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While Paris does have some great free museums and art galleries, such as Le Petit Palais and Musée d'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris many of the museums have an entrance fee. Since most of my museum going "at home" is in Oxford or London, where the bulk of the museums are free, it's a little shock to be asked for €10-€15 to see the permanent collection.

To help avoid this, are there any special days / times / dates when many of the Parisian museums and galleries are open for free, instead of their usual entrance fees?

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A very good question, and a better answer :) – Heidel Ber Gensis Feb 7 '13 at 2:30
Also worth noting that most of Europe has a very generous 'student discount' on so many educational venues (museums, parks, landmarks, etc) – Matthew Peters Aug 4 '14 at 18:57
up vote 18 down vote accepted

Yes, there is!

On the first Sunday of every month, almost all the main museums and art galleries are open for free.

The only slight downside is that loads of people take advantage of this, so the queues can be quite long (it took 25 minutes to get into le Musée d'Orsay today mid afternoon as a guide), and they can be very busy inside. See this question on avoiding the worst of the queues at the Louvre for example.

Still, if you don't mind the queues to get in, you can see some amazing museums and works of art for free, you just need to play your trip to Paris to hit the first Sunday of the month! (You can do the museums that are free all the time, such as those mentioned in the question, on the day before/after, so you can maximise your time on the Sunday at the places that normally charge)

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Note that: 1.the free museums on the first sunday are National museums, mostly located in Paris and its area. 2.If you are a EU resident under 26 years old, National museums are free everyday (for permanent collections only) – Vince Feb 3 '13 at 21:59
@Vince it might be worth posting #2 as a new answer, as I didn't know that, though it is alas no longer relevant to me personally... The Paris specific part of #1 is hopefully already clean from the question title and tags! – Gagravarr Feb 3 '13 at 22:24
I think you don't get what I mean in the 1., I didn't make it clear enough maybe. I am saying the concerned museums are only ''National museums'', which most happen to be in Paris. There is a related question listing some, for their closing days:…. And every museum has its own free ticket policy, so listing them is hopeless. Just take advantage of Free sundays and youth! – Vince Feb 4 '13 at 13:46

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