You could spend hundreds of euros visiting Paris’ top museums, or you could do this instead.
From the Louvre to the Musée d’Orsay, Paris is a cultural capital with a slew of museums every traveler should visit. From visiting the Mona Lisa to basking in the beauty of Monet’s water lilies, there are a few simple ways you can both skip the line and the price tag of visiting these iconic museums.
These Paris Museums Are Always Free on the First Sunday of Every Month
Plan your trip over the first Sunday of the month for the widest variety of free museums. Several of the city’s best-known museums are on the list, including the Musée d’Orsay and Center Pompidou, and the Musée Picasso, three excellent options where you can spend hours getting lost among famous works of art.
INSIDER TIPThe days of waiting in long lines to get into Paris museums on free admission days are over. Nowadays, you’ll need a reservation, and you should make it as soon as you book your airline tickets. Reservations are timed, so you can expect it to move quickly if you do have to wait in line.
Musée d’Orsay is set inside a romantic Beaux-Arts train station. Walking into its main gallery is like stepping into the Paris of yesteryear. This museum has an extensive collection of Impressionist art, including several pieces from French artist Claude Monet, lots of sculptures, and special exhibits.
Recommended Fodor’s Video
Prefer a free museum with an unforgettable balcony view? Head to the Center Pompidou, an architectural icon that houses a world-class art collection. Its collection starts in the early 1900s and includes pieces from Henri Matisse and a 1986 self-portrait in drag by Andy Warhol. The museum has an expansive terrace with postcard-perfect views of the Sacre Coeur and the Eiffel Tower. Or head to the Picasso Museum, an ode to Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, and spend your Sunday with Picasso’s paintings, sculptures, drawings, and illustrated books.
How to Visit the Musée Rodin for Free
Some Paris museums only offer free admission on the first Sunday of the month during certain times of the year. For example, to visit the Musée Rodin, you’ll need to come between October and March. Plan your trip in that time frame, and you can experience François Auguste René Rodin’s “The Thinker”—a bronze sculpture of a man resting his chin on his fist—for free. Several other Paris museums had offered free admission on the first Sundays of some months but suspended those efforts in late 2020 because of the pandemic.
Paris Museums That Always Have Free Admission
Don’t be disappointed if your travel dates don’t include the first Sunday of the month. Several Paris museums offer free admission every single day. The Musée Carnavalet reopened in 2021 and tells the history of Paris through exhibits in two neighboring mansions that date back to the 16th and 17th centuries. Its collection includes paintings, sculptures, items from the French Revolution, and Gallo-Roman archaeological finds.
The Petit Palais isn’t just home to impressive works of art; it is an impressive work of art. The Petit Palais was built for a Universal Exhibition in 1900 and now holds a collection of art covering centuries of history. Its collection includes objects from the French and Italian Renaissances, Flemish and Dutch paintings, and even a Cezanne.
Voracious readers may want to consider a visit to Maison de Victor Hugo, where they won’t have to spend a single euro to step inside the apartment Victor Hugo rented from 1832 to 1848. Visiting the apartment is like taking a walk through the author’s life, stopping in his writer’s study along the way to the bedroom where Hugo died in 1885.
Who Can Always Snag Free Admission
Many Paris museums offer free admission to people under 18. Some offer free admission to travelers up to 26 years old from any European Union country and French public school teachers.
The Hôtel de la Marine offers free entry to anyone under 18 and European Union residents between 18 and 25. The Hôtel de la Marine provides a taste of Versailles without having to leave the city. It reopened in 2021 after a four-year renovation. The 17th-century palace once housed the head of the French Navy during the French Revolution. During World War II, the building served as headquarters for Germany’s navy.
At the Bourse du Commerce, a circular architectural icon where the Pinault Collection debuted in 2021, admission is free for anyone under 18, as well as for art teachers and disabled people. Inside this gorgeous building that was once a grain exchange, you’ll find more than 10,000 works of art from nearly 400 artists. Expect some recognizable names and to become acquainted with some emerging artists.
The Secret to Visiting the Louvre for Free
There may be few better ways to spend a Saturday night in Paris than by spending the evening wandering the Louvre, the world’s most-visited museum and home of the iconic Mona Lisa.
The Louvre offers free admission from 6 pm until 9:45 pm on the first Saturday of every month. So, while everyone else is out to dinner, admire the museum’s iconic glass pyramid and check out the “Mona Lisa,” “Venus de Milo,” and more. Or consider visiting on July 14th when the country celebrates Bastille Day, and the Louvre is open to everyone for free all day long. You shouldn’t expect to see the Louvre’s entire collection of nearly 500,000 items in a single day; you’d need to spend several months in Paris to do that.