Paris Museum Pass: 48 hours
48 hours with the famous museum pass - €52 (+ €1.33 if bought online).
So! This was my first time using the museum pass (PMP) in Paris as an adult, and I have to say that I don’t fully agree with Rick’s advice on this one. He recommends buying the pass in Paris at a museum (however I am using an outdated 2020 version of the Rick Steves France book). I would actually recommend ordering the museum pass online, and booking your Louvre and Versailles times well in advance, since they each require a timed entry ticket even with the museum pass. Since I did not follow my own advice this time, I was not able to get a last minute ticket for the Louvre or the Trianon at Versailles. However it was not a big deal since there is way too much to see in 48 hours as it is.
I saw the Musée d’Orsay (my favorite museum in the world), la Sainte Chapelle, the Versailles palace, l’Arc de Triomphe at sunset, and l’Orangerie during my 48 hours with the PMP.
I started my time around 14h on Saturday at The Musée d’Orsay. This immense former train station now houses the best collection of impressionist art in the world (in my opinion). The restaurant on the second floor is well worth a stop for an overpriced coffee or pastry even if just to enjoy the setting (the pastries are also good). I followed Rick’s walking tour throughout the museum and enjoyed the pacing and Rick’s weird humor. I would not recommend the current special exhibit on Gaudi (unless you’re a huge Gaudi fan), because it was crowded and not particularly interesting.
After the museum, I took a long but lovely walk to the Sainte Chapelle, on Île de la Cité. It was convenient to cut the ticket line with the PMP, although I still had to wait in the security line with everyone else. The stained glass really makes this quick stop a must see during every visit to Paris.
Perhaps the longest line I waited in all day was a Starbucks (I needed an outlet and WiFi for my phone), which somehow feels wrong to me.
On Sunday it was time to brave the crowds of Versailles. I had to take two metro lines and a train to get to Versailles, so be sure to leave plenty of extra time to make any necessary changes. Versailles was, well, Versailles. I had not been since I was too young to remember it, and I have to say it surpassed my expectations. The queen’s bedroom was my favorite room in the castle, although of course the hall of mirrors deserves an honorable mention as well. The line for the restaurant at the castle was too frightening for me to brave it, so I opted to skip the gardens (not included in the Museum Pass), and to wander the streets of the beautiful planned town of Versailles instead. Leaving the castle around 14h, I noticed that the ticket line had grown to Disney proportions. I can’t recommend getting your timed ticket for the castle (and the Trianon) as far in advance as you can.
Most things in the town were closed Sunday afternoon, and it was fun to see the town out and about in their Sunday best on their way to the Versailles Cathedral. I did stumble upon a delightful coffee shop (with a nice WC) near the train station called The Stray Bean. I can recommend the cafe latte and the carrot cake very highly!
On Sunday evening I made the trip over to l’Arc de Triomphe (Metro and RER, both included on the same metro ticket). I was excited to cut the ticket line yet again with the Museum Pass. I did not read up on the monument before going over, and I had forgotten about the 200+ steps to the top. Still, the view from the top was well worth the climb. The panoramic view of the city is exquisite, and the crowd of tourists who gather at sunset to watch the Eiffel Tower light up have got the right idea. I was lucky to have good weather since the roof is uncovered. If you have the patience to wait, you can see the Tour sparkle from 22h00 to 22h05, and then descend from the monument with everyone else. The Arc itself when illuminated at night is equally stunning.
L’Orangerie on Monday morning was surprisingly empty! I thought it would be overrun since so many museums are closed Monday, but I was pleasantly surprised. For me, this is a must see when in Paris. Until July 11, there is also an amazing exhibit on Impressionist Decor downstairs at l’Orangerie. P.S. this museum has the best wifi around!
After a sandwich at the cafe it was noon, so I could have squeezed in one more museum before 14h, but honestly I was ready for a nap. La Conciergerie is also open Mondays, but I wasn’t feeling the guillotine vibes today. Plus I need to save something for next time!
I think what I enjoy so much about the Museum Pass is the puzzle-like challenge that it presents. I took a somewhat unconventional approach to the pass by spreading it over three days rather than two full days of sightseeing. I know that two museums per day is essentially my limit, so I figured that I would make better use of it this way. You could maximize your pass by staring your PMP's time on a day that would not include a Monday, since so many things are closed Mondays. In any case, the Paris Museum Pass is a good deal if you are planning to see about two included museums/monuments per day, and they are things that you would have wanted to see regardless.
Before I go, here's one more key tip: hold onto your metro ticket until you have fully exited the metro or train system. Generally you don’t need your ticket to exit the station, but if they are checking tickets you risk a €35+ fine for not having your ticket on you.
À bientôt mes amis!