For many visitors, Paris is a once-in-a-lifetime experience—and who wants to spend it waiting in line?
Paris Pass is one way to skip the line, but it’s a hefty investment and unless you’re a really high-octane sightseer, you probably won’t get value out of it. The Paris Museum Pass, on the other hand, might be worth it—buy it at a museum that doesn’t have big lines, or buy it online. Since the clock only starts ticking when you use it the first time, you can buy it well in advance of your visit.
But there are other ways to skip the line in Paris. Read on for our insider tips, and soon you’ll be bypassing lines at major sights like a seasoned pro.
1. Get tickets ahead of time
Whether you’re visiting the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay or the Eiffel Tower, you can buy your tickets online. (That wasn’t the case for the Eiffel Tower until recently.) You can also buy tickets for the Musée d’Orsay from the newspaper kiosk by the entrance, saving you time when everyone else is lining up at the museum ticket office.
Additionally, ticket booths at Notre-Dame, near Charles de Gaulle-Etoile metro, the Madeleine and Montparnasse also sell the Museum Pass and tickets to various attractions. It doesn’t matter where you buy yours from—what matters is that getting them in advance will help you skip some of the longest lines in Paris.
2. Climb the Eiffel Tower
If you’re physically able to do so, take the stairs at the Eiffel Tower—you’ll save money and skip the line for the elevator. Leg it up to the second floor, and then take the elevator up to the very top from there—lines and wait times are minimal at this point compared to on ground level. Plus, you’ll get some serious bragging rights—not everyone can claim to have climbed Paris’ most iconic symbol.
3. Use a different entrance at the Louvre
At Paris’ most popular museum, just finding a different way in can save you time standing in line. Instead of using the popular Pyramids entrance to get into the Louvre, head for the Porte des Lions on the Seine embankment, or the Carrousel du Louvre (underground, entered from 99 rue de Rivoli). These are always much less crowded.
4. Pack sensibly
You can’t skip security lines, but keeping your purse or backpack contents to a sensible minimum will at least get you through in record time. Nobody wants to be that person holding up the line as they hurriedly rifle through their belongings at security.
5. Book a tour at top attractions
Sometimes the easiest way to skip the line in Paris is to book a tour, particularly for the Catacombs where you’ll otherwise need to buy tickets online months in advance. Many tours offer much more than just skipping the line; for instance, you can take a cycle tour of the gardens of Versailles, with skip-the-line entrance to the palace included.
6. See Versailles a different way
Go to the opera or a concert at Versailles. You won’t see the whole chateau, but you’ll get a taste—besides, concerts are held in the Chapel Royal and operas in the original eighteenth-century opera house, which you wouldn’t otherwise see.
You might also decide to book the private tour of the King’s Apartments online together with your Versailles ticket for an extra €7. This tour has a separate entrance, so no lines!
7. Go sightseeing early
Guided tours and big tour buses rarely arrive at most Paris attractions before 10 a.m. If you arrive at around 9, you’ll probably miss the lines—or at least have a much shorter wait. In fact, if you’re a morning person, you can get there at 8:40 a.m. and you’ll likely be first in line.
8. Get off the beaten path
If you really don’t like lines, you might not like the crowds that go along with them, either. It’s only the top attractions in Paris where the lines are a problem: Versailles, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and the Musee d’Orsay. Head instead for one of the smaller museums, or off the beaten track, and you’ll find no lines at all.
For instance, the Musée Guimet has an astonishing collection of Asian art, from fierce Tibetan deities to serene Khmer Buddhas, and there’s practically never a line.
Take a creative approach and find the sights that really speak to you—and use these first seven tips when visiting the more popular attractions to make the most of your time in Paris!
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However, there is one line in Paris that you just cannot skip. At the boulangerie, you always have to wait in line. You cannot have your croissant before madame with the little chihuahua or monsieur with his suit and scooter helmet buy their baguettes, viennoiseries or cake for tonight’s dinner party. If they got there first, you’re just going to have to wait—lines are a sacred institution at Paris bakeries!