Tips to Avoid Crowds in Paris France
Paris is one of those cities that you either love or hate. Either way, you know you are not in Paris alone. There are masses of people everywhere, and it can feel overwhelming even to those who came for the ambiance, romance, and excitement of the city. Visitors who aren't used to so many people often get tired of waiting in endless queues, fighting the masses, and being pushed or jostled.
Plan ahead and be flexible
This one seems obvious, but a bit of planning can prepare you for the city. Many of the tips below are part of the planning process. Flexibility, however, is often difficult for travellers who like everything pre-scheduled. If you arrive at an attraction and the entry queue is two hours, perhaps it's time to change the plan and come back tomorrow, or later in the day.
Avoid crowds in Paris by visiting sites early in the morning or late at night
Tour busses generally show up at a prescribed time, often starting about 30 minutes after opening. Arriving first lets you beat the rush. And if it's a popular hike or a walk, consider starting at dawn, or just after sunset (provided it is deemed to be safe). In Paris, we did this twice, once early in the morning, the other time after dark. The resulting images are two of my favourite Paris photos, both of Sacre-Coeur.
Buy tickets in advance that skip the line
On our last trip to Paris, the queue to get into the Louvre Museum was over two hours. A bit of better planning and we could have had a Skip the Line ticket, and we could have gone straight in and had a guided tour.
Park far away and walk
Sometimes it's not the people, but the traffic that makes an area feel crowded. Parking far away and walking lets you avoid crowds in Paris, at least on the roads. In a scene reminiscent of the comedy 'European Vacation' we entered the roundabout at the base of the Arc de Triomphe. What a mistake that turned out to be. Eventually, we gave up, drove a mile away, found a place to park the car and walked back.
Similarly, our wouldn't guide us up the hill at Montmartre. Despite it being the highest point in Paris, we eventually opted to park at the base and walk up a massive flight of stairs. While the walk resulted in a bit of grumbling, it did avoid crowds on Paris roads. And, once at the top, we were greeted with the spectacular nighttime view of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart shown above. It's a massive cathedral more commonly known as Sacre-Coeur Basilica.
Visit attractions outside the city
The two attractions we visited outside of Paris were both stately manors, yet very different in terms of their crowds. First, we visited the Musee Vivant du Cheval, a living horse museum dedicated to equine art and culture. Located in Chantilly, just 40 miles north of Paris, Musee Vivant du Cheval horse museum is housed in the Great Stables of the Château de Chantilly, considered to be the largest stables in Europe. Built in the mid-1500s, the Château is a site to see in its own right.
Step off the beaten path and go to less frequented streets
We love getting off the tourist path and exploring a city or neighbourhood. Not just because it will often avoid the crowds, but also because it is a better way to learn about the people and the culture. Cities like Paris that get large numbers of tourists often spend a small fortune to show off the best of their city. Stepping off the tourist path lets you see a different side of a town. More importantly, it is often the fastest way to avoid crowds in Paris.