You don’t have to be a bibliophile to have heard of Dan Brown’s international bestseller, “The Da Vinci Code” – and you don’t even have to have read it to be interested in taking one of the popular Da Vinci Code tours in Paris. But people who either read the book or saw the film, even though the former was published in 2003 and the latter came out in 2006, are still flocking to the various tour companies offering visitors a first-hand look at some of the Paris settings for the story.
Now, nevermind that the poor folks at the St. Sulpice church have had to put up signs saying that the line on the church’s floor is not a reference to an earlier pagan temple built on the site (as Brown’s novel says) in an effort to keep people from trying to find the hollow space beneath the floor (yes, after the book came out people were banging on the floor by the obelisk attempting to see the space for themselves). Da Vinci Code tours in Paris are still wildly popular, and taking one may help you sort out fact from fiction in Brown’s book.
But there are so many Da Vinci Code tours in Paris – how do you pick the right one? A simple web search turns up lots of tour companies offering Da Vinci Code-themed tours through the city, but there are some big differences between them. Here’s a brief overview of things to consider to help you sort out which one is right for you.
- What does the tour cover? Some of the Da Vinci Code tours stop at several points throughout Paris, letting you see for yourself the exact locations Dan Brown describes in the book. Others focus on one or two places, and some are just Da Vinci Code-themed tours of the Louvre Museum. Depending on how much you’re into the entire book or just specific parts of it, that may influence your decision.
- How long is the tour? Many of the walking tours that cover all (or most) Da Vinci Code points of interest in Paris are 2-3 hours long, but at least one tour I found is a full 7-8 hour day. Why so long? Because that tour is a private one in which you’re chauffeured around by your own driver in a private car, so it allows you the flexibility of staying as long as you like at the various stops, and the tour also includes major sights in Paris that aren’t included in the novel.
- What’s included in the tour? By this I don’t mean what’s on the itinerary, but what extras are included. Does the tour actually go inside a museum or other sight that requires paying an admission fee? If so, it’s important to know whether that cost is included in the cost of the tour or if you’ll be asked to fork over additional money at a ticket window in order to get in and continue the tour. Is a longer tour over the lunch hour? If so, find out whether the cost of the tour includes a meal.
- What does the tour cost? Not surprisingly, the cost of the different Da Vinci Code tours will vary – but perhaps a bit surprisingly, sometimes it varies quite a bit. Some tours will cost you in excess of €100 per person, while others are in the €20 range. I even found one that’s only €12 per person. (Of course, that full-day tour mentioned above will cost you significantly more.) When you’re comparing the rates on these tours, the main thing is to be sure you’re comparing apples to apples – knowing whether the higher priced tours include museum entry fees or not, for instance, is important. Because getting cheap tickets on a tour doesn’t necessarily mean that tour will cost you any less than the others.
- How big are the tour groups? As you probably know, the smaller the tour group, the better the tour experience will be. Now, most tour companies offering Da Vinci Code tours have a minimum requirement for the number of people they need in order to run the tour, but usually that number is reasonable enough that during the high season there shouldn’t be any problem getting enough people to participate. But even if the minimum requirement is only 4-5 people, you might want to have a back-up plan in the low season just in case the specific tour you want falls through from lack of interest. Either that or you’ll need to recruit some fellow tourists at your hotel or hostel! Also note that many tour companies offer private tours for small groups, so if you’re already traveling in a pack of 5 or so people you can book a tour just for your group (sometimes even at a discounted rate from the regular individual price).
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And if an organized Da Vinci Code tour in Paris doesn’t sound like something you’re interested in, there are self-guided tours you can check out as well – both Fodor’s and Budget Travel published a list of the real-life Paris locales for some of the book’s scenes.