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Visiting France: What activities and places do I need to reserve in advance?

An increasing number of France's most popular tourist attractions are bringing in maximum quotas for visitors, while others are only available with advance reservation. Here is what you need to know ahead of your trip.

Visiting France: What activities and places do I need to reserve in advance?
Hikers walk past a placard reading "reservation required" on their way to the calanque de Sugiton in the Parc national des calanques in Marseille (Photo by Nicolas TUCAT / AFP)

If you are planning a trip to France in the coming weeks or months, and you are looking to visit tourist hotspots, then you may want to start planning ahead of time.

Several attractions – including natural parks and islands – have imposed limits on the number of people who can visit per day, in order to limit environmental damage from visits.

Other popular tourist sites have a limited number of tickets available per day, which means that reserving in advance is highly recommended to avoid disappointment.

Here are some of the popular places to visit that require some advanced planning:

Visitor quotas

An increasing number of places are introducing quotas for visitors, mostly in an effort to avoid environmental damage to natural habitats from over-tourism – these are now only accessible to visitors with an advanced reservation.

The Calanques – Many visitors to France look forward to heading to the Mediterranean, near Marseille, and getting to enjoy crystal blue water and the unique limestone formations along the coast, otherwise known as calanques.

During the summer of 2022 – from late June through most of August – anyone looking to visit the Calanques of Sugiton and Pierres Tombées needed to make a reservation (using this LINK). Despite this new requirement, entrance remained free.

READ MORE: The one place you absolutely have to visit in each department of France

The Calanques National Park instituted this scheme in order to help protect the natural areas from erosion, which results from overcrowding. This scheme, which caps the number of visitors to 400 people per day, is expected to be renewed during the summer of 2023, but outside of this period visitors do not need to book in advance. 

There are also several other Calanques in the Marseille area that do not require reservations for access. You can find more information on the national park’s website (also available in English) here

Porquerolles – The île de Porquerolles – off the coast of the Var département, in the Mediterranean – put in place a quota for the number of people who can visit the island per day in 2021 due to issues of overcrowding.

As such, the TLV-TVM ferry company carries a maximum of 4,000 passengers per day to Porquerolles, and only by reservation. Other ferry and boat operators can bring a maximum of 2,000 visitors in total. As such, only 6,000 people can visit the island per day.

These limits are especially respected during high tourist periods. You can purchase your tickets to visit the Porquerolles online HERE. Keep in mind you may have to pay extra to transport a bicycle.

Tourist sites in Corsica – In Corsica, three emblematic tourist sites (the Lavezzi islands, the Aiguilles de Bavella and the Restonica valley) also adopted quotas on the number of visitors allowed this past July. However, these quotas are on an annual basis – for example, the Lavezzi islands will only allow 200,000 visitors per year from 2022 to 2026. In the effort of being sustainable, daily visitors will be limited on certain days – sometimes to about 2,000, according to Les Echos.

READ MORE: Reader question: Do I really need to reserve before going to a restaurant in France?

There are several different shuttle boats that can take you to the Lavezzi islands, and the cost is typically around €30 or more per adult.

Oftentimes, it is not possible to book in advance, but you can consult the schedules and prices for journeys with the Tourist Office of Bonifacio. 

Chartreuse Natural Park in the Alps – Some national parks in France, such as the Chartreuse National Park during the summer of 2022, have had to put in place limits on overnight stays for hikers looking to camp in the forest. 

Be sure to check the national park’s website prior to visiting to ensure that camping is allowed, although there is no quota for day trips.

Limiting visitors

There are several other sites which have not introduced formal quotas, but where over-tourism is becoming an increasing problem. In these areas visitors are asking to consider planning a trip in off-peak times, while booking ahead is definitely recommended.

Mont Saint-Michel – Impressive during both low and high tide, hundreds of thousands of people manage to visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Mont Saint-Michel, off the coast of Normandy, each year. 

While there is no quota for visitors, local authorities have partnered with the Waze navigation app to help suggest to users when the site is busiest and offer alternative activities until the crowds die down. 

You can also book your ticket to enter the Abbey online in advance for €11 HERE. Your ticket will either be valid for the morning or the afternoon. It is not possible to cross Saint Mont Michel Bay at high tide by foot or shuttle bus. You can, however, watch the tide rush in from the island, mainland, or the bridge.

The cliffs of Étretat – Quickly becoming one of France’s most popular places to visit, the cliffs of Étretat, on the Normandy coast, are experiencing coastal erosion both due to climate change and a large influx of visitors.

This is why Étretat was listed on Fodor’s 2023 No List, which encourages people to avoid places experiencing the impacts of climate change or overcrowding.

Étretat is especially popular during the summer months – you do not need to make a reservation to visit, but due to the aforementioned reasons, you might consider planning your trip for another time of year when crowds are smaller. 

Mont Blanc – Europe’s tallest mountain is popular both during the winter and summer months. It is possible to book a ride on one of the mountain’s cable cars in advance (HERE).

Those looking to stay the night in a refuge on Mont Blanc should book well in advance, as they fill up quickly. You can learn more information here and here, but keep in mind that not all overnight shelters accept credit cards so you may need to pay in cash.

Generally, hiking Mont Blanc takes significant preparation, and in recent years routes have been hindered due to climate change. 

Booking strongly recommended

France is a pretty popular place to visit (it’s the world’s most visited tourist destination in fact) so some of its biggest attractions do get pretty busy.

It’s therefore highly recommended to book in advance if you are visiting these, especially in peak tourist season, to avoid disappointment.

READ MORE: Ten of the best day trips out of Paris

Versailles – Versailles is also a short journey from Paris, and a very popular visitor destination.

While it’s possible to buy tickets are the entrance of the palace, the queue to do so is usually very long, and there are only a limited number available (depending on how many people have booked in advance). You can book your tickets online and in advance HERE

There are several different types of tickets – the Passport ticket, which costs €21.50, gives access to both the palace and the full Estate. You can also buy a simply “Palace” ticket which costs €19.50. Both offer access to the gardens, and you can opt for timed entry to help avoid (or at least shorten) the wait on arrival.

During the low season (from November to late March), admission to the gardens is free for all visitors every day.

You can find out if you qualify for free admission here.

The Louvre – 7.8 million people visited France’s famed museum, the Louvre, in 2022 (and 10 million in 2019) and the museum advises visitors to book their time slot a few weeks in advance. It is possible to buy tickets at the museum, but numbers are limited and again it depends how many people have already booked online.

If you’re going during peak season, it’s highly likely that tickets will all be sold out. Tickets purchased online cost €17. You can do so HERE.

There is often still a queue for people who booked their tickets online, arriving early, or choosing to come when the museum stays open late (Fridays), may help you to avoid crowds and long lines.

The Eiffel Tower – Going to the top floor of the Eiffel Tower is on the bucket lists of many. 

Before heading to the tower, check online to be sure that maintenance will not get in the way of your plans. For example, from March 20th to 24th, the top floor will closed. The website also estimates wait times as well. For example, the Eiffel Tower’s website explains that outside of peak season, school vacations or public holidays, attendance is usually lowest on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. This might be the best time to visit – You can find more information here.

Like many other monuments in the city of Paris, you can purchase your tickets online and you would be advised to do so to help decrease the amount of time spent waiting in queues. You can purchase tickets – which cost €28.30 to go to the top floor – HERE.

Other Paris museums – If you want to visit as many Paris museums as possible, then you can purchase a Paris museum pass. You can find the list of museums covered with the pass HERE.

Under certain circumstances, you will still need to reserve a time slot before visiting the museum of your choice, however. The two-day pass costs €55, and it increases in price based on the number of days allotted. You can book online HERE.

Giverny – The location of Claude Monet’s gardens and house, Giverny is one of the most popular day-trips from Paris. As such, reservations, particularly during peak times, fill up quickly.

To visit the house and garden, you will need to book a ticket. Typically it is best to book a few days to a week in advance, and you can do so here. You can also purchase a ticket on-site, but you may have to wait in a long queue or tickets may be all sold out, depending on the time of year.

If you wish to travel by train, you can also book your ticket online in advance, using Trainline, for example, or directly at the train station.

Islands along the Brittany coast – Islands such as Bréhat, d’Arz, and those in the Glénan archipelago are hot spots for tourists each year, namely during the spring and summer months. 

While they have not introduced formal quotas for a maximum number of visitors, these popular islands off the coast of Brittany often see ferry services fill up quickly, with long lines to purchase boat tickets.

As such, you would be advised to check online before planning a trip to a Breton island to see if you can buy your ferry tickets in advance. For example, you can do so for the Glénan archipelago HERE.

Smaller islands may not allow online or advanced reservations for ferry services, which can be challenging for those looking to enjoy a simple day trip – it is easily find yourself arriving at the port with the intention of purchasing a ticket on site and finding yourself waiting in a long line.

Be advised to arrive early in the morning, this will allow you to make the most out of your day, and plan ahead for the fact that the final ferry taking passengers back to the mainland might be around 5pm.

Dune du pilat – Located near Bordeaux and the tallest sand dune in Europe, the Dune du pilat has become more popular for tourists over the years. 

Visiting is free and does not require a reservation. You will have to keep in mind that if you plan to drive, the amount of parking that is available on site, as well as the cost of parking in the low versus high seasons. Parking cannot be reserved in advance.

The Dune’s website (HERE) gives estimates of how busy parking lots are, so you can check before making your trip.

Member comments

  1. Thanks for making this list. I realize you can’t address every site but do you have any information about the caves in the Les Eyzies-de-Tayac area? Thanks again!

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For members


9 of the best activities to do in Paris on strike days

If you're visiting Paris on a strike day you may find that public transport is disrupted and certain tourist attractions are closed - but don't despair, there are still plenty of fun activities that are unaffected by strike action.

9 of the best activities to do in Paris on strike days

If you’re in Paris on a strike day, be aware that certain services like public transport might be disrupted – you can find the latest details on big strikes in our strike section HERE. It’s also worth checking in advance if any demos are planned, so that you can avoid the demo route and the large crowds that are usually present.

Then there’s the question of what to do – depending on the strike and its level of support, you may find that big tourist attractions such as the Eiffel Tower or Versailles are either closed or have changed opening hours, and some of the bigger city museums may also close.

Fortunately, there are a lot of alternatives, so here are some suggestions;

Parks and Gardens

Paris is home to several beautiful and accessible parks and gardens. From Parc Buttes Chaumont in the 19th arrondisement in the north of the city, known for its artificial lake, hilly topography, and collection of over 47 different species of plants and trees, to the Luxembourg Gardens in the 6th arrondisement near the Latin Quarter and the Parc Montsouris at the edge of the city at the bottom of the 14th arrondisement.

Be sure to check the park’s opening times before visiting – inclement weather, such as high winds, might lead to early or unexpected closures.

If you had tickets to the Louvre, but the museum closed unexpectedly due to strike action, you might still enjoy going nearby to visit the Tuileries Garden and to see the iconic pyramid structures at the museum’s entrance. 

The Jardin des Plantes is another option. Located along the Seine near the Asterlitz train station, the Jardin des Plantes is home large greenhouses, a zoo and a paleontology centre. 

There are also the larger parks – the Bois de Vincennes and Boulogne – located on both east and western edges of the city respectively, which offer wider spaces to picnic, relax, or even go for a jog.

If you fancy a walk, try the Promenade planté (Coulée verte René-Dumont) – this is former elevated Metro track that has been converted into a green space – similar to the High Line in New York. Walking along its 4.7km length gives you a great bird’s eye view of the city as you enjoy the plants. There are also plenty of entry and exit points so you don’t have to walk the entire length.

Take a stroll along the water

Talking of walking, there are many who say that the best way to see Paris is to become a flâneur/flâneuese – that is to take a relaxed stroll while talking in the view and possibly thinking elevated thoughts.

Paris is home to two large bodies of water that are perfect for walking alongside. The first is the Seine – take a stroll from the Musée d’Orsay to Notre-Dame and take in all the sites and landmarks in Paris’ city centre.

For those looking for a less crowded option, the Canal Saint-Martin in the trendy 10th arrondissement is also very walkable, with plenty of shops and cafes along the route. Try starting near the popular cafe Chez Prune and walking up (for as long as you want, or until your feet get tired).

Both the Seine and the Canal also offer private boat services, such as Bateaux-Mouches, if you want to cover more ground or enjoy the water without the walking part.


It may sound a bit morbid, but Parisian cemeteries are a popular location to visit. They are full of history, and many famous, important figures are buried inside them.

Montparnasse and Père Lachaise are two of the most visited cemeteries in the city. You can try to find the tombs of Oscar Wilde, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir, among many other notables. (The Local’s tip for Père Lachaise – check out the tomb of Victor Noir and its amusing backstory).

Smaller museums and galleries

While larger museums and monuments, such as the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, Chateau de Versailles or the Eiffel Tower, might be subject to unexpected closures on strike days, smaller monuments and museums are more likely to stay open.

Some options to choose from might be the Musée de l’Orangerie, a museum with impressionist and post-impressionist paintings near the Tuileries garden, or the contemporary photography museum (the Maison Européenne de la Photographie), located in the heart of Paris near the Marais district.

Further north, there is also the Musée de la Vie Romantique, a literary museum focusing on the lives of George Sand and other prolific authors. Along the Seine, with a view of the Eiffel Tower, you might opt for the contemporary and modern art museum the Palais de Tokyo.

If you are more interested in art galleries, rather than museums, then there are plenty in the Marais district to choose from, such as the Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. Oftentimes, galleries are free to enter as well.

Keep in mind that when it comes to museums, many close on Mondays or Tuesdays (particularly if they stay open all weekend). During a strike day, be sure to go to the museum’s website to verify it is indeed open and check its normal operating hours. You might be able to reserve a ticket in advance too.

Churches and places of worship

Places of worship remain open on strike days in France, which means you have plenty of options if you want to visit one of Paris’ 197 historic and modern churches and cathedrals. Aside from Notre-Dame, Saint-Sulpice, which was built in the 17th century and is situated on Paris’ left bank, is the second largest church in the city. 

The Sainte-Chapelle chapel, filled with colourful stained glass, is also a popular monument for many tourists. You need tickets to enter, and therefore would be advised to verify opening hours before making the trip.

The Grand Mosque of Paris is also a popular site, known for its outdoor garden, café and restaurant. Many people visit the Grand Mosque of Paris specifically to taste the tea, but the religious centre is also home to a hammam (a steam room offering massages and exfoliation), though this is exclusively for women.

Consider an alternative way to see the view

If the Eiffel Tower happens to be closed on the day you were looking forward to seeing a view of the city, consider some alternatives.

You can climb to the top of one of the high-end shopping malls near Opera, like the Printemps Haussman centre, and have a glass of wine while admiring the view. The Montparnasse Tower also has an observatory – though you need to book tickets to get up to the 56th floor.

You might also consider visiting Sacre-Coeur or the lesser known Belvédère de Belleville for a view over the city.

Shopping and markets

Private stores and shops do not close on strike days, although some may close for at least part of the day if they are close to the route of a particularly large demo. Whether you were looking forward to shopping at the vintage ‘kilo’ shops or high-end designer stores, strike days might be the best time to do so.

If you’re feeling rich or you just want to enjoy the stunning art deco building, check out the newly-reopened La Samaritaine – one of Paris’ oldest department stores.

Markets are also a popular activity – filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, there is likely to be an outdoor (or indoor) market in your area at some point during your stay in Paris.

READ MORE: All you need to know about shopping at French food markets

Cafés and Restaurants

Cafés, bars and restaurants remain open on strike days too. There are plenty of well-known, historic cafés across the city, if you want to get a dose of history – from the Shakespeare and Company café to La Maison Rose and Les Deux Magots (once frequented by famous authors like Ernest Hemingway). 

Spa day

Finally, if you want to stay in and relax during strike day, then consider booking a spa day. As mentioned above, you can do so at the Hammam at the Grand Mosque of Paris, but there are plenty of other smaller places to get pampered – especially if you have walked all over the city and have tired feet.