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Free visits on Sunday

Museums are teeming with all thing curious, interesting, beautiful, ugly, etc that I could spend an entire day in a large one or hop from a small one to another, and would most likely happily repeat the same the next day. (I even own a couple of museum cards so I have unlimited access all year round to these museums without having to queue for ticket each time). Monuments, on the other hand, showcase history through architecture and events that occur on these sites. No less fascinating on their own.

Interior of Versailles Palace

Cue: free museums and monuments Sunday

In Paris-talk, this Sunday refers to the first Sunday of the month. Free entry to check out something different and informative each month – sweet deal!

What’s not to like about free entry day like this? The queue. And the number of people inside the museums, especially the larger ones. The best strategy would therefore be to go really early around opening time or an hour or two before closing, when queues move along fairly quickly and there are less people within the sights. At times when there are already considerable number of visitors inside, the rate of queue would be dictated by the rate of leaving visitors.

Unfortunately, I’ve so far only manage to take advantage of free visit Sunday twice. Since living in Paris, 2 of the first Sundays fell on public holiday (1 January, 1 May). As I didn’t know how those are being treated, I just assumed them to be lost. Somehow, it seems I also have a knack of being away during first weekend of the month. I was away for 10/19 of them! My success rate is therefore 2/9 – a paltry ratio if anything.

Exhibit at Musée du Quai Branly

Not all free visit Sundays are made equal

While most of the museums and monuments that participate in free visit Sunday offer this perk all year round, some national monuments restricted it to the winter months, namely from November to March (except one from October to May).

Those within Paris are among the most visited, and often controlled for number of visitors allowed within at any time due to size and space constraint. You can imagine trying to offer free visit all year round would be fairly problematic.

Here are lists of the monuments with restricted free visit Sunday, in Paris and in Ile-de-France, along with their opening hours and last admission before closing (LABC) time indicators on Sundays from November to March. Please consult their websites for opening hours for the other days of the week and for the months from April to October. (Information correct at time of writing, as per the official websites.)

Monuments within Paris:
Arc de Triomphe (75008; 10h00-22h30, LABC 45 mins)
Conciergerie (75001; 09h30-18h00, LABC 30 mins)
Panthéon (75005; 10h00-18h00, LABC 45 mins)
Sainte-Chapelle (75001; 09h-17h00 except March 09h30-18h00, LABC 30 mins)
Tours de Notre-Dame (75004; 10h00-17h30, LABC 45 mins)

Among these, Conciergerie, Sainte-Chapelle and the Tower of Notre-Dame are fairly close to one another, all situated on Île de la Cité.

Monuments in Ile-de-France:
Basilique royale de Saint-Denis (93200; 12h00-17h15, LABC 30 mins)
Château de Maisons-Laffitte (78600; 10h00-12h30, 14h00-17h00, LABC 30 mins)
Château de Pierrefonds (60350; 10h00-13h00, 14h00-17h30, LABC 45 mins)
Villa Savoye (78300; 10h00-13h00, 14h00-17h00 except March 10h00-17h00, LABC 20 mins)
Château de Vincennes (94300; 10h00-17h00, LABC 45 mins; access to Sainte-Chapelle 11h00-12h00, 15h00-16h00)
Château de Champs-sur-Marne (77420; Oct-May, currently closed for renovation)

Flying machine at Musée des Arts et Métiers

My personal plan for 2013

I hope to profit from free visit Sundays this year, so let’s see if I can hit the home run by making it 12/12 (assuming I am still living here and not travelling during the first weekend of the month). Between now and March, I will be looking at visiting the monuments listed in the section above, before switching gear in April to hit the lesser known museums on this list (which by the way is a good starting point but imcomplete, e.g. Musée des Arts et Métiers has not been included).

Today, I’ll make my way north to Basilique royale de Saint-Denis – touted the first Gothic church and today better known as the royal burial site to French monarchs. February is most likely reserved for an outing to Château de Vincennes, which if the weather cooperates, we may even Velib’ all the way there.

As for March, I’m still debating whether to do another visit to monument within Ile-de-France, or should I go completely kiasu and hit all the sites within Paris city centre – tourism, Asian-style! Not that I need to though, mind, since I have visited all of these Parisian monuments at one time or another in the past. Would be nice to see something new instead. ;)

Category: Museum, Paris, Tips

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4 scribbles & notes

  1. med says:

    Sounds like a good plan and no harm done to the pocket too hehehe…all da best lil ;)

    • Lil says:

      it is great that there’s such option, and there are also museums that are free all year round! that’s what i think is lacking in malaysia. there are so few museums around…

  2. Lynn says:

    Did you end up hitting your goal?

    • Lil says:

      Sadly, no. Of the 12 months:
      – 6 visits
      – 3 weekends away (visiting family/friends, wedding attendance)
      – 2 weekends lazing about
      – 1 weekend helping out friend’s apartment move

      Must try harder. Maybe I should bring this back next year? ;)

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