An old train station built for the 1900s World Fair, the Musée d’Orsay became the city’s premier museum for Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art when it opened in 1986. It’s the place to see all of the French art that you know so well: Monet, Seurat, Cezanne, etc. Far from a secret spot, everyone loves flocking to the museum to get a glimpse of these impressionist masterpieces.
Coming off renovations that concluded in late 2011, the museum looks better than ever. It’s also one of the most popular spots in town, so it’s wise to plan ahead. Here are our top tips for visiting the Musée d’Orsay like a pro:
The Metro is your best bet, with line 12 dropping you off at the Solferino station two blocks away. The RER C also stops at the museum, making it an easy commute from most anywhere in Paris.
While it’s hardly as palatial as the Louvre, the Orsay is, however, almost as popular. Unfortunately there’s only one way to get into the museum (unless you have a museum pass), so, yes, that line is for you! Arriving super early is of course a great idea (around 9 AM). Otherwise, prepare to queue up to enter at 9:30 AM.
The museum is open from 9:30 AM – 6 PM daily (9:45 PM on Thursdays), and closed Mondays.
Tickets and passes
Tickets cost €9 for the full adult fare. 18-25 year-old non-EU visitors are €6.50, and EU citizens under 25 are free.
Cheapo tip: Tickets sold after 4:30 PM every day (except Thursday and Saturday) are reduced to €6.50, although this leaves you with just an hour and a half to explore the galleries.
Note that admission to special exhibitions will tack on a few extra euros. See all admission charges here.
If you have a museum pass, the entrance is clearly marked by the group entrance door. (More about Paris museum tickets and passes.)
Come late and save on Thursday
Like the Louvre, the Orsay stays open late one night a week, in this case on Thursday. From 6-9:45 PM, not only are tickets cheaper (€6), but crowds are thinner. Take advantage of the evening hours if you can to avoid the hustle and bustle of the rest of the week.
Guided tours/audio guides
A guided tour isn’t really necessary, though they are offered in English at various times for €6 (check website).
The audio guide can be helpful while navigating from one Impressionist painting to another. From the Degas’ ballerinas to Monet’s water lilies, many of the works are at least familiar to most visitors.
First Sundays are free (and crazy)
The first Sunday of the month is free for the Orsay, but, like the Louvre, it becomes a madhouse. We’re just warning you in advance!
Eating and drinking
The museum has several cafés, snack bars and restaurants (see a full list here). If visiting during the late Thursday hours, consider splurging at the museum’s chic restaurant, restored from the original Hotel d’Orsay. The classy spot offers a Thursday night “discovery menu” (with drinks!) for €55, which also includes entrance to the museum’s collection.
True Cheapos, however, will probably want to head outside for food and drinks. The area behind the Musée d’Orsay stretches towards St-Germain, and nearby rue du Bac is also a happening street with many food options and cafés (the baker Eric Kayser has an outpost at 18 rue du Bac).
Looking for a cheap place to stay nearby? Check out our list of favorite budget hotels near the museum.