It's hardly a secret that Paris hosts the Musée du Louvre, perhaps the most famous museum in the world. Although the majority of the museum is a palatial fortress that dates back to the 12th century, it is the glass pyramid added to its Cour Napoleon courtyard as part of architect I.M. Pei's massive renovation and expansion in 1989 that has made the Louvre almost as iconic a Parisian structure as the Eiffel Tower.
Although the Louvre Museum is the most famous in Paris — generally well-known for being the home of da Vinci's Mona Lisa — there are two other wonderful museums nearby that also are well worth your time even on a brief stay in the city — the Musée d'Orsay and its little sister, the Musée de l'Orangerie — which showcase a selection of famous artworks from 1848 to 1914 and the early 20th century, respectively. You don't have to have an art degree to get excited about paintings like van Gogh's Starry Night Over the Rhone, in the d'Orsay Museum, and Monet's Nymphéas water lily collection, in the l'Orangerie Museum.
The queues at the Louvre Museum can be quite long, and travelgasm.com would strongly recommend booking tickets in advance. Advance tickets will require you to show up at a specified time, but it will limit your wait to a promised 30 minutes or less. If you show up late, your tickets still will be accepted, but you will no longer be given priority admission. Be sure to show up on time.
Based on our experience from several visits to the museum, the queues are shorter if you enter through the attached Carrousel du Louvre mall rather than the pyramid entrance above it. The lines are shorter at the d'Orsay Museum than the Louvre altogether — we only had to wait about 30 minutes at d'Orsay on a free Sunday in September by showing up about 20 minutes before the museum opened.
Wait, what is this about free Sunday? Well, if you're lucky enough to be between the ages of 18 to 25 and an EU resident, most museums in Paris always are free, but many museums are free on the first Sunday of the month for everyone.
We've summarized the free Sunday info, opening and closing details, and reserved ticket options for the Louvre, d'Orsay, and l'Orangerie Museums below:
|Museé du Louvre||Museé d'Orsay||Museé de l'Orangerie|
|Closed||Every Tuesday||Every Monday||Every Tuesday|
|Open Late||Wednesday & Friday||Thursday||Closes Early|
|Free Entry|| First Sunday
(October to March)
|Nearest Metro||Palais Royal/Musee du Louvre
(Line 1 and 7)
|Gare du Musée d'Orsay
(Line 1, 8, and 12)
|Full Hours||Louvre Hours||d'Orsay Hours||l'Orangerie Hours|
|Events Calendar||Louvre Events||d'Orsay Events||l'Orangerie Events|
|Reserved Tickets||Louvre Tickets||d'Orsay Tickets||l'Orangerie Tickets|
|Tickets & Tour Guide||Louvre Tour Guide||d'Orsay Tour Guide||l'Orangerie Tour Guide|
|Paris Museum Pass||Paris Museum Pass — All Three Museums & Other Attractions|
Be sure to review the official opening hours information linked above for your specific days in Paris for each museum to avoid potential disappointment as well as each events page to learn about temporary exhibits and special events. Additionally, we would suggest not going to the d'Orsay Museum on a Tuesday when the Louvre is closed, or at least book tickets in advance for d'Orsay if Tuesday is the most convenient day for your itinerary. During the summer, when tourists are at their thickest, it would be wise to book tickets in advance regardless.
You commonly can just stroll into the l'Orangerie Museum in the morning on paid days, although you still can save time by booking tickets in advance if you would like. l'Orangerie is too popular to get away with calling it one of our "7 Things Tourists Don't Do in Paris, but You Should" — no doubt at least partially because it was featured prominently in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris — but it is a small museum and feels less hectic and overrun than the Louvre and d'Orsay.
If you would like to visit the Louvre, d'Orsay, and l'Orangerie museums, you might also want to consider buying the Paris Museum Pass in advance. The Paris Museum Pass provides "skip the line" access to all three museums as well as many other museums and attractions including the Centre Pompidou, the Notre Dame towers and crypt, and the Panthéon. Two, four, and six-day options are available.
Because this area is so full of tourists, it's not the best neighborhood in Paris to eat, so we would suggest that you either go with an inexpensive option or something that is well regarded by a credible French source. If you're on a tight budget, the food court in the Carrousel du Louvre mall is a convenient option for a variety of global fast food including a branch of the ubiquitous McDonald's, which the French commonly abbreviate as McDo. If it's not raining, a better budget option would be to grab a picnic lunch from the nearby Carrefour grocery store to enjoy in the lovely Jardin des Tuileries — there are tables and chairs scattered around for your use — but note that drinking wine in this park is illegal and the law is enforced at least sporadically. At the high-end, the two Michelin star Le Meurice Alain Ducasse across the street from the Jardin des Tuileries is pricey, but it looks beautiful.
By Parisian standards, this neighborhood is not the best stroll because the streets are largely wide and high speed — culminating in the Place de la Concorde roundabout intersection that is particularly miserable on foot — but we've mapped out what we found to be the most enjoyable walk between these museums by ducking through the Jardin des Tuileries and heading across the Seine using the pleasant people-only Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor bridge.
How to Get Here: The best metro station for the Louvre is Palais Royal/Musee du Louvre, which is accessible via both Line 1 and Line 7. Take Exit 6, Carrousel du Louvre to go directly into the underground mall connected to the Louvre Museum. If you follow our suggested walk between the Louvre and d'Orsay through the Jardin des Tuileries, the closest departure point from the d'Orsay Museum is Gare du Musée d'Orsay, RER Line C.
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