When visiting Paris for the first time, chances are you have a good full list of places, monuments and museums you do not want to miss... And chances are the millions of tourists who come to see the capital each year do too. Paris is still the most visited city in the world, and for a good reason ! It is full of unavoidable points of interest. The Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, Notre-Dame... These are a few of the places that host the most people all year long, and in which a visit is often preceeded by hours of queuing. So how can you organize your trip without having to spend half the time you have in waiting lines ? By anticipating. Here is a little overview on the main places of interest that Paris has to offer, and the best moment and time to go visit each of them without drowning in a crowd.
The Eiffel Tower
The Iron Lady is gorgeous when seen from the ground, or the Trocadéro square on the other side of the Seine. But if you want to go up to admire the view on Paris, know that you will have to wait for quite some time. The second floor of the tower is accessible through stairs, but if you want to go higher, elevators are the only way to go. For sure, there is no time during the year when you will be able to go up the Eiffel Tower without waiting, but it is certainly useful to know when the peak periods are so you can try and avoid them.
First of all, avoid going on week ends. If you do not have a choice, go in the morning (starting at 9.30 a.m) ! In general, the waiting lines are always shorter early in the morning, or in the evening between 6 and 11 p.m. As for the peak periods, the Eiffel Tower's website publishes a provisional timetable every year. Know that the highest peak period is between July 14th and August 24th. During this time of year, count on more than a three-hour wait if you have not booked your ticket in advance. If you are lucky enough to be visiting Paris outside of the summer, your best option is to go in the beginning of the week, and avoid bank holidays.
The Louvre is the most visited museum in Paris, so do not hope to completely avoid waiting in line. But if you book your ticket in advance, you will already save a lot of time. As for the best time to go, it is advised to enter before 11 a.m, and favor mondays and thursdays (the least crowded days). If you were planning on enjoying one of the late openings (from 8 to 10 p.m), choose the wednesday one over the friday one.
The Orsay Museum
The Orsay Museum is one to visit in the morning. To enjoy the sunrays of midday peaking through the glass ceilings in the cafeteria on the top floor after your visit, but also to avoid peak periods. To quietly enjoy the tremendous collections and building without having to wait for too long, it is advised to go from wednesdays to fridays before 2 p.m. Or, take advantage of the museum's late opening on thursdays (between 6 and 9.45 p.m), where there are generally fewer people.
The Pompidou Center
The best time to go and visit this modern art museum is in the evening (between 6 and 9 p.m) on week days. If you must go during the week-end, favor this time period as well, or go during lunchtime (from 12 p.m to 2 p.m) to make sure you avoid the longest waiting lines.
The Grévin Museum
With its famous wax mannequins, the Grévin museum is a kids favorite. So avoid at any cost going on a wednesday, when it is by far the most crowded. The most quiet days are thursdays and fridays, and the museum is generally less crowded between 11 a.m and 1 p.m, and between 3 and 5 p.m.
The Notre-Dame cathedral
Good news : the Notre-Dame cathedral usually does not have long waiting lines (sometimes none at all). To visit this tremendous monument that is even more beautiful on the inside than it is on the outside, favor the afternoons, the time period between 2 and 5.45 p.m being the most quiet every day of the week.
The Sainte Chapelle
Although is it barely visible from the street, people very well know about how gorgeous the Sainte Chapelle is, which means that you will generally have to wait for about an hour to get in. To avoid the biggest peak periods, try to go in the morning before 11 a.m, or during lunchtime in the beginning of the week.
The Sacré Coeur (Montmartre)
The queue in front of the basilica can look a bit scary, but rest assured it moves quite fast. However, to enjoy your visit without being too crowded, avoid going on week ends or on wednesdays, and plan your visit before 2 p.m if you can.
This magnificent street going down the Arc de Triomphe is certainly a crowded one ! On the bright side, the stores open until very late in the evening (usually 11 p.m), and the sight is particularly impressive at this time of day. To make the most of it, walk along the avenue after dusk, avoiding week end days if possible, especially sundays when the sidewalks are busy to say the least.
Want to make anticipation your thing ?
To keep up with the peak periods everywhere you go, you can download the Hurikat app for free. Constantly updated, it lists millions of places around the world, and could very well come in handy if you hate waiting in line.