Long Lines - Queues, Paris
Most of what I do in Paris involves little or no queuing, so I can't speak from personal experience, but I have recently come to realize that for some people the queuing situation in Paris can be a huge problem.
Imagine an unprepared tourist coming to Paris in the summer for a two-day visit in hopes of visiting five or six of the most popular tourist attractions. That person could easily spend five or six hours (or more?) doing nothing but standing in lines to get into the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the towers of Notre Dame, the Sainte-Chapelle, the Orsay Museum, the Orangerie and a boat ride on the Seine.
Of course there may people who enjoy queuing. If you are one of these, please don't let me spoil your fun. But if you are a queuephobe* like me, I do suggest that you take precautions to reduce queuing time, so as not to completely spoil your Paris visit.
If you are an early riser, you might try arriving at some of these places first thing in the morning. I have never tried this (not being an early riser) but I'm told it can help.
For the Eiffel Tower you might want to try their new option of buying advance tickets online. (I haven't tried this yet.)
For the Sainte-Chapelle you could go to an evening concert instead of lining up for a long wait during the day.
For the museums you might consider getting a two-, four- or six-day Museum Pass. In August 2008 I went to the fnac store at Forum Les Halles and bought a four-day Museum Pass which I used from Wednesday through Saturday. It didn't save me much money, because I also had other things on my agenda besides museums, but it did save me hours of queuing time, so I can highly recommend it.
Since a lot of museums (for instance the Louvre) are closed on Tuesdays, a six-day Museum Pass would only make sense if you could use it from Wednesday through Monday. On the other hand, some museums are open on Tuesdays but closed on Mondays, so it depends on which ones you want to visit.
Also, please remember that the museums belonging to the City of Paris, such as the Petit Palais and the Musée Carnavalet, are free for the permanent exhibitions, so you don’t need a Museum Pass to visit them.
For more details on the Museum Passes, please have a look at breughel's tip about them, or tiabunna's.
*Queuephobe I think is a word I made up myself, but I haven't quite decided on the spelling. Queuephobe or Queuophobe? But not Queueophobe, that looks silly.
Second and third photos: With my Museum Pass I didn't have to join the long queue at Door A of the Orsay Museum, but walked right in through Door C, Reserved Access.
Fourth photo: Waiting in line at Sainte-Chapelle.
Fifth photo: As of 2013, a Paris Museum Pass looks like this and costs 39 Euros for a two-day pass, 54 Euros for a four-day pass or 69 Euros for a six-day pass. I bought a four-day pass in June 2012 which I used from Thursday through Sunday, and this time it saved me money as well as time, because the weather was cool and rainy so I went to more museums than usual. Also I used my pass to go up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, which is open till 23:00 (eleven p.m.) during the summer months, so you can go there after the museums have closed.
If you only want to visit one or two museums, check their websites on how to get advance tickets, as these are sometimes more economical than the Paris Museum Pass and they also allow you to avoid the long lines. (You still have to go through security, but that is usually a much shorter line.)
Above all, do not let anyone talk you into buying the so-called "Paris Pass", which is merely the Paris Museum Pass packaged with some expensive extras that you won't have time for, and sold at a huge mark-up.
On my first photo you can see two lines of people waiting to get into the Museum of the Louvre.
The line on the left consists of seven or eight people whose waiting time will be less than a minute, since they are allowed to use the ‘priority entrance’.
The line on the right consists of several hundred people (I’m not exaggerating – click on the other photos if you don’t believe me!) who will spend an hour or more on this rainy Sunday afternoon queuing to get into the Pyramid, where they will have to queue again to buy their museum tickets.
To use the priority entrance you don’t have to be any kind of big shot or VIP. You just have to have a Museum Pass or an advance ticket for the museum, which you can buy up to a year in advance at various places in Paris including the eight fnac stores in various parts of the city.
If my photos on this tip look rather similar to the ones posted by VT member breughel a few days ago, that’s because we were going through the Richelieu Wing of the Louvre together. Every time we came to a window looking out onto the courtyard and the Pyramid, we both took photos of all the people standing in line in the rain. We ourselves had used the priority entrance, because we had bought our advance tickets the day before at the fnac store in the Passage du Havre at 109, rue Saint-Lazare, which is just across from the Saint Lazare railway station.
It is also possible to order advance tickets online through the fnac website, but this is rather pointless because the Louvre, like the Gobelin manufactory, does not (yet) provide a print-at-home option, so even if you order online you still have to go to one of the fnac stores to pick up your ticket. (You cannot pick it up at the Louvre itself!)
By now I have bought or picked up tickets at four of the eight fnac stores in Paris. Only once did I have to wait in line for any length of time, and that was when I went in the afternoon and there were a bunch of ‘ados’ lined up to buy tickets for one of their events. (‘Ados’ are the kind of folks we quaintly used to call ‘adolescents’.) But when I went to fnac in the mornings or evenings I had little or no waiting time.
Note that the priority entrance for individual visitors to the Louvre is now at the Pyramid, not in the Richelieu Passage where it used to be. The entrance in the Richelieu Passage is now reserved for groups, with their leaders or teachers. The groups have to reserve in advance and are assigned an entry time to avoid crowding, so only one group enters at a time.
Second, third and fourth photos: More people queuing in the rain. If you insist on doing this on a rainy day, at least wear shoes that are somewhat water repellant. As the day went on, I started seeing more and more lovely young women walking around the museum wearing very soggy light canvas shoes. This did not detract from their loveliness (nor did their shoes make squishy noises), but I’m sure it was uncomfortable for them and perhaps led to sniffles and sneezes later.
Fifth photo: This is the advance ticket that I bought the previous evening at the fnac store. The text on the ticket reads: “Ticket valid for one day (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday) starting at 9 am. Date of use: . . . . . . . . . [this I had to fill in myself]. Also permits access to the collections of the Delacroix Museum. Ticket valid 1 year starting with the day of purchase = August 24, 2013. Price including all taxes EUR 12.00 + 1.60 commission.”
Don’t be put off by the commission charge. It’s the best € 1.60 you will spend in Paris.
Update 2015: Advance tickets for the Louvre now cost € 16.60 (up from € 13.60) and are only valid for entrance to the museum within half an hour of the time you select. (This is to prevent crowding at the entrance.) After entering the museum you can stay as long as you want, until closing time, but you can only enter within the half hour you have selected. Popular entrance times in the mornings sometimes are sold out two or three days in advance.
Next review from September 2013: People under the Pyramid at the Louvre
We had planned on visiting the Catacombs on our last day in Paris. Being an unusual attraction (3 out of 5 only knew about it after it was suggested as a place to visit) we naively thought queues would be short or fast moving. As we arrived, the queue ran around the building and didn't move at all in the half hour we were there. Chatting to people nearer the front (who luckily understood we weren't trying to skip the line!) we discovered that the line was being allowed in in groups of 40 and these groups then had 45 minutes to go through. We felt frustrated at our own lack of pre-planning and ended up having to give it a miss as quick maths showed our plane would have left without us if we stayed.
Somewhere, sometime you are going to stand in a queue. It's almost unavoidable. Our Paris Museum Passes helped immensely but there were a few places with no "fast lanes" for pass holders. The towers at Notre Dame was our longest wait: no fast lane and only so many people can go up at a time. St. Chapelle also didn't have a line just for pass/ticket holders until after the security checkpoint.
So to make the best use of your time, here are a few suggestions:
• The Louvre is notorious for long, long waits IF you pick the wrong entrance. The best entrance may depend on the advance ticket or sightseeing pass you're using. See this page from the Louvre website for more information:
• Towers at Notre Dame: Be there before the opening hour on a weekday morning to avoid the longest lines. If that isn't possible, bring something to pass the time; grab a crepe nearby and refuel, do some reading, etc. If there are two or more of you, take turns holding your place.
• Saint-Chapelle: Again, the shortest lines will be early on a (sunny) weekday morning.
• Eiffel Tower: If you want to go up in the thing, it's sheer insanity not to order time-specific tickets in advance:
Yes, if you buy it far in advance of the weather report, you do risk your pre-reserved ticket time landing on a rainy day but it beats losing hours of sightseeing. If you don't pre-buy a ticket, arriving early, before the opening hour, or later in the evening can also help.
If you are in Paris long enough and want to see enough of what it offers, I can't overstress the value of the Museum Pass for skipping most ticket lines and cutting down on trips to the ATM.
This tip to illustrate what Nemorino wrote hereunder.
If you want to visit several museums the best (only) thing to do is to buy the Paris Museum Pass (see tips on "things to do" nr 35 (2 days: 39€, 4 days 54 € and 6 days 69 €).
There is a fast line entrance for the museum pass except at the Notre Dame Towers.
For the most visited museums like Le Louvre or Orsay never go (except maybe in winter) without getting your ticket in advance (for details see on "things to do" nr 3 & 6).
Be ready to spend 30-40 min. in line to any Paris sight.
As the weather warms up, so the lines lengthen at the top tourist attractions in Paris.
There is a pass that not only gets you to the front of the line but can also save you money.
The Paris Museum Pass will allow you to visit more than 60 museums and monuments in Paris and the surrounding area, as many times as you like and without having to wait.
La Conciergerie - www.conciergerie.com will express mail The Paris Museum Pass to your home address.
Paris ComboPass® Premium provides 2- to 6-day pass packages, it is the only place you can buy these kind of pass packages.
Although VT member Nemorino writes: "The company that runs the Eiffel Tower claims to be working on a solution to the queuing problem", I'm not going to hold my breath. Our mom tried to go to the top in 1964 and only got to the second level. In 1976 when I went, it took two hours to get to the top level.
But since 9-11 the whole queuing thing in Paris has gotten ridiculous. Not just the Eiffel Tower, but the Louvre, Versailles, the towers at Notre Dame - a lot of places have queues. Some of these queues are because of scanning procedures put into place after 9-11 but sme of them date from before that. Some places there is away around it (like go in a different Louvre entrance).
For the Eiffel Tower I can see two ways around the lines. If you made a dinner reservation - the restaurant has their own elevator. You wouldn't get all the way to the top, but you'd still get a pretty good view and personally I think it is more interesting to see from a shorter distance above the ground.
And you can apparently now buy tickets on line, which would eliminate the line for the ticket purchase at least.
This is actually kind of a reverse warning (is there such a thing?). Anyway, before we went to Europe we had read a number of postings about lines being long for anything very popular, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Versailles and that one should strongly consider buying museum passes to skip some of the lines. Although buying these passes in general is probably a good idea, we decided to "wing it" since we weren't sure how much time everything was going to take and I hate paying for something I may not get enough value out of.
As this picture shows there was a very short line to get into the Musee d' Orsay. I actually stood in line about 5 minutes to purchase our tickets. This was a Saturday afternoon, the first Saturday in October around 3:00 p.m. Since the Museum closes at 6:00 p.m. this was actually probably a very good time to visit. Once inside their were no lines and we did see most everything in the 3 hour timeframe we gave ourselves.
Final thoughts -- I'm sure during peak tourist seasons that a Museum Pass is a must. We were probably lucky in that we weren't in prime tourist season and that 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon (even on a Saturday) probably wasn't a prime time in the day to start a museum visit.
Now this is really something i would avoid if i was in you.
The Triumphal Arch is located right in the middle of a big road that drives around him.
Imagine a 4 or 5 lines road going in circle, with lot of other roads coming from outside in, there's nothing that makes it clear if you are standing in the line or not, basically it's like jumping inside and just drive with your eyes wide open and get ready for everything.
Really pay attention here, one mistake can cause a mess...
Before my recent trip to Paris I read so much rubbish about queues I was not intending to go into any tourist attraction. Read the truth here.
Eiffel Tower 5.30pm Monday 4th Feb. Weather was chilly but dry. Queue for stairs ticket (4 Euro) office was approx 4 people. Yes, 4. Queue for actual entrance after buying ticket was, well not even a queue. I just walked slowly in. Stairs were pretty clear and I wasn't caught behind anyone. After the first stage I was able to directly continue up to the 2nd level. Upon arrival I noticed approx 10 people queuing to buy tickets (3.7 Euro) for the top (only lift for this bit). I spent some time looking around the 2nd level before going to buy a ticket for the top. Now it was down to about 5 people (6pm). Once I got the ticket I moved slowly to the lift and was going up within 5 mins. Around 6.30pm I came down with no queue for the lift. Just a 2 min wait for it to come up.
Eiffel Tower 12.30pm Wednesday 6th Feb. Weather clear and sunny. I didn't go up but again the queue for the stairs was virtually non existent. Please note that on both occasions the queue for the lift ticket (11.70 Euros) office was very long. So if you are not fit, handicapped, elderly or plain lazy you will have to wait.
Notre Dame 10.30am Tuesday 5th Feb. Free entry and no queues to cathedral. longish queue for roof area though I think these were for guided tours.
Grand Arch- La defence 2pm Tuesday 5th Feb. No queue, straight into lift and to roof (9 Euro approx).
Montpasse 1pm 6th Feb. No queue. (9.50 Euro)
Arch De Triumph. 3.30pm 5th Feb. No queue (approx 8 Euro)
Just to add, these areas were not full of beggars or people hassling you. I think in total 2 women approached me by the Eiffel tower for money but that was about it.
Remember this was during the week in February and I have no idea what it's like other times of year.
Paris has many fantastic churchs, galleries and monuments to visit. As a consequence they are very popular with vast numbers of people wanting to get in. This is especially so during the Summer months.
Many of the people going to these places are travelling with tour groups and therefore get to the places of interest from 10am and onwards. Queues can stretch for some unbelieveable distances in the busy season so to avoid being disappointed GET THERE EARLY!!
A good example is the Eiffel Tower which is very very quiet earlier in the day but an ocean of people by 11am through until late.
The ONLY way to save time when visiting the Eiffel Tower is to get there before it opens at 9AM daily, year round. At 9AM in season there are only about 100 people in line (about 3 elevator cars full ). Be sure you get in the line that fulfills your desire: walk-up, lower level. upper (they are separate). Off season at 10AM the line is about 300 (1/2 hr wait). This is only the first delay if you are going to the top. The second car from the 1st level will have a growing line and there will be the two waits going down. At best if you are to take in the views, figure on 2 hours and add 2 hour for each hour later than 9 for arrival. Our comments for alternate Paris Views isin our Eiffel Tour Tips of 11/19/06.
Doesn't matter which "leg" you want to go up, there is always a very long queue. If your queue is moving faster, you might be on a "stairs only" queue. There are two with lifts, and two for stairs only. Choose carefull because you might be in the wrong one!
Louis 14th would have no doubt turn in his grave (can you do that if you are beheaded ?) at the millions of peasants who now trapse through his house every day to gawp at the opulance of his gaff.
Even with it piddling with rain, the queues were about 90 minutes long to gain entry when we visited on a Sunday in May.
Talking to one of the attendants, the best bet is to visit in Jan /Feb or August (no French then, you see). If you can't manage that, then consider spending the night before your visit at a hotel in the town of Versailles, or at least get to the palace bang-on opening time.
That way you might just be able to see the place without the world and it's father, sister, daughter, uncle, nanny and cleaner seeing it with you.
The warning and only negative thing about going to Disneyland Paris, was the transport from the parks to the disney hotels. There were 200 people approx to about 50 seats on the bus to the hotels. It was packed with poeple, all trying to get home to their hotel, pushing and shoving. So if you had children, it was very difficult but no real solution if you came to Paris by Eurostar as we did so did not have own transport. We stayed at Santa Fe and was quite happy with the accommodation and service when we got to the hotel.