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Tips for visiting the Musee d’Orsay in Paris

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Musee d'Orsay
Arrive early (or late), as the Musee d'Orsay is one of the most popular museums in Paris. Photo: dalbera

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:

Getting there

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.

Musee d'Orsay line

Everyone waits in the same line, unless you have a museum pass. Photo: roboppy

Arrive early

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.)

Give yourself more time by visiting on Thursday nights. Photo: fduk

Give yourself more time by visiting on Thursday nights. Photo: fduk

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!

Musee d'Orsay restaurant

Consider splurging on the “Discovery Menu” in the museum’s iconic restaurant. It may cost you €55—but it includes drinks and museum admission. Photo: patrickmuller

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.

About the author

Bryan Pirolli

About the author: With his college diploma fresh off the press, Bryan Pirolli headed for Paris and four years later he’s still there. A journalist and a tour guide, his main M.O. is pursuing a doctorate degree in communications at the Sorbonne Nouvelle. Bryan regularly travels on a budget, experiencing the best of European culture while still trying to make rent.  So far, so good. You can follow his adventures on his blog: www.bryanpirolli.com.

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2 Responses to “Tips for visiting the Musee d’Orsay in Paris”

Rob says:

If you go to the recommended Kayser bakery, a 15 second walk around the corner is the superb Androuet cheese shop. And almost next door is the best Nicolas wine store in the city, where the ever affable Monsieur Rodas will give you cheerful help in English to help you pick a wine within your budget! (Both these establishments keep French afternoon closing hours.) If it’s summer, picnic in the tiny park in front of St. Clotilde.

Another excellent take away bakery/ patisserie shop with very reasonable prices is next to the Solferino metro shop: Gosselin, 258 boulevard Saint Germain.

Herbert says:

A museum pass or waiting in line are not the only options. If you go to the Orangerie you can buy tickets for both it and the Musee D’Orsay. The Orangerie rarely has lines and is worth a visit. When you then go to the Musee D’Orsay, you skip the ticket-purchasing line and walk right in.

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