Like sunglasses and a good pair of shoes, city passes have become a weekend break staple – here’s what four French cities have to offer
The city pass: an all-you-can-eat tourist buffet that has been adopted with great success by destinations across France. It’s a master key that unlocks a plethora of attractions, from museums to wine tastings, from boat rides to open-top bus tours. We’ve looked at what four French cities have to offer, plus everything you should consider before you shell out for a pass.
24h (€29), 48h (€39), 72h (€46/€43 online)
It’s no surprise that the star attraction of the wine capital’s pass is entry to the behemothic Cité du Vin. Opened in 2016, the £63-million museum – complete with well-recommended restaurant and, of course, a wine bar – is free for cardholders before midday and €5 afterwards.
Also included with the pass is access to fifteen museums and monuments. Among these are the magnificent, 15th-century Porte Cailhau, boasting marvellous views of the city for those who conquer its steps, and the Aquitaine Museum, at 3,000m² one of the largest French history museums outside of Paris.
You can take a city tour of your choice: hop on the road train, sunbathe on the open-top bus or take to the streets on a guided walk. This is in addition to unlimited transport on the city’s trams, buses or river ferry.
The 72-hour card comes with even more benefits so you can explore outside of the city; make use of the discounts on Unesco-listed sites such as the Abbey de la Sauve-Majeure (-15%) and Fort-Médoc (-25%).
24h (€27), 48h (€37), 72h (€43); discounts for under-16s
Fans of the work of Alexandre Dumas will be delighted to learn that a trip to the Château d’If, setting of The Count of Monte Cristo, is included in Marseille’s city pass offerings. The boat ride to the rocky outcrop boasts splendid views across the city, but if you don’t fancy exercising your sea legs, you can take a land-based city sightseeing tour instead. There is, as usual, free rein when it comes to public transport.
Entry to thirteen museums also comes with the pass, including a visit to the scintillating MuCEM Museum of Mediterranean Archaeology, home to the largest collection of Egyptian artefacts in France after the Louvre.
Your pass also gets you freebies such as a soap at Les Savons de Saint Victor, a lollipop from La Cure Gourmande and free entry and skate rental at the Palais Omnisports ice rink.
24h (€25), 48h (€39) and 72h (€49)
As one of the Hexagone’s gastronomic kingpins, Dijon’s city pass is a particularly good choice for food and drink lovers: dairies, vineyards and mustard makers are all on the menu here.
The number of attractions you have access to varies with the duration of pass you choose, but all come with a ‘Pass Divia’, letting you rent one of the city’s 800 bikes, plus take a guided tour of the historic Côte d’Or capital. Once again, all public transport in the city centre is free with your card.
The 72-hour card gives you access to all 23 museums and experiences on offer in the area. Climb the 316 steps of the Tour Philippe le Bon or stroll around the Musée des Beaux-Arts, which has recently reopened after a refurbishment. To get a real flavour of the region, visit the Fromagerie Gaugry, where you can watch famous Burgundian cheese like the notoriously stinky Époisses being made before enjoying a tasting of five choices of fromage, or sample wine at the Imaginarium wine museum and shop.
One day/Mini (€45), two days (€119), three days (€139) and five days (€165); discounts for young people and children
Paris has the largest array of city passes to choose from, but the Passlib’ package is the one recommended by the tourist board. The Passlib’ package has three different components to wrap your head around. There’s the Passlib’ card, which offers a one-hour cruise on the Seine, a day’s access to the open-top bus network, plus access to temporary exhibitions at 11 museums.
The Paris Museum Pass lets you visit more than 50 museums in the city, including big names like the Louvre and Versailles as well as less frequented spots like the Musée Départmental Maurice Denis, where you can see artworks by symbolists and post-impressionist painters.
The final – and arguably most crucial – part is the Paris Visite ticket, a transport pass with which you can enjoy unlimited travel in Paris and the Île-de-France region using the metro, trams, buses, RER and SNCF networks.
For €20 extra per package, you can tack on a visit to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower.
Things to consider
– Remember that city passes are only economical when you do everything that the pass allows you access to.
– If you’re going to be in town on a Monday or Tuesday, remember that these are the days when a lot of museums close. Buying a one-day city card for one of these days might be a waste of money.
– If you’re in town on the first Sunday of a month, many museums offer free entry anyway.
– Many museums in Paris offer free entry for visitors under 18 (or under 26 if they live in the EU).
– Double-check whether your card becomes active from its first use or from the moment you purchase it.
– Take care of the card, because if you lose it you won’t get a new one or a refund. However, if the magnetisation on the card fails (if it’s kept too close to a mobile phone, for example) the tourist office should replace it).
Liked this article? You might also like…