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Roland Garros: 5 Tips for Enjoying a Day at the French Open

The two days I spent at Roland Garros (the French Open) in 2013 were momentous for me. As someone who picked up tennis at a young age and has watched the game on TV for as long as she can remember, I couldn’t believe that I was finally in watching a ball being batted around on the terre battue in the country it belonged in (rather than in Houston, which still plays host to a clay court tournament every April). Not only that, but as I stepped foot into the Roland Garros grounds, I completed my personal Grand Slam after having been to the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open previously.

Grand Slams Signpost

It’s a few kms back to Melbourne Park…

Having spent time at all of the other Grand Slams, as well as some of the smaller tournaments on the ATP Tour, there were a number of things I noticed that were quite different than the English Grand Slams. Things like the gorgeous ivy around the stadium and the insistence of the French on doing the wave every five minutes gave the tournament its own unique personality.

That unique personality extends to the logistics of the event as well. If you have tickets and are blessed with perfect weather and a lineup of all your favourite players on the court you bought tickets to, you’ll probably have a great time regardless. Often that’s not the case, but as long as you’re prepared it won’t put a damper on your day. Here are five of my top tips on how to be best prepared:

1. Get your tickets online before arriving at the event (aka stay away from the scalpers)

My Roland Garros Ticket

Part of my ticket for the first day of play at Roland Garros.

Roland Garros takes its ticket sales incredibly seriously. I’ve never encountered such a strict system at any other tennis tournament (although I have seen it at music festivals and other similar events). When you buy your tickets, you provide a name to go on the tickets. This name is set in stone the day before play, so if you want to transfer the tickets to someone else, you have to do so before this point. Then, you must show acceptable ID (passports, no foreign driver’s licenses) to get in the gate (which sounds like it will take forever, but is actually quite efficient).

This system appears to be quite effective at stopping both scalpers and fans alike from purchasing tickets, as you can tell from the tiny crowds you see on TV in the first few days. You cannot purchase tickets at the door, so there is no point going to the tournament grounds unless you have a ticket in hand (I saw a number of frustrated people turn around and leave when they realised this). Like at all major events, scalpers line the streets outside of Roland Garros hawking tickets of every kind, but I’m really not sure how you would be able to buy these and sneak past the ID check. So my recommendation is just don’t do it.

Roland Garros Band

Once you get inside, you’ll be treated to music from bands like this one.

Roland Garros provides two official methods of buying tickets: through the Roland Garros ticketing website, which opens in early March to the general public, and through their official resellers, who generally sell them as part of package tours.

The RG ticketing website has two ways of buying tickets — you can either get them when they go on sale in March, or you can watch their resale website starting in April in hopes that the ticket you would like becomes available. When I started looking in April 2013 for specific tickets — the first two days on Phillippe Chatrier — neither had anything available. As the event inched closer, more tickets became available and I eventually found the tickets I wanted for roughly €110. If I’d waited until closer to the event I could have gotten them cheaper (as of writing, tickets for the first day of this years’ event are €78), but as I was planning my trip to France around the tournament, I wanted to have guaranteed seats.

It’s worth noting that Roland Garros used to partner with Viagogo for the official resale of tickets, but this partnership has ended and they make it very clear on this official announcement that they consider any resale of tickets on Viagogo to be illegal.

Li Na

…and then, once you get to the courts, you’ll get to see superstars like Li Na.

Also, since you have to purchase tickets in advance, it’s very likely that you’ll be buying tickets without knowing who is actually playing on that court. It’s good to know that there’s usually about 3 matches per show court and will be a mix of men’s and women’s matches. Unless you want to see Rafa Nadal play (like I did), it’s hard to even pick which stadium your favourite player will be playing on. Even I had to guess with my tickets, since the first round is now spread out over three days and I could only attend for two; I ended up guessing that Rafa would play on one of the first two days on Phillippe Chatrier and he played on Monday (thankfully).

My only recommendation for getting to see the player you want to see is to go at least two days in a row. Alternate halves of the draw play on successive days, so if you go on say, Monday and Tuesday you’ll see a much larger spread of the draw than if you went on Tuesday and Thursday. Otherwise, your guess is as good as mine!

2. Ride the Metro

Metro Sign

No matter where you are in Paris, you’ll probably see signs like this one.

Roland Garros is situated in Paris’ 16th arrondissement, which is the westernmost in the city. If, like most people, you don’t want to stay that far out of the city, you’ll have to find a way to the grounds. Aside from the fact that the French seemed to be crazily aggressive drivers so I wouldn’t want to be duking it out on the roads with them, there is also very little close parking to the tournament. There are a number of free car parks provided, but they are about 1km from the grounds, so you’ll either have to walk or wait in line for one of the courtesy shuttles to the grounds.

For most visitors it will be simpler to catch the Metro. While it seems like there are stops every 50m, it actually only takes a bit over 20min from the centre of Paris out to Porte d’Auteuil on the 10 line (the 9 line to Michel-Ange Auteuil or Michel-Ange Molitor is also an option). You won’t have to worry about missing your stop, since everyone on the train will get off with you.

When leaving Roland Garros, you should go to either Michel-Ange Auteuil or Michel-Ange Molitor stations for line 9 or Michel-Ange Molitor for line 10. There will be signs pointing out how to get there from the grounds. Unless you’re going outbound, there is no point going back to Porte d’Auteuil as it is on a one-way section of track and you’ll have to continue outbound and then change trains. Walking a bit further is definitely the quicker option here!

 For more information on every mode of transport possible, visit the Roland Garros “Getting There” page.

3. Be ready for the weather

 

Steve Darcis serves to Michael Llodra.

Hopefully your weather will be as nice as this.

It’d be nice to think that, because the tournament is held in late May, the weather will be summery and warm. That’s often a pipe dream, as I found when the thermometer hit 6ºC the morning of the first day of play last year. Because I was traveling around the continent with just a backpack, I wore pretty much all the clothes I had that day and was very tempted to buy a jacket on the Champs Elysées on the way to the tournament. Then, on the second day, temperatures were up in the mid-20s and I felt bogged down by the extra clothes I’d brought to bundle up in.

Moral of the story: be prepared for any temperature. Pack layers and a decent thickness coat; it’s much nicer to carry them around not needing them than to freeze in the completely uncovered stadiums all day, especially since there are very few places where you can hide indoors at Roland Garros. There are a few shops, but unlike the Australian Open, where there are multiple covered courts, everything is left to the elements here.

Another very big possibility is the chance of rain. Make sure you bring an umbrella — or a poncho, but I don’t know if the Parisians sitting next to you would appreciate that fashion sense — and be ready to sit under it for a fair amount of time, since you’ll want to see as much as you can if it does stop raining. You will only receive a full refund if less than 90 minutes of play happen on your court; you’ll get a 50% refund if less than 2 hours of play are completed.

4. Bring your own food

 

Pierre Herme Macarons

Sure, you can buy food like this on the grounds, but it’ll be twice as expensive and half as good than if you buy it outside and bring it in.

I was hoping that the food at Roland Garros would be typically French, but while there were baguettes and macarons on offer, it all seemed to be of the generic quality you’ll get at any event around the world. I ended up having a double hot dog one day, and that’s about as American as you can get!

Unlike at many American events, though, there were no regulations regarding what food and drinks you could bring onto the grounds (provided they weren’t in glass containers). With as many options for food as Paris has to offer, it’d be a shame to waste all those meals on event food. Pick up a baguette or whatever other food you can and bring it into the grounds with you. You’ll save quite a bit of money this way as well.

5. Check out the action on the outside courts

 

Roland Garros Map

The map of the grounds given to you with your e-ticket.

As mentioned above, unless you’re buying tickets online at the last minute, it’s impossible to know who will be playing on your court on any day. Luckily, a show court ticket gets you access to all of the non-show courts around the grounds, giving you 18 courts (your show court + courts 2-18) to choose from (although it’s important to note that courts 2 and 3 are only available to grounds pass holders for the first week of the tournament).

In the first few days of the tournament especially, these courts are packed with big names and fascinating matches that just couldn’t be squeezed into the three main courts. While it didn’t happen at Roland Garros, the Nicolas Mahut-John Isner epic that spanned 3 days and 5 sets (including a 70-68 final set) is an example of the type of match you might be lucky enough to watch on an outside court. Starting towards the end of the first week, there are plenty of entertaining doubles matches to watch too — which are worth a watch especially since they so rarely get aired on TV!

Roland Garros Artwork

Artwork found on the grounds of Roland Garros.

Big name players often warm up on the outside courts as well. I was at a bit of a loose end on my first morning at Roland Garros because Serena was playing on Court Phillippe Chatrier and I really wasn’t interested. I saw huge crowds packed around courts 9 and 11, so I wandered over to find Novak Djokovic practicing right next to Rafa Nadal, who was getting ready to defend his 7th Roland Garros crown. Needless to say, it was quite difficult to get a spot in the crowd, so I stood on a box behind Rafa’s court to snap a few shots. There were about 5 or 6 of us packed onto something that wasn’t supposed to hold anyone’s weight, so eventually the security guys made us move along — but they at least let us take a few photos first!

Confused Rafa

Confused Rafa says, “I don’t understand why you wouldn’t go to the outside courts and hang off the edge of a fence to watch me.”

Getting around the grounds is quick and easy, since they are by far the smallest and most compact of any of the Grand Slams. A map is provided on every e-ticket although it doesn’t have a lot of detail; I believe the daily schedule of play/guide would have better maps inside.


Hopefully, with the help of these tips you’ll have a fantastic day out at Roland Garros. I wish you many long topsy-turvy matches and even more renditions of the wave!

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35 Responses to Roland Garros: 5 Tips for Enjoying a Day at the French Open

  1. mike June 14, 2014 at 11:54 pm Reply

    Hi Kristin,

    Really enjoyed your article on Roland Garros. Was very informative and a pleasure to read.
    I run a company called Championship Tennis Tours. We arrange packages and tickets to all the major tennis events, including the French Open.

    We have a blog as well that I thought you could be a contributor to that is called the “Sixth Set”, sixthset.com.

    Check it out. Perhaps you could write some articles for us.

    Mike

    • Kristin July 9, 2014 at 8:35 pm Reply

      Hi Mike, thanks so much for your comment and sorry for being so slow to reply. I wrote a reply a few weeks ago but it appears to have been eaten somewhere between my keyboard and this site!

      Anyway, I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed my post about Roland Garros, and I hope you were able to check out my post about queuing at Wimbledon as well.

      Thanks so much for getting in touch about writing on your blog as well. I’m definitely interested — are you looking for travel-related information about various tournaments or solely tennis-related content?

  2. Peter April 30, 2015 at 11:33 am Reply

    Hi Kristin,

    Great post. Very informative. I do have a question about how Viagogo works. If I am lucky enough to get tickets on Viagogo, you state “Tickets purchased on Viagogo will be available to you on the official FFR site where you can then register your name on the ticket, so you don’t have to do any emailing back and forth with the original owners…”

    Is the FFR site the same as the Billetterie website? Also, will I be able to download the tickets? (As I might already be in Paris if they try to post them to me here in Australia.)

    Thanking you in advance,

    Peter.

    • Kristin May 1, 2015 at 6:06 pm Reply

      Hi Peter, I’m really glad to hear that my post helped you, and I hope you have a great time at Roland Garros! Yes, the FFR site I mentioned is the same as the Billeterie — I should probably update the wording on that. And yes, once you’ve assigned the name to the ticket, you’re able to download the tickets and print them out yourself (which is what I did). Just make sure you register your name to the ticket at least 1 day before going as it doesn’t let you do that on the day itself.

  3. Nicolas May 26, 2015 at 10:29 am Reply

    Hi,
    Very good post.
    I have a question, How is the availability of tickets on viagogo? I’m entering every day since March and only found tickets for two or three days, and the quantity is always 1. Im worried because i really want to go to RG this year and can’t find tickets for almost any session.

    Thanks for your help

    • Kristin May 26, 2015 at 6:06 pm Reply

      Hi Nicolas, I’m glad this post has been a help to you! Unfortunately, I can’t say what the availability of tickets on Viagogo is like this year as I didn’t check, but I know that when I was looking in 2013, there were no tickets available for Philippe Chatrier on the days I wanted for quite a while — but then about a month before the tournament a large batch was loaded into the system and there was quite a bit of availability after that. I hope you do manage to find a few that fit your plans so you can go to Roland Garros in person!

      • Bob Jung September 6, 2015 at 8:10 am Reply

        I was able to find general admission ticket on viagogo for June 1. No problem if you are on line at the designated times.

        Bob J

        • Kristin September 6, 2015 at 7:40 pm Reply

          Hi Bob, thanks for updating us on that. Great to hear that you got to see a few matches!

  4. Victor March 18, 2016 at 1:13 pm Reply

    Hi Kristin,

    Thank you for this very informative blog post. It’s great to find someone who share my interests in travel, photography, and tennis! I have planned a trip to Paris around RG this year starting on the first day of qualifying until around the 3rd round time frame. I wonder if you can answer these 2 questions of mine:
    1) are you allowed to enter the show court stadiums without a ticket (ie. with just an outside court ticket), for example to just take some photos between games without taking a seat?
    2) do you know anything about the kids/charity day? Would it be overly crowded or would it be no different from any other day?

    Looking forward to hearing from you.
    Victor

    • Peter Mavromatis March 30, 2016 at 4:35 pm Reply

      Victor, I can answer your first question. In short, No. I went to the French Open last year and obtained tickets for Susan Lenglen on the opening Sunday. It was an amazing day. I hope you got tickets a few days ago! Cheers.

    • Kristin March 31, 2016 at 2:34 pm Reply

      Hi Victor, thanks so much for checking out this post and it’s great to meet a kindred spirit as well! That’s awesome that you’re heading over to Paris for RG.

      To answer your questions: as far as I know, you have to have a ticket to get into any of the show courts. They check them as you are walking into the stadium and I do not think they would allow you to stand in the stadium to take photos, even at the changeover, because things get pretty hectic as people rush in and out. I just covered this by getting stadium court tickets, although that’s tough to do in advance when you don’t know the schedule and have to guess who might be playing!

      Unfortunately, I don’t know much about the kids/charity day. I think it would be a really fun event to go to if watching Arthur Ashe Kids Day and the equivalent at the Australian Open on TV is anything to go by. Everyone seems to have a lot of fun! I’m not sure that it would be overly crowded, but if entry is free, it may be more crowded than the first few days of RG (which seemed to have a lot less people than the same days at other Grand Slams).

      Sorry I couldn’t completely answer your questions but hopefully that helped. I hope you have a great time!

  5. Margie Smith April 15, 2016 at 2:37 am Reply

    Hi Kristin,

    Just found your blog today, as I’m trying to purchase online tickets to Roland Garros next month. I missed the opening of the online ticket purchasing from the RG website last month and am looking at available tickets today, which cost way more than what I’m willing to pay.

    However, if I read your blog correctly, in past years, viagogo.com is the other site to check for ticket availability, right? And I should keep checking it in the coming weeks as tickets for re-sale are put on their in the weeks leading up to the tournament?

    Thanks in advance.

    margie

    • Kristin May 4, 2016 at 8:14 am Reply

      Hi Margie. Apologies for not answering your question sooner. I am editing this blog to no longer recommend Viagogo as a viable ticket reseller — while they do have tickets available, they are no longer an official reseller (as per the article at http://www.rolandgarros.com/en_FR/news/articles/2016-04-21/2016_ticketing_the_resale_service_is_open.html) so their tickets can’t be guaranteed to work on the day. I recommend checking the http://tickets.rolandgarros.com/ site — once you login, there is a resale section that shows you any tickets available on the day. Hopefully they become available as regularly there as they did on Viagogo in the past. Good luck and I hope you’re able to get tickets!

  6. Helcio April 30, 2016 at 10:12 am Reply

    Hi Kristin

    I just read your post and really enjoyed it. Very, very helpful.
    By the way, I’m a tennis fan and I’m planning to watch Roland Garros this year on May 26th (2nd round) or May 27th (3rd round). It will be my first time at French Open, but without an official schedule, defining the day and court to buy the tickets to watch Federer/Nadal is like a lottery.

    So i wonder if I should: a) buy the tickets in advance at Viagogo and pay 200 euros (May 26th, Phillippe Chatrier Court, Cat. 3) and guarantee my ticket at least or; b) wait the official schedule and buy last minute (2 or 3 days) before? Will the last minute ticket be cheaper??

    Thank you so much for your help.
    Cheers.

    • Peter May 1, 2016 at 1:15 pm Reply

      Hi, do not use Viagogo as it is no longer the official reseller and there is a high likelihood any ticket purchased there this year will not get you through the gates.

      I recently received this email from Roland-Garros:
      “Attention: the website Viagogo is no longer in partnership with Roland Garros. The tickets on sale on this website are sold illegally and without any guarantee.”

      You may be best served to go to this website:
      https://tickets.rolandgarros.com/sign-in?origin-url=/tickets

      Good luck!

      • Kristin May 4, 2016 at 8:17 am Reply

        Hi Peter, thanks for alerting Helcio (and me!) to this. I’m updating the post to reflect this change in ticketing agent.

        • Peter May 4, 2016 at 12:24 pm Reply

          No problem. I got an email overnight from RG saying that 10am today (4th May) last minute sales opening – so now is potentially your chance to pounce on some tickets!!!

          Good luck

          • Helcio May 5, 2016 at 7:52 am

            Hi Peter and Kristin,

            Thanks for your posts. Really helpful. I was able today to buy my last minute tickets at the RG website.

            Hope to see great matches now!
            Cheers

          • Kristin May 5, 2016 at 8:46 am

            Hi Helcio, that’s great to hear! I hope you have a great time at RG and that you get to see all of your favourites play 🙂

    • Kristin May 4, 2016 at 8:17 am Reply

      Hi Helcio, I agree with Peter that you shouldn’t use Viagogo this year — as per their announcement at http://www.rolandgarros.com/en_FR/news/articles/2016-04-21/2016_ticketing_the_resale_service_is_open.html, Viagogo is no longer the official reseller so the tickets on that site can’t be guaranteed and will likely be much more expensive than if you buy them through the official FFT reselling site. €200 is a lot more than I paid to sit on Phillippe Chatrier though. I bought tickets for 2 out of the three first round days in hopes of seeing Rafa and got to see Federer and Nadal, so you’re likely to as well if you bet on that court. Good luck getting tickets — I hope they release more soon!

  7. Helcio May 1, 2016 at 10:54 pm Reply

    Hi Peter,

    I was not aware of this change.
    I’ll take a look at the website then.

    Thanks for your helpful comment.

  8. Victor May 13, 2016 at 12:21 pm Reply

    Hi, Kristin-

    I’m attending Roland Garros for the first time this year. Two years ago, I attended the US Open and listened to real-time radio commentary during the tournament using an earpiece. Each attendee was given an earpiece upon entering. I really enjoyed that. Considering the matches are called in French, is there any way to listen to English commentary inside the stadium? Maybe using an earpiece or a real-time app?
    Thank you
    Victor

    • Kristin May 21, 2016 at 6:01 pm Reply

      Hi Victor, thanks for getting in touch! Unfortunately I don’t know if there’s a way to listen to the English commentary while in the stadium since I didn’t try to listen while I was there. I would be very curious as to the answer though. I hope you have a great time and that you get to see a lot of fantastic matches!

  9. Victor May 19, 2016 at 5:18 pm Reply

    Does anyone know if the rule regarding detachable lenses is strictly enforced? What happens if I bring one that is longer than 20mm?

    • Kristin May 21, 2016 at 6:29 pm Reply

      Hi Victor, I remember my camera being briefly checked but I’m not sure if it’s as thorough as at the Australian Open (where it’s now nearly impossible to get a long lens in). However, I took a micro-4/3 camera so my lens, while the equivalent of 300mm, was only marked as 150mm so I was able to get in without a second look. It is a risk though since you may lose a lot of time if you’re not allowed to take it in.

  10. Melissa March 12, 2017 at 8:36 am Reply

    Kristin: You are an awesome writer and this is an amazing amount of really detailed information. As a tennis fanatic (and 30x US Open attendee), this is exactly the type of “insider” info us tennis nuts want to know before we go. I just started a new site, https://tenniseventguide.com, for exactly this reason and I’m going to link to this article as a great reference.

    Since you’ve already hit the Grand Slam, how about we head over to Monte Carlo for the Rolex Masters and we’ll both write articles about it???!!! Thanks so much for this great info!

    • Kristin March 15, 2017 at 9:56 am Reply

      Hi Melissa! Thanks so much for your comments and I’m really glad you found this post useful enough to link to. Great to hear about your new site as well — good luck with it!

      As for heading to Monte Carlo, I would absolutely love to but I don’t think Europe is in my plans this year. I hope you’re able to make it over though, since I’d love to hear what it’s like to go to the Masters there! Maybe we’ll be able to catch up as I’m planning to head to the US Open again this year as well.

  11. Luis March 18, 2017 at 12:58 am Reply

    I will try to get round 4 tickets for rolland garros.
    What day would you recommend Sun Jun 4 or Mon Jun 5.?
    Phillipe Chatrier or Suzanne Lenglen?

    • Kristin March 22, 2017 at 8:57 am Reply

      Hi Luis, I hope you have a great time at Roland Garros! Unfortunately I can’t recommend between Sunday or Monday, as it is usually solely dependent on the draw who will be playing on those days. As for which court, I spent my time on Phillipe Chatrier just because I wanted to see the biggest names (Nadal, Federer), but you will be able to see quality matches on either court.

  12. Catherine March 24, 2017 at 5:47 am Reply

    Thank you for your helpful information. Unfortunately I read it too late and I already purchased tickets for 2017 via Viagogo. Is it worth it to try using them or will they just refuse them outright at the gate? I don’t want to go to the trouble of going to RG and then being turned away once I get there. Are there really no legitimate tickets sold via Viagogo? I would appreciate your guidance.

    • Kristin April 1, 2017 at 11:16 am Reply

      Hi Catherine, I’m sorry to hear it! As far as I know, the only legitimate tickets are the ones sold through Roland Garros itself, and that RG considers Viagogo to be an “illegal resale channel.” Did you get the option to put your name on your ticket? If not, you may have an issue, as they match the name on the ticket to your ID on arrival. Good luck with it and I hope you’re able to get it sorted so you can see some tennis!

  13. Ron April 30, 2017 at 5:18 pm Reply

    Thank you, Kristin !

    • Kristin May 6, 2017 at 4:27 am Reply

      No worries! Enjoy your trip to Roland Garros!

  14. Jose Ismael May 7, 2017 at 8:00 pm Reply

    Hello Kristin
    Thanks for your article. I’m going the first 3 day next one.
    Can you tell me at want time the games end?
    I trying to go to a Cramberries concert and want to know this to see i will have time

    • Kristin May 26, 2017 at 3:37 am Reply

      Hi Jose, apologies for the delayed reply — I didn’t see this comment earlier. Anyway, I hope you were able to sort out your schedule for Roland Garros. Matches end once there is too little light to continue play, which is usually around 9pm or a little bit after.

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