Can you visit the French parliament and listen to a debate?

The palais Bourbon building is no longer closed off to the public, but advance planning is needed to see inside

Published Last updated

Reader question: I am visiting Paris in a few weeks and I want to look inside the Assemblee nationale building. Is it possible?

A visit to the home of the lower house of France’s parliament – the Assemblée nationale – is possible, but there are some prerequisites and security measures you must go through first.

Tours of the building, whose formal name is le palais Bourbon, were unavailable for several years due to security measures, and the only way to see the inside was an invitation to a private tour from an MP, or on the Journées du patrimoine events held in September.

Since the end of 2022 however, the building has been reopened to the wider public through tours.

It is also possible to view a debate at the Assemblée nationale, although fewer tickets for these events are available.

How do I get tickets and what do they cost?

It is free to book a tour of the French parliament building, although you must book tickets in advance, which you can do so here.

You will be asked for first name and last name (maiden name if you use a married name), as well as date, town and country of birth.

It can take several days after booking, however, before you receive an email confirmation of your visit.

Each person can sign up for five tickets maximum at a time.

All visits to the building are organised through group tours, which start every 20 minutes or every hour depending on the day.

You can either tour with an in-person guide in French, or using an audio guide and must arrive with your tickets printed off, or in digital format.

Bear in mind that the tours last for an hour and thirty minutes, so you cannot just pop in and out.

These tours are not always available, however, and can be limited if there is a debate scheduled.

How do I view a debate?

Aside from directly contacting a member of parliament and viewing a particular session with their permission, it is possible for a small number of people to view debates.

Tickets to attend a séance publique are also free and are on a first-come, first-served basis.

Up to ten people can attend the ‘government’s questions’ session, where Opposition MPs ask questions written to government ministers from the public, and up to 30 can view other sessions held in the parliament.

Up to four tickets maximum can be reserved by each person.

You can reserve tickets online here, but it can be harder to obtain tickets to these sessions, and the debates will of course be in French.

Alternatively, it is possible to watch live streaming of debates online or on television.

Read more: ‘How to think like a French person and speak better French’

What do I need to bring with me?

You need to bring the ticket that will have been emailed to you, either printed or in its electronic version on a mobile device.

People aged over 14 will also need to bring a valid identity document – a passport, national identity card or carte de séjour, or a driving licence issued after 2013.

The use of photocopies is not allowed, and only the physical version of one of these documents will be accepted.

Related articles

Easy-look graphic: how seats in France’s new parliament are divided

‘French society is built around the economy not the right to dignity’