2024 French Open: Tips for Enjoying Roland Garros

Jon Wertheim gives the inside scoop on how to take in the tournament, including transportation, food and prime viewing.
Stan Smith and Stefan Edberg were on hand to watch Novak Djokovic win his 23rd major at Roland Garros.
Stan Smith and Stefan Edberg were on hand to watch Novak Djokovic win his 23rd major at Roland Garros. / Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

Wimbledon is a lovely sporting event, awash in charm. But it’s played in a village, a healthy commute from central London. The U.S. Open is a rollicking lollapalooza, awash in sweaty energy. But it’s played far from the beating pulse of New York City, reachable from Manhattan only by bridge or tunnel.

The French Open—or Roland Garros, as the hommes and femmes in the branding department would prefer you call it—on the other hand, is a city event. The venue is barely a mile from the Arc de Triomphe. In this bike-friendly city, you can leave the tennis venue, pick up a Vélib' (Paris’s answer to Citi Bike), and be at the Eiffel Tower in 15 minutes. If you can’t walk from Roland Garros to your Paris hotel, you’re a short ride away on the Metro.

There are some drawbacks to staging an urban event. For one, in terms of real estate, Roland Garros is far and away the smallest of the majors. The venue is closing in on 100 years old and occasionally shows its age. It also has the tensest relationship with its neighbors, challenging as it is to expand its footprint, much less tap into public funds to do so. This year, after the last ball, it will be turned into the Olympic tennis (and boxing) venue.

Still, there is an undeniable charm to the tournament. (And befitting a sporting venue named not for an athlete, but for a military pilot, there is an undeniable quirkiness as well.) The gems come in large and small sizes. There’s a court that doubles as a terrarium. There’s the neighborhood, wedged, as the event is, among parks and gardens and upscale residential apartment buildings. There are small touches too, like the on-site orange trees or the secret passageways.

Clay-court tennis demands a different skill and mentality from playing on asphalt. And the French Open tends to feature some of the year’s most fierce and demanding battles—if not classic matches. But even if you’re watching a blowout, you could do worse than spending a few days in the late spring watching tennis in Paris. 

Here are some tips for attending the French Open. 

1. Getting there

Taking the metro to the Porte d'Auteuil stop is one of the easiest ways to get to Roland Garros.
Taking the metro to the Porte d'Auteuil stop is one of the easiest ways to get to Roland Garros. / Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

• Get tickets but don’t sweat tickets. This event is much closer to the U.S. Open than to Wimbledon. You may have to engage with fee-heavy websites (or scalpers you can still find near the Porte d'Auteuil metro stop). But few sessions are fully sold out and you should be okay to get through the gates.

• Speaking of … taking the metro—which is clean, safe, punctual and generally outstanding—to Porte d'Auteuil is your best bet. That, and/or biking.

• There are lots of streets either closed or snarled with traffic. You’ll pay for trying to get too close. If you take an Uber or cab, get off at Hotel Molitor and walk the 100 or so yards.

• Paris has Uber but it can be janky. A lot of two-minute waits turn into 10-minute waits. Again, metro, walk or bike.

• For will-call especially, bring I.D., preferably a passport. I’ve heard stories of people coming to pick up tickets and—even armed with the same credit card used to make the purchase—having trouble because they cannot identify themselves.

2. On the grounds

The ball people play a starring role at Roland Garros.
The ball people play a starring role at Roland Garros. / Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

• This year, in particular, do note the Rafael Nadal statue. (Hot take: It says as much about Nadal’s character as his tennis that the event felt comfortable immortalizing him with a statue before his retirement. You’ll note that the Tour de France, wisely, did not honor Lance Armstrong while he was still cycling.)

• There is no finer tennis venue than Court Simonne-Mathieu. Full stop. Trust us.

• As always, the practice schedule is your friend. (And the event is good about posting times and locations.) Nadal, for instance, favors Courts 5 and 17. Fans in the know are there waiting.

• As always, cheer for your favorite players. And for those who could use it or deserve it for reasons additional to their games. The Ukrainians. Dasha Kasatkina. Danielle Collins. You will no doubt be reminded, but note this is Alizé Cornet’s last event.

• Check out the apiary behind Court Suzanne Lenglen. Yes, you read right.

• The upper reaches of Court Philippe-Chatrier double as vistas to see much of the Paris skyline, such as it is, including the Tower of Eiffel.

• The ramasseurs—the ball kids—play a starring role. Most mornings an hour before match play, they charge down the concourse, singing their theme song.

• The same holds for Wimbledon, but Americans are often surprised by how late the sun goes down. It’s June. Paris is deceptively far north. It’s entirely possible day matches may go until 9:30 p.m. local time. Consider that when making dinner plans.

• Feel free to take a dig at the charm-deprived, awkward money grabs that are the night sessions. Initially, the women were upset when they thought they were getting shortchanged. Then they saw how these sessions played, the weird ambiance and the way late finishes wrecked players’ rhythms. They rightly said Nah, we’re good. Go ahead and load them up with best-of-five matches.

• Speaking of money grabs … the Sunday start used to be a “soft open,” a day when few top players were on the concert bill. More and more, it’s a proper session with stars. (I believe Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka were among them last year.)

• Hydrate. And Perrier > Vittel > Evian.

• The food on site is … fine. It's not embarrassing and not extortionately priced. The croque monsieur draws rave reviews. But you might want to bring your own sandwiches. There’s room for improvement here, especially for a city known to have a decent restaurant. Or 10,000.

• Just stroll the grounds and note the small (and again, quirky) touches. Surely this is the only major sporting event offering complimentary Haribo gummy bears in some of the restrooms. There is a back path between the two show courts on which you might cross wild birds. The botanical gardens that abut Court Simonne-Mathieu are lovely.

• Actually, they’re better than lovely. At least in past years, the event has been about re-entry. If you need a break or a nap, buy a baguette and spend 45 minutes or so in the botanical gardens or the Bois before heading back to enjoy the tennis.

• If a French player is in action, stop by. Note the rabid fans … and how quickly they can turn on their players when they start losing.

• Insider tip: Several players (including Roger Federer in his day) sometimes practice at the courts across the road in the Bois on their off days. Before you enter the stadium, it might be worth poking around.

3. Nearby

Roland Garros is situated in the city of Paris, making it easy to get out and explore around the venue.
Roland Garros is situated in the city of Paris, making it easy to get out and explore around the venue. / Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

• The Bois de Boulogne is one of Paris’s secrets hiding in plain sight. Detour through it on the way to Roland Garros. It’s on the other end from Roland Garros, but get ambitious and make a reservation at the Fondation Louis Vuitton.

• To the dismay of drivers, especially cabbies, (and to the joy of so many of us) Paris has become an A-plus bike town. Bike lanes everywhere. Paths along the Seine. Vélib', the bike-sharing program, is excellent. You can get a lime e-bike using your Uber app and there are multiple Vélib' docking stations.

• The metro is terrific. Reliable. Clean. Frequent. The stops are (too) close together. Don’t worry when you see your hotel is a dozen stops from Porte d’Auteuil station. It won’t take that long.

• Because you need another reason to like France … showing a media card or a student I.D. gets you into most museums and galleries for free.

4. Miscellaneous

French Open champions can often be seen posing in front of the Eiffel Tower with their trophies after the tournament.
French Open champions can often be seen posing in front of the Eiffel Tower with their trophies after the tournament. / Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

• There’s a joke that Parisians like the Eiffel Tower for one reason only: If they climb the steps, they finally get a panoramic view of Paris unimpeded by the Eiffel Tower. This is the encapsulation of jaded. The Eiffel Tower is awesome. It’s centrally located. It’s a few bucks to ascend. Be a tourist and do it.

• Everyone has a favorite restaurant and recommendation but here’s the truth: you can’t go wrong. The neighborhood bistro near your Airbnb or hotel (remember hotels?) is just as good as the Michelin Star joint your lawyer’s sister’s dentist recommends so lustily.

• Le Relais de Entrecote is terrible and touristy and bad quality beef and must be avoided at all costs. (Unless you’re in line, in which case please hold my spot.) Seriously, it’s mediocre, sometimes leathery steak bathed in divine sauce. Like put-it-in-our-veins divine. And it’s fun and reasonably priced. The Left Bank location is farther from the tennis but tends to have shorter lines.

• Contrary to some reports, the French are, collectively, awesome. And they don’t regard the English language as a sound the devil makes. Most of the country speaks it and speaks it well. Which helps those of us who are not conversant in French. Acknowledging that any linguistic shortcoming is our fault, not theirs? It goes a long way. Starting by saying, “Ex-Koos Em-Wa. Parlay-Vu Ong-Glay?” goes a long way toward eroding any language barrier.

• Seriously, hydrate.

Jon Wertheim


Sports Illustrated executive editor and senior writer L. Jon Wertheim is one of the most accomplished sports journalists in America.