Last Updated on 29th May 2020 by Sophie Nadeau
Located in a former train station and best-known for its beautiful clock, not to mention some of the most famous art pieces in the world, such as Van Gogh’s Starry Night, the Musée d’Orsay is a must-visit while in the French capital city. Here are 10 things to know before visiting the Musée d’Orsay!
#1 Purchase skip the line tickets in advance
If there’s one thing you need to know before visiting the Musée d’Orsay, it’s that it’s one of the busiest and most popular museums in Paris! As such, visit any time during opening time (especially during peak tourist season, which runs from late spring to early autumn) and you’ll likely have to queue to enter the premises.
If you want to save some of your precious time in the city, then you’ll want to book a ticket with a skip the line function. Purchase your Musée d’Orsay ticket here in advance.
#2 The Musée d’Orsay is easy to find!
Unlike some of the smaller museums in Paris, which are often tucked away and difficult to find, the Musée d’Orsay can be found right alongside the banks of the River Seine, on the Rive Gauche (left bank). The cultural space is to be found in the chic Saint Germain des Pres neighbourhood, between Quai Anatole France and Rue de Lille.
#3 Choose the right line to enter the Museum
One of the most common mistakes that visitors make when visiting the Musée d’Orsay is choosing the wrong line to queue in before even entering the building. For example, if you’ve purchased a skip-the-line-ticket like this one (which I highly recommend doing so as to not waste your precious time in Paris), then you’ll be in a different queue than those without tickets.
In total, there are four different entrances to the museum. Individual visitors without tickets: Seine river side, entrance A, Members, visitors with tickets or passes or with priority entry: Rue de Lille side, entrance C, adults in pre-booked groups: Seine river side, entrance B, school groups: Rue de Lille side, entrance D.
#4 The best time to visit the Musée d’Orsay
While we’re on the subject of skipping lines and avoiding crowds, it’s worth noting that the busiest times of the museum are on Saturdays and Sundays. Of course, the museum is also busiest during peak tourist season (typically June and July in the city) and during school holidays. As you may well imagine, the museum is also extra busy during rainy days in Paris.
#5 Know that the Musée d’Orsay is closed on Mondays
Most Parisian institutions in the form of landmarks and museums close at least one day a week, typically on Monday or Tuesdays. In the case of the Musée d’Orsay, the museum is closed on Mondays. Meanwhile, the nearby Louvre Museum is on Tuesdays, meaning that you should plan your Paris itinerary so as to fit around the closing dates of these two Parisian institutions.
#6 Buy a combination ticket for the best value for money
If you fancy combining your visit to the Musée d’Orsay with a visit to another Parisian institution, such as the Orangerie (i.e. where Monet’s world-famous lilies can be enjoyed), then you may well want to consider investing in a combination museum ticket. Purchase your combination Musée d’Orsay and Orangerie Museum ticket here in advance.
#7 Make note of special exhibitions and events
Like many museums all across the city, there’s always a new exhibition or event to enjoy when it comes to the Musée d’Orsay and the calendar changes throughout the years. This guarantees that there’s something for everyone to enjoy and, if you plan ahead and in advance, then you can ensure that no two visits to the Parisian museum are ever the same!
#8 Go to the museum at opening time for the best photos of the clock!
Situated at the very top of the museum, surrounded by impressionist art pieces, one of the most famous features of the cultural hub is its fantastic clock, which in turn provides fantastic views over the River Seine and further towards the Sacré-Coeur. Thanks to its beautiful aesthetic nature, the area around the clock can get very busy very quickly. As such, for the best photos of the Musée d’Orsay clock, you’ll want to head straight up to the top floor come opening time.
#9 Don’t try and see everything in one go!
As one of the largest museums in Paris, it’s clear to see that you certainly won’t be able to see everything at the Musée d’Orsay on a single visit. Instead, focus on a particular time period or consider spending your time in a particular wing of the museum.
In order to decide exactly what you want to see, I recommend planning ahead in advance which art pieces you are particularly interested in, so as to not get distracted and spend more time in the museum than you would otherwise have liked to, considering that there is much more you’ll likely want to fit into your Paris itinerary than a single museum!
#10 The Musée d’Orsay is fairly well laid-out and easy to navigate
And while we’re on the subject of what to visit, it’s worth noting that the museum is pretty well laid out over a series of four floors and spans the artistic period from Impressionism to Post-Impressionism. Some of the most important selections include Decorative Arts, Sculpture, and Photography departments.
#11 You might be able to visit the Musée d’Orsay for free!
Like many other museums in Paris;, the Musée d’Orsay opens its doors for free to all visitors on the first Sunday of every month. Just bear in mind that this day is always understandably popular and so be sure to arrive earlier in the day as opposed to later so as to avoid as many of the crowds as possible.
Under 18s visit the Musée d’Orsay for free, as do 18-25 year-olds who are citizens of an EU member state (provided that they provide a valid form of ID). On Thursday evenings, all visitors can benefit from a reduced entrance fee between 6-9:45 PM. As many visitors to the Museum d’Orsay, the crowds tend to be less than normal at this time.
#12 You can eat at the Musée d’Orsay
The museum has several cafés dotted across the site. On the top floor, you’ll soon discover one of the most beautiful museum cafés in Paris. For those who are looking for a glitzy dining experience while in the museum, the original Hotel d’Orsay’s restaurant has been restored to its former glory, which makes for a memorable (albeit a little pricey) experience. Check here for a guide to food options at the Musée d’Orsay.
#13 Know that the Musée d’Orsay is housed in a former train station
One of the more unusual things to know about the Parisian museum is that its set against the backdrop of a former train station. The Beaux-Arts train station was constructed between 1898 and 1900 and was the terminus for the railways of southwestern France until 1939, at which point the platforms of the station became too short to accommodate newer trains.
#14 You can virtually visit the Musée d’Orsay
Of course, a trip to Paris isn’t always possible, but luckily a virtual visit to the French capital is much easier as all that is required is a stable internet connection. Like many other monuments and landmarks across the city, you can discover all about the history of the museum, as well as enjoy high resolution photographs thanks to virtual visits. Check out the Musée d’Orsay virtual visit here.