Musee d’Orsay Guide (Tickets, Skip the Line, Artwork) [2018]

Are you planning a visit to the Musee d’Orsay (Orsay Museum) or thinking about visiting?

This article will tell you everything you need to know about the Musee d’Orsay, including how to get tickets, beat the lines, and some interesting facts about its history and the artwork you’ll find within the museum.

If you’re just looking for tickets, then feel free to click here to go straight to tickets.

Musee d’Orsay History

The Musee d’Orsay’s building was originally a railway station, known as Gare d’Orsay. It was constructed for the Chemin de Fer de Paris à Orléans and finished in time for the 1900 Exposition Universelle.

The Exposition Universelle was the world’s fair created to celebrate society’s achievements and it’s where many pople were introduced to things like the Ferris wheel, Russian nesting dolls, diesel engines, talking films, and escalators.

The Musee d’Orsay was designed by three architects:

  • Lucien Magne
  • Émile Bénard
  • Victor Laloux

The building was the terminus for the railways of southwestern France until 1939. By 1939, the station’s platforms were no longer suitable for the larger trains that were routing through the area.

So the building was used for suburban services and it became a mailing centre during World War II.

The Musee d’Orsay.

Almost destroyed

In 1970, the building was almost destroyed when permission was granted to demolish the station.

However, Jacques Duhamel, Minister for Cultural Affairs, ruled against plans to build a new hotel over the building. The station was then eventually added to a list of Historic Monuments in 1978.

When was the building turned into a museum?

The Directorate of the Museums of France suggested that the station be turned into a museum. They wanted to build a musueum that would act as a bridge between the  the Louvre and the National Museum of Modern Art at

The plan was then later accepted by Georges Pompidou and a study was commissioned in 1974.

In 1978, they held a competition for the new museum’s design. ACT Architecture, consisting of a team of three young architects, were awarded the contract which involved the creation of 220,000 square feet of new floorspace across four floors.

In 1981, the Italian architect Gae Aulenti was chosen to design the interior of the building, which included the internal arrangement, decoration, furniture and fittings of the museum.

Then, in July 1986, the museum was ready to receive its exhibits. After about six months of installing around 2,000 paintings and 600 sculptures, the museum officially opened in December 1986.

Beautiful clock in the The Musee d’Orsay.

What is the Musee d’Orsay?

It is one of the premier museums in Europe and houses primarily French art dating from 1848 to 1914. You’ll find various works of art including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography.

It houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world, by painters including:

  • Monet
  • Manet 
  • Degas
  • Renoir
  • Cézanne
  • Seurat
  • Sisley
  • Gauguin
  • Van Gogh

Where is the Musee d’Orsay?

The Musee d’Orsay is a museum located in Paris, France, right along the Seine River, near the Louvre.

Here is the estimated walking time to nearby attractions:

  • Louvre Museum: 15 minutes
  • Palais Garnier – Opera National de Paris: 22 minutes
  • Cathédrale Notre-Dame: 25 minutes
  • Luxembourg Gardens: 25 minutes
  • Eiffel Tower: 30 minutes
  • Centre Pompidou: 30 minutes
  • L’Arc de Triomphe: 40 minutes

Musee d’Orsay Artwork

The artwork arguably begins before you even enter inside the museum.

Statues outside of the Musee d’Orsay

When you first approach the Musee d’Orsay you’ll notice six statues outside the building. These were built for the 1900 Exposition Universelle and symbolize six of the seven continents.

  • South America by Aimé Millet
  • Asia by Alexandre Falguière
  • Oceania by Mathurin Moreau
  • Europe by Alexandre Schoenewerk
  • North America by Ernest-Eugène Hiolle
  • Africa by Eugène Delaplanche

Van Gogh

Starry Night Over the Rhone

Starry Night Over the Rhone was was painted at a spot on the bank of the Rhône that was only a one or two-minute walk from the Yellow House.

Van Gogh was a master of capturing the light of the night’s sky as well as the light reflecting from gas lamps, and this painting is almost a precursor to his more famous work that came a little later, The Starry Night.

Starry Night Over the Rhone.

Bedroom in Arles

Van Gogh painted three of his famous bedroom works which depict his famous house in Arles, Bouches-du-Rhône, France, known as the Yellow House. The door to the right opened on to the upper floor and the staircase and the door to the left led to the guest room Van Gogh prepared for Gauguin.

The Bedroom painting at the Musee d’Orsay, painted in September 1889, is the third and final of the bedroom series. The first one painted in October of 1888 can be seen at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the second Bedroom painted in September 1889 can be found at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Bedroom in Arles.


Many times,  Van Gogh painted self-portraits because he lacked the funding to pay for a model. Van Gogh produced over forty-three self-portraits, paintings or drawings in ten years. The self-portrait at the Musee de’Orsay is special because some art historians think that it might have been the final self-portrait painted by Van Gogh.

It’s easy to forget about the depth that went into painting these self-portraits for artists like Vincent Van Gogh.

He was once wrote to his sister:

“I am looking for a deeper likeness than that obtained by a photographer.”

And later to his brother:

“People say, and I am willing to believe it, that it is hard to know yourself. But it is not easy to paint yourself, either. The portraits painted by Rembrandt are more than a view of nature, they are more like a revelation”.


Claude Monet

Clause Monet was a French painter, and is perhaps best known as the founder of French Impressionist painting and the most prolific practitioner of the movement.

Something interesting about Monet is that he began experiencing cataracts in the 1920s and had surgeries to remove them. But some of his paintings during this time have have a general reddish tone, which is characteristic of the vision of cataract victims.

It’s possible that after his surgery he was able to see some ultraviolet wavelengths of light normally excluded by the lens of the human eye; and this could have had an effect on colors he saw and painted.

After his surgeries, Monet actually repainted some his water lilies to make them bluer than before.

The museum has 86 of his paintings including:

  • The Saint-Lazare Station
  • The Rue Montorgueil in Paris. Celebration of 30 June 1878
  • Wind Effect
  • Series of The Poplars
  • Rouen Cathedral
  • Blue Water Lilies
Rouen Cathedral (one of several).

Gustave Courbet

Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet was a French painter who led the Realism movement in 19th-century French painting. The museum features 48 of his paintings including: The Artist’s StudioA Burial at OrnansYoung Man SittingL’Origine du monde.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, also known as Auguste Renoir, was a French artist who was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style, alongside Claude Monet, in the late 1860s.Renoir is known for adding a human element to his work, often working in scenes with families and well-dressed Parisians

The museum has 81 of his paintings including Bal au moulin de la Galette, Montmartre.

Paul Gauguin

Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin was a French post-Impressionist artist who is recognized for his experimental use of color and Synthetist style that were distinctly different from Impressionism.  You can find 24 of his paintings including Tahitian Women on the Beach.

Musee d’Orsay Tickets

Standard admission

Tickets currently cost €12 which will get you into the the permanent collections, and for temporary exhibitions, subject to availability.

Skip the line

I recommend getting tickets to skip the line at a dedicated entrance. You can easily order your tickets and save them to your smartphone so that you don’t have to worry about printing anything out if you go with the tickets below:

Audio Guides

You can hire audio guides for €5 per audioguide.

These audio tours are available in French, English and Italian.


The museum offers discounted tickets at the rate of €9 for the following:

  • For 18-25 year olds who are not citizens or long-term residents of an EU member state
  • For everyone from 4.30pm (except Thursdays)
  • For everyone on Thursday evenings, from 6pm

Here’s the proof that you’ll need.

Free admission

Also, the following can get free entry:

Musee d’Orsay Hours

  • The museum is open from 9.30am to 6pm daily, except Mondays
  • It stays openlate night on Thursdays until 9.45pm
  • The last tickets are sold at 5pm (9pm Thursdays)
  • The museum is cleared at 5.15pm (9.15pm Thursdays)
  • The museum is closed on Mondays, on 1 May and 25 December

Musee d’Orsay Map

There’s a floorplan map that you can pull up online if you want to get an idea of the layout of the museum. It’s not very difficult to get around if you pick up a map when you enter so I don’t think this is a museum like the Louvre where you need to have a game plan as to where you’re going to go.

But the floor plan can still come in handy when you’re trying to find specific pieces of art.

Musee d’Orsay clock

One of the coolest features of the Musee d’Orsay is located on the 5th floor and it’s an area where you can lookout to Paris and the Seine River through the face of a massive clock.

If you visit the museum, you definitely need to check out the clock.

Musee d’Orsay clock.

Musee d’Orsay Restaurants

There are a few different places to eat in the Musee d’Orsay and you can read about these places here.

But here’s a quick breakdown:

Café de l’ours

  • Tuesday – Sunday, 9.30am to 4.45pm, Thursdays 9.30am to 19.45pm
  • Menu here

The Café Campana

  • Tuesday – Sunday, 10am to 5pm, Thursdays till 9pm
  • Menu here


  • Tuesday – Sunday, 9.30am to 5.45pm (groups to arrive at 11.45am), Thursdays till 9.30pm
    Tea room 2.45pm to 5.45pm
  • Menu here
The Musee d’Orsay Restaurant.

Musée d’Orsay Gift shop

The main gift shop is located at the entrance to the museum and accessible with the museum admission ticket.

The Musée d’Orsay’s bookshop-gift shop is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9:30am to 6:30pm, with late night opening on Thursdays until 9:30pm

Hotels near the Musee d’Orsay

During our stay we stayed at the Park Hyatt-Vendome. It’s one of the premier hotels in the area but I wasn’t completely thrilled with the stay, to say the least.

Musee d’Orsay FAQ

Here are some commonly asked questions about the Orsay Museum.

How long do I need to visit the Musee d’Orsay?

The answer depends on your museum preferences. We spent about two and a half hours at the museum and that was fine for us. Some people might want to spend much more time in the museum, though.

Is the Musee d’Orsay a must-see?

I personally think that the Musee d’Orsay is a must-see in Paris. I would prioritize visiting the Louvre Museum first because there are more iconic works there and there’s just more to see but I would try to make my way to the Musee d’Orsay.

If you’re visiting the Louvre make sure you read my tips on visiting.

When was the Musee d’Orsay built?

The original railway station was built in built in 1900 but the museum officially opened in December 1986.

How to get to the Musee d’Orsay by Metro?

  • Bus: Line 24, 63, 68, 69, 73, 83, 84 or 94
  • Metro: Line 1, Concorde or Tuileries; line 12, Assemblée Nationale or Solférino
  • RER: Line C to Musée d’Orsay

Are there free days offered?

Free admission to the Museum for all on the first Sunday of the month.

Final word

What I really like about the Musee d’Orsay is that it’s not too huge of a museum like the Louvre. I never felt like we even came close to getting lost which has happened to us in Museums more times than I’d like to admit. There’s also just a high concentration of really cool, iconic artworks. If you’re interested in impressionist and post-Impressionist you’ll absolutely love this museum.

The Louvre Museum: (Tickets, Tips, Artwork) [2018]

Musée du Louvre, or “The Louvre,” is an absolute beast of a museum. It’s so vast and contains so many thousands of pieces of art and relics that there’s simply no way to see it all in a day. If you’re like most first-time visitors you’re probably there to see some of the most famous items on exhibition, especially the most famous painting in the world: “Portait de Monna Lisa.”

That’s all fine and dandy, the only problem is that there are about 15,000 other people that will be visiting on any given day with the same mindset as you. This means that you need to formulate yourself a good plan to ensure that you beat the lines, get your Louvre tickets, and enjoy the exhibits you’ve likely anticipated seeing for months or perhaps even years.

Here are a few simple tips and bits of information for you take into consideration to ensure that you have a great visit to the Louvre Museum.


Louvre Tickets, Prices, and Tours 

Louvre Museum Tickets

Basic admission for the permanent collections for adults is €17 when purchased online and €17 when purchased at the museum.

Skip the line Louvre tickets

I highly suggest that you consider skip-the-line tickets because the lines for the Louvre can get flat out crazy.

You can book tickets to skip the line at the Louvre here!

All visitors under the age of 18 and 18-25 year-old residents of the European Economic Area (EU, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein) enjoy free admission to the museum year round.

Free admission

From October to March, admission is free on the first Sunday of every month.

Louvre Museum hours

Monday: 9 a.m.–6 p.m.
Tuesday: Closed.
Wednesday: 9 a.m.–9:45 p.m.
Thursday: 9 a.m.–6 p.m.
Friday: 9 a.m.–9:45 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m.–6 p.m.
Sunday: 9 a.m.–6 p.m.

Rooms begin closing at 5:30 p.m., and at 9:30 p.m. on night openings.

Here’s the schedule of the hours for the Louvre.

The “secret side entrance”

Update: This entrance is now for groups only!!! Consider booking tickets though the link above if you want to skip the line. 

This is my number 1 tip for anybody visiting the Louvre. 

There are some pretty crazy lines that develop on the outside of the front entrance, especially on weekends. Lines that’ll force you to burn up valuable travelling time. For that reason, you want to plan on entering through the lesser-known “Porte des Lions” door. That entrance is located on the map below.

Louvre Map
(c) The Louvre

For whatever reason, this entrance isn’t known by many and the queue is never long at all. In fact, when I left around midday the line was completely non-existent while the line out of the main front pyramid seemed to go on for forever! 

The best part is that this is the closest entrance to the Mona Lisa. If you arrive about 15 minutes before the museum opens and enter through this entrance, you will be guaranteed a front row position at the Mona Lisa before it gets packed in there and trust me, that room becomes somewhat of a madhouse during peak times. And be aware that the signs are in French and they call the Mona Lisa “La Joconde.”

The good news is that the Louvre knows not everyone knows French and they have photos with arrows pointing toward the main attractions posted throughout the museum.

mona lisa
The Mona Lisa room just after opening on “Free Sunday”
Crowded mona lisa (1)
The Mona Lisa room about 1 1/2 hours after opening.

Just make sure that the entrance you are attempting to go through actually says “Porte des Lions” on it because there is another entrance that I believe many others waiting outside the museum thought was the Lions entrance. If the doors don’t open right at opening time then you might be at the wrong place but do know that from time to time this entrance is not open for some reason.

If you are concerned about whether or not Porte des Lions will be open then the museum recommends that you call them ahead of time just to be sure. Here is that number: +33 (0)1 40 20 53 17.

Grab a map

This goes without saying.

Unless you are the Rain Man or his equivalent, you will need a map to get you around efficiently in this magnificent place.

Luckily, they give out free maps of the museum as soon as you walk in and get past security. They have every language imaginable so you should be able to find whatever your native tongue is. Also, the maps are well-done and I thought they made it very easy to get around this giant museum.

Venus de Milo
Venus de Milo
Me standing next the Michelangelo’s Dying Slave.

Learn French… or invest in an audio guidebook

While I enjoyed the exhibits my ethnocentrism had kicked in before hand and I assumed that there would be English panels for me to read at all of the exhibits. Instead, it was all in French.

If you really want to have to have a true museum experience then consider investing in an audio guidebook. There are two ways to do this. One option is to rent a Gameboy DS. And I’m not joking. They provide visitors with audiobooks loaded into a Nintendo 3DS.

It’s pretty nifty and only costs €5. In addition to the audio commentary, it will also provide you with all the information you need for getting around the museum and you can use the guidebook at your own pace.

The second option is to buy the Louvre app. It’s available for both Android and iPhones. It only costs €1.79 and looks like a good alternative to the Nintendo DS. Like I said, I didn’t invest in either of these and wish that I had so perhaps you should give them a try upon your visit.

The Mona Lisa is quite small

I did a lot of research on the Louvre beforehand so this didn’t catch me by surprise but a lot of visitors seemed surprised (and almost a bit disappointed) at how small the Mona Lisa painting is in real life. While it is a bit small, I kind of thought that made it that much more interesting.

The fact that one of the most timeless pieces of art and probably the most famous painting in the world is so small makes it that much more fascinating to admire in person.


If there was one thing I think receives somewhat of valid criticism, it’s the overall presentation of the Mona Lisa. There was something about that room and the overall scene where the Mona Lisa hangs behind bullet proof glass that just didn’t draw me into the world of Da Vinci like I was hoping.

Everything in Paris is so grand and so immaculate and yet the Mona Lisa is kind of “just there.” My partner disagreed with me on this and thought the presentation, with Mona Lisa featured by itself on a the huge wall, actually did this larger-than-life painting justice.

Regardless of what you think of the presentation though, I think everyone will agree that just seeing this painting in person is a worthwhile experience.

Rush to the major attractions first

I recommend you doing this if one of you’re a passionate photographer and one of your primary concerns is getting great photographs of some of the exhibits without tons of people popping up in your photos.

One could easily rush to the Mona Lisa and then to Venus de Milo and Winged Victory before the crowds develop and get some great photos.

The Winged Victory offers an especially great photo opportunity as it is mounted atop a beautiful staircase area. If you get there early enough, you can capture that scene without flocks of tourists in it.

The Winged Victory of Samothrace
winged victory at the Louvre
A typical crowd you will find at the Winged Victory. Try to visit it as soon as the museum opens to beat the crowds and get better photos.

Now I realize that rushing from exhibit to exhibit is no way to enjoy a museum. That’s why I suggest returning to the exhibits you rushed through to get your photos. Obviously, if getting these type of photographs isn’t a primary concern then you’ll want to just go ahead and get your stroll on from the get-go.

Enjoy the less famous (and less crowded) attractions

I really enjoyed all of the less famous attractions mostly because there were hardly any tourists at them. It was nice to get a break from the crowds and be able to breathe a little bit.

And these less famous attractions are special in their own right. I really enjoyed the Egyptian, Roman, and Greek exhibits. In my opinion all of these exhibits are exceptionally well-done and offer a superb museum experience.



Cupid and Psyche

Prepare your legs and feet

This is mostly for those visitors who aren’t accustomed to tons of walking on a daily basis.

Paris is definitely one city where wandering the streets and sidewalks by foot is worth your time and energy. So far out of all the places I’ve visited I think I walked the most in Paris. Part of that walking experience included the hours spend wandering throughout the Louvre. So my word of advice is just to be prepared for a lot of walking at the Louvre and in just in general when you visit Paris.

Other attractions

There are a number of nearby attractions to the Louvre.

I really enjoyed exploring the Musee d’Orsay (Orsay Museum) and also the Towers of Notre Dame.

That’s all for the Louvre. I hope you found these tips helpful for your visit to the Louvre Museum and you enjoy your visit to Paris!

The Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at Paris CDG Review

Qatar recently opened up a new business class and first class lounge at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport known as the “Qatar Airways Premium Lounge” and it’s a stunning lounge. It’s very modern, spacious, and offers a great dining experience along with a unique outdoor terrace with sweeping views of Paris. Here’s my full Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at Paris CDG review. 

Getting to the airport

We took a taxi from the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme to CDG on a cold and rainy Paris day. The driver informed us halfway through that she didn’t take credit cards (even though the law requires it) so we had to deal with that mess on our way but more on the drama of that situation later….

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Our taxi driver who didn’t take credit cards.

We eventually arrived to the airport right around the time that check-in opened which was about 11:40am. This was perfect because I knew the lounge opened up at noon and this would allow us to be among the first to enter which makes getting photographs much easier.

Qatar had a dedicated check-in line for both business class and first class passengers.

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Qatar first class check in desk.
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Qatar first class check in desk.

The Qatar agent handling our check-in was extremely personable and friendly. It’s always nice to get the lounge/flight experience off on the right foot with warm and welcoming service at check-in.

It took a little while to get our boarding passes because they had to first verify that we had return tickets from the Maldives, which was our final destination. I simply showed him my itinerary on the AA App and within a couple of minutes we were good to go.

I love the maroon sleeves that Qatar slips your first class boarding passes in (business class gets silver sleeves). The clever sleeve design is also practical since you can still easily view all the important details about your flight.

Qatar lounge at Paris CDG ticket
Qatar Airways first class boarding passes.

After check-in, we made our way off to immigration.

CDG airport has some really interesting escalator walkways that have a retro Disney World/Tomorrow Land feel to them. They’ve actually been featured in movies and album covers over the years.

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CDG airport escalator walkways.

With our heavy luggage on wheels, it felt a bit awkward going up these angled escalators, though.

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CDG airport escalator walkways.

The airport terminal is marked up with a lot of signs pointing you to the direction of the lounges, although they don’t show the Qatar symbol so it’s not initially clear that you’re headed to the right lounge area.

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CDG Airport terminal signs.
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CDG Airport terminal signs.

Our premium ticket gave us access to the expedited immigration line which is called the N1 line (Accès Nº1). Note that security is at the gates here so you’ll need to leave yourself a little extra time to get through.

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Entrance to the Accès Nº1 line.

Once we cleared immigration, we were off to the lounge which meant following more signs to the lounges/salons.

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CDG Airport terminal signs.

Eventually, we found the elevator to take us up to the lounges.

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The elevator to the lounges.

The lounge is located 7 floors up on the 11th floor at Terminal 1, which is also where the Star Alliance Lounge is and a restaurant.

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Once the elevator took us up we made our way to the lounge and checked in.

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Qatar Lounge entrance.

The Qatar Airways Premium Lounge – Charles de Gaulle Airport

As soon as I entered, I noticed the stunning lobby area with a black fountain centerpiece. It’s a beautiful entrance area with wonderfully executed Arabic-inspired design.

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Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at Paris CDG.

Some might consider things like fountains as a waste of space, but I love lounges that go out of their way to create gorgeous lobbies and seating areas with unique fixtures. To me Qatar Airways just “gets it” when it comes to designing lounges, as I’ve been very impressed with their newer lounges.

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Beautiful lobby at the Qatar lounge.

In this lobby area, there are two monitors with up to date flight information. There’s also a small nook area with drinks and refreshments that felt a little out of place but I guess it’s nice to have an area on each side of the lounge where you can grab something to drink and some light snacks.

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Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at Paris CDG.

On the perimeter of this centerpiece, you can find an array of different seating options with varying degrees of privacy.

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Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at Paris CDG seating.
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Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at Paris CDG seating.
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Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at Paris CDG seating.

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There are some semi-private suites for two people that you can grab along the wall.

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Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at Paris CDG seating.

The seating areas are very nice and the large windows allow a lot of natural light in.

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Private options for seating.

As we walked walked farther into the lounge, I noticed some shelves with reading materials and some cool decor.

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Qatar lounge decor.
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Reading material.
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Lounge decor.
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Qatar Airways A380 model plane.

There are several rooms that we came across on our way to the dining area. The first was the computer workstation area which houses two computers.

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Computer room.

The next is a small room with relaxing chairs and a TV.  We chose to relax in the room below and it stayed very quiet during our time in the lounge. I liked that the room came equipped with universal power outlets and USB ports.

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Relaxing room with TV.
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Power outlets and USB ports.

I also really liked the room next door with red carpet and low-lying sofas. I believe this section might be designed as a family room given the layout.

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Beautiful sitting room.

On the other side of the lounge, there are seating options lining the windows, which also come with small tables and outlets. While I liked the comfy seating options, if there’s one shortcoming it’s that there’s not a lot of practical space to set up your laptop on a counter, bar, or table.

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Qatar lounge seating options.

The dining experience

Finally, we made our way towards the end of the lounge where we found the dining area with trees spouting from the center of the tables.

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Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at Paris CDG dining area.

This area feels very open with the floor to ceiling windows and even though it was raining and cloudy outside, it still felt vibrant.

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Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at Paris CDG dining area.
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Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at Paris CDG dining area.
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Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at Paris CDG dining area.

Towards the very back, there are some more private dining areas but these have more of a polished look and feel to them.

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Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at Paris CDG dining area.

And on the other side, there’s some swanky cushioned benches built into the wall. This area of the lounge reminded me a lot of the look you’d find at some W hotels.

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Swanky furniture.

One really cool feature of this lounge is that there is an outdoor terrace with tables and chairs where you can enjoy your meal outdoors while plane spotting (and a second terrace for smokers). I believe you can see the Paris skyline and Eiffel Tower from this view. But it was miserable outside (wet and cold) when we visited so nobody bothered trying out the deck.

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Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at Paris CDG outdoor terrace.

The dining at the lounge is buffet style and they offer both cold and hot meals. For breakfast, you can choose from an à la carte menu but they didn’t issue us a menu for lunch so I’m not sure if they don’t have one or we didn’t get one because we didn’t ask.

Cold food

There’s a circular bar that’s essentially a deli where you can find a lot of cold food items, such as wraps, breads, sandwiches, and a number of Middle Eastern dishes, such as hummus. This area is also where you’ll find the barista coffee station and the bar, which is on the back side.

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Deli options at the Qatar Airways Premium Lounge.
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Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at Paris CDG bar decor.
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Bread selections.
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Wraps and salads.
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Wrap selection.
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Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at Paris CDG dining options.
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Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at Paris CDG dining.
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Personally, I loved the wraps and salads (the hummus was good, too).

Qatar lounge at Paris CDG 8
My lunch plate.

Hot food

For the hot dishes, I tried out some of the Byriani chicken and rice and really enjoyed that. I also tried a piece of ravioli which wasn’t bad, so overall I’d say the hot meal options seem to be high quality.

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Qatar Airways Premium Lounge hot food options.
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Qatar Airways Premium Lounge hot food options.
Qatar lounge at Paris CDG 11
Qatar Airways Premium Lounge hot food options.  

Between the deli options and the the different hot food choices, you should be able to put together a meal that leaves you well satisfied which is something that many lounges struggle to offer. So in that respect I think the dining at the Qatar Airways Premium Lounge certainly stands out.


This lounge also had a pretty amazing selections of desserts. They had chocolate mousse, crème brûlée, chocolate tarts, fruit cups, smoothies, and a few other very tempting items.

It seems a lot of others agreed with me because I noticed that several others loaded up their plates with multiple desserts as if they struggled to just choose one.

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Qatar Airways Premium Lounge desserts.
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Qatar Airways Premium Lounge desserts.
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Qatar Airways Premium Lounge desserts.
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Crème brûlée.

The desserts exceeded my expectations and put the whole dining experience over the top for me.

The one strike against the dining experience were the drinks.

Brad ordered a martini, which did not taste anything like a martini that either of us had had before. The server seemed to be confused about what was meant by an “extra dirty martini” which is really odd considering they advertised the bar as a “martini bar.” Also, I asked if they had any signature cocktails and they said “sure” and then brought me a gin and tonic… it was just an odd bar experience.

Qatar lounge at Paris CDG 15
Not the best martini.

Outside of the botched drink orders, the service was pretty good, and they came around often asking if we needed anything. Again, I’m not sure if they had a lunch menu but I do think you could order food items from the table and be served that way if you wanted so I’d just inquire with the servers.

Bathrooms and showers

The bathrooms are private, clean, and very nice.

Qatar lounge at Paris CDG 13
Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at Paris CDG bathroom.

The shower facilities are on par with those you would find at a luxury hotel. They are very big and come with multiple shower heads. There are a total of five shower suites, including one handicapped suite.

Qatar lounge at Paris CDG 5
Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at Paris CDG shower suite.
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Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at Paris CDG shower suite.
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Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at Paris CDG shower suite.

There’s a nice sink area where you can freshen up and you can request certain amenities if needed.

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Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at Paris CDG shower suite.
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Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at Paris CDG shower suite.
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Amenities to request.

There’s also separate prayer rooms found in the lounge.

Final word on the Qatar lounge at CDG

The Qatar lounge at CDG is a fantastic lounge. It’s got some solid dining options, a cool outdoor terrace, and plenty of areas for you to relax (although work stations are limited). It’s also a pretty stunning lounge in terms of decor and architecture. I wish I’d been able to enjoy the outdoor terrace but I still left this lounge thoroughly impressed and would happily return.

Best Ways to Use Miles and Points to Get to Paris, France

Paris is one of the top destinations for travelers and a top destination for many people looking to book award tickets as well. The good thing is that there’s plenty of different award programs and routing that you can take advantage of to get to Paris, so you should always be able to find something that works. Here’s a look at 11 of the best ways to use miles and points to get to Paris, France (not Paris, Texas) 

1) Flying Blue

  • Alliance: SkyTeam
  • Ways to earn miles: American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi Thankyou points, SPG

Miles needed:

  • Economy:
    • 25,000 miles (best promo)
    • 50,000 miles – Standard redemption to Europe
  • Business class:
    • 125,000

Flying Blue offers amazing promo deals that sometimes offer as much as 50% off to Europe! These deals pop up at the beginning of each month so you’ll need to keep a close eye on them to take advantage of them. If you can ever find a promo award to Europe for 25,000 in economy, that’s one of the most valuable sweet-spot redemptions available. It’s just a rare offer so I wouldn’t count on it but instead just monitor the promo awards. The business class awards to Europe on Flying Blue aren’t the best bargains available but they’re still not that bad at 125,000 miles.

Air France

I don’t generally recommend to use Flying Blue miles to book tickets on Air France. And that’s because you’ll have to pay high surcharges. For example, if you booked a roundtrip from ATL to CDG with Air France, you’d be looking at paying over $500 USD in fees!


SkyTeam partners/Delta

If you can book awards on SkyTeam partner Delta, you can dramatically limit the fees you’ll pay. For example, here’s a flight with Delta from ATL to CDG with fees totaling around $156 USD.

Ignore the backwards itinerary.

For economy awards with Delta, you can book tickets with fees as low as $113 USD. And for 50,000 miles, that’s not bad at all.

I searched for availability for flights to Paris about 6 months out and for economy the availability was exceptional and even for business class it was pretty good as well. It wasn’t very hard at all to find Delta flights, either. Below is a snapshot of the business class availability for April/May with the red squares showing Delta flights departing to CDG.



Flying Blue also allows for stopovers, so you could always try to work one of these in en route to or form Paris. The rules for Flying Blue stopovers are the following.

  • You are allowed an open jaw on your destination so long as you remain in the destination zone
  • You are allowed one stopover (you must book over the phone)
    • Stopover must be different from country of departure
    • Maximum of three segments allowed to get to destination
The Eiffel Tower.

2) British Airways Avios

British Airways Avios operates on a distance-based chart, so your points requirement depends on how many miles your trip covers. Generally, when going to Europe it’s recommended to use Avios on partner airlines in order to avoid the high fuel surcharges that you get hit with on British Airways when flying through London.

a) Aer Lingus

Off-peak rates: 

  • 26,000 Avios – Boston to Dublin
  • 26,000 Avios – NYC/Chicago/Toronto to Dublin
  • 32,500 Avios – LA/San Francisco to Dublin

One popular way to get to Europe with British Airways is to book flights with the Irish airlines, Aer Lingus. The Boston to Dublin route is highly valuable because it contains a total of 2,987 miles, which puts it just under the 3,000 mile range of the next bracket for British Airways and many of the other routes only require 40,000 to 50,000 miles. Check here for a list of all Aer Lingus direct flights from North America.

December 11, 2016 update: Rates have changed with using Avios to book Aer Lingus. To read more check out my article here.  

You can always book a connecting flight with Avios from Dublin to Paris. The distance is under 500 miles so you would be looking at about 9,000 additional Avios for a roundtrip. If you wanted to save on the Avios you could always pay out of pocket for the two hour flight to Paris. You should be able to find roundtrips between Dublin and CDG for less than $200 with most airlines and less than $100 if you fly into other Paris airports with Ryanair.

To book these awards, you’ll need to search United’s website to find availability for Aer Lingus availability and then call in to British Airways to proceed with the booking.

b) British Airways

  • 34,000 Avios – NYC to CDG

Off-peak flights from the East Coast to Europe can be as low as 34,000 Avios. However, I don’t generally recommend to fly with British Airways to Europe because you will get hit with heavy fuel surcharges. For example, while it’s only 34,000 Avios to get to CDG from JFK, if you’re routing though London (which most do) you’ll be paying $740 in total fees. 


If you take an alternate route to DUB the fees are lower but still very high at $537. 

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And if you dare to fly business class from JFK to CDG through London, you’ll have to cough up over $1,000 in fees! 

For those reasons, I’d generally try to avoid flying on British Airways.

c) Air Berlin

  • 40,000 Avios – NYC to Berlin
  • 40,000 Avios – NYC/Boston to Düsseldorf
  • 50,000 Avios – Chicago/Miami to Berlin
  • 50,000 Avios – Ft. Meyers/Miami to Düsseldorf

Air Berlin is a solid choice to get to Europe from the East Coast with minimal fees. Just take a look at the redemption below… the $93 in total fees pale in comparison to what you would have to pay if you booked a British Airways flight on its own metal. All you’d have to do it make your way to Paris from Germany, which wouldn’t be very difficult.

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And remember, with British Airways you can stopover and/or open jaw pretty much anywhere but you’ll have to factor in the increased distance added to your redemption.

d) American Airlines

If you can find the availability, you can always use Avios to book American Airlines flights. The fees aren’t quite as steep as some of the other partners but they are still pretty high at over $300.


3) Iberia Airlines Plus

  • 34,000 – NYC/Chicago to Madrid
  • 42,500 – Miami to Madrid

Iberia Airlines Plus is part of the same Avios system as British Airways and implements a distance-based system as well. However, it has its own unique redemption policies that do differ and has an advantage over British Airways in that you can avoid higher taxes and fees.

One sweet redemption is getting from Chicago or New York to Madrid for only 34,000 Avios and “only” about $180-$200 in fees (which compared to British Airways is actually not bad). At that point you could either use more Avios to get to Paris or as discussed hop on a low budget airline. 

You should be able to lower the fees by booking flights on American Airlines, but keep in mind that the milage requirement will go up since Iberia charges more miles for certain partners and you can’t book one-way awards on American Airlines with Iberia. 

Chimera on the Notre Dame Cathedral.

4) ANA Airlines

  • Alliance: Star Alliance
  • Ways to earn miles: American Express Membership Rewards, SPG

Miles needed:

  • Economy: 55,000
  • Business class: 88,000

The economy redemption to Europe for 55,000 miles is decent but the mileage requirement for 88,000 miles to Europe in business class is one of the best sweet spot redemptions out there. ANA will pass on heavy fuel surcharges with many of its partners but United is an exception. Thus, if you’re thinking about using ANA miles to get to Paris, then I recommend trying to book United flights.

I found flights in economy flying on United to Paris with fees of only $113.  I wasn’t able to pull up an all business class United flight on ANA’s website but the total fees for such a flight shouldn’t be unreasonable since there shouldn’t be surcharges.


ANA’s search feature is great when it works but many times it’s a PIA with its incessant error messages. Thus, sometimes you may want to search for United flight by segment on United’s website and/or Aeroplan’s website. Those sites will give you a good indication of whether or not there are any United flights available to Paris and then if you need to you could call in to book them.

ANA allows for one stopover but they do limit their award tickets to only roundtrips.

L’Escargot in Paris.

5) Japan Airlines 

  • Alliance: One World 
  • Ways to earn miles: SPG

Miles needed:

  • Economy: 40,000+
  • Business class: 65,000+

JAL offers a number of tremendous rates for redemptions but the problem with JAL is always that the only major transfer partner is SPG. This makes it very difficult to accumulate lots of miles compared to most of the other programs.

JAL operates with a distance-based award chart, so your redemption requirement to Paris will obviously be better the closer you are. You can get to Paris in business class from the places like New York, Miami, and Chicago for only 65,000 miles which is insane! If you’re heading to Paris from the West Coast your mileage requirement will be over 11,000 miles so you’ll be bumped up to the 80,000 mile requirement for business class which is still an awesome deal. Also, if you fly on American Airlines, fees can be as low as $130!

If SAAver awards weren’t so hard to find in business class and JAL was a transfer partner of an additional rewards program, JAL would be much higher on the list. 

La Joconde aka The Mona Lisa.

6) Singapore Airlines

  • Alliance: Star Alliance
  • Ways to earn miles: American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi Thankyou points, SPG

Miles needed:

Singapore Airlines offers two routes to Europe. One from JFK to Frankfurt and another route from Houston (IAH) to Manchester (MAN).  Those routes can be redeemed with Singapore Krisflyer miles in the following ways.

  • Economy: 34,000
  • Business class: 97,750

It’s worth noting that the JFK to FRA route is on the A380, which of course is the aircraft with the Singapore Suites.

Singapore Suites First Class A380
Singapore Suites.

Both redemptions will require some pretty hefty surcharges, however. For economy you’re looking at around $311.


And for business class, around $475.


Those fees aren’t that bad considering that the mileage requirements are pretty low and Singapore’s business class product is one of the best in the game. However, when it comes to getting to Paris, you’d still have to find a connecting leg to Paris.

If you book awards on Star Alliance partners the requirements go up and there’s no discount so your redemption requirements would be: 

  • Economy: 55,000
  • Business class: 130,000

Although Singapore Airlines allows stopovers on roundtrip saver awards, they do not allow stopovers on itineraries with only European cities. 

The Seine Paris France
The River Seine.

7) Korean Air

  • Alliance: SkyTeam
  • Ways to earn miles: Chase Ultimate Rewards,  SPG

Miles needed:

  • Economy: 50,000
  • Business class: 80,000

Korean Air offers one of the best ways to get to Europe in business class with its ridiculously low redemption of 80,000 miles. Unfortunately, you will pay surcharges for most airlines and those can get quite high. I’ve heard conflicting reports about the surcharges for booking Delta flights with Korean Air but when I called in and checked with a Korean Air agent and inquired about an all-Delta itinerary, I was told the fees for a Delta flight would be over $600 (and that was just in economy).  

The drawback to Korean Air (in addition to fees) is that you have to jump through some hoops for your bookings. If you’re booking for more than person, you’ll probably have to send in an application for the “family plan.” In addition, for partner awards you usually have to call in or worse, send in an application. It can all be a PIA but with such low mileage requirements for business class, many people happily comply with these requirements. You can read more about booking with Korean Air here.   

Alleyway in Paris, France.

8) Alaskan Airlines 

  • Alliance: Select partners
  • Ways to earn miles: SPG and Bank of America Alaskan credit cards 

Alaskan Airlines offers rates that differ depending on the partner. There are several different partners you can utilize to get to Europe and they are below: 

Air France/KLM

  • Economy: 65,000
  • Business class: 125,000

American Airlines

  • Economy: 40,000 (off-peak); 60,000 (peak)
  • Business class: 100,000

British Airways

  • Economy: 65,000
  • Business class: 120,000


  • Economy: 65,000
  • Business class: 125,000

Emirates (New York to Milan)

  • Economy: 95,000
  • Business class: 210,000


  • Economy: 45,000 (low)
  • Business class: 100,000

Out of all these partners, I think American Airlines is probably the best bargain for both economy and business class (100,000 in business class is great). Icelandair options are decent too, but their product isn’t exactly on par with American Airlines. Also, some of the other economy redemptions are higher than they would be if you just booked with the partner airline’s own miles (Air France, British Airways, etc.) and some redemptions like those for Emirates are just sky high. Thus, I’d probably try to use Alaskan miles on American to get to Europe, and although finding availability in business class can be difficult, that off-peak 40,000 redemption in AA economy is very nice.


9) Aeroplan (Air Canada)

  • Alliance: Star Alliance
  • Ways to earn miles: American Express Membership Rewards, SPG

Miles needed:

  • Economy: 60,000
  • Business class: 110,000 miles roundtrip

Aeroplan has a decent redemption rate for getting to Europe in business class and if you want you can even book one awards. The key to booking with Aeroplan miles to try to make your bookings on the airlines that don’t require you to pay fuel surcharges. 

The following airlines do not carry surcharges when you book them through Aeroplan:

  • Air China
  • Brussels
  • EgyptAir
  • Ethiopian
  • EVA Air
  • Scandinavian
  • Singapore
  • Swiss
  • Turkish
  • United
  • LOT (has small surcharges)*

With these Star Alliance partners it’s not usually difficult to find some way of getting to Paris with limited fees. 

The Louvre.

10) American Airlines

  • Alliance: OneWorld
  • Ways to earn miles: SPG, Citi credit cards

Miles needed:

  • Economy: 45,000 (60,000)
  • Business class: 115,000

American Airlines operate the following direct flights to CDG.

  • BOS
  • CLT
  • DFW
  • MIA (no)
  • ORD
  • JFK
  • PHL

I struggled to find MileSAAver availability in business class on American Airlines’ own metal from various airports to CDG but economy SAAver seats were much easier to find. If you are lucky enough to find SAAver business class awards, total fees in business class can be as low as $120 (and fees can be as low as $80 in economy).

One World Partners

When searching for flights to Europe with American Airlines you’ll see a lot of search results for British Airways and some other partners. Here’s a look at a couple of those partners you might want and not want to book with.

British Airways

I  highly recommend to avoid booking British Airways flights with American Airline miles unless you’re okay with paying very high surcharge rates. For example, the roundtrip below on British Airways flights comes out to over $1,000 in total fees for just one person.



A much more reasonable option and one of my favorite uses of American Airlines miles is to use American miles to book on Finnair and route through Finland on your way to Paris. The total fees on that partner for a roundtrip business class trip are only $117!


American Airlines doesn’t allow you to route through a third region subject to exceptions and Europe is not one of those exceptions. Thus, you can’t go through the Middle East or Africa to get to Europe without paying the higher mileage requirement. Also, American Airlines does not allow stopovers, so you lose some flexibility.

11) United

  • Alliance: Star Alliance
  • Ways to earn miles:  Chase Ultimate Rewards, Chase cards, SPG (2:1)

Miles needed:

  • Economy: 60,000
  • Business class: 115,000; 140,000 (partners)

Award availability for saver economy was good when I searched but not the greatest when I searched for business class awards from some hubs like ORD and IAH. However, once I got very far out on the calendar (like 9 to 11 months), the availability opened up and I found some United flights on their new Polaris product. On those flights, fees only came out to $126 USD. 


The vast majority of the flights I found were on partners, such as Turkish Airlines, LOT, SAS, and Air Canada. For some of the partners like LOT and SAS, the total fees for the round trip were only $88 USD. These fees aren’t bad at all but you have to keep mind United has a much higher mileage requirement for partners that requires 25,000 additional miles. 

Final word 

There are tons of different ways to get to Paris, whether flying directly or indirectly through other European locations. I suggest you playing around with some searches from your nearby airports and taking note of the different routes and availability. Then with that in mind, you should be able to find the right program to get you to Paris in no time. 

Love Lock Bridges in Paris: The Tradition that Never Was?

There are actually many “love lock” bridges in Paris, though two of them stand out amongst the rest. The “Pont de l’Archeveche,” is located just next door to the Notre Dame Cathedral while the “Pont des Arts” is located just outside the Louvre. Tourists often engrave or write their names on locks and then attach these locks to the bridges in an effort to symbolize their love for eachother. Some even go so far as to throwing their key into the Seine River to put a stamp on their eternal desire to be together. Lately, there’s been talk about banning this practice, as the weight from the locks has actually collapsed portions of the bridge and the cumulative effect of the discarded keys has been detrimental to the river’s environment.

For now, placing locks along these bridges is still an on-going tourist attraction. Here’s a look at some things to consider if you are planning on taking part in this “tradition” upon your visit to Paris.

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There’s nothing historical or “Parisian” about this practice

There’s nothing enduring about this “tradition.” Local reports state this practice began around the mid-2000s. That’s right, not 2,000 years ago, but something closer to about eight years ago. Also, the majority of Parisians seem to attribute this new practice to tourists and not anything distinctly rooted in any tradition or ritual of Paris. Thus, placing these locks on these bridges is pretty much a modern tourist invention (with roots dating back to a WWI Serbian tale). So while the idea is cool in theory, just know that you’re not engaging in some sort of renowned Parisian act of romance as many visitors think they are.

Love Lock Bridge Paris

The locks are getting out of control and damaging the bridges

These locks are now starting to exceed the holding capacity of the bridge due to their weight. When you see the bridge, you’ll see locks locked onto locks locked onto locks. Some of these locks are completely obnoxious and about as big as laptops. One look at the insane amount of locks on the bridges now and it’s easy to see how these locks are starting to get out of control. In fact, in June of 2014 a portion of the bridge’s fencing (where the locks are attached) actually collapsed. Just before we arrived in October 2014, some officials from the city actually placed boards over some areas to protect the bridge. To be honest, the boards look like crap and all of the writing on the boards don’t help the eyesore that they have become.

Love Lock Bridge Paris
Love Lock Bridge Paris

It’s too bad that this kind of thing doesn’t work out because unlike some who oppose this practice, I actually think that the locks on the bridge look pretty cool and some are pretty creative. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that there’s an option where you can allow tourists to attach padlocks onto a bridge without it getting out of control pretty quickly. It’s just not sustainable. Perhaps this kind of thing could work somewhere where it would be difficult to access the location where the locks are to be attached… like the top of a mountain peak. But with millions of visitors pouring in each year over these bridges, it simply will never workout in the long-term without damaging the local landscape.

Love Lock Bridge Paris

To alleviate this issue, Paris recently initiated an effort, dubbed #lovewithoutlocks, to encourage visitors to take selfies in front of the locks now. I don’t see that doing much considering that websites still encourage tourists to bring their custom-engraved locks to the bridge. Moreover, there are even local vendors on the bridges selling locks to tourists. Obviously, there is still a ways to go if city officials want tourists to receive a consistent message that this is no longer welcomed. And because of the mixed-messages out there, I can’t really blame a lot of visitors for not realizing that so many others seriously object to the practice and find the locks a nuisance.

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Our personal decision not to place a lock on the bridge

After researching more into the issues facing the bridge, Brad and I decided not to place a lock on the bridge. While there was still quite a bit of open room on some of the outer areas of the bridge, I didn’t feel like the bridge needed another lock from us. My reasons were both idealogical and environmental. I just don’t see romantic love properly manifested in a padlock attached to a bridge with the key thrown away. To me, what makes love so great is the risk involved. The risk that you’re partaking in something in which you ultimately have no control over the final outcome. It’s just that risk that brings in such a great reward. I understand that not everyone feels that way about romantic love and that’s fine, of course. But for me, the idea of something akin to a shackle symbolizing romance just didn’t jive with me. Add in the fact that it’s harming the environment and landmarks and you can see why I didn’t partake.

I understand that many are probably more interested in doing this for the nostalgia than for an actual symbolic statement of their never-ending love and I totally get it. You come to Paris, the city of romance, and you and your partner leave a small piece of yourselves there and five or ten years you come back and see that same enduring marker of your visit and feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. However, my suggestion is to just stick with photographs. Take some selfies of you and your lover at the bridge and be satisfied with that memory. Remember, it’s pretty selfish to add to the destruction of a landmark for your own want of nostalgia.

Love Lock Bridge Paris

However, if you are absolutely determined to put a lock on the bridge then please just don’t throw your key into the river. They estimate that over 700,000 locks are on these bridges and you can just imagine the environmental impact of so many thousands of keys rusting away in the riverbed. And it’s not like this is the River Thames. No offense, London, I really love you, and the Thames is pretty in it’s own way. But rivers like the Thames already look like they’ve dealt with their fare share of rust issues over the decades (though the Thames is said to be one of the cleanest rivers running through a major city). On the other hand, a beautiful green river like the Seine should be preserved as much as possible and it’s not hard to see how after a few years its beauty could be compromised from hundreds of thousands of deteriorating keys.=I hope this post doesn’t rain too much on your parade if you were looking forward to placing your own lock on the bridge. I try to focus on more positive aspects of travel and I know that this post is more on the negative side. I just wanted to help get the word out there that this practice is doing some harm to these areas and that we should think about the cumulative, long-term effects of doing even the most simple things like attaching a small lock to a bridge and tossing a key into a river.

Visiting the Towers of Notre-Dame

One of the most famous cathedrals on the planet, the Notre Dame is situated on a small island in the middle of the Seine River. The construction of the Notre Dame originally began in the 12th century and through the centuries it’s gone through several additions on its way to becoming the masterpiece it is today. I have to be honest, typically cathedrals don’t do much for me. However, the Notre Dame was certainly an exception. There are some stunning details to the cathedral that upon close examination really allow you to appreciate this marvel. That said, this post is only about visiting the towers of the Notre Dame and not the interior. So if you’re looking for some good info on making your way up to the top of Notre Dame cathedral, you’re in the right spot.

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The towers of Notre Dame offer what is in my opinion, one of the best views and photographic opportunities in the entire city of Paris. After wearing out your legs a bit going up close to 400 stairs, you’re rewarded with panoramic views of the River Seine, the Eiffel Tower, and the marvelous French architecture all around spanning all the way to downtown Paris. Here’s a quick look at what you need to know if you’d like to venture up to the top of the towers.

View of the Eiffel Tower from the Notre Dame cathedral
View of the Eiffel Tower from the Notre Dame cathedral.

1. Price

At €8.50 per adult, I’d say the price admission is somewhat reasonable. Like just about every other destination they offer discounts for certain people, such as students. There’s a sign by the entrance that states that you need exact change for your ticket but don’t worry about that because once you get in, there are cashiers that will offer you your change in the event you don’t tender exact change.

2. The towers have a separate entrance from the cathedral

The towers are managed by the National Monuments Centre and are basically an entirely separate experience from seeing the inside of the cathedral. You’ll enter into a separate line and will not be given access to the interior of the cathedral as part of your visit. Thus, if you’re planning on seeing the inside be sure to allocate enough time to wait through that line as well.

3. The line gets pretty long

The line for the towers begins at the base of the north tower (if you’re facing the front entrance of the cathedral it will be on your left). The line goes down the side of the cathedral towards the back and it can get pretty long. When the line moves it will only move in blocks. So at times it feels like you’re not making any kind of progress. The good news is that there are several cafes across the street where you can by some drinks or something to eat to help with the wait.

My advice is try to arrive at the towers a little before opening. If you wait until later you are pretty much guaranteed to have to wait in a pretty long line. One option you can look into is after hour tours that will allow you to jump the lines after the towers are closed off to the public. I’ve heard many of these tours offer great talks on the history of the towers and can be a great way to go up in the towers without dealing with the crowds.

4. The stairs… aren’t exactly easy

Once you are given access to the entrance you’ll begin your walk up the spiral stairs. But this will only be a taste of what’s to come. You shortly arrive at the gift shop/admissions desk where you will actually buy your ticket. After getting your ticket, there will be a worker at the door where you entered that will give you the green light to proceed ascending the stairs. That’s when the real fun begins.

To get to the top of the Notre Dame you’ll have to work your way up over 380 spiraling steps. I consider myself to be in average health. I’m not going to win any bodybuilding competitions any time soon but I can knock out a few miles without losing my breakfast. I found the walk up to the top to be what I’d call a calve burning experience. There were a few people in front of us who ended up taking breaks on the way up because it was so difficult. The hardest part for me was keeping my claustrophobia at bay and dealing with the dizziness that came from going up the tight spiraling stairs that seemed to get smaller and smaller as you approached the top. If you find yourself getting worn out feel free to take a breather or two and you will be up to the viewing deck in no time.

Stairs at the top of the Notre Dame tower
The tight spiraling stairs of the Notre Dame tower.
Man on Stairs

5. Capture the best photo opportunities with the chimeras

Once your legs are close to giving out you’ll be relieved to see the sunlight lighting up the stairway — you’ve made it! You’ll make your way through a small door opening (pictured above) and out onto the platforms where the chimeras are. This area is covered by a steel cable-fencing for protection as seen below. Yes, the cables detract somewhat from the view, but as far as photos go it’s extremely easy to fit your camera past the cables to get them out of your way. Plus, it’s completely understandable that they’d need some form of protection up there. Some of the walkways get a little tight as you make your way around, so be prepared for some pretty tight spaces.

Man at top of Notre Dame tower

Being up on that deck was my favorite part of the Notre Dame Towers because I thought taking photos with the gargoyles and chimeras in the foreground and the Eiffel Tower in the background was pretty amazing. They make for very striking photographs and really capture the mystique of the cathedral in very picturesque way.

Notre Dame Gargoyles
Notre Dame Gargoyles

When we visited, the south tower was closed off (apparently this happens from time to time). The south tower is the tower that is home to the huge “Emmanuel” bell that is over 300 years old and weighs 13 tons! The Emmanuel is hardly ever rung, however. I’m guessing that in an effort to preserve the bell they’ve decided to only ring it a few times a year, such as on special holidays like Christmas and Easter. In the north tower there are four bells that ring daily for the time. Be prepared for the loud clamoring of the bells when you are up there; it can be quite jarring when you’re not expecting it.

After you’ve wandered around the first deck you then have the option to go up to the top or go back down. The staff at the tower strictly regulates the amount of visitors that are at the top. This means that you may be standing in line for some time while you wait for the top of the tower to clear. Once they give you the okay to head up you’ll have to deal with even tighter spiraling stairs to make it up to the top of the towers, so if you were struggling with the first batch of stairs just prepare yourself for a little bit more agony (it’s really not that bad). The view from the top of the towers is pretty much the same view you get from the bottom — you aren’t that much higher. The good thing about the top is that you can wander all around the top of the tower for a full panoramic view of the area, which is pretty cool.

Notre Dame top deck
View from the top deck of the north Notre Dame tower.

After you’ve circled around the top of the tower, the staff will make you wait for the stairs in the tower and then send you back down. If you didn’t get a chance to check out the gift shop you can stop by it on your way down.Otherwise, you’ll descend all the way to the bottom floor exit. They way back down is much easier on your legs. The only difficult part of it for me was, once again, dealing with the dizziness that comes from heading down spiraling stairs. Once you finally arrive at the bottom a door will automatically slide open for you to exit and just like that you are back outside of the cathedral.

6. Don’t forget to go in the cathedral if you have time

Like I mentioned, you will have to enter into a separate line to go into the cathedral. On Sunday at about noon the line going into the front was pretty substantial, although it appeared to be moving at a pretty steady pace. Unfortunately, we were a little short on time and weren’t able to see the inside but if you have the time then I recommend you hanging around to see the inside.

That’s the skinny on visiting the towers at Notre Dame. I hope that these tips help you better understand what to expect and that you have a great time visiting this beautiful place!

The Eiffel Tower: Save Time and Money

Once the tallest structure in the world, now the Eiffel Tower stands out as probably the most recognizable tower in the world. You can see the tower from just about anywhere in central Paris and for travelers it serves as a constant reminder that “you’ve made it” (to Paris at least). Admiring the tower from afar or even up close is good enough for many. But for others, going inside the tower is an irresistible experience. Visiting the Eiffel Tower itself is a relatively straightforward process. You wait in line, buy your tickets, and then go up and down the elevator or stairs. However, there are a couple of things you may want to take into consideration when planning your visit to the Tower. Here are five bits of information for making your visit to the tower a good one.

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1. Prices (as of October 2014)

A ticket to get to the top of the tower via the elevator is €15 per adult (less for students and children).

To get to the second deck via the elevator it’s only €9.

To get to the second deck via the stairs it’s only €5.

Under Eiffel Tower

2. How to beat (or deal) with the lines

You can beat the lines by reserving your visit online. The only problem is that you usually have to make this booking about one to two months in advance! That means you’ll have no idea what the weather will be like on the day you choose to visit. Still, it may be better to play the odds with the weather and not have to worry about standing in line.

Another way to beat the line, or at least mitigate the damage of time standing in line would be to get in line about 30-40 minutes before opening or to go at night (at a risk). If you arrive before opening, the line will start picking up about 30 to 40 minutes before opening so make sure that you are there extra early. You can always buy some coffee and crepes from a nearby cafe to appease your appetite while you wait. Be careful about going at night, however. The reason is that sometimes they will close the elevators due to a high capacity of visitors or even worse they may close off admissions entirely if too many visitors are coming in. So while the night time may offer great views and potentially shorter crowds, that comes at the risk of not being able to enter the tower at all.

The photos below show the difference in the crowd from a 5pm on a Saturday and about 45 minutes before opening on a Monday.

Crowd Under Eiffel Tower
The line at the Eiffel Tower at about 5pm on a Saturday.
Eiffel Tower no crowd
The line at the Eiffel Tower approximately 45 minutes before opening.

Finally, in addition to going at the tight time, a way to beat the lines is just to take a hike up the steps. Many feel this is the most rewarding way to view the tower. Not only do you save money (and likely waiting time), you get a more intimate experience as you make your way up the tower step by step.

Remember though, while you’ll be entering into a shorter line you’re going to have to climb a good enough amount of stairs (about 600) to get to that second level. If you’re in decent shape this shouldn’t be a big problem but if mobility is somewhat of an issue for you then I recommend you looking into the elevator route. Also, not to be ignored is that those with extreme fear of heights may struggle a bit due to the exposed sights below. While you are barricaded in by steel and fencing, you can see right through the stairs and surrounding structures on your way up and that may induce a little bit of vertigo in some, so just be mindful of that.

Eiffel Tower elevator view
View from the elevator.

If you decide to go the elevator route you may be a bit surprised by the smoothness of these machines. They seem to almost float up to their next floor. While they can get a little stuffed with visitors, I think the employees do a good job of not squishing a ridiculous amount of people in the elevator at once. After you switch elevators on the second deck to get to the top, the speed picks up as you ascend hundreds of feet and before you know it you are at the top. If I had to grade the elevator experience I would give it an A+, and coming from a claustrophobic guy that’s saying a lot.

3. Is the view from the top worth the extra money?

I hear a lot of people ask this question. I have to say that personally I do think that it’s worth it but it’s really a matter of personal preference. Paris is such a beautiful city and a lot of that comes from the amazing symmetry of the architecture and the layout of the parks, monuments, and streets. You can definitely appreciate this at the second level. However, seeing the city from the top of the city just adds “emphasis” to this fact. Check out the photos below to see the difference in the view in terms of being able to appreciate the full-scale of the city’s symmetry. For some, the difference may be negligible but for me, I appreciated the enhanced perspective.

Trocadéro Gardens from Eiffel Tower
View from the top of the tower.
Trocadéro Gardens from Eiffel Tower
View from the second level.

The other reason for wanting to go to the top is just to say that you were at the top. For me this was the primary reason. Much like going to the top of the Empire State Building, traveling to the top of the tallest structure in Paris is just a cool experience and offers a bit more “bragging rights,” especially if you are willing to add the extra cherry on top with a €10 “glass” of champagne. (Note: the “bar” at the top is really just a walk-up bar where you grab your glass and go so don’t expect an elaborate set-up.)

Top of Eiffel tower

I realize that bragging rights and pricey champagne may not be important to everyone and if it’s not then you will not feel cheated one bit from just visiting the second level of the tower. The views are still sweeping and for some arguably better. Remember, this area of Paris isn’t full of high-rises. Thus, a higher vantage point won’t necessarily improve your sights of many of the four and five story buildings. So while you can appreciate the full scale of the city’s symmetry better from above, that may come at the expense of missing some of the fine detail of the buildings from the second deck. For that reason, the second deck has it’s own advantages and you should stop and check out that view even if you are primarily interested in the view from the summit.

Another shot from the top of the tower.
Top of Eiffel tower

So I guess the answer to which view is better or more worth the money is that you truly can’t go wrong with either choice. And just in case you were wondering, no you cannot walk up the stairs to the very top of the Tower. While such a workout would be unforgettable, they only allow you to access up to the second level via the stairs.

4. Scammers and souvenirs – $ave your money!

Avoid the scams in and around the Eiffel Tower area! There are basically two ways you may get scammed. One are these Romanian Gypsies who wander around asking you to donate to some deaf and blind “charity.” They will approach you asking if you speak English and if you answer in the affirmative then you will become fresh meat in their eyes and they will try to pressure you to “just sign your name” and then donate. They usually have about four or five names on their little sign-up sheets already marked to try to entice you to donate, but don’t fall for it.

After I caught on to their game, I purposely answered one that I spoke English just to take another look at their sign-up sheet. My suspicion was that all of the previous donators were written in the same handwriting. After getting one of the scammers back over to me, I quickly saw that I was right. All four individuals had their names written down in the same exact handwriting! I didn’t really need confirmation on these scammers, but it was interesting to see how little effort apparently goes into their game on that end.

The other potential scams are the folks selling Eiffel Tower models out on the sidewalks. They are mostly African and usually have a big bunch of metal tower models in three or four different sizes attached on a ring. They aren’t scammers per se, but they will try to get you for your money. They sell Eiffel Tower models for about €10 that easily sell for €2-3 in the nearby souvenir shops. So my advice is not to buy from these people unless you bargain them down to about 25% of their offering price or unless you are just feeling particularly generous with your money.

Eiffel Tower gift shop
Eiffel Tower souvenirs at a local shop, sold for a fraction of the price offered by some of the street vendors.

On that same note, I recommend you spend as little as possible at the souvenir shops inside the Tower. I have to admit, I bought the “official” Eiffel Tower model from one of the shops inside the Tower just because I couldn’t resist, but I don’t recommend you buying a bunch of little items like magnets because you can pay about half the price for those at nearby souvenir shops and little kiosks around the streets.

5. Eiffel Tower Restaurants

I did not have the privilege to dine at any of the restaurants located inside the tower so I can’t say much about them. My advice would to be to read up on Tripadvisor about these places before making plans. Here’s a list of the restaurants found inside the tower.

Overall, the visit to the Eiffel Tower is pretty straight forward and shouldn’t pose any problems for you. I think the main thing is to catch the tower before it opens because the lines underneath get out-of-control and that is your only sure way of being guarantied admission without pre-booking months in advance. Also, be careful when purchasing souvenirs from the street vendors and the souvenir shops because you can easily save 50% by just being patient and buying from nearby shops.

That’s it for now. Enjoy your time in Paris!