Paris: 7 tips for surviving the Louvre

Yes, you can survive the Louvre. Plan ahead, visit late, and remain calm. Photo: T. Meyers
Yes, you can survive the Louvre. Plan ahead, visit late, and remain calm. Photo: T. Meyers

By Bryan Pirolli in Paris—

The most visited museum in the world boasts more than a few masterpieces. With over 35,000 pieces of art on display and a crush of visitors six days a week, the Louvre is anything but quaint and calming. It can easily be one of the most exhausting experiences possible in Paris – even if it is one of the most rewarding.

Have the Venus de Milo to yourself at night. Photo: SethBC

With an expansive Egyptian collection, some enormous French canvases, and one curious little Italian who gets a whole wall to herself, the Louvre can take days to appreciate fully. But who has the time or stamina to see it all? If you’re heading to the Louvre for the first time, here are some tips to help you survive the experience and to come out still smiling, just like the museum’s most famous resident…

1. Go at night. 

The Louvre is open until 10 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays when admission (starting at 6 p.m.) is reduced and the crowds and school groups are fewer.  If you think you can’t see it all in four hours, trust me, you’ll see enough.

2.  Pack accordingly. 

While you aren’t exactly trekking the Andes, going through the Louvre is physically taxing. Bringing a small snack or bottle of water in a bag can help subdue any irritation that may occur while struggling to find an exit, bathroom, or place to sit for a rest. It can also get warm in the Louvre at some points, so have a layer or two ready to remove.

If you’re planning to crowd around Mona (above), do so early in your visit while you have energy. Photo: Willem Scholten

3. Make a game plan.

Take a map and take a moment to sit (emphasis on sit) and plan. The Louvre is big. Very big. Wandering it aimlessly can be enjoyable if you have no agenda, but if you want to see the major sights or any specific wings, make sure you plan a rough route first.

Otherwise, you’ll be knee-deep in the Egyptian wing before you realize you want to see the kings’ crowns, the Venus de Milo, and the statue garden with no logical way to tie them all together.

4. See the “big three” while you have energy.

See the highlights first while you still have energy to fight the crowds, especially if traveling with children. The big three are the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory statue perched atop one of the majestic staircases. With signs pointing the way, it’s not hard to find them, but plan on hitting them right away and then escaping to lesser-traveled galleries already feeling accomplished.

Enter through the Carrousel du Louvre to avoid lines. Photo: Luc Byhet

5. Enter through the Carrousel du Louvre.

Know your entrance options. Most people enter at the glass pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre, which is fine if there’s no line. But the safer bet is to enter into the Carrousel du Louvre, the underground shopping mall, towards an inverted glass pyramid (think Da Vinci Code) by the Apple store. At this entrance, the security line is often nonexistent. Numerous ticket machines in the main lobby make buying your ticket a breeze, but if you have a museum pass, it makes things even quicker yet.

6.  Consider the audio guide. 

While it sounds lame, be warned: None of the signs in the Louvre are in English. So unless your French is up to snuff, you might not know exactly what you’re looking at, and with 35,000 pieces of art and no stories to go with them, this could amount to some quick frustration for you and your travel mates.

Audio guides are fun for the whole family. Photo: Leonardo Bonanni

7.  Save it for later. 

No one said you have to go to the Louvre immediately. If it’s a once in a lifetime trip that brings you to Paris, by all means, get in there. But if you’re already planning your next trip then there’s no reason to rush inside. There’s no shortage of things to do in Paris, so either wait until you’ve experienced what you really want to get out of Paris, or else wait for a drizzly day to appreciate all of the wonders this former palace contains.

Also in our guide: Planning a trip to Paris right now? Head over to our Paris guide to read our hotel reviews. Our editors have visited, inspected and reviewed affordable hotels all over town, and recommended those we think are the best value. See advice on neighborhoods and more info in our Paris guide.

Your Louvre survival tips?

Do you have another piece of advice for visiting the Louvre without losing your sanity? Tell us about it in our comments section below.

About the author

Bryan Pirolli
About the author: With his college diploma fresh off the press, Bryan Pirolli headed for Paris and four years later he’s still there. A journalist and a tour guide, his main M.O. is pursuing a doctorate degree in communications at the Sorbonne Nouvelle. Bryan regularly travels on a budget, experiencing the best of European culture while still trying to make rent.  So far, so good. You can follow his adventures on his blog: www.bryanpirolli.com.
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Cheapo Comments

5 Responses to “Paris: 7 tips for surviving the Louvre”
  • Apsalar says:

    For another way in, there is also the Porte des Lions, which is on the wing closest to the river, away from the Louvre courtyard. Just look for an entrance guarded by 2 lion statues. We couldn’t get in from the metro due to a strike of some sort that morning, but when we asked a security guard if there was another way in that didn’t involve waiting in line at the Pyramid, he very nicely pointed out the way for us. There was no queue at all.

  • Rob says:

    1. Use the restroom before you go into the actual wings. Restrooms can be hard to find and distant once inside. An especially convenient one for women that is usually empty is in the Acceuil Groupes (Groups Center), a few steps from a restroom in the main hall that is almost always packed. Other useful ones are usually located just before the ticket check as you go into a wing.

    2. Don’t count on going in the Cour des Lions entrance, as suggested by another reader. In the last few months, this has been closed to entrances more often than not, although it has been available to exit the museum. If you CAN get in here, it is the fastest way to access the Mona Lisa. It is always closed on Friday. Another little recognized entrance into the Carrousel is from the stairs on either side of the Arc du Carrousel. (On a sunny, warm day, this is a nice exit to grab a sandwich from the Paul Bakery sandwich stand right outside near the stairs and have a picnic in the Tuilerie Gardens. Or, if you are a real cheapo, grab something from the MacDonalds in the Carrousel food court and take it to the Gardens.)

    3. Use the elevators. Let me repeat: Use the elevators. They will save you lots of time and even more energy. Very few visitors use the elevators. All the elevators are clearly marked and given a letter designation on the map you pick up at the information desk.

    4. Check the closed rooms sign at the information desk or pick up a closed room sheet. Every day and every evening some rooms are closed on a rotating schedule. A big renovation project currently means some rooms are and will be closed for a long time. This can be a big pain if you are looking to see specific paintings or just planning to transit through a closed area. The “Big 3” the author cites will not be closed.

    5. Remember, your ticket is good all day and for multiple entrances. Sometimes the fastest way to get someplace is to exit the wing you are in and to cross through the main entrance hall to the entrance for another wing.

  • Pete Meyers Pete Meyers says:

    Fantastic tips, Apsalar and Rob! Thanks for adding them!

    Pete

  • I prefer to take the bus to the Louvre instead of the metro. The metro lines serving the Louvre can be especially crowded.

  • These are great tips (and the comments too.) My wife and I are headed to Paris for 3 days in June and I will use these tips as I’m always looking for a competitive advantage!

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