Tennis and history on the outskirts of Paris
When I lived in Paris a few years back, I always planned to check out the Roland Garros tennis complex. Unfortunately, studying for finals ended up getting in the way and I never made it out. So when I finally visited last week, I was happy to address this unfinished business.
You might wonder why the site of a sporting event ranked high on my list of must-see attractions in this “city of art and culture”, but this is no ordinary tennis stadium. Host to the French Open, one of the four majors of the sport, Roland Garros is rivaled only by Wimbledon in history and charm. (All apologies to partisans of Melbourne and Flushing Meadows.)
With its leafy campus outside of the city center and just adjacent to the massive Bois de Boulogne park, Roland Garros is a pleasant spot for an urban escape. During the French Open, of course, the scene is probably much more hectic, but we were visiting the complex while all the stars of tennis were busy at the U.S. Open back in New York.
Touring Roland Garros
I had expected the tour to include a stroll through the striking red-clay courts that tennis fans know so well, and perhaps a visit to center court. Rather, the hour-plus tour was a sweep of the entire campus, including visits to the press boxes, media rooms, and players’ locker rooms, finishing up with a visit to the French Federation of Tennis Museum.
Visitors can sit in the press room and pretend they won the championship, while an audio recording of the most recent final adds the proper ambiance to the center court visit. And no, unfortunately you don’t get to walk on the clay court itself (the groundskeepers would be beside themselves).
Filled with history and interesting anecdotes about players ranging from Suzanne Lenglen to Steffi Graf and Rafael Nadal, the tour will be appreciated by any tennis fan visiting Paris. Even non-fans will feel the historical significance of the complex.
Tours cost €10.50 per person (€8.50 for children and students) and a combined tour/museum ticket runs €15.50. English-language tours depart at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (plus Tuesdays and Thursdays during French school holidays). Check out the Roland Garros website for more information.
Free and cheapo visits
If you’re not willing to dish out for a tour, but you still want to take in the scenery of the Roland Garros campus, access is perfectly free for most of the year. You won’t get to see center court or the other auxiliary attractions, but the grounds themselves are worth the trip on the Metro.
During the French Open, of course, you’ll have to pay to get into Roland Garros. There are ways, though, of getting your tennis fix on the cheap. During the tournament (mid-May to early June each year), evening tickets start at €12. These get you access to the outside courts from 3 p.m. on or the show courts from 5 p.m. on. You might not catch a marquee match-up, at least in whole, but you’ll still get to see the pros duke it out on the challenging clay courts.
To get to Roland Garros, take Metro Line 10 to Porte d’Auteil. The entrance is a 10-minute walk down Avenue de la Porte d’Auteuil and Avenue de Gary Bennett.
Where to eat
Our trip to Roland Garros began with a delightful brunch in the garden of the quaint and convenient Le Roland Garros restaurant, where we gorged ourselves on charcuterie, merguez and eggs “a la coque” (soft-boiled). The restaurant unfortunately does not offer Cheapo-priced meal fare, but the idyllic atmosphere might be worth a decently priced cocktail plus charcuterie, antipasti or a dessert (each at €8 – €10).
This post is part of a series sponsored by Atout France – USA, the French Tourism Development Agency in New York, which is highlighting youth travel in France. On our recent trip, we traveled from Paris to Montpellier, inspecting accommodations, activities and sights that appeal to youth travelers.
For EuroCheapo’s advice on the best places to stay in Paris, check out our list of budget hotel recommendations.