Travel Tips for the Paris Olympics

Eiffel Tower and the Parc du Champ de Mars, Paris
For the Paris Olympics, a sandy court is being built on the Champ de Mars, where beach volleyball will be played in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.

By Travis Parker

If you're traveling to Paris this summer, the 2024 Olympics will impact your stay. Specifically, the XXXIII (that's 33rd) Olympiad will run from July 26 through August 11, followed by the Paralympics (August 28–September 8). Roughly 10 million tickets will be sold to see more than 10,000 athletes compete in hundreds of events across 32 sports.

We may think of it as the "Paris Olympics," but the entire country is getting involved. Sailing events will take place in the Bay of Marseille, Lille will host basketball and handball, and soccer matches will kick off in major cities throughout the country. (And just when you thought everything was in France proper, surfing will be in…Tahiti!) But the epicenter will indeed be Paris, and that's where travelers will feel the greatest Olympic effect.

One of those impacts will be some sticker shock. Parisian hotel prices during the Olympics are sky-high — about double their normal summer rate. If you're heading to Paris to see the Games, then that's simply the price you pay. But savvy travelers should eye going just before or after the Games, when occupancy and prices are lower than normal. (August is France's vacation period, so post-Olympics visitors will find few Parisians in Paris).

You'll also encounter heightened safety measures and crosstown travel restrictions. Starting on July 18, a series of colored "zones" will be set up throughout Paris to establish secure perimeters around the city's unique Olympic venues (more on those in a bit). Whether or not you're holding a ticket to an event, you'll need the Pass Jeux to access these zones. This "Games Pass" is a standard QR code that's attainable by submitting personal information through a government-issued form. The Pass Jeux is free but will be required to walk or cycle through common tourist areas like the Champ de Mars, Place de la Concorde, and along the Seine River.

The City of Light is getting a touch-up ahead of the Games as well. It's standard for major sporting events to leave host cities with an improved infrastructure — London, Turin, and Athens still benefit from upgraded transportation lines and redevelopment from their past Olympics — and Paris is no different. New bicycle paths will crisscross the city, hundreds of buildings are being upgraded to make them greener and/or more accessible, and the Paris tourism bureau has developed an interactive map for visitors that lists everything from restaurants to museums to shops. The city is in full-swing, get-ready mode: Even the Tour de France, which traditionally ends in Paris, has had to re-route to Nice this summer to avoid disrupting the preparations.

One Paris monument that will not quite be ready in time for the Olympics is Notre-Dame Cathedral, which remains under restoration after the devastating fire it suffered in 2019. It's set to reopen this December.

Even if you're not traveling to France this summer, these Games warrant your attention. It's been exactly 100 years since the Olympics last came to Paris, and to celebrate this centennial, the French capital is rolling out some unprecedented spectacles.

The Opening Ceremony has always been hosted in a large stadium, with a parade of nations walking in together before tens of thousands of spectators. Not this year. In Paris, the Opening Ceremony will take place on the Seine, with nations floating in on barges in front of hundreds of thousands gathered on the banks of the river and its many ornate bridges. Country flags will weave their way through the six-kilometer route while international superstars ogle the sparkling city like tourists aboard a Bateaux-Mouche. The procession will end at the Eiffel Tower, where athletes will disembark for traditional Olympic protocol and the lighting of the Torch at the Place du Trocadéro.

But the novelty doesn't stop there. Paris is using every possible opportunity to show off. Here are some other examples: A sandy court is being built on the Champ de Mars, where beach volleyball will be played at the temporary "Eiffel Tower Stadium," in the shadow of France's most iconic monument. Fencing and taekwondo will be naturally illuminated through the Beaux-Arts glass roof of the Grand Palais des Champs Élysées. Just down the street, Place de la Concorde — the largest square in Paris, where the guillotine famously made the aristocracy a "foot shorter at the top" during the French Revolution — will host the Olympic debut of breakdancing, along with skateboarding, BMX cycling, and 3-on-3 basketball. Equestrian competitions will be held (where else?) in the gardens at Versailles, and archery will fill the lawn of the military museum, Les Invalides.

Imagine: Where heads once rolled, heads will now turn to watch a newly anointed sport. Horses will trot, vault, and show-jump their way across a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And the world's top archers will take aim at gold mere feet from the tomb of Napoleon.

Culturally, the Olympics are not as important to the French (or most Europeans in general) as the Euro Cup, which takes place in Germany right before. But the spectacle of athletes competing with Paris for the global spotlight is enough to grab anyone's attention. Even if you're not traveling to the City of Light this summer, the 2024 Olympics might inspire you to visit soon.