The visit, his first in five years, will be spent largely in Strasbourg.
The Tibetan spiritual leader, 81, will not meet French President Francois Hollande or any member of government.
Official receptions for the Dalai Lama on overseas trips from his exile in India have increasingly vexed the Chinese government. Beijing says its troops "peacefully liberated" Tibet in 1951 and insists it has since brought development to a previously backward region, but many Tibetans accuse officials of repressing their religion and eroding their culture.
Tension has mounted after the French university Sciences Po cancelled a planned conference with the Dalai Lama.
"Of course we don't know the real details behind the decision [of cancelling the planned conference], but the explanation they have given is very strange indeed," Robert Barnett, a Tibet expert at New York's Columbia University told RFI. "Especially since they had originally planned to have a two-hour event with 500 students and it was going to be a major event for Sciences Po."
Regarding that explanation, Barnett said the university first drastically scaled back the event to include some 30 religious representatives, before saying the event was in fact pointless, given that the Dalai Lama would have an opportunity to meet with Paris's religious community elsewhere at a broader forum in a separate event planned for Tuesday night.
The university has not officially commented on the matter.