your favor. On the other hand, if you’re like us, and only had about three days in town, the passes are ideal.

Greek statue in the Louvre

You can’t go to Paris without visiting the Louvre.

Doing the Math

 

We paid $48/person for our passes, and I felt that we got a lot of value for our money. You can view the full list of attractions that the museum passes cover here and we used that as a basis for deciding whether or not to buy them. The places we wanted to visit were Versailles, the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay, Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, the Pantheon, and Sainte Chappelle. We paid separately for our tickets to the top of the Eiffel Tower (the city pass includes a Tower visit, but you need to pay extra for the elevator to the top), our river cruise (we paid for a nicer one that included drinks and crepes) and transit passes (we wanted ones that covered different zones because of our itinerary).

 
Attraction
Cost
Versailles
18 euros
Louvre
15 euros
Orsay
12 euros
Notre Dame
10 euros (to climb to the top – visits are free)
Arc de Triomphe
8 euros (to climb to the top)
Pantheon
7 euros
Sainte Chappelle
10 euros

If we had paid for admission to all of these places, we would’ve spent 80 euros per person. We saved 32 euros each, or a 40% savings, by using the museum pass. Granted, we probably wouldn’t have climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe if it hadn’t been included in the passes, but even subtracting those 8 euros, we’d still come out ahead. Having the passes freed us from the “is it really worth 8 euros?” debate and we just went for it with no hesitation, and I’m glad we did.

We managed to fit Versailles, Notre Dame, the Louvre, and the Arc de Triomphe in on day one and then did the Pantheon, Sainte Chappelle, and the Orsay on day two. Both days were very manageable time-wise, although we didn’t spend as much time at Versailles as we would’ve in nicer weather. Notre Dame could easily have been done on day two, as we walked right past it on the way to Sainte Chappelle and had plenty of time for leisurely meals that day.

Upper level of Sainte Chappelle

The upper level of Sainte Chapelle is a must-see.

 

Time Savings

The other great benefit of buying the passes was that we didn’t have to stand in a single ticket line the whole trip. We ordered ours online beforehand and they were mailed to us, so all we had to do was walk right up to the entrance at our first attraction. Visiting in the off-season meant that the lines were shorter, but I’m sure it saved us close to an hour of time over the course of our two days.

When deciding whether or not to purchase these types of passes, it’s best to do your research beforehand and take into account your travel style. They can be a great value if you want to see a lot in a short amount of time, but lose their appeal on a slower paced trip. Even if you do the math and find out that you’d only break even or come out a few euros short, they add the time savings of not having to stand in lines.

Read more about our trip to Paris:

Read about the pros and cons of the Paris Museum Pass

Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

Notre Dame in Paris, France

Paris Museum Pass

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18 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing. Most of the times if you are doing more than two attractions the pass is often the better deal. Next time I am in Paris I will check this pass out.

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  2. This is informative. We also bought a museum pass when we were in Paris, and though the number of museums we were able to go in just breaks even to the cost of the museum pass – we were able to save a lot of time by not having to queue. So for us, it still worked and I recommend it. Just have to plan wisely. 🙂

    • Absolutely! The time savings themselves were worth buying the pass. We were there during a relatively slow time, but I still wouldn’t have wanted to wait in some of those lines.

  3. So helpful having someone actually break down the math! I only visited the Louvre during my stay but it sounds great for museum-lovers!

  4. This is a great breakdown! I so often come across sites that say “You MUST buy this pass” for different cities but since we are traveling with our son, the fast pace to make it economical just doesn’t work very well. When we visited Paris when I was a teenager it totally would have made sense.

    • It’s so important to take your own travel style into account when planning things like this. A bargain for me could be a waste of money for your family, but as long as you do the math beforehand, you can make sure you come out ahead.

  5. I’m not waht you’d call a museum fan, but I think this post is an interesting comment on, like you say, passes that often seem ‘scammy’. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I love Paris and visit every year if I can, this year we just went to see a lot of the sights rather than actually go in or climb up, I didn’t realise the cost of many of them and it’s definitely something I’d look in to for future visits. Great info

  7. Thanks for the very informative read! I’ve been to Paris many times but never thought about getting a museum pass! Now I know it’s worth it!

  8. Thanks for such an informative post! Will be buying a pass when I go to Paris as 34 euros is such a good saving!

  9. An excellent post! I think these passes are usually worthwhile, even just to stop you worrying about whether you should spend another few euros on a world class museum.

    • I love the freeing aspect of them. It was so nice to not have to debate about whether we should shell out to climb Notre Dame or the Arc de Triomphe and just go for it. Plus, I’m not a huge art fan, but I didn’t want to visit Paris and not go to the Louvre at least, so using the passes kept me from feeling like I had to drag the visit out into a full day to get my money’s worth for my admission. We just showed up, saw the things we wanted to see, and then moved on.

  10. Fortunately, I had enough time when I was there. I’m reading your post, which is very helpful and informative for those on limited time, thinking to myself: “And when I remember that I’ve spent one whole day in Versailles…” 😀 You have some good tips so that people can actually use the time they have more efficiently, that’s really handy!

  11. meghanramsey1

    When we went to Paris, I bought the Paris pass which included the Museum Pass. I LOVED having it. We skipped lots of lines, didn’t have to stress about buying tickets, and saved money. Have to agree that it is worth it! Thanks for sharing tips!

  12. Bonita

    That is a huge saving. I would definitely go for the museum pass. Apart from savings, it is real value for money! Thanks for the info, I have always though they are a rip off!

  13. Good breakdown of prices indeed, for one living here, I always tell friends and family coming over is if you are going to see at least 3 places maybe the passes are for you. To see all the places you mentioned the passes are good. Then ,as you righly said, it depends on what you come here to see.Cheers

  14. That’s a good point about the passes saving you from wondering whether something is worth the cost, and about the time saved not standing in line. I don’t usually buy passes as I don’t like to whizz around too much in a day but I hadn’t thought of it like that before!

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