As the number of French tourists visiting Paris is almost the same as the number of foreign visitors, you’d better avoid coming during the school holidays or public holidays: the prices for almost everything go up (train tickets, hotels, theme parks) and the queues are at their highest as well.
November through February tend to be the calmest months (except for the school holiday period), while the hotel prices are usually at their lowest in August and in winter. The highest rates are to be expected in June and September.
Christmas is one of the best periods of the year to visit Paris. By following our tips, you’ll manage to avoid crowds and have a memorable experience of the French capital with special illuminations, decorations, Christmas markets selling hot wine & hand-crafted gifts, as well as the overall atmosphere of festivity.
The busiest periods at the museums in Paris are: between April and June as well as around October: when temporary exhibitions are normally changed. Try avoiding these periods if the major goal of your visit is cultural activity. That’s when a queue to Pompidou or Louvre may easily take a few hours.
The busiest months for Parisian monuments are generally May, July and August.
Easter week is always a very crowded period.
Which days to visit the main tourist sites?
Most museums have a day off, and it’s usually either Monday or Tuesday. Don’t forget to check opening hours.
The day after the closed day tends to attract bigger crowds. Because it’s closed on Mondays, the Palace of Versailles is much busier than usual on Tuesdays.
Try to visit the main sites on weekdays, there are always less crowds! Thursday is the best day, usually seeing the lowest number of visitors.
If you don’t have any choice than to visit a site over the weekend, prefer Saturdays: it’s usually calmer in cultural places, as this day is considered by most of the French as a ‘shopping day’ (the shops are closed on Sundays).
The main symbol of the city, the world’s record-breaker in appearing on T-shirts, postcards and souvenirs. The Eiffel Tower will charm you at first sight, especially if you choose Trocadero deck for the first date, looking at the Champ de Mars, and taking in the view of the Iron Lady.
The view from the Eiffel Tower, once you conquer it and get to the top, is of the same splendour. Time spins away while you’re wandering around looking at the rooftops of Paris. Not to mention the lit Eiffel Tower, when the lights are turned on in the evening, and it becomes brilliant, literally and figuratively.
And now we get back to our down-to-earth statistics: you’ll definitely not be alone standing open-mouthed, admiring the Eiffel Tower. And, as you can guess, you’ll have a lot of competitors whilst trying to get upstairs. Actually, the wait may easily take several hours, especially in the summer, it being one of the longest queues in Paris.
Tip 1: The best way to avoid queuing is to purchase your ticket on the official website or as part of a group tour (like this one). Do it well in advance, especially during high season, as tickets get sold out very quickly!
Tip 2: You may sometimes find that all the tickets to the top are sold out for the day of your visit, but there are also those available to the second floor. Take it! You can buy the ticket for the top in the ticket office on the second floor of the Tower, without a big queue.
Tip 3: If your legs allow, the trick is to choose the stairs. So yes, it seems high but it is not as bad as you think! Con: the stairs stop on the second floor (800 steps), you’ll need to take the elevator anyway to go up to the top. If you’re not in good health, don’t try to impress anyone, best to take the elevator.
We don’t think there’s any need to explain how great the Louvre is. There is something for all tastes - French, Italian, Greek, Oriental, Spanish, Belgian art, and we haven’t finished the list. The Louvre hosts important collections, dating from the Antiquity up to the XIXth century, ranging from mummies to the Mona Lisa. No fingers will suffise to count the number of masterpieces kept within these walls, and the walls themselves, being a former royal palace, are more than spectacular.
Tip 1: The best way to guarantee yourself a queue-free entry is to book your ticket in advance. You can buy it on Ticketbar or Fnac. Ticketbar’s information center, where you can collect the tickets, is close to the Louvre, but to collect tickets bought from Fnac you’ll need to go to one of their shops. Be careful while planning your Louvre visit: if you plan going on a Sunday and want to collect your ticket the same day, there’s only one Fnac store open in Paris (on the Champs Elysées) and it opens at noon.
Tip 2: If you couldn’t book the ticket in advance and found yourself in a giant queue in front of the Pyramid - know that it’s not necessary to spend an hour or two waiting in line. The Pyramid entrance is not the only one for those without tickets, but always the one with the biggest queue. Try to enter the museum from the Carrousel du Louvre (underground shopping mall) or from the Porte de Lions entrance (closed on Fridays and in the evening, but when it’s open - there’s never a queue). To find the Porte de Lions - imagine the Pyramid right in front of you is at 12 o’clock, then the entrance to look for is at 4 o’clock.
Coming with a pre-purchased ticket will let you skip the entrance queue (up to 2 hours in the summer), but won’t let you avoid the crowds inside. To allow for more elbow room, we advise you to come during off-peak hours.
Tip 3: The best time to visit the Louvre is right at the opening time, on Mondays and Thursdays. If you’re one of the first to enter the museum - head to the Mona Lisa first. You can’t imagine what this room looks like during peak hours!
Tip 4: During low season (from October to March), admission on the first Sunday of each month is free: avoid it, the Louvre is overpacked!
The usual crowds in front of the Mona Lisa
Once here, you’ll probably understand why French people are so proud of this place. A symbol of the absolute monarchy of the Ancien Régime, the main residence of the royal family, Versailles has always been admired and envied across the world. It served as a model for royal residences in different countries, with governors wanting to bring it over, usually without success (though the Russian Emperor Peter the Great’s residence - Peterhof - isn’t far off).
You’ll need hours to discover the whole place: not only the Palace, but also the parks, Petit Trianon, Grand Trianon… The visit of those places will give you an impression that Louis XVI has just turned the corner, and you’ll probably think of Alexandre Benois’ Versailles paintings whilst walking slowly in the garden’s alleys in gloomy weather.
You know, when the French king had to cross the Galerie des Glaces in Versailles, the court used to split in two to open the way for him. Well… it’s worth a try, but chances are small that other tourists will do the same for you. Versailles sees huge crowds and queues, and to explore the place calmly to feel its atmosphere one needs serious planning! Or just to read our tips :)
The first queue is for tickets (about 50 minutes), the second one at the back is to enter (another 50 minutes)
Tip: Avoid visiting the Palace of Versailles during French school holidays and particularly Christmas holidays, it’s the busiest time! Don’t plan your visit on a weekend or Tuesday. Choose Wednesday or Thursday for a quieter experience.
Tip 2: Peak hours are from 10 am to 3 pm. If you can’t arrive early, then explore first the park and the Trianons and then head to the Palace after 3 pm, when the queues have thinned out.
Tip 3: If you have the right to free entry (EU citizens or residents under 26 years, for example) - you don’t need to queue for the tickets. Just go straight to the main entrance with valid ID.
Another emblematic site in Paris which rules majestically over the Île de la Cité and has served as inspiration for artists, from Victor Hugo and Walt Disney to small painters still depicting it today from the adjacent bridge. You can climb its towers to see the famous gargoyles observing the city thoughtfully from above.
Though the waiting line to the Cathedral may seem long - it moves very fast, with a constant flow of visitors coming in and out. The entrance is free, you don’t need a ticket.
Tip: Avoid visiting on major religious holidays (Christmas, Easter, Assumption Day, All Saints’ Day) and 1-2 days before and after those.
Tip 2: There are more visitors during the service, especially on Sunday. Try to visit the Cathedral on Tuesday or Wednesday, when crowds are smallest.
Tip 3: From April to October the Cathedral starts filling up right from 9 am.
To climb the Towers, be ready to spend up to two hours queueing in summer and up to one hour during the rest of the year. The entrance is separate from the Cathedrals’, it’s on the left, and we guess you won’t miss it - as there’s always a line stretching along the Cathedral’s side, ALL the way down the side! Alas, there’s no way to buy tickets in advance, book your entrance time or buy a “skip-the-line” pass - all visitors have to queue to get inside, and about 20 people enter every 10 minutes (the Tower’s capacity is therefore only about 120 people / hour).
Coming on weekdays usually doesn’t help, as most visitors are foreign tourists and queues are generally the same length as on weekends.
Tip: The only way to save your time for Notre-Dame’s Towers is to arrive at 9:15-9:30 in high season or at 9:45 in low season, and you’ll be sure to get inside at 10. The prize for getting there early is an hour of your time saved, find a better way to spend it than queuing!
Wednesdays and Fridays tend to be the best days for the Orsay visit, with less crowds.
Lunchtime (from noon to 2 pm) is a great option, otherwise try to arrange your visit for Thursday evenings, when the museum has extended hours until 9:45 pm. This time slot (6 - 9 pm on Thursdays) is the calmest even during high season.
You can purchase a ticket on the official website and pass through a special “Visitors with tickets” entrance. Entirely queue-free!
Queues and crowds at the Pompidou centre vary a lot during the year, depending mostly on the temporary exhibitions. The trick is to avoid visiting the museum during the first and last few weeks of temporary exhibits. In the middle of a temporary exhibition’s display period at the museum you may find no queue at all. Just a couple of people in front of you at the ticket office. You might even get some of the permanent collection rooms just to yourself! On the other hand, with a popular temporary exhibition, that has just started, you may need to wait an hour just to enter the museum, even if you only want to see the permanent collection.
Tip: Prefer a sunny day for your visit, as rainy days bring more visitors to the centre.
Tip 2: Pompidou centre stays open until 9 pm, late evenings are great to discover the place whilst avoiding crowds.
Avoid the busiest periods: between the 27th and 31st of December, the 14th of July and 15th of August weekends. Give preference to visiting either between noon and 2 pm or after 4 pm.
Thursdays and Fridays have the smallest number of visitors.
With no option to book your place beforehand, or to purchase a ticket online. The only way to avoid queues (about 30 minutes on average) is coming during non-busy hours: give preference to mornings. From September to June Sainte Chapelle is closed for entry from 1 pm to 2:15 pm, but for those who are already inside - they can stay as long as they want. The best way to discover this magnificent place would therefore be to come at about 12:40 on a weekday. In the summer they usually have extended hours on Wednesdays. Check the website to be sure, but it’s also a great option to avoid crowds.
Don’t be afraid to see just two lines of text here. We love Disneyland (and hate crowds) so much that we could write a book about it. Meanwhile, here’s a page with all the tips for your perfect Disneyland visit. Enjoy!
You should probably decide yourself if this pass is worthy for you, as many consider it too pricey. The Adult Pass costs € 109 for 2 days, € 129 for 3 days and € 155 for 5 days. All details are available here. Just remember to think twice in case:
Are there any other sites you’d like to see here? Just ask us, we’ll do our best to add it or answer your questions!
We’re waiting for your postcards and bon voyage! (Have a great trip!)
P.S. Want to visit another city? Here is the list:
More cities are coming soon!