Paris is undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Every year, people from all over the world come to Paris to visit its landmarks and this number has only been increasing. As a result, the tourist queues at all of Paris’ most popular landmarks, including the ones that don’t require a ticket (Notre Dame Cathedral), have become painfully long. Though this is managed efficiently, the ticket queues can easily extend for blocks and can see tourists waiting anywhere between 1-4 hours.
However, don’t let this scare you into believing that visiting Paris’ famous attractions is a logistical nightmare and a test of your patience. There are a few simple tricks that you can use to get past these notorious lines with ease at most, if not all of Paris’ major landmarks. In this post, we will look at the top landmarks that should be on the must-explore list of everyone visiting Paris. By the end of the post, you will not only know how to avoid these horror ticket queues, but also get insider tips and information on how to make your experience a truly fulfilling one.
The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel tower is undoubtedly the highlight of the trip for most people visiting Paris. Over 7 million people visit the Eiffel Tower every year. That roughly equates to 20,000 people in a single day. Standing at a height of 324 metres, the Eiffel Tower consists of three levels that are open to public - first level, second level and the summit. The first and second levels are accessible via stairs or elevators from the ground level while the summit level is accessible only via elevators from the second level.
Your standard Eiffel Tower tickets will allow you to visit the second level of the tower. From here, you will be able to take in stunning panoramic views of the surrounding areas such as Notre Dame, Seine River, Champs Elysees, and others. The first level can then be reached by taking the stairs down to the first level. Though it doesn’t have the views that the second level provides, it does have a glass floor zone that will give you the feeling of walking on thin air. The summit though is a little harder to get to since tickets to this level are generally sold out months in advance.
There are 3 sets of elevators that lead to the first and second levels. They are present on the North, East, and West pillars. To access the summit, you will have to change elevators on the second level. The first and second levels are also accessible via stairs. The first level can be reached after climbing 328 steps from the ground floor while the second level can be accessed after climbing 376 steps from the first level. The price for elevators and stairs access are different as well, with the stairs being cheaper than the elevators.
With only a limited number of elevators available to transport people up and down the tower, the queue that lines up to take these elevators are extremely long and depending on when you go, can be upto an hour long, if not more. Here are a few easy steps that you can take to skip these long lines and enjoy your Eiffel experience without wasting time standing in the long tourist queues:
Solution 1: Purchase Eiffel Tower skip the line tickets in advance online
The line you most often see waiting at the Eiffel Tower are those that are yet to purchase their tickets. Should you decide to purchase your ticket on site, then you too will be part of this long queue and can expect a waiting time that can easily be 2 hours long. The best way to avoid this line is to purchase skip the line tickets in advance. Skip the line elevator tickets to the second level are available for purchase online.
There are a variety of tickets that give you access to the Eiffel Tower. These are:
a. Stair tickets with access to the first and second level.
These tickets are only available onsite at the tower and not for sale online.
b. Elevator tickets with access to the first and second level.
These Eiffel Tower skip the line tickets will give you priority access to the 1st and 2nd levels.
c. Summit tickets with access to all three levels.
These tickets will give you skip the line summit access to all three levels of the Eiffel Tower.
Stair tickets with access to the first and second levels are not available online and can be bought only at the counter. However, elevator tickets with access to the second and third level and summit tickets with access to all three levels are available for sale online.
If you purchase your elevator tickets with access to the first and second levels, then you will be able to skip the long ticket line at the base of the Eiffel and head straight to the elevators. You can then ascend to the second level and enjoy brilliant views of Paris from the top. On your way down, you can take the stairs and stop at the first level as well.
It should be noted that Eiffel Tower summit access tickets are difficult to attain since they are extremely popular. They are available for purchase for time slots that can vary on different days. To access the summit, one is required to change elevators at the second level.
Solution 2: Take the stairs up to the second level instead of the elevators
Another easy way to skip the long queues is by taking the stairs located on the south pillar. Not only are the stair access tickets cheaper, but they also have a considerably smaller line since most people tend to purchase the elevator tickets. Though it is a more taxing way of experiencing the Eiffel Tower, it is cheaper and better than wasting hours in the ticket line. The queue for stair access tickets is smaller than the elevator tickets and it moves faster since there is no waiting involved at the beginning of the stairs.
Please keep in mind that stair access tickets are not available for sale online. Hence, its benefit lies more for those who wish to purchase tickets on site. For €7.00, you can take the stairs up to the second level. You will also have the option of purchasing elevator tickets on the first floor should you decide to change your mind and not walk the rest of your way up. On your way down, you are free to take the stairs or the elevator.
Solution 3: Take an Eiffel Tower tour with a guide
Another efficient way of tackling the Eiffel Tower queue is going for guided tours. These tours provide you skip the line access as well as the company of a knowledgeable guide. You will not only be able to access the Eiffel Tower without wasting time standing in the ticket line, but also learn more about the monument and the various landmarks that are visible from the tower. On a guided tour, you will be able to go behind the scenes and learn much more about the tower than if you were to visit alone. You will learn about its history, functionality, position in Parisian history, its influence on the city of Paris and the day to day workings of the tower as well. Your guide will also show some of the best vantage points and also help you spot the famous landmarks that are visible from the Eiffel Tower.
Solution 4: Book a Lunch or Dinner Experience at the Eiffel
The Eiffel Tower has two restaurants - The 58 Tour Eiffel (1st level) and the Jules Verne Restaurant (2nd level). The 58 Tour Eiffel is an informal restaurant with a "chic picnic" style where a meal may cost you anywhere between €40 to €150 with a guaranteed bay window seat. Remember, you will not be able to visit the second level after your meal though. The Jules Verne Restaurant on the other hand is a formal restaurant with a dress code. Lunch and dinner menus are priced between €105 to €230. The view of Paris from the second level justifies the price completely.
Solution 5: Visit the Eiffel Tower at night after the crowd leaves
Since most tourists visiting the Eiffel Tower visit it during the day, you have a chance of facing a comparatively lesser crowd should you decide to go later in the evening. Remember that the Eiffel Tower is open till 11:00 PM on most days and the crowd begins to dwindle post 8. However, this may not always be the case and you still may face a minor crowd. Your best bet however is to visit late if you can. With lesser people on the Eiffel Tower, exploring it in peace will surely make it more beautiful.
The Louvre Museum
The Louvre Museum is one of the most visited museums in the world. Surpassed only by The Palace Museum in Beijing, the Louvre sees over 23,000 people walk through its doors every day, bring the yearly visits to a staggering 7.5 million visitors each year. If you visit The Louvre Museum with the intention of purchasing tickets on site, then prepare yourself to wait in a line that snakes in front of the Louvre Pyramid for hundreds of meters and has a waiting period of anywhere between 1-2 hours long.
You can find more information about the Louvre Museum; including how to skip the notorious Louvre queue, planning your time inside the museum, ticket options and insider tips and information at our in-depth look at the Louvre Museum here.
To bypass the long lines that the Louvre Museum has become popular for, make sure to keep the following points in mind before you plan your visit.
Solution 1: Purchase skip the line Louvre Museum tickets in advance online
It is not uncommon for the ticket lines at the Louvre to be 2 hours long. Even on the less busier days, the ticket line at the Louvre Museum can have you waiting for at least 40 minutes. To avoid this, simply purchase your skip the line Louvre tickets in advance. Advance tickets are available online and they will allow you to skip the ticket queues and head straight to the security gates. After a brief security check, you will be able to enter the museum with ease and enjoy the precious collections of the Louvre.
Solution 2: Take the Carrousel du Louvre or the entrance at the Richelieu Passage
The Louvre Museum has four entrances - the Pyramid or the main entrance, the Carrousel du Louvre, the Richelieu Passage and Porte des Lions. Of the three gates, the Pyramid entrance faces the most traffic and has ticket queues that go up to 2 hours long. The other two entrances are fairly less popular and hence face a lesser crowd as well.
The Carrousel du Louvre is an underground shopping complex and has an entrance that will lead you to the bottom of the glass pyramid. You can also choose to take the Richelieu Passage, a discreet entrance to the Louvre Museum situated just off the Rue de Rivoli. Lines at both these entrances are much smaller than the Pyramid entrance and will allow you to enter the museum within minutes, rather than hours of waiting at the Pyramid. Porte des Lions is open only to groups.
To learn more about the entrances, including how to find them and a map with their locations, check out our Louvre Museum tickets and information page.
Solution 3: Visit on Wednesday or Friday, if you can
The time of your visit also plays a role in the number of visitors that you will face at the Louvre Museum. The Louvre is crowded on weekends and hence going on a weekday is a much better option. Among weekdays, Wednesday and Friday are perfect since the Louvre stays open till 9:45 PM and you can explore the museum in peace as the crowds lessen considerably during the closing hours. If you choose to go in the afternoon around 3pm on regular days and around 5pm on Wednesday and Friday, then you will face a lesser crowd at the Louvre Museum.
Solution 4: Go on a guided tour of the Louvre Museum
Guided Tours are an extremely efficient way of exploring the Louvre Museum. Similar to other guided experiences in the city, a Louvre Museum tour will allow you to skip the ticket line and head straight to the entrance gate. You also get the added benefit of being in the company of a knowledgeable guide who will show help you explore the highlights of the Louvre, the second largest museum in the world. Guided tours also have a dedicated entrance at the Porte des Lions which are open only to groups. This entrance makes it an even better and faster way to access the Louvre Museum.
Solution 5: Go for the Paris Museum Pass and get skip the line access to the Louvre Museum and 60 other attractions
The Paris Museum Pass is a wonderful sightseeing pass option for those looking to visit more than two museums in a day. The Paris Museum Pass makes visiting Parisian museums very easy and cost-effective. It gives you skip-the-line access to over 60 museums and monuments (including the Louvre and Orsay Museum) in Paris for only a fraction of the cost. With the Paris Museum, you will be able to visit the Louvre without having to wait in the ticket line.
The Catacombs are a network of medieval mines and tunnels that run under the bustling streets of Paris and are home to the skeletal remains of over 6 million people. Today, more than 200 hundred years after the bodies were laid out, the Paris Catacombs have become one of the most visited attractions in Paris.
The visitable section of the Catacombs is just over a mile long and can house a maximum of 200 visitors at a time. With an average visit to the Catacombs lasting from 45 minutes to 1 hour and only one entrance, the regulation on the number of visitors causes extremely long waiting queues to form at the Catacombs entrance. On certain days, if you go late and wait in the long line, there’s a chance that your wait will be fruitless and you won’t get a chance to enter.
Solution 1: Get priority access with skip the line tickets to the Catacombs
To avoid this queue and make your way to the Catacombs within minutes of your arrival, go for skip the line Catacomb tickets. Skip the line tickets to Catacombs are available for purchase online and they give you access to a much shorter queue (wait time - 2-5 minutes). When you compare this to the regular queue for purchasing tickets where you might need to wait anywhere between 1-4 hours depending on the time of your visit, skip the line tickets are a godsend. Also, only 200 people are allowed at a time inside the catacombs, and with an average visit of 45 minutes, the queues at the Catacombs have become infamous for moving really slowly. However, visitors with skip the line tickets and those that are part of guide tours will be able to bypass this line and head straight to the entrance.
Headout is one of the only two providers that sell skip the line tickets with complimentary audioguides to the Catacombs. It is also highly recommended by visitors on TripAdvisor. Here are a few reviews from the Paris Catacombs page on TripAdvisor.
“It is a must to use Headout to buy tickets in advance - this meant for us a 30 minute wait instead of over 4 hours in red hot sun.”
– TripAdvisor user smcr2002, July 19, 2017.
“Skipped the line and it was awesome thanks to headout!”
– TripAdvisor user Erica C, July 6, 2017.
“We used Headout and the wait was less than 2 minutes”
– TripAdvisor user ray m, June 11, 2017.
Solution 2: Go for a guided tour of the Catacombs
Then there are guided tours of the Catacombs. Similar to most other attractions and landmarks in Paris, guided tours of the Catacombs also have skip the line access. Your guide will help you move past the long lines and head straight to the underground chambers of the Catacombs. No waiting in any line at all! Book your tickets online, meet your guide on the day of your Catacombs tour, skip the line and be guided into one of the most enthralling landmarks in all of Europe. This comes at a premium though with most guided tours to Catacombs start upwards of 80 Euros compared to 30 Euros for Skip the line tickets.
The Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles is one of the most extraordinary architectural achievements of Renaissance Europe. Built in the 17th century as a hunting lodge for King Louis XIII, the Palace slowly grew to become the royal residence of the French Monarchy until the French Revolution. During this period, the palace was heavily embellished by the ruling monarchs and was transformed into a surreal architectural achievement.
Spread over 63,154m², the Palace of Versailles contains 2,300 rooms and is home to works of art from over five centuries. A work of art in itself, the Palace of Versailles is visited by approximately 5 million people every year. Even larger is the number of people who visit its royal garden.You can find more information about the Versailles Palace; including how to skip the queue, palace and show information, ticket options and insider tips at our in-depth look at the Palace of Versailles here.
As a result of its popularity, the queues to enter the Palace of Versailles are extremely long. If you wish to visit the Palace of Versailles and not spend your precious time standing in the queue, here is what you should keep in mind.
Solution 1: Purchase priority access Palace of Versailles tickets before you go
Both the ticket line as well as the security lines at the Palace of Versailles are huge. If you decide to purchase your ticket on site, then be prepared to stand in the ticket queue as well as the security queue. Even with normal tickets bought in advance, you will still have to queue up at the entrance line as well as the security line. This can take upto 3 hours during crowded times. To bypass all of this, you can purchase Priority Access tickets, and save yourself the trouble of waiting in the entry line and proceed straight to the security check.
Solution 2: Go on a guided tour of this huge palace, skip the long line and learn more about it as well
Guided tours are another way of beating the ticket and entrance queue. The only queue you will be waiting in will be the security check and this should last between 5-15 minutes. Once the security check is over, you can comfortably head into the palace and explore its grounds with your guide. Not only do you get to bypass the long lines, but also learn more about the Palace than were you to explore it alone.
Solution 3: The Paris Pass is perfect to gain priority access to the Palace of Versailles as well other attractions throughout Paris
Like the Louvre Museum, you will receive priority access to the Palace of Versailles with only the security line to go through. However, not all sections of the Palace (such as the gardens and shows), are accessible with the Paris Pass. If you only wish to explore the palace and you have the Paris Pass with you, then you will be able to get past the long ticket queue with ease.
The Notre Dame Cathedral and Towers
The Notre Dame Cathedral is a medieval cathedral situated in the heart of Paris. Built in the 14th century, Notre Dame Cathedral is considered to be the finest example of French Gothic architecture and one of the most famous churches in the world. The signature stained glass windows and gargoyles were added through the centuries, only adding to the glory of this magnanimous cathedral.
The Notre Dame is also one of the largest and most visited churches in the world. Important highlights of the church include The Great Organ, a 13th century organ with five keyboards, 190 ties and 8000 pipes; 10 original bells from the 14th century that weigh between 13,271 kg to 782 kg, the two towers which are 200 feet high and provide stunning views of Paris and the Seine river as well as the gargoyles and chimeras. The most prominent of all though are the three Notre Dame relics, The Crown of Thorns (put on the head of Jesus), a piece of the original Crucifix and one of the nails that attached Jesus to the cross.
Access to the Notre Dame Cathedral is free. However, to go up the towers of Notre Dame, one is required to purchase tickets. The Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the most visited monuments in Paris and if you decide to visit the cathedral, be prepared to face a large queue. The cathedral is large and you won’t feel the crowd much once you’re inside. However, before you do so, the queue to get inside is pretty intimidating and takes some waiting.
Solution 1: Go early in the mornings to avoid the densest crowds
The Notre Dame Cathedral is open everyday from 7:45 AM to 6:45 PM. The shortest queue to enter the cathedral lasts for an hour or two every morning once the cathedral opens. By 9:00 AM, the crowd increases significantly and so does the queue. Since the entrance is free, everybody needs to go through this queue. Hence, arriving early is your best bet to enter without a significant wait.
Solution 2: Purchase skip the line tickets to the Notre Dame Towers
Though the entrance to the cathedral is free, one is required to purchase a ticket if they wish to access the towers of Notre Dame and take in views of Paris from one of the best vantage points in Paris. Standing 200 feet tall, there are 387 steps that will lead you to the top of the towers. Queues leading to the top of the towers are also significantly long. In order to bypass this queue, you can purchase guided tours with skip the line tickets to the Notre Dame Towers. On these tours, you will be able to skip the long lines and head straight to the top.
The Orsay Museum (Musee d’Orsay)
Once a railway station in Paris that welcomed visitors from the south-west of France, Gare d'Orsay was converted into an art museum and renamed as Musee d’Orsay. One of the largest museums in Europe, Musee d’Orsay is home to the largest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings in the world. Built between 1898 and 1900, the museum houses prominent works of art from the 19th century, including remarkable pieces from artists such as Monet, Van Gogh, Manet, Cézanne, Sisley and Gauguin.
With lose to 4 million visitors every year, Musee d’Orsay is one of the most visited museums in Paris, with only the Louvre getting more visitors. The story with Orsay is the same as pretty much every major landmark in Paris - a queue that we could all do without. In order to skip this line and enjoy French art rather than the notorious “French attraction queue”, keep the following points in mind:
Solution 1: Purchase Orsay Museum skip the line tickets in advance
Like every other popular attraction in Paris, you should purchase skip the line Orsay Museum tickets in advance since the queue to buy tickets onsite can have you wait for up to 2 hours. To avoid this queue, simply purchase your priority access tickets in advance and head straight to the security gates on the day of your visit. After a brief security check at the right gate (more about it below), you will be able to enter the museum with ease.
Solution 2: Enter via Gate C
Musee d’Orsay has 4 entrances - A, B, C and D. The one you should be interested in is Gate C. Gate A is for individual visitors looking to purchase tickets. This also makes Gate A the one with the longest queue. Gate B and D are for pre-booked adult and school groups.
Gate C is the one you should be going to as it is dedicated to visitors with a priority access ticket. Here, you will be able to enter the museum without any hassle or having to queue up.
Solution 3: Go on Thursdays after 6:00 PM
Tuesdays are when the Louvre is closed and as a result, most museum goers and art lovers flock to Musee d’Orsay. As a result, Tuesdays and weekends are the busiest days. Your best bet is to visit on a Thursday after 6:00 PM. The museum closes every day at 6:00 PM, except on Thursday when the Orsay stays open till 9:45 PM. Since most visitors leave by 6, you should be able to enjoy the museum in relative peace after 6:00 PM on a Thursday. Note: Musee d’Orsay is closed on Monday.
Solution 4: If you have the Paris Museum Pass, you get skip the line access to Orsay Museum, Louvre and 60 other attractions in Paris
The Paris Museum Pass will function similar to the priority access tickets that you can buy for the museum. The Pass will allow you to skip the ticket line and head inside the museum after a brief security check. The Paris Museum Pass gives you priority access to over 60 museums and monuments in Paris for only a fraction of the cost. With the Paris Museum, you will be able to visit the Louvre without having to wait in the ticket line.
So, there you have it - a look at the top 6 attractions in Paris that have an entrance queue, how to tackle them and where to get your priority access tickets from. If you are a traveller and have any have any ideas or suggestions, or know of a secret that no one knows, do let us know in the comments.