Vacation Time is Valuable – Buy Advance Museum Tickets
Before we visit any city, we make lists of which museums and art galleries we want to see and then create an agenda. Next, we plan on how we’re going to buy our advance museum tickets. This is crucial!
If You Don’t Plan, You Will Wait
Keep in mind that all major museums and galleries attract a global audience. For example, France sees over 85 million tourists a year, and remember, locals go to galleries too.
That means line-ups for ticket purchases are long which is the cost of not planning. And because they regulate the flow into the museums, it’s not just a matter of how long it takes to buy a ticket. With an advance ticket, you’ll be in within 5 – 15 minutes. We’re too old smart to spend our travel time standing in line.
Know Your Limits Before You Plan
From previous experience, we know that we only want to see one major museum or gallery per day, for about three hours maximum before we get “picture fatigue”. This helps us decide whether we buy individual advance museum tickets or a multi-day pass. Be careful, because some of the multi-day passes assume you’re going to museums every day. You might not get the full value from the pass and be better off buying single advance tickets.
We might go to one of the major galleries, like the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in the morning, have lunch and then spend a shorter time seeing a much smaller exhibition such as the inside of a canal house at Museum of the Canals.
There’s little chance of us going to two big museums like the Van Gogh and the Stedelijk Museum on the same day, even if they are right next to each other. Too much!
However, in any case, make sure you have advance museum tickets. Do not waste your time standing in the forlorn line-ups with the amateurs.
Also, pay attention to museum opening days and hours. Many are closed on Mondays, so you don’t want your 3-day pass to have a Monday in it. Also, sometimes they close quite early on specific days.
Should You Go to Museums on Free Days?
In many countries, museums are free of charge once a month. We tend to avoid those days, because they are generally far too crowded.
One exception – if we know we want to see a less popular part of a museum and happen to be there on the free day, we’d have a look. But if it’s not a pleasurable experience, we’ll leave.
Consider Your Ticket Options
Buying advance museum tickets can be a bit of a puzzle:
- For most galleries that charge admission, you can buy a single ticket. This can be done online just a few days ahead of time. Just check to see whether you need a paper ticket or whether you can use your phone.
- Blockbuster shows often require special tickets with specific entry times. The most popular time slots often sell out well in advance. Be sure to check a month or two ahead and then pick a date / time.
- If you want to visit a museum more than once on your trip, e.g. the Louvre which could take multiple visits to see it all, you might be better off buying a multi-day pass.
- In some cases, you can buy an annual pass, which makes sense if you’re spending a longer period of time in the city. You can come and go as you please with minimal planning.
- In some cities like London, all government-operated galleries and museums are free of charge. That includes the British Museum, Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Victoria & Albert, the Tate Galleries (Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool and Tate St. Ives) and many more. Keep in mind, that special exhibitions may charge a fee. So, you could plan your museum visits around the free ones.
- See a longer list of free London museums But there are still others that charge, so plan in advance.
- You can “do the math” to see whether you’re better off buying a multi-day pass or individual advance tickets. For us, having a ticket that avoids the line is worth a few dollars premium, so we’ll sometimes buy multi-day passes even if it comes out a little more.
Special Advice On Entering the Louvre
Even with an advance ticket or pass, try to avoid the “glass pyramid” entrance. It is generally mobbed and a tempting target for pickpockets. There are numerous other entrances. The easiest one is downstairs in the shopping mall. There’s never a line. Just go downstairs and you’ll walk right in.
Or, look for the Porte des Lions, (yup, big statues of lions) which is inside the courtyard, and use that entrance. Lastly, you can find the Richelieu Wing, where you’ll see a sign that says for groups only. However, it also says for card-holders, and if you have an advance ticket, you, my friend, are a card-holder.
And lastly, do not try to “see the Louvre” in one visit. Do some advance research, determine what type of art you’re most interested in, see it, and then leave. It is an overwhelming gateau of a museum – best enjoyed a piece at a time.