With that unmistakeable glass pyramid, The Louvre is one of the most iconic attractions in Paris. Because of this, it is incredibly popular with tourists, attracting 7.3 million people per year, so you can expect to be fighting your way through the crowds to catch a glimpse of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Mona Lisa painting. Still it’s worth it, since the museum is home to a huge collection of art works including the Venus de Milo and Winged Victory. Here are my top tips for visiting the Louvre:
Buy tickets online
I’d highly recommend you purchase tickets to the Louvre Museum online before you go. By booking online you’ll be able to skip the line and save yourself time, meaning you’ll have more time to enjoy the treasures inside the museum. Often it can take up to 1 hour to get in if you queue up in the line outside the front, so better to prepare in advance and skip the queue.
If you wish, you can also choose to book a combo tour, which will include a skip-the-line ticket and a tour of Paris by Panoramic Bus. Highly recommended if you want to save your legs and see all of the sights in one go.
Speaking of buses, French shuttle bus company Le Bus Direct offers direct transfers between the airport and the city of Paris, so if you want to get into the city quickly and affordably, this is the best way to do it. Bust stops are located near the major attractions and you can even book tickets on your smartphone.
Allow yourself plenty of time
The Louvre is the world’s largest museum and one of the best art galleries in Paris. In total there are 35,000 works of art and 380,000 objects inside the museum. You will therefore need to allow yourself a good few hours if you really want to appreciate it all. Wear comfy shoes as you’ll be walking around and standing for quite a while.
Don’t be surprised – the Mona Lisa is smaller than you think!
A lot of people are shocked at how small the Mona Lisa painting is up close. It’s also really difficult to get a photo because there will be a huge crowd of tourists surrounding it. Still it’s fun to stand there for a while and ask yourself, “Is she smiling, or is she not?”
Don’t miss the other amazing works of art
Most people make a beeline for the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and Winged Victory. Those definitely the three most famous things to see, so if you’re really in a huge rush you could make a beeline for those and be finished in about half an hour. However, there are so many other incredible things to see in the museum, including sculptures, paintings, Egyptian antiquities, Greek and Roman antiquities, and Islamic art. Personally my favourite part was the Egyptian antiquities section, where you can see treasures such as the Great Sphinx of Tanis and even a real, well-preserved mummy. Allow yourself several hours if you plan to cover the museum more thoroughly. For more information on the top 10 things to see at the Louvre, check out this article.
Avoid peak times & don’t show up on a Tuesday
The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. If you show up on this day you’ll be disappointed. The Museum is open:
Monday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Wednesday, Friday: from 9 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.
The best time to visit is on a weekday morning. If you arrive in peak times things will be a lot more crowded.
Try a private tour
The Louvre is massive, with so many works of art to discover. If you want more in depth information, this Louvre private tour allows you to delve deeper into the hidden treasures of the museum. You’ll skip the lines and be taken around the Louvre by a local art historian who will discuss the composition and explain the stories behind some of the world’s greatest masterpieces. The Louvre can be quite overwhelming given its sheer size and number of art works, so this 2.5 hour tour is a great way to discover more than just the Mona Lisa. Having a personal guide gives a more intimate experience, plus it includes a fast-pass ticket that gets you straight into the museum. You’ll start with the Italian Renaissance artists such as Botticelli and Leonardo Da Vinci, before discovering French masters such as Théodore Géricault and Eugene Delacroix. You’ll also have the opportunity to discover the Greek and Roman sculpture sections, the 17th and 18th century School of Flanders, the Egyptian section, the Islamic art section, the Medieval Louvre, and the opulent Napoleon III apartments.
The first Sunday of each month is free
Access to the permanent collections is free for all visitors on the first Sunday of each month, however on these days the Louvre gets really, really busy with all those people taking advantage of the free entry. If you can afford it, better to purchase a skip the line ticket on an ordinary day.
Realise there’s more than one entrance
You might see the long lines outside the front of the Louvre pyramid and be scared away but there are actually other, less busy entrances, including the Passage Richelieu entrance, Galerie du Carrousel entrance and Porte des Lions entrance – the last one is for groups only.
Don’t bring big suitcases
The Louvre website recommends you don’t bring big bags and suitcases to the Museum. If your luggage doesn’t exceed 55 x 35 x 20 cm, you can place it in a locker after being checked.
Try visiting at night
The Louvre looks incredibly beautiful when it’s lit up at night time and best of all, it’s open till 10 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays. The museum tends to be slightly quieter in the evenings and this means you’ll be able to pack in more activities elsewhere during the daytime.
Eat afterwards in Jardins des Tuileries
There are numerous eateries inside the museum but they can be quite pricey and I’d recommend waiting till after your museum visit to get something to eat. Once you’ve spent half your day inside, it’s nice to get some fresh air and eat something in Jardins des Tuileries. When I visited Paris with my friend, we actually ate dinner in Cafe Marly, which overlooks the Louvre pyramid and has an outdoor terrace. It’s not cheap but it was worth it for the views.
The Louvre really is one of the best things to do in Paris and if you follow these tips, I’m sure you’ll enjoy your visit as much as I did.