The Louvre is gigantic, crowded, and overwhelming, but it’s also home to some of the best art from around the world. It’s a Paris must-see, at least once. These tips will help you make the most of your Louvre experience.
I absolutely love Paris. And even though I usually enjoy its off-the-beaten path adventures more than its major tourist attractions, some things like the Louvre are important to experience, too. But it’s so colossal it takes a game plan:
1. How to preplan and prioritize
The Louvre really is huge — like 60,600 sq meters huge. That’s nearly 15 acres of pure museum and you won’t be able to see it all. So before you go, check out the Louvre’s selected artworks online to get a sense of what’s there. You might be surprised at how many pieces you’ll recognize — the Louvre has some of the most famous and reproduced artworks of all time such as The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci and the Venus de Milo.
Make a list of 5-10 of your must-sees. Next, check out the Louvre’s interactive floor plans to find out where they’re located. Create a route and don’t worry, you’ll end up seeing a lot of great art along the way as you work your way between each of the artworks on your list.
2. How to manage the crowds
Go into it knowing that the Louvre is going to be crowded, especially on any of its free days (July 14th/Bastille Day, and the first Sunday of the month Oct-Mar). The first time we went to the Louvre we went on Bastille Day. And although we saved money, it was so insanely crowded it wasn’t worth the headache. In fact we paid to go back the next day.
Mondays and Wednesdays also tend to be more crowded because the museum is closed on Tuesdays. And some artworks, the Mona Lisa, are always going to have a crowd regardless of when you go.
But if a particular work is important to you, then wait and wiggle your way to the front of the crowd to get your chance to see it in person. But also know that there’s almost always going to be a way less crowded option nearby. For instance, during our first visit in a long hallway near the Mona Lisa there were several other Da Vinci pieces that were larger (the Mona Lisa is smaller than a pizza box), equally masterful, and best of all not crowded.
3. How to still find the magic
Sometimes crowds make it hard to find the magic of a place like Paris. But the great thing is, like the city itself, The Louvre is large and most tourists only hit the highlights. This means that large portions of it are relatively—and sometimes completely—empty. It’s in these peaceful moments that we found our magic moments. And because its the Louvre, the art is incredible even in the tourist-free rooms, like this monolithic stone head from Easter Island we happened upon.
So be sure to budget some time at the end to just wander as far away from the crowds that you can. It will be moments like these that end up being the most memorable.
4. Other practicalities
— Laura Rowley