I am a huge fan of museums...guess that comes along with being an Art History major in university. When you go to Paris, you absolutely MUST go to the Louvre (but only after you've read these Tips for Visiting The Louvre). That being said, it is one of the largest museums in the world. This means it is full of tourists. There are various types of tourists here:
- The selfie stick mafia. These guys get validification from having all their friends know they went to the Louvre. For them it is not about the art, but about being seen with the art. Yes, you saw the Mona Lisa...so did a trillion other people...you are not that special - seriously.
- Masterpiece Hunters. These tourists that go see only the main pieces. You will see them with an outlined map and they will head from Nike to Mona to Venus. Snap a shot and walk away. Very similar to the selfie stick mafia.
- The Tour Groups. These are my least favorite. They come in groups of 10-20 and wear headsets so they can hear their guide. They will trample you because they are afraid of getting lost and will stop to take a quick picture of a piece of art that catches their eye and then run to rejoin their group - which is basically just doing the Masterpiece tour.
- The Smart Museum Goer. Let this be you. You prepared. You purchased tickets ahead, entered the right way, and know to be done with the Louvre before 11:30am when it gets really crazy. Now I will give you all the tips you need to become this type of tourist.
As I said, the Louvre is HUGE! it is over 60,000 square meters long. There are more than 35,000 pieces of art on permanent exhibit, and there are more than 10 million visitors per year. This is the museum with the most visitors in the world. This means if you did not buy tickets for the Louvre ahead of time, you'll be standing on line for a long time. It means that if you get there at the wrong time you won't be able to see the pieces you want to see, and it means that you'll have an unpleasant visit...unless you keep reading.
Before I go into all my tips, understand that you cannot see the museum in one day. It's too big, and there is too much amazing art. If you're in Paris for a short time, pick and choose what you want to see, but if you see something that catches your eye..stop and enjoy it. There are some amazing pieces there...this is the best part of the museum. I've been there three times...and I have yet to see the entire thing. This is perfectly alright. You don't have to do it all, it's much better to do it well.
Tips for Visiting The Louvre Museum
1) Pick the time you want to go (either early AM or late PM)
Tuesdays are out of the question since the Louvre museum is closed. It is also closed on January 1, May 1, and December 1. I recommend that you check their website in case things change.
The museum's hours are from 9 am to 6 pm, but on Wednesday and Friday, it is open until 9:45 pm. On these days, the admission price is reduced if you come in after 6 pm. There are less crowds and not as many school groups. This is the best time to come.
The second best time to come is super early in the morning. If you arrive at 8:45, you can enter by 9 am and beat most of the crowds.
2) Purchase your Louvretickets ahead of time.
Do not. I repeat - DO NOT purchase your Louvre tickets on the day of. Don't show up at the Louvre museum at 11am without tickets. You'll stand in line for hours, get tired, and you'll have to fight tons of tourists. Instead, go to a FNAC. This is sort of like a Barnes & Noble mixed with Ticketmaster and a Best Buy. You can go and purchase tickets for a specific day and time. You can also purchase them online to pick up at the FNAC. This means you will save yourself tons of time wasted on line.
If you did not purchase your Louvre tickets ahead of time, you can buy them after you've gone through security. There are automated machines to pick up your tickets.
3) Free Entry
If you're on a budget and you still want to visit the Louvre, you can go for free the first Sunday of each month. It won't be as easy of a visit as if you visited at night, but you can still make it work.
4) Paris Museum pass
I'm not a fan of these because I am not the type of person who will rush past a museum. I am also an art dork. The Paris Museum Pass gets you admission (line free) to 60+ museums and monuments in Paris. This includes the Louvre. I do not consider these a good deal unless you do the 6 day pass. Again, I like to spend tons of time in one museum, so this is more for those who are masterpiece chasers. The breakdown of pricing on the Paris Museum Pass.
2-day pass: €42
4-day pass: €56
6-day pass: €69
5) Use the Right Entrance
Don't be a sucker and stand on line to enter at IM Pei's Pyramid entrance. There are a few entrances you can take...I will leave my favorite for last:
---Carousel Du Louvre Entrance: This is the entrance to the underground shopping mall. This will lead you into a smaller inverted pyramid next to the Apple Store. The security line here is more lax and there are a lot more ticket machines, so less of a line if you don't have tickets. If you happen to have the Paris Museum Pass, your wait will be incredibly short.
---Passage Richelieu: This entrance also works. Much shorter lines and security is a breeze.
PRO TIP: Porte des Leons: This one is the least used and leads into the African art collection. If you want to see the Monalisa, this is an awesome entrance as you can be there 10 minutes walk from entry.
6) Skip the Line for the Audio Guide
I love audio guides. That being said, this will just tack on more time to your visit. Instead download either the Louvre app which has a decent amount of information on some of the most notable pieces in the Louvre, or check out the Rick Steves podcast. Warning, this one will put you in the same trajectory as most tourists, so while the content is great...it is not my favorite type of experience.
7) Know what you want to see in the Louvre
The Louvre is huge. It is a beast you can easily get lost in. If you have pieces you absolutely MUST see, plan ahead. Check their website, find out where it is and go there first. I would suggest that you either grab a museum map, or keep one on your smart phone for reference.
The Louvre website has a handy plan your visit area where they have interactive plans that you can download and study before you go.
8) Wear comfortable travel shoes
This is good advice for any trip you take and any museum you visit. The marble staircase to see Nike of Samothrace is super slippery (I almost fell there the other day with my leather bottom boots). Wear shoes with non slip bottoms and tons of arch support.
9) Getting to the Louvre
You can take the Paris metro, but it is usually quite crowded. The bus...or your feet can be quite a nice experience.
---Metro/Subway: Take the #1 and get off at the Palais-Royal–Musée du Louvre station.
---Bus: Take either the 21, 24, 27, 39, 48, 68, 69, 72, 81, 95, or the Paris Open Tour bus and get off at the Pyramid.
---Car: You really are a masochist if you drive...seriously. If you do, there is an underground parking garage on Avenue du Général Lemonnier.
---Batobus: Take the boat bus and get off at the Louvre stop (Quai François Mitterrand).
8) Food at the Louvre.
There are plenty of places to eat at the Louvre. I counted about 15 different places inside the museum and in the Tuileries gardens. Most happen to be a pricey (it's all about location). That being said, I love Cafe Diana. Grab a Jambon Beurre and a carafe of rose. You can enjoy little kids playing in the park and while not cheap, it won't break the wallet either.
9) After your visit to the Louvre
Stop by the miniature Arc de Triomphe du Carousel and stroll in the Jardin Des Tuileries. It is a stunning park with fountains, flowers, sculptures, and tons of people. If you're still feeling energetic, test yourself out and see how close you can make it to the actual Arc de Triomphe.
10) Use the Bathroom when you see it
You will want to use any bathroom you see when they are available. Otherwise you will find when you need it it will be impossible to find. Trust me. If you want to try something different, try the paid bathrooms on the Richelieu exit. For 2 Euros, you can try the Japanese spa bathroom...don't ask me. It's something you need to learn about yourself.
11) Small purses.
I am known for only carrying a clutch. I am not a fan of large handbags. Ladies...this one is for you. If you wear a large bag you will piss off everyone and waste not just your time, but mine. So...please leave baggage at home. Nobody likes people with baggage.
12) Walk Around the Art
When looking at art, if possible, walk around it. You will most likely be pleasantly surprised by the details. On a similar note, don't be an asshole. Don't touch the art, don't lean on the art, and don't put your purse on the art. I will yell at you, call a guard over and get you kicked out. You've been warned.
Yeah...so...I've never had an experience getting pick pocketed in Paris or at the Louvre. But I've been traveling for a long time. I've heard stories of people being pick pocketed...but has not happened to me yet. Just be smart and you'll be just fine. Oh, and the people that come up to you asking you for your email and a donation. Just ignore, walk away, or give them a very mean "NO". It's a scam.
In closing. Leave the selfie sticks at home, skip the tour groups, go early, and have an amazing time. And if you have other Tips for Visiting The Louvre, or a particular question on your visit, let me know in the comments.