Tips on Buying Tickets and Visiting the Musée d’Orsay in Paris

Buy skip-the-line time-slot reservation tickets to visit the Musée d’Orsay in Paris or book cheap tours to enter the museum without queuing.

Summer Queues to buy tickets Outside the Musée d'Orsay in Paris
ChrisSampson87 / Wikimedia Commons

The Musée d’Orsay, home to impressionist art, is one of the most popular museums to visit in Paris. The best times to visit the Musée d’Orsay are early morning or Thursday evenings — avoid all day Tuesday and weekends. Although time-slot reservation tickets are currently not compulsory, buying skip-the-line tickets is highly advisable to ensure admission without delays. Guided tours get visitors into the museum quickly even during busy times.

See Impressionist Art in the Musée d’Orsay

Manet: Luncheon on the Grass in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris

The art in the Musée d’Orsay covers roughly the period from 1848 to 1914 — the Second Republic to the First World War, or more practically the period between the art displayed in the Louvre and the modern art in the Centre Pompidou. The collection includes the largest and most complete collection of impressionist art in the world as well as the equally popular post-impressionist art. In addition to the large collection of paintings, the museum also has many sculptures, decorative art, photography, drawings, and architectural details on display.

Van Gogh, Renoir, Cézanne, Gauguin, Monet, Manet, Pissarro, Seurat, Pompon, Degas, and Rodin are well represented here in addition to the works by far less famous artists. Many visitors enjoy this museum more than the enormous Louvre, which covers a much wider spectrum of cultural treasures.


Visit the Musée d’Orsay — Buy Time-Slot Tickets

Sculptures in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris

As with visiting the Louvre, a bit of planning and especially buying time-slot tickets or booking tours in advance are highly advisable when visiting the Musée d’Orsay. Although beautifully located inside a former railway station, the museum is smaller than the Louvre with visitor queues often moving slowly at busy times.

The Orsay Museum is easy to navigate. A good strategy is to cross the ground floor to the back of the museum where an elevator transports visitors up to the fifth level to see the world-famous impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. Levels four and three are mostly open spaces while sculptures are displayed on the terraces of level two. In rooms off these terraces, art nouveau, symbolism, naturalism, and thematic displays may be enjoyed in relative calm.

Level 0 (ground floor) is used for frequently changing temporary exhibitions but also smaller rooms with very popular exhibitions including rooms dedicated to amongst others Manet, Degas, Courbet, and Cézanne.

Amazon has quite an extensive selection of books on the Musée d’Orsay and the artworks on display in this popular Parisian art museum.

Buy Tickets and Book Tours for the Musée d’Orsay

Main Hall of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris

Tickets for the Musée d’Orsay are €15 when bought at the museum or €17 when bought online with a time-slot reservation — that is generally €2 well spent. Combination tickets with the Musée de l’Orangerie are sometimes sold (with buying at the Orangerie a way to avoid queues) while resellers often give discounts if buying tickets for the Musée d’Orsay and other sights such as the Louvre, Centre Pompidou, the Musée du Quai Branly, and the Bourse de Commerce – Pinault.

With time-slot reservations, visitors skip the queues of those buying tickets at the museum itself or having tickets without a time. Enter within half an hour of the time stated on the ticket, or join the regular queue and wait. The correct entrance to use is stated on the ticket — usually door C but sometimes door A is also used for reservation tickets.

Visitors with tickets but without time slots (or having missed the reserved time) as well as museum pass holders, and similar, theoretically have skip-the-line privileges too but that is only over those queueing up to buy tickets at the museum. The busier the museum and the longer the queues, the less such “skip-the-line” tickets without time-slot reservations give faster admission.

Visitors under 18 (and EU residents under 26 years) may enter for free but have to queue in the non-reservation line. 

Admission to the Musée d’Orsay is free for all on the first Sunday of the month but make time-slot reservations online.

Tickets are only around €13 (online with time-slot reservation) or €10 at the museum for entry on Thursday evenings after 18:00.

Book Guided Tours and Tickets for the Musée d’Orsay

At peak periods, guided tours are often the fastest way to enter the Musée d’Orsay and to minimize the waiting time at the security checkpoint.

A variety of guided tours are available for the Musée d’Orsay. The basic highlights tours are 90 minutes to two hours. Private tours are often good value for small groups and especially families who may also book family-friendly tours. Combination tours with other sights are also available with the nearby Louvre particularly popular (and giving skip-the-line access to two of the most popular sights in Paris). More extensive tours include a gourmet lunch or a walk through the Montmartre neighborhood that played such a major role in the lives of many Impressionist painters.

Opening Hours for the Musée d’Orsay

Hercules by Antoine Bourdelle in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris

The opening hours of the Musée d’Orsay are Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30 to 18:00, closing at 21:45 on Thursdays. The Musée d’Orsay is closed on Mondays, 1 May, and 25 December. Final admission is around an hour before closing but halls start to close from half an hour before the final closure time.

Best Times to Visit the Musée d’Orsay

Line up according to tickets at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris

The best times to visit the Musée d’Orsay are early morning right at opening time, late afternoon, or Thursday evening when the museum closes late (and cheaper for admission after 18:00). (The Marmottan Monet Museum is also open Thursday evenings — the largest collection of Monet paintings is easily reached from the D’Orsay on RER trains C.)

The worst times to visit the Musée d’Orsay are Tuesdays (when the Louvre is closed and the D’Orsay busy even early morning), weekends (although right at opening usually not that bad but it will get busy quickly), and school holidays, especially over Easter, summer, and Christmas. Time-slot reservation tickets get visitors in easy enough but the museum is likely to be unpleasantly full.

The absolute worst time to visit the Musée d’Orsay is the first Sunday of the month when admission is free — this is normally saving at the wrong end, except when the weather is unseasonably pleasant and more people will spend the day outside, or so miserable that few would venture out. It is necessary to book a free ticket online for visiting on the first Sunday of the month — free Sunday tickets are only available around four weeks in advance.

Buy Online Tickets for Top Museums in Paris

It is possible to buy tickets online for most museums and top sights in Paris. Time-slot reservations are highly advisable and generally a sound investment. Also, look for discounts if buying more than one ticket from the same reseller:

The World of Bansky – The Immersive Experience is a special exhibition in Paris that has been extended due to its huge popularity.

Henk Bekker in armor

About the author:

Henk Bekker

Henk Bekker is a freelance travel writer with over 20 years of experience writing online. He is particularly interested in history, art, and culture. He has lived most of his adult life in Germany, Switzerland, and Denmark. In addition to, he also owns a travel website on the Lake Geneva region of Switzerland and maintains statistical websites on car sales and classic car auction prices. Henk holds an MBA from Edinburgh Business School and an MSc in Development Finance from the University of London.