Guide to Visiting the French Open

This is the final post from my trip to the French Open which is a guide to visiting Roland Garros. I hope this post will be informative and the tips will be useful for anyone planning to visit in the future. This trip was three years in the making as the plan was to go in 2020 before the pandemic struck. I was really anxious about this trip as it was the first time i’ve been abroad since the pandemic and COVID. I was nervous about the travelling and being around humans again, but it all went pretty smoothly and I feel so much better for having done it and have more confidence in travelling again.

I like detail so this post is pretty comprehensive! I could never find much detail about the Slam fan experience when searching online so this is the passion for writing these pieces. I forgot so much from my last trip to Paris in 2015 so this will help me out for next time! This also completes the quartet of guide posts for the Slams on MTB which can all be found from HERE. This post covers everything from buying tickets, getting to the venue, what to take/not to take, the courts, the grounds, food, shopping and anything else I could squeeze in! Happy to answer any questions for anyone planning a trip to Roland Garros in the future 😊.

Buying tickets

The general sale of tickets for Roland Garros in 2022 was on the 8th of March. 10am CET so 9am UK time. Don’t get caught out by the time difference if you’re in the UK! Before the sale, i’d recommend having a Roland Garros ticketing account set up which you can do here. You can also sign up to the mailing list so that you receive e-mails about ticketing.

Main tip when queueing for tickets – be patient! You will have to wait in a queue for quite a while and that’s normal. My bro and I were logged on before 9am UK time. When it hit 9am, the bro was 25,000 in the queue and me, 36,000. I was a doof and refreshed the page manually having been on it for a while. Lesson learned – go to the loading page early and just stay there. It will click over automatically at 9am. DON’T click refresh!

The bro got through to the tickets page after 50 minutes. Me about 70 minutes. Once you get through to the ticketing page, it was clear and well laid out, and we had no issues with selecting tickets and making payments. We mostly got what we wanted although I couldn’t get lower bowl seats on Court Philippe-Chatrier which we wanted for one of the days.

The best advice I can give for buying tickets is go in with a clear plan of what you want for each day and have a back-up in mind if plan A doesn’t work out. You can find seating plans and prices for the courts on the ticketing section of the Roland Garros website. Tickets do sell out quickly for the main release and Philippe-Chatrier was sold out within a few hours. It’s not as bad as Wimbledon’s online releases but nowhere near as calm as buying tickets for the Australian Open and the US Open.

Getting to and from the venue

We stayed in central Paris on the western side, about a ten minute walk from the Eiffel Tower. We used the metro to get to and from the tennis each day. The tournament recommends using lines 9 or 10. We used line 10 and walked ten minutes from our hotel to Charles Michels station and then got off for Roland Garros at Porte d’Auteuil. This took about 15 minutes on the metro. When you come out of the metro at Porte d’Auteuil, it’s pretty obvious where you go and it’s then a five to ten minute walk along Avenue de la Porte d’Auteuil.

Coming back from the tennis, I have a tip courtesy of the bro. If you’re heading back to central Paris then exit the ground from the south side onto Boulevard d’Auteuil. There’s an exit right by Court Simonne-Mathieu and you then walk east about ten minutes to Michel Ange Molitor station. The end of the 10 line goes in a loop. On the first day we went to Porte d’Auteuil station and had to go back on ourself to Boulogne Jean Jaurès station before heading back in the right direction towards central Paris. By going to Michel Ange Molitor station saved us time on the second and third days.

Paris Metro Screenshot

Screenshot from Paris Metro Map (RATP website)

Buying metro tickets is pretty straightforward. There are ticket machines everywhere and they have various language options. They are in the process of discontinuing the paper tickets but they are still in operation as I write this in May 2022. You can purchase as many single tickets as you like, or a set of 10 from the ticket machines. I think next time we go we’d have to buy their smartcard, the Navigo Easy pass. When we tried to do this on our first day, none of the ticket offices were open. Details about the smartcard can be found here.

*Update – Thanks to friendly folk on Twitter who said that you can also buy metro tickets directly on the Eurostar from the cafe on board.

Entering the grounds

We entered the grounds each day through Gate 1, at the north east corner of Court Philippe-Chatrier. Each day we had a slightly different experience. Gates open at 10am. We arrived the earliest on Sunday (we were excited!) and got to the Porte d’Auteuil station at just after 09:30am. We arrived at the gate before 10am and had to queue for about 10 minutes. We could see the queue growing rapidly behind us. We got into the grounds by about 10:15.

On Monday, we arrived late at about 14:30pm due to the weather and strolled through security. That’s one advantage of going later! On Tuesday we arrived marginally later than Sunday and really felt the difference as we had to queue for about 20 minutes and didn’t get into the grounds until 10:30am. While we were a bit later, we generally felt Sunday was quieter than Monday and Tuesday.

There is a bag search while walking along Avenue de la Porte d’Auteuil and then another bag check and body search before heading into the grounds. This can be thorough. Once through security, you head to the turnstiles. You can either print off your paper ticket or download the Roland Garros app and add your ticket there. You scan the barcode and this then produces a small paper ticket that you use for getting into your seats. There’s an ID check after the turnstiles as each ticket is assigned to a person which is done on the website prior to attending. The ID check is strict. I tried one day to walk through and got stopped in my tracks 😂.

On exiting the grounds, on the first day some people asked for our tickets when we left Philippe-Chatrier. I’m always happy to help out other tennis fans. However, as we left through gate 1, where we had entered, I didn’t realise you needed your ticket to exit through the turnstiles! Cue an embarrassing moment where I was rummaging through my bag looking for my old paper ticket.

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Restrictions on what to take into the grounds

You are allowed to take in a small rucksack to the tennis. We didn’t have any issues on the three days. We learned after the first day that taking food in is fine. I think the US Open (from 2016) is the only Slam that was a bit restricted in terms of bags and food. Drinks was fine too and we had no problem taking in a drinks bottle with water.

There are restrictions on the size of camera lenses so be careful! The website states that the limit is 20cm and on the final day, they did get my camera out and check the size.

The courts

A map of the grounds and location of all the courts can be found here on the RG website.

Court Philippe-Chatrier

This was my first ever experience on Court Philippe-Chatrier! I didn’t manage to get tickets for Chatrier when I went back in 2015. We would have liked to try both the lower and upper bowl but only managed to get seats for the upper bowl. We didn’t consider getting tickets for a night session. I think it’s ridiculously overpriced for just one match and the start time of 9pm local time is just stupid. I have no interest in staying around till midnight to watch a long men’s match 😂.

The stadium is more impressive than I was expecting. It’s gorgeous from the outside. I loved the Stade Roland Garros signage on the outside of the stadium.

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From the upper bowl, the view is kind of what you would expect. Not as bad as Arthur Ashe at the US Open and very similar to the upper bowl of the Rod Laver Arena at the Australian Open. On the first day, we had seats in section C8 and were in row 12. These seats were in the shade all day because of the roof. If you want shade, then go for seats in the northern stand and its corners.

The big gripe I had about these seats is that there were no row numbers painted anywhere which was ridiculous! I don’t know if they had repainted and forgot to add the numbers and I don’t know if it was just this isolated section. You had to count from row 9 upwards to find the right row. You could see the puzzled look whenever someone was looking for their seats for the first time. My bro began to help the community out by shouting “douze” at people 😂.

In terms of comfort, I think the seats on Court Philippe-Chatrier are the least comfortable of the top court at the four Slams. Leg room is not as spacious as at Wimbledon and the seats are hard unlike the cushioned seats at Wimbledon. We also felt more impeded with our view.

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For our second experience on Philippe-Chatrier, our seats were closer in section C14 and row 4. To be honest, our view didn’t feel much better and we felt even more obstructed by people’s heads in front. It didn’t help that, unsurprisingly, for the Tsonga-Ruud match our section was full.

Ours seats in C14 were quite good for FPAs (famous person alert). Forgot to mention this in my reports! There’s a good view of the French TV studio and we saw both Alizé Cornet and Justine Henin. There’s also a decent view of the commentary boxes.

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It’s a long walk up to the upper bowl seats of Philippe-Chatrier. From the top, you do get a great view over the grounds and also back towards Paris. There are mini food and boutique stores on the upper level which are handy so you don’t have to go back out of the stadium. There are obviously toilets although we didn’t think they were very well designed!

We had a brief experience of the roof when it came over for the Tsonga retirement ceremony, presumably because there was a threat of rain. We noticed there were gaps in the roof! I wonder if they ever have an issue with the sideways rain? I remember that was a problem for the Louis Armstrong Stadium at the US Open last year.

One final thing I will always remember from Chatrier is the Perrier noise that they also replicate on the TV coverage. It always seemed to get a chuckle! It’s annoying but I think it does its job in terms of advertising.

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Court Suzanne-Lenglen

We didn’t see any tennis on Court Suzanne-Lenglen this time round and in the end favoured two days on Philippe-Chatrier with the assurance of the roof. An old picture below of Suzanne Lenglen from my trip in 2015 before the seats were upgraded! Aside from Anisimova-Osaka in the first three days, there was nothing on the schedule that I was upset at missing.

There are lots of food and boutique stands all around Suzanne-Lenglen. Note that on the northern side this area can get very congested.

Suzanne Lenglen

Court Simonne-Mathieu

Stand by for a monologue. I adore Court Simonne-Mathieu. Watching a match at sunset on this court was on my bucket list. This was more important to me than being on Chatrier, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s made me think about my favourite courts in the world. The ones that stick out – No.1 and No.2 Court at Wimbledon, Grandstand and No.18 Court at the US Open, MCA at the Australian Open and No.1 court at Eastbourne. Even with recency bias, I can confidently say that Court Simonne-Mathieu is my favourite court in the world to watch tennis. And I achieved my bucket list of seeing a match with the sun setting 😍.

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Court Simonne-Mathieu holds 5,000 people and was built for the 2019 edition of Roland Garros. It’s located along Allée des Serres in a new annex of the ground. I couldn’t believe I was at a tennis tournament. It’s so beautiful and tranquil. You’ve got the botanic garden with the plants, L’Orangerie where they held the draw ceremony and you can hear the birds singing. They’ve done a wonderful job.

Court Simonne-Mathieu has greenhouses on all four sides of the stadium. I wish you could see the plants a bit better through the glass! It’s just so different and unique. Love it! There are two levels to the court and it’s the same entrance for both levels. To my knowledge, both are ticketed and they were definitely checking everyone’s tickets. I think the upper tier may have been accessible on a ground pass when the court was introduced in 2019? We went for the lower tier as you get a proper seat, as opposed to the benches at the top. I don’t think there is a bad view in this court.

Our seats were in section M6 and row 8 although we weren’t actually eight rows from the back. We were even closer. The view was special! You feel so close to the action and it’s such a value add from watching on the TV. I enjoyed picking up the intricate changes in the pace and height of the ball.

The only negative for this court, and it applies to all courts really, is that there’s often a queue to get back into the court if you go out. The gates get busy. When I took a comfort break, I nearly didn’t get in on the first changeover back because there was such a long queue. It would be nice if there were toilets in Simonne-Mathieu but you have to walk out to L’Orangerie for the nearest ones.

The schedule for the first three days was always impressive for Simonne-Mathieu with a nice mix of French players and top players such as Muguruza, Halep and Raducanu. If you’re heading to Paris, then I couldn’t recommend highly enough having at least a day on Simonne-Mathieu. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

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Court 14

Court 14 is the fourth biggest court at Roland Garros and it’s a sunken court, very similar to No.2 and No.3 courts at Wimbledon. It has the standard hard benches so it is not particularly kind on the bottom or the back! The back row all around the court has some metal gates up so these seats are a little kinder to the back.

I loved this court and again, not a bad seat in the house. The gradient of the benches is such that you’re not normally too obstructed by the person in front. This court can get busy. On the first day, the crowd was rocking for Barrere-Daniel and we couldn’t get close even for just a peek.

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Access is a little odd. There are two entrances either side with stairs up to a raised platform that runs all around the back of the court. You can wander round here which must be distracting for the players. This is also how you access courts 15 and 16 which are practice courts at the back of court 14. To get out, we found we had to barge through one of the entrances which wasn’t easy! There must have been a designated exit which we missed 😂.

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Court 7

We saw just the one match on Court 7. It was a great experience and again you can get so close to the action so it was definitely more enjoyable than watching matches on Chatrier. There’s a lovely view looking towards Court Suzanne-Lenglen.

My top tip, and this applies for all the outside courts, is to try to enter at the end of a set or end of a match when the courts tend to empty out. We stupidly tried to get on for Pegula-Wang on the Tuesday in the middle of the second set. We could see empty seats but the queue wasn’t moving at all and there is never enough time between the changeovers so we gave up. There are only two entrances in so it’s not the easiest court to get on. The benches, like all the outside courts, are pretty uncomfortable so we could only bear them for a set or two.

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Court 6

We went on court 6 just the once for Collins and Korda on Tuesday, and had to queue to get on. It took us about three changeovers to get on. There’s a central concourse that runs between court 6 and 8 (7 and 9 are exactly the same on the opposite side). Once you gain entry to the central concourse, you can join either court.

We shouldn’t have been allowed in when we were. Play was going on so we just stood at the back. A steward then told us we weren’t allowed to stand there and watch, and had to find a seat immediately! Therefore, yes, I was that annoying person who had to find a seat whilst the match was ongoing. Generally, I wasn’t impressed with the stewarding and there were so many cases where spectators were let in while play was going on.

Otherwise, court 6 was a nice court and there was a gorgeous view behind of Philippe-Chatrier. There was also a view of the scoreboard which was helpful.

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Courts 8 and 9

We didn’t go on either courts 8 and 9 which were next to 6 and 8 respectively. Both these courts had less stands than 7 and 6, and had long queues during the day. A tip in hindsight – there are separate queues for courts 6 and 8, and 7 and 9. Go for the shorter queue because they will both go up to the central concourse where you can then choose the court you desire.

Court 10

Court 10 is on a corner in the northern section of the grounds, in the shadow of Suzanne Lenglen. There were practices going on on Sunday and matches on the Tuesday. When there was a match going, the area tended to get busy as you could stand and watch from the corner. You can only get on to sit from one side of the court.

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Court 11

We didn’t see anything on court 11. There didn’t seem to be much going on on Sunday. It was hard to get to on Tuesday where there were matches being played.

Court 12

We watched Botic Van de Zandschlup on this court on Sunday. You can stand at the back and watch over the court and see court 13 so it’s two for the price of one. Sunday was fine, but we couldn’t get close on Monday and Tuesday when it was much busier. Shapavalov-Ruud was scheduled first up on this court on Tuesday which was an appalling decision. There were literally people standing in bushes and security telling them off 😂.

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Court 13

Court 13 is on the end of 11-12-13 so you can stand in the corner and watch points. The general area can get quite busy if court 14 is rocking. It’s a nice court and you have a decent view of court 12 too.

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Courts 2 and 3

Court 2 was the first court we went on and we saw Garbiñe Muguruza practising here. There’s a lovely view towards Chatrier. We noticed these courts were empty on Tuesday with no play which seemed odd. They seemed under-utilised which was a shame as I liked them.

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Courts 4 and 5

Like courts 2 and 3, we saw some practices on this court and there did seem to be some matches on Monday and Tuesday. There’s a running theme… nice courts! Fewer seats than courts 6 and 7.

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Practice courts

Watching practices at Roland Garros has definitely improved since 2015. There are designated practice courts at the far western end of the grounds past court 14 with a viewing platform that overlooks court 15 and 16. We also watched practices on courts 2, 3, 4, 5 and 10, notably on the first day when there were fewer matches on the court. Keep an eye out for the practice schedule which is shared on the RG website (although not on the app?).

I’d say watching practices at Roland Garros is probably equivalent to Wimbledon. Wimbledon does have designated practice courts that you can queue up for but they hard to get to and have poor access. I still think a lot happens off site at RG, or at least not viewable to the public? US Open leads the way for watching practices, closely followed by the Australian Open.

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Grounds and facilities

The grounds are vastly improved from 2015. I couldn’t even picture the old site in some places. The grounds are still small but I think they have used the space well. It does feels cramped at times, particularly around the northern side of Court Suzanne-Lenglen. There were a few unfortunate moments when matches finished at the same time on Philippe-Chatrier and Suzanne-Lenglen and it felt exceptionally busy around the grounds. We felt they let too many people in on Monday and Tuesday.

There were a decent number of toilets spread around the grounds. However, there clearly weren’t enough women’s toilets as every time we went there was a long queue. The best ones we found were underneath court 14. These were quiet if court 14 hadn’t just emptied out at the end of a match. There was a chance to fill up water bottles here too. We also found water fill-up stations on the southern side of Chatrier next to some toilets and another one by court 10.

There were a few neat touches around the grounds such as the line of deckchairs by court 10 and the square of deckchairs in Mosquetaires Garden. There wasn’t really any area comparable to say Henman Hill at Wimbledon. If you need a breather from the tennis then head over to the area around Court Simonne-Mathieur which was much quieter and tranquil.

I liked the Roland Garros wall on the southern side of Chatrier – a great place for taking photos!

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Food and drink

We didn’t explore many of the food and drink options. We bought lunch in the grounds on day 1. This was in the row of outlets outside Philippe-Chatrier and behind Mousquetaires Garden. I bought the chicken meal with roasted potatoes. Pricey as expected at 15 Euros but I thought it was good quality. I was surprised that there were no queues whatsoever buying lunch when it was peak lunch time on Sunday. Perhaps we were lucky?!

After day 1 when we realised there were no restrictions on food we took in food. No brainer for me as it’s more convenient and much, much cheaper. I miss my daily stop at all the boulangeries and patisseries to buy sandwiches and an assortments of goodies!

Shopping

The main store at Roland Garros can be found under court 2 and 3 and I have to say I was taken aback – it’s the best shop at any of the slams by a country mile. It’s hugeee! There were still long queues to get in during the middle of the day and any rain delays. I’d advise going first thing after gates open. A nice touch is that the stringers are situated on the top level of the store.

There’s also a decent sized store as soon as you enter the grounds through gate 1. I forgot my cap on the first day so ended up buying my RG cap and a trilby hat (impulse purchase lol). There’s still a few things I want so will probably be using the RG shop soon. Word of warning – be careful buying the t-shirts. My bro and work pal both ended up buying women’s t-shirts 😂. They didn’t seem to be clearly marked, but it might have just been the language barrier too.

There are some smaller boutiques in the grounds, many dotted around Court Suzanne-Lenglen. They’re not fully stocked but if you find what you’re looking for then you’ll probably spend less time purchasing here than in the main store. There was also a dedicated Lacoste store near L’Orangerie.

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Final thoughts

I love what they’ve done with Roland Garros and it feels really unique. Sorry, you’re bored of me going on, but the area around Court Simonne-Mathieu is just lovely. The grounds do get busy and it can get overwhelming and frustrating trying to get on the outside courts. We were mostly lucky with the weather but I guess it’s a pain if it’s raining if you’re not on Chatrier as there are not many covered areas. I think the first Sunday is a good option as it did feel quieter than the Monday and Tuesday.

I really feel like i’ve done the French Open now and had the Chatrier experience! I’d definitely go again and i’m very fortunate that it’s so close by and quite easy to travel to. Very thankful to have finally done this trip and had my RG fix after three years in the making!

If you have any questions about the French Open, i’d be more than happy to help. You can comment in this post or send me a message on Twitter, Facebook, or e-mail at MooTennisBlog@gmail.com

5 thoughts on “Guide to Visiting the French Open

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