Many tourists hoping to tour the halls of the esteemed Sorbonne University in Paris are disappointed to be turned swiftly away by guards at the doors. There's a good reason for the rebuffs: entry to this hallowed institution is in principle reserved for students and faculty. The theory is that they shouldn't be bothered by a constant stream of visitors wandering through the halls and blocking their passage-- and it's an argument that's hard to argue with.
Nevertheless, it is possible to visit the Sorbonne if you arrange for a tour ahead of time (and are able to get enough people together). If you're really interested in seeing the mysterious interiors of one of Europe's oldest medieval universities, it's worth your time to plan ahead. We can't, however, guarantee that you'll bump into the ghosts of notable alumni including Simone de Beauvoir, Denis Diderot, or Thomas Aquinas.
Group Visits of the Main University Grounds (by Appointment)
The Sorbonne regularly organizes group visits for between 10-30 people. The guided tours last approximately 90 minutes and take place by appointment from Monday to Friday, in addition to one Saturday a month. Unfortunately, despite the fact that there's an information page on the tours in English currently online, all tours of the Sorbonne are still only offered in French. You'll need to arrange for a French speaker and interpreter to come along and translate for you if you aren't able to follow in the Gallic tongue.
If you can't or don't want to find an interpreter to take along on the tour, it might still be worth taking the tour so you can at least see the buildings and take some photos.
Read related: Basic French Travel Expressions to Learn
Guided Tour Entry Fees
Guided tours of the Sorbonne are currently 15 Euros for adults and 7 Euros for students and large families. Write or call using the details below. Please note that while these prices were accurate at the time of publication, they may change at any time. See this page for updated information.
How to Reserve a Tour at the Sorbonne?
Unfortunately, reserving one of these illustrious tours can't currently be done online-- a sign that the university has refrained from entering the 21st century? Possibly, yes.
You'll have to either send an e-mail to email@example.com or call +33(0)140 462 349. If you can possibly manage an email in French, it might admittedly improve your chances (if your Gallic skills are poor or non-existent, try putting your simple email request into Google Translate, and make sure you clearly indicate your contact details in the message).
Tours are also available for visitors with reduced mobility, but please specify ahead.
I tried, but failed to get in the doors....
Couldn't manage to get in despite all your efforts? Not to fret: aside from a few prestigious looking corridors and lecture halls, the pervasive smell of dusty books, and majestic but fairly empty courtyards, there isn't a whole lot to see if you're not a student. You can still enjoy the gorgeous square and fountain, overlook the university's edifice, have a strong espresso at one of the cafes nearby, then go explore the many intriguing sites of the Latin Quarter. Pas si mal.
If so, read more about the history of the university that once held all its classes in Latin, before reading up on the best spots to visit in the Latin Quarter and in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Then take a self-gudied tour of the most intriguing medieval places in Paris, or a tour of the top literary cafes and haunts in the capital.