Despite we love to talk about lesser-known places in Paris we understand that Louvre Museum is too special to skip it on your first visit to Paris. Actually we also enjoy the Louvre from time to time! But visiting one of the biggest museums of the world can be a painful experience without a little bit of planning. As locals who have been to the Louvre many times we would like to help you (Louvre tickets, hours, artwork . .) to get the most out of this fantastic museum with your limited time, here are our tips:
LOUVRE MUSEUM QUICK INTRO
The Musée du Louvre opened its doors to the public on August 10th 1793. Built in the XIIth century by king Philippe Auguste II as royal palace, it was over the years a symbol of the wealth, power and decadence of the French monarchy. Today the Louvre is the world’s largest museum (460.000 works of art in total) and, according to TEA/AECOM Museum Index, also the most visited museum on the planet (8.7 million of visitors in 2015).
The Louvre artwork covers Western art from the medieval period to 1848, formative works from the civilizations of the ancient world, and works of Islamic art.
LOUVRE TICKETS, HOURS . . . WHEN TO GO AND WHEN TO PAY LESS
The Louvre is open everyday except Tuesday from 9am to 6pm. On Wednesday and on Friday the museum also has a night session, from 6pm to 9.45pm. The museum closes on 1st May and on 25th December (public holidays).
Louvre tickets cost 15€ (17€ if bought online). However, in some cases, you can visit the museum for free:
- People under 18 years can always visit the Louvre for free;
- People from 18 to 25 years living in one of the UE countries can always visit the Louvre for free (bring a proof of residence with you);
- Every first Sunday of the month, from October to March, all the visitors can visit the Louvre for free;
- During special events, like the Museums’ Night (end of May – beginning of June) all the visitors can visit the Louvre for free;
- On 14th of July (France’s National Day) all the visitors can visit the Louvre for free.
HOW TO AVOID LONG QUEUES
First of all we suggest you to buy your Louvre tickets previously online. The museum’s website has its own online shop but you can also buy Louvre tickets in Paris, at any FNAC shop. When you buy the Louvre tickets you will have to choose a specific day and time. Online tickets cost 2€ more but it is worth the extra money because once you pass the museum’s security control you are in.
The best time to avoid long queues is early in the morning or late in the afternoon. The Louvre has 5 official entrances, some of them more popular than others. A long line or not is will be also a matter of picking the right entrance, here are our favourite ones:
We vote La Porte des Lions as the best entrance because it is the least used and at only 10 minutes walk from the Mona Lisa. That means that if you are there when they open you have good chances to take a cool Mona Lisa selfie without many heads in between.
Update (March 2017): it seems there are some changes with Porte des Lions. Last time we went to the Louvre (February 2017) it was closed “for technical reasons”. To know if you can use this door or not, contact the Louvre directly the day before your visit at +33 (0)1 40 20 53 17.
La Pyramide du Louvre, the main entrance, is definitely your worst choice, there is always a long queue!
Bring comfortable shoes, you are going to walk A LOT. Dress in layers, like an onion. Some areas of the Louvre are very crowded and warm while some corridors or lesser known areas are colder.
BRING YOUR OWN SNACKS
There are a couple of restaurants inside the Louvre but they are overpriced. If you are traveling on a budget, the best idea is to bring your own snacks and water. There are a couple of benches at the central hall, just before the tickets control, and nobody will bother you if you are eating a sandwich or a snack there. Once you finish you can go in again just showing your Louvre tickets.
HAVE A PLAN FOR YOUR VISIT
We are sorry to tell you that it is impossible to visit all the Louvre in one day. Actually if you spent one minute seeing each piece of art, it would take you 64 days to see everything in the entire museum. So to get the most out of your Louvre day a plan is necessary.
The collection is grouped into eight Departments: Paintings, Egyptian Antiquities, Greek Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, Near Eastern Antiquities, Sculptures, Decorative Arts, Islamic Art and Prints & Drawings. There are 403 rooms in total, 14.5 km of rooms and corridors and 72.735 m2 of exhibition spaces.
In our opinion there are four ways to visit the Louvre on your own (for us the follow the umbrella visits are not an option):
1- Enter the museum and start walking through galleries and galleries randomly. This is not definitely what we recommend in a huge museum like the Louvre.
2- Follow the experts at your own path with an audio guide or a phone app. You can buy your audio guide online in advance but you will need to queue to pick it up when you arrive at the museum. Instead, Louvre has official applications for free that you can download at home. Warning: while the content is great this audio guide/app option may put you on the same track than many other tourists.
3- Make your own wish list, study it at home with the help of Louvre’s interactive plans and make your own (logistically smart) itinerary to avoid walking unnecessary kilometres.
4- Pick one department and focus your attention only on this department to get the most out of it. That’s our favorite way to visit the Louvre because we live in Paris and we can go to visit the rest of the museum whenever we want. It can also be perfect for Louvre second, third-timers or people interested (expert) in a specific subject.
Whatever you decide, pick a paper map at your arrival, take some breaks from time to time and use the bathroom when you see them (I never find a bathroom when I really need it, lol).
WHAT TO SEE?
The museum’s website displays the best pieces of art for each department, with a short description and picture, so you can make your own Louvre artwork wish list at home by surfing the web a little bit. If you need some help to decide what to see, here are some tips:
The Louvre has its own selection of masterpieces, 24 in total :
LOCATED IN SULLY WING
Venus de Milo; Frieze of Archers; The Marly Horses; Louis XIV Portrait; The Cheat with the Ace of Diamonds; The Seated Scribe;
LOCATED IN DENON WING
Diamond known as “the Regent”; July 28: Liberty Leading the People; Mona Lisa; Portrait of a Woman Known as “The European”; The Consecration of Emperor Napoleon and the Coronation of Empress Joséphine on December 2, 1804; The Coronation of the Virgin; The Lacemaker; The Raft of the Medusa; The Rebellious Slave; The Wedding Feast at Cana; The Winged Victory of Samothrace; Une Odalisque; Woman with a Mirror.
LOCATED IN RICHELIEU WING
Law Code of Hammurabi King of Babylone; Leaf of a Dyptich: the Emperor Triumphant; Dürer’s Self-Portrait Holding a Thilster; The Rape of the Sabine Women; Winged Human-Headed Bull;
To honour Louvre’s 220th anniversary, CNN asked through its IG account what were users’ favorite artworks in Louvre. Here is the list of CNN’s 10 most popular artworks (from 1st to 10th):
The Winged Victory of Samothrace; Mona Lisa; Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss (Denon Wing); The Louvre Building; The Raft of the Medusa; The Consecration of Emperor Napoleon and the Coronation of Empress Joséphine on December 2, 1804; Venus de Milo; The Young Martyr (Denon Wing); The Virgin of the Rocks (Denon Wing); The Lacemaker (Richelieu Wing).
Our favorite list would be a mix of the two lists above plus some other Primitive Italian artworks (Duccio, Cimabue), and something by Caravaggio. We could also add the oldest exposed item, the statue of Aïn Ghazal dated around 7000 BC (Sully Wing, Ground Floor, Levant Hall D) and the most bizarre item exposed, the Hermaphrodite (Sully Wing, Ground Floor Salle des Caryatides Hall 17), look for it and try to guess why 😉
ENJOY A PALACE WITH A RICH HISTORY
The Louvre was designed in the XIIth century as a fortress to prevent invasions from the north. The arsenal included bastions at each corner, a surrounding moat and a massive, fortified tower (or keep) at its center. Today visitors still can view the remains of part of the fortress’ medieval masonry in the 13th century Salle Basse, or Lower Hall.
In the 14th century, the city had spread far beyond its borders and a new series of defenses was constructed on the outskirts of Paris. For this reason, the royal fortress ceased to be used for defensive purposes in it was razed to make way for a lavish royal residence in Renaissance style. With King Francis I dozens of new wings and freestanding buildings were constructed at the site. These buildings were eventually connected by a series of galleries and pavilions giving the building its unifying facade.
Today most of the Louvre’s rooms are public museum space. An exception is Napoleon’s large and luxurious apartment, which has been kept intact and it’s really something to see. Highlights include a couple large salons where Napoleon III met his European counterparts and other important people and the dining room. Like in any other palace-visit, don’t forget to look up: some of the ceilings in galleries and halls are very impressive.
If you want to know more about the Louvre itself, the palace, its history, missions and the kings who actually lived there, visit Le Pavillon de l’Horloge. Located in renovated historic areas between the Cour Carrée and the Cour Napoléon and opened only since 2016 this new area welcomes visitors with Interactive models, digital displays, films, and artworks to tell the Louvre’s story.
BEWARE OF PICKPOCKETS
We never had any problem in Louvre but it seems pickpockets are an issue in this museum. Never leave your bag unattended and if somebody comes to you asking for your email or a donation just ignore him and walk away, it is a scam.
VISIT MORE THAN ONCE (IF YOU CAN)
If you are really interested in Arts, you will have to come again to enjoy some other sections or other Louvre artwork that you missed during the previous visit. Paris is always a good idea and another visit to the Louvre is the perfect excuse to come back to Paris 😉
Hope you find this post useful. We wish you a nice visit to the Louvre, have fun!
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