Detailed analysis and photographs of the wheelchair accessibility at Paris museums (Louvre, l’Orangerie, d’Orsay) are from Summer 2022
We spent a day exploring three of the best known museums in Paris:
- Musée du Louvre
- Musée de l’Orangerie
- Musée d’Orsay
This schedule is pretty hectic–we easily could have spent a day (or more) at each of these museums, especially at the Louvre and d’Orsay (which we had explored during a prior visit as well). We were able to accomplish all three museums, in part, because people with disabilities can bypass the entrance lines, and admission is free for the person with a disability and a personal care attendant.
Note: I felt weird bypassing the lines during my first visit to Paris. My attitude changed after I was admonished a few times by workers at the Louvre and Eiffel Tower for waiting in line–they expressed that was not the culture in Paris and that it looked poorly on the staff to have missed someone in a wheelchair waiting in line (i.e., staff are supposed to spot people with disabilities and pull them to the front). So, I now politely alert staff near the entrance that I am seeking admission and follow their lead on where and when to enter.
We also made a stop at the famous Café de Flore and exploring the Saint-Germaine area before heading back to our hotel.
Overview of Route
The whole trek was just over 4 miles on Google Maps, but the museums themselves are huge–our overall mileage for the day was closer to 15+ miles.
Fun Fact: On the journey, we encountered the elevating platform pictured below at an LCL bank location (next to Vaudeville Paris, where we had a good sidewalk cafe breakfast). I have seen similar lifts in London (including an entire staircase outside Hotel Indigo) and as a way to get onto SNCF trains. I appreciate the effort of blending accessibility into historic architecture–it proves that it can be done in a practical and beautiful way.
Wheelchair Accessibility at Musée du Louvre
The Louvre is home to too many masterpieces to name, but some highlights are Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the Vénus de Milo sculpture, and the Victoire de Samothrace (Winged Victory) sculpture. The Museum is wheelchair accessible. That said, there are many floors/landings and navigating/sequencing the maze of elevators/lifts may be difficult…especially if a few of the elevators or lifts are closed for maintenance. The Louvre’s accessibility website and maps are helpful, and the staff are tremendous–don’t be shy to ask for help.
The entrance to the Museum is through a gorgeous glass pyramid in the middle of the Louvre complex. There is usually a long line, but a person in wheelchair (along with a companion) can go to the front of the line and be escorted in by an employee without waiting in line. The 17 euro admission fee is also waived for the person with the disability and a companion.
Once in the door, security team will search backpacks and bags, and you will have to through a metal detector (or be wanded). Then you go down the “tube” elevator–a super cool open-air elevator that you reach by crossing a retractable walkway before the elevator seems to “free float” down to the main level of the pyramid. There is an attendant who guides and operates the lift. It’s a magical way to enter a place dedicated to beauty and expression.
Once on the ground floor, there are handicap accessible bathrooms as well as elevators to reach the entrances to the wings of the museum.
Navigating the Museum
The Louvre’s map is helpful, and so are the docents. The walkways are wide and accessible, and people in wheelchairs can get close to most (if not all) of the artwork if they are patient and willing to ask people to let them. Winged Victory is on a landing, and thus I did not find a closer way to access it…but we still had a great view of it.
Viewing the Mona Lisa
There is a separate line for people with disabilities and their companions to view the Mona Lisa. This line moves quicker than the main line, permits people with disabilities to get closer to the Mona Lisa, and to view it without others standing in front of us. It is an incredible experience, and I highly recommend it.
Tip: We took the “obligatory” selfie, but did it from the side out of respect for the painting and to not be facing the crowd of people waiting to see it themselves. And this was the docent’s instructions. We then slowly moved in front of the painting without taking photos and instead soaked in the mastery of the painting.
Wheelchair Accessibility at Musée de l’Orangerie
The Musée de l’Orangerie is free for a person with a disability and one companion. People with disabilities access the museum through a door to the left of the main entrance–go to the staff at the front of the line and they will help direct to the appropriate door.
Tip: I took the route in yellow from the Louvre to l’Orangerie. There is a pretty steep and unpaved hill (loose gravel, gullies, and rocks) at the second to last yellow arrow on the map (by the Bassin Octogonal).
The red arrow shows where construction and stairs were blocking my path from l’Orangerie to d’Orsay. I could not get down to the street level at any portion of this stretch. I had to backtrack to the Bassin Octogonal and then scoot down to the Av. du General Lemonnier to access the street level and then bridge to cross to d’Orsay.
The Museum is wheelchair accessible, with a large elevator and/or wide ramps to access the different floors. There is a wheelchair accessible bathroom by the book shop/cafe. The primary feature of the Museum is the multiple rooms showcasing Claude Monet’s The Water Lilies. They are breathtaking, and the viewing experience was wheelchair accessible, both within each room and the connecting pathways between the rooms.
Wheelchair Accessibility at Musée d’Orsay
Musée d’Orsay offers free admission to people with disabilities and one companion. The Museum is a converted train station, with a large open area where the tracks used to be on the ground floor and then upstairs floors that surround the ground floor. The building itself rivals the beauty of the artwork contained within it.
The routes to the various rooms/displays can be confusing–there are elevators at the front of the Museum as well as at the back of the Museum, including one that is behind a “hidden” (e.g., blends into the wall) door. But the floors will sometimes only be accessible by one of those elevator banks, such as walkways or bridges that abruptly end in staircases. I had to do a fair share of backtracking to view all of the rooms. The map helps, and the docents are also knowledgeable and friendly.
Tip: Some of the elevators are in small rooms accessed off of hallways. The waiting rooms typically had power door openers, but were not big enough for my scooter. As such, the doors would sometimes keep trying to close on me and/or I had to hold the door open while we waited for the elevator to arrive. I also had to maneuver around/out of the waiting room to let people off the elevator. It could be a dance and take time, so patience was a virtue during my visit.
There are also wheelchair accessible bathrooms at the front and back of the museums, but again finding them can take some assistance from the map and staff.
My favorite thing to do at d’Orsay is to 1) eat at Café Campana (with a view of the clock tower) and then 2) walk up the ramp from Café Campana to the 5th floor and wander around the incredible galleries of impressionist and neo-impressionist pieces. This collection is one of the best in the world, and it is overwhelming to see so many classics and masterpieces in one location.
Wheelchair Accessibility at Café de Flore
After a full day of museum exploration, we walked to Café de Flore for its famous food and street-side people watching. We also made a stop at the Le Chocolat de Alain Ducasse next door to the Café for some delicious Parisian chocolate. Simply exploring around the Saint-Germain neighborhood was equally delightful–calm, beautiful, and restorative.