Chances are most of us would go to museums more often if it weren’t for long lines and crowded spaces. But what if a friend called Saturday morning with an invitation to see a blockbuster exhibition – say Basquiat, not Fragonard – that had no lines and galleries all to yourselves…
You’d be inclined to tag along right?
Unfortunately our privileges aren’t those of museum directors or billionaire donors. But here’s an idea for the rest of us to get into museums on a crowded afternoon without waiting in line. And it’s a great way to get quality time with friends.
Reserve a table at the museum’s restaurant.
Now not all museums have restaurants, and not all restaurants take reservations. But many do, more are coming, and museums are increasingly promoting the culinary as well as the cultural experience (if there’s even a difference anymore).
Here are two recent experiences that worked out beautifully for me. While they’re both in Paris (I live here), the approach is worth a shot next time you go to the museum on a busy day in London, New York, Los Angeles or elsewhere.
If you’ve been to Versailles in the last 10 years chances are you arrived to long lines weaving through the courtyard (see header image). In my case, we were six friends going to see the exhibition du jour only to find a sea of people before us.
In comes Café Ore, a restaurant beautifully situated over the courtyard, with an open and bright design, serving deliciously-priced food. We were hungry, it was the early afternoon, and what better way to walk off lunch than in an exhibition.
So passed we walked Louis XIV’s waiting guests, up we went to our table, down went lunch, and in we walked to the museum without waiting in line.
Then there’s the Pompidou Center in the heart of Paris’ Marais neighborhood. The building stands out for miles, exhibitions are blockbusters, the vibe is young and dynamic, and the line to get in can go for miles.
But to the left of the main entrance sits a smaller entrance. This one opens up to an elevator that takes you to Le Georges Restaurant. It’s a trendy place with a view to a kill, gourmet dishes and hot waitresses. And with a reservation you get to skip the line and take the elevator (+ escalator) right to your table.
You can eat inside or out without giving up the view as floor to ceiling windows looking over Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and Montmartre envelope the restaurant. You’ll be in the company of the city’s trendy set, with upbeat music accompanying the meal you’ll be walking off in the museum’s temporary exhibition space thirty yards away.
So next time you’re thinking of getting some friends together for lunch or an exhibition, give the museum’s restaurant a call and make it lunch and an exhibition.