Tips for Guided vs. Non-Guided Site Visits in Paris


A local guide’s perspective

If you’re a French teacher traveling with students on a budget, it can be hard to decide if it’s worth the extra cost of a guided tour when planning site visits in Paris.

Our Parisian Tour Manager, Cindy shares her recommendations of which sites it’s best to have a guided tour and which sites your students can explore on their own.

1. Versailles

To best navigate through the crowds, Cindy recommends a guided tour with headsets when visiting the château of Versailles. While the château can be seen in less than two hours, she recommends that groups allow plenty of time for exploring the gardens. Discovering Marie Antoinette’s hamlet is a favorite part of the experience for high school students.

Recommend with Guide? Yes, guided tour with headsets
Time needed for Château tour: 1.5 – 2 hrs (not including time for group’s arrival and departure)
Highlight for students: Gardens and Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet
Hours: Chateau-9am-6:30pm; Estate of Trianon-12pm-6:30pm; Gardens-8am-8:30pm

2. Louvre

With more than 300 rooms and 38,000 pieces of art, it would take 100 days to see everything on display in the world’s largest art museum, the Musée du Louvre. Thus, a guided tour with headsets ensures your group sees the most iconic masterpieces.

Cindy recommends teachers let their guide know beforehand any specific rooms or art they want to see.

For high school students, Cindy starts at the Louvre’s moat, where students see the piers that once supported the fortress’s drawbridge when King Philippe feared outsiders would attack from the Seine River.

Recommend with Guide? Yes, guided tour with headsets
Time needed for tour: 2 hrs for tour, 30 minutes for free time (not including time for group arrival and departure)
Highlight for students: French and Italian works of art, Louvre’s moat
Hours: 9am – 6pm every day (except Tues), evening hours–9:45pm (Weds & Fri)
Closed: January 1st, May 1st, December 25th

3. Sainte-Chapelle

The serene beauty of this intimate chapel on the Île de la Cité is best experienced on your own as a student. Cindy likes to give her student groups a brief overview of the chapel before letting them enter on their own.
Inside, students can practice their photography skills capturing the luminous colors created by the iridescent light that splinters through the stained-glass.

Recommend with Guide? No
Time needed for visit: 45 minutes
Highlight for students: Stained-glass windows, great shots for novice photographers
Hours: 9am-5pm from Jan 2nd-March 31st & from Oct 1st-Dec 31st; 9am-7pm from April 1st to Sept 30th
Closed: Jan 1st, May 1st and Dec 25th

5. Musée d’Orsay

Orginally a railway station connecting Paris to Orléans, the station once housed a luxury hotel until it was eventually converted into a museum in 1986.

Cindy recommends a guide to give context to the building, its architecture and walk the students through each of the art movements: Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist. If there’s still time at the end, the museum also includes an impressive sculpture, graphic arts, and photography collection.

Recommend with Guide? Yes, no headsets needed
Time needed for tour: 2 hrs, plus 30 minutes free time (not including time for group arrival and departure)
Highlight for students: Impressionist, Post-impressionist, Neo-Impressionist painters – Manet, Monet, Cézanne, Renoir, Degas, Pissarro and Van Gogh
Hours: Open from 9.30am to 6pm; Thursdays until 9:45pm
Closed: Mondays, May 1st, Dec 25th

4. Sacré-Cœur Basilica

Seated at highest point in Paris, the Sacré-Cœur is the perfect spot to take in the breathtaking views of the City of Light. Since guided tours are not allowed , Cindy prepares her students before going in with some background information on what they will see. Then, she lets them explore on their own once inside.

Recommend with Guide? No
Time needed for visit: 45 minutes
Highlight for students: Apse mosaic (one of the largest mosaics in the world), views from the Basilica´s dome
Hours: Open everyday 6am-10:30pm

Immerse your students in the Parisian lifestyle through our Paris Homestay Program.

See our 8-day Paris Homestay


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