arc de triomphe paris

The Paris Museum Pass: Worth it?

One of the things I’ve come to appreciate about working with accountants and lawyers over the years is their most frequent response to what a layman would consider a fairly innocent and straightforward question: “It depends.”

That “it depends” has many possible follow-ups.  “It depends on what you want your tax exposure to be,” or “It depends what your long terms goals are,” etc.  The “it depends” for the Paris Museum Pass isn’t dependent on how much you like art, but rather on how quickly you like to see your art.

For those who want to see their art “efficiently” (which was me once upon a time), read on for why the Paris Museum Pass is for you.  For those who prefer to see their art slowly, don’t worry, I’ve still got some helpful suggestions for you.

You Get to Skip the Line

For some of the museums there is a special entrance just for passholders – the one at the Louvre is particularly skip-tacular.  If there’s one thing no traveler really enjoys, it’s standing in long lines to get into places.  Often this is down to poor planning as today so many places offer online booking and so many internet reviews tell people exactly when the lines get ridiculous.

It Covers Monuments and Museums that Are Short Visits

When people hear the word “Museum Pass” they may think of Museums, but they don’t think of National Monuments – be they the Arc de Triomphe or Sainte-Chapelle.  Both of those are excellent short visits (your Museum Pass gets you to the top of the Arc, one of the best views of the city) and can be accomplished in under 30 minutes, if you time your entrance well.  Separate admission to these two places alone goes a long way to covering the value of your Pass.

Then there’s a museum like the Orangerie, which has a decent permanent collection but a spectacular “custom-designed” collection of Monets, which you can fully appreciate within half an hour.  There’s also Petit Palais, which does have a magnificent permanent collection, and can be comfortably seen in 2-3 hours, and that’s even with a break in its lovely inner courtyard.

You Save $$$/€€€/£££

The Museum Pass allows you to get into the “biggies” (think Louvre + Orsay + Invalides) but also gets you into dozens of lovely and under-appreciated museums as well.  This is a testament to Paris itself, as a city like New York doesn’t have anything like it, despite having many wonderful museums.  The existence of such a pass in a city known for its territorial curators is almost unbelievable.  Someone herded all the art cats into a room and got them to agree on this idea, to the benefit of all of us.

For locals, the next best thing to the Museum Pass is Free Museum Sunday (first Sunday of the month).  That’s when we get into almost all the museums for free (the Louvre is seasonally on that list).  Serious value seekers have been known to time their Museum Passes to expire the day before that Sunday and add one more day onto their museum binge.  However, it’s a very crowded day so consider using Free Museum Sunday as a day to circle back to places you might have already seen, or luxuriously use it as a way to go into a place, see one or two things, then leave.

It Doesn’t Commit or Obligate You

When you buy tickets ahead of time for particular days and times at specific museums, you sometimes feel trapped should you feel ill or like doing something else on the appointed day(s).  If you realize the true value of the Paris Museum Pass, plan the three or four visits upon which you will immediately recoup the cost: you will see each additional visit as extra gravy for your Parisian “meal” of culture.

But It Doesn’t Cover Every Place Worth Visiting

Three favorites of mine that are not covered by the Museum Pass are the Musee Marmottan Monet, on the edge of the 16th, the Caillebottes Estates in Yerres, and Monet’s place in Giverny.  This is to say nothing of the Museum of the Liberation of Paris, the newly opened Bourse de Commerce, or the (finally) re-opened Carnavalet Museum in the Marais, one of the very best museums in the city.  And, just like the best things in life, all three of those are free.

Photo by Marcos Pena Jr on Unsplash