Paris is an amazing city, as it is like a huge outdoor museum in itself. Everywhere you turn there are museums, statues or sites with history dating back thousands of years. During our month stay in Paris, we could easily go wild and blow our budget just seeing all the museums and spend all our waking moments in museums. Although we are on a tight budget, this does not mean we are going to skimp on or avoid seeing some of the major sites of Paris. After all, to see the sites of an area and to truly learn the history is one of the many reasons why I am traveling around the world. One great strategy we used to save money was to purchase a Museum Pass. The Museum Pass has allowed us to see many of the big and even small museums around Paris at a fraction of the cost. The Museum Pass can be either purchased for 2, 4, or 6 days. We chose to purchase the 6-day pass for 69 euros. This sounds pricey, but if one were to add up all the museums we saw over the 6 days, the museum pass is a fraction of what we would have paid for each individual museum. We did not need to buy a Museum Pass for Sydney, as most of the museums are free for children under 12.
I won’t lie, those 6 days were exhausting and by the end I needed a break from the sightseeing. However over those 6 days, we saw oodles of museums, some of which were great and some not so great. We were also able to go back a couple times to several of the larger museums. Dividing up a large museum such as the Louvre over several days was a great strategy especially traveling with a child. Although, the Louvre amazes me, there is only so much art Sydney can take in one day. With the Museum Pass, I also saw a couple places that I would have been reluctant to pay out of pocket for such as the Paris Sewer Tour or climbing the top of Notre Dame.
During our 6-day frenzy, we saw the Louvre, Army Museum, Napoleon’s Tomb, Versailles (Former palace for the kings of France built by Louis XIV), Notre Dame tower, Conciergerie (where Marie Antoinette spent her final hours), Saint Chappelle, Orsay Museum, Cluny Museum, Jewish Art and History Museum, Paris Sewer Tour, Museum of Art Decoratifs, Arch de Triomphe, Science and Industry Museum, and the Pompidou. In addition to those museums, we also went to several free museums for the sake of convenience.
Although it was busy and exhausting, Sydney overall did well. We tried to pick a fun museum for Sydney each day. For some of the bigger art museums, we kept Sydney’s interest by going on an art treasure hunt. This meant having her pick several art pieces from post cards or the museum pamphlet that she liked and having her find them in the museum. Unfortunately several of her picks were not on display.
In our mad dash through the museums and sites, I have learned much about the history and also about myself. My favorite moments so far have been simple pleasures: watching the traffic with Sydney from the top of the Arc de Triomphe and watching the sunset from Notre Dame. Paris is beautifully lit up at night. At the Arc de Triomphe, 12 major traffic arteries converge at the round about. There are no painted lanes and the cars go every which way. But more interesting is watching the motorcycles weave in and out and squeeze around cars. It is plain craziness. Out of the chaos, traffic flows with minimal interruption. We saw no accidents, but heard lots of honking. In visiting the Pompidou, or as Sydney and Jason call it, the “Poopydoo,” I have also found that I do not like a lot of modern art. I actually prefer the period of art called Impressionism. Previously to visiting the Orsay Museum, which houses many famous Impressionist artists, I did not understand why people liked Vincent Van Gogh. But after seeing Van Gogh paintings in person, it adds a whole new dimension to his work. The texture makes his paintings come alive. Versaille is just plain extravagant even to modern day standards. The most moving museum I have seen so far was actually a free memorial called the Deportation Memorial. Though it is stark, it manages to convey the atrocities of the deportation of 200,000 French citizens to internment camps and subsequent extermination. The museums I have been most disappointed by so far have been the Science and Industry Museum and the Jewish Art and History Museum. Though the building for the Science and Industry Museum is huge, there are not as many exhibits as I would expect for its size. Several of the exhibits also cost extra money, which can easily add up. It even cost for Sydney to go in. We have a similar type of science and industry museum back in Portland called OMSI. I feel like OMSI has just as many exhibits, but also has more hands on exhibits. I also feel like the exhibits at OMSI are more tailored to the child’s level. I also disappointed by the Jewish Art and History Museum. I had high hopes for this one, but I walked away feeling like I had not learned much about Jewish History or Art. The museum that I had the least interest in, but turned out I actually enjoyed and learned quit a bit from was the Paris Sewer Tour. The Paris Sewer Tour exposes the fascinating workings of Paris’ underbelly – the sewer.
If you find yourself in Paris and want to see some of the sites and save money, the Museum Pass is a great deal. The Museum Pass will open up a world of opportunities, some well known and others not so well known.