The Orsay Museum – How To Skip The Lines At This Impressionist Gem

The Musée d'Orsay, home of Impressionism, is a very popular destination in Paris, with 3.3 million visitors a year. It's one of the world's foremost museums, one of our personal favorites, and one that you simply should not miss. But popularity comes with a price — long ticket lines. So, if if you're like us, and hate wasting precious time in Paris standing in line, you're going to like the ideas we've found that let you avoid the queues. We're happy to share them.

COVID-19 Update — Musée d'Orsay has reopened A.D. (aprés deconfinement), but to visit you must pre-book online and obtain a time-stamped ticket. (More information.) If you book one of the guided tours below a ticket will be obtained for you. Visitors are required to wear a face mask, which you must provide yourself.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Visit to Musée d'Orsay

Skip the Lines at Musee d'Orsay, photo by Mark Craft

Our most enjoyable — and enlightening — visits to museums in Paris have been when we have been on a guided tour, led by an expert guide. Strangely, it took us years to figure this out. Years spent showing up at museums, waiting in lines, and then wandering around trying to find the most interesting things to look at. Now, however, we're converts, and most of our visits to major museums are made in a guided tour.

We now end up getting into the museum more quickly, we see more, and we learn a lot about the museum and the artworks it contains. At the end of the tour we feel more satisfied, less tired, and are ready for a nice lunch in Paris. So, we though we'd share the list of of favorite tours of Musée d'Orsay. The museum has reopened post-COVID-lockdown, but now all of the top tours are yet available. We'll try to keep this page updated for you as things change.

Top Musée d'Orsay Guided Tours

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1. Impressionists Tour of Musée d'Orsay

5-STAR REVIEW
"The guide had a Masters degree related to art and he was amazing. We learned so much and he was clear and interesting. He was great at fitting as much information in as possible and framed everything in a historical context. Excellent tour."

  • 2 hours
  • Group size less than 20
  • Tuesdays, Saturdays
  • 10:00 AM
  • If possible, bring your own telephones and earphones

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2. Semi-Private Skip-the-Line Tour of d'Orsay

5-STAR REVIEW
"Our guide was very informative and knowledgeable on the history and the art we saw. She made our experience amazing. We learned a lot more than a larger group tour, so the extra costs was well worth it."

  • 2 hours
  • Semi-private, 4 people maximum
  • Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays
  • Morning or afternoon tour
  • Personalized experience

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3. Orsay Museum Private Guided Tour

5-STAR REVIEW
"My wife and I had seen the Orsay on our own on our last trip to Paris and opted for a guided tour for this trip. It was night and day. Our guide provided insights that we would never have seen. He was extremely knowledgeable and interesting without being overwhelming. This was well worth the cost, even without considering not waiting in line."

  • 2 hours
  • Private tour for just you and your party
  • Tuesdays & Thursdays
  • Morning or afternoon tour
  • Personalized experience

VIP Private Tour of Musée d'Orsay + the Louvre

Private Louvre Museum + Musee d'Orsay

If you really want to soak up the Paris museum experience — and save tons of time while doing it — consider this 2-for-1 tour that gets you guided tours of the two major museums, skipping the lines at both. It's an extraordinary private tour package and the size is limited to 4 people, making certain you receive personal, hands-on attention. You can also bet that this tour will sell out in advance.

  • 5½ hours
  • Maximum group size, 8 people
  • Wednesdays through Saturdays
  • Morning or afternoon tour
  • Personalized experience

The Paris City Pass

Paris Insiders Pass, photo by Mark Craft

Another strategy for avoiding the ticket lines during normal times is to have a Paris City Pass in your pocket. Instead of waiting for hours to buy a ticket, our pass lets you to bypass the ticket line and enter through the priority door, Entrance C, where you only have to go through the standard security procedure. (That's door C in the photo above, where there's no waiting time.)

The Paris City Pass is a combination package. It includes both the Paris Museum Pass that gives you free entrance into 60 museums and monuments in Paris, plus the Paris Metro Pass for unlimited transportation on the city's Metro, buses, RER, and trams. Paris Insiders Pass is purchased online, and there's a generous cancellation policy in case you change your mind.

Visit in the Off Season – Or As Soon As You Can Post-COVID

Musee d'Orsay, photo by Mark Craft

If you're in Paris in the off-season months — January through early March; October and November — you're not likely to have a long wait at the Orsay Museum, with the biggest delays caused by the security procedures (part of the admission process in every Paris museum). The general admission and ticketing line at Door A should be manageable.

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