Some Pros & Cons to Consider Before Buying
When budgeting for a trip to Paris, many travelers opt to buy passes that allow for “free” entry into several popular museums, monuments and/or city tours. One of the most comprehensive of these is the Paris Pass, which offers access to more than 75 attractions and tours in the French capital, and is available for 2, 3, 4 or 6 days.
But is the pass really worth the up-front costs? It all depends on how much time and money you have available, how you prefer to organize your stay, and a few other factors. Read on for an overview of what the pass includes, pros and cons, and advice on how to get the best value out of it.
First Things First: What Does the Paris Pass Include?
When you purchase the pass, you’ll gain entry to more than 75 museums, monuments, and other attractions in the capital, including a Seine River cruise and a city bus tour. And irrespective of the number of days of coverage you have included, your pass includes the Paris Museum Pass, a separate card that covers access to some 50 popular museums. You’ll pick up the Museum Pass from an approved distributor once in Paris.
Some of the most popular sights and attractions covered by the Paris Pass include the Louvre Museum, Musée d’Orsay, Picasso Museum, Eiffel Tower (including a guided climb to the second level), Centre Georges Pompidou (and its massive modern art collection), the Panthéon, the Sainte-Chapelle, National Medieval Museum (Musée Cluny), the Arc de Triomphe, the Palais de Versailles, the Montparnasse Tower and its panoramic viewing platform, and the Grévin Wax Museum (one of the best museums for kids in the capital).
You can choose from among an impressive number of thematic tours, including (at the time this article was published) French Wine Tasting at a cellar within the Louvre, champagne-tasting in Montmartre, a Marais neighborhood walking tour, and a walking tour of Père-Lachaise cemetery. But please do note that since I haven’t taken any of these yet, I can’t vouch for their quality (or lack thereof).
The pass also includes entry to a number of chateaux and sites outside of the Paris city walls, including the Chateau de Fontainebleau, Chateau de Vincennes, and the Basilica-Cathedral of Saint-Denis.
Depending on the attraction in question, you’ll need to either show the digital Paris Pass (via phone or a print copy) or the Paris Museum Pass. Make sure you have both on hand so you’re well prepared when you get to the registers or entry point.
Some Pros & Cons
As with any product, the Paris Pass comes with some pros and cons. Before you spring for it, consider the following.
The pass might be ideal for you if you prefer a highly structured and tightly packed vacation, and place less value on spontaneous discoveries or unstructured time. To get the most value out of it, you should aim to slot in many attractions and tours over consecutive days. So if you have 7 days in Paris and buy a 4-day pass, you’ll need to spend four consecutive days during your stay exploring as many of the attractions and tours included with the pass as you wish or are able to.
You’ll have access to a large variety of attractions and tours, including less well-known museums and attractions. This is a point I find impressive, since it means that even visitors who’ve already been to Paris once or twice and want to explore smaller or quirkier attractions will likely be able to benefit from the pass.
Another advantage to the pass is that it’s easily downloaded onto your phone via a dedicated app. Using the app, you’ll be able to easily find attractions and tours, and show your pass for smooth entry.
Finally, a 90-day cancellation policy means you can easily get reimbursed before your trip in case of unforeseen problems or delays. As long as you don’t activate the pass, you should be able to easily secure a full refund.
Meanwhile, the pass might be less of a fit for you if you find the idea of visiting more than 3 or 4 museums/monuments on consecutive days tiring, or if your ideal style of travel is to spend lots of time wandering aimlessly and happening upon places in a more spontaneous way.
Particularly if you only have a few days to see the city, you may find it challenging or too constraining to make good use of the pass over consecutive days. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to spread out your chosen days, so if, for example, your pass covers 6 days, they must be consecutive. This limits flexibility, to a degree.
Another thing to keep in mind (in 2021) is that current Covid-19 related travel restrictions mean that the pass is a bit less flexible than it would be in “normal” times. Where in the past you would have received “fast-pass” style access to museums and other attractions without having to reserve in advance, the pandemic has brought crowd-control measures into play that mean reservations are often required for entry.
Finally, families with kids may want to carefully weigh whether the pass includes enough attractions that are likely to stimulate and entertain your youngest. While it does cover quite a few kid-friendly attractions (including the Science Museum and the Grevin Wax Museum), your available budget and time will help determine whether buying the pass makes financial sense.
Where to Buy the Paris Pass (& Get Your Museum Pass)
You can purchase a pass for 2, 3, 4 or 6 days by visiting the official website. In addition to current prices for adults and children, you’ll also see up-to-date information on any current health restrictions and regulations that may temporarily be in place, such as mandatory reservations for select attractions, masks, etc.
Once in Paris, you’ll need to pick up your accompanying Museum Pass at the following address:
Big Bus Information Center
11 Avenue de l’Opéra
75009 Paris (9th arrondissement)
The office is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. It’s recommended that you pick up the pass as early as possible to make the most of your stay. Your phone pass will only be activated once you obtain the (print) Museum Pass.
More on Visiting France on a Budget
If you’re working hard to curb your spending but don’t want to miss out on a full experience, we have a few resources that we hope will help. First, see our guide to eating out on a budget in Paris for tips on shaving off costs from meals out, while still indulging in some of the best cuisine and street food on offer.
Next, see our comprehensive guide to where to stay in Paris for tips on choosing the right hotel or apartment rental, including advice on budgeting for accommodations.
Finally, check out this piece on the best free museums in the French capital, from art collections to city history museums.