How to Visit the Louvre

June 9, 2017 Updated: August 31, 2017

PARIS—A medieval fortress turned royal palace turned museum—the Louvre takes you on a cultural journey through the ages, with around 38,000 works of art on display.

Navigating this unparalleled collection of art can be tricky. To avoid endless walking through the vast halls, it’s a good idea to plan out your route ahead of time. (Or if you’re more of a spontaneous type, ditch the map and, in an age of time efficiency and over-scheduling, just leave it to serendipity.)

A Plan

The map of the Louvre looks like an intricate board game. There are three wings—Sully, Richelieu, and Denon—that are all connected through the pyramid reception on Level 2. Rise to Level 1 and you’ll stumble across Spanish and Italian masterpieces, then a dazzling collection of objet d’art.

One option is to plan your route around certain works you’d like to see. You can absorb the atmosphere from sculptures such as the 4,500-year-old Egyptian Seated Scribe; the two winged, human-headed bulls carved from a single block from Mesopotamia; or the mysterious Venus de Milo. In the Richelieu wing on Level 1, wander through the illustrious decorative arts collection to the lavish Napoleon III apartments. Be sure to discover the evolution of the building and its layout on Level 1 of the Pavillon de l’Horloge (the Clock Pavilion).

 

The Louvre under the French King Philippe Auguste
The Louvre was created under the French King Philippe Auguste in 1190 as protection from Anglo-Norman invaders. The reconstruction above shows the contrast of the original building to the floor plan today. Over the coming years it evolved from a fortress, to a Royal Palace, then a museum. (© Aristeas 2016/Musée du Louvre)

Level 1 is home to the “Mona Lisa.” The crowd of people taking selfies around the painting is a spectacle in itself. If you squeeze past the throngs, you might decide that her faint smile attracts attention that exceeds her mastery. Not too far away is another painting by Leonardo Da Vinci, “The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne,” that is as poetic and unearthly as the “Mona Lisa,” but minus the crowds.

Another option is to prioritize the cultures and collections you’d like to delve into on your visit, as it’s impossible to see it all in one day. A vast collection of European decorative art, from the Middle Ages through the end of the Second Empire, runs the gamut from stained glass to goldsmithery to ceramics. Antiquities from ancient civilizations are spread across different levels and wings: the Egyptian collection, giving insight into the lives of ancient Egyptians, spans three levels of the Sully wing; the Near Eastern collection, including artifacts from North Africa to the Indus River, can be found in the Richelieu and Sully wings; and the Greek, Etruscan, and Roman collection, displaying archaeological findings as works of art, can be found in the Devon and Sully wings. 

Buying Tickets

It’s best to preorder tickets. The standard ticket price to enter the Louvre is 15 euros. If you’re staying in a hotel, tickets are usually available to purchase there. Alternatively, buy a ticket before entering the museum at the tabac located near the Métro. To get there, take the Carrousel exit and walk across the road to a shopping center with a red sign that reads “99 Le Carrousel du Louvre.” Go down the escalators and turn right. The tabac will be on your right.

If you’re planning to visit several sites in Paris, the Paris Museum Pass grants unlimited access to over 50 sites in and around the city, including the Louvre. Tickets can be ordered online too, where you can also pre-order an audio guide. Check online in advance to see if there are any room closures to avoid disappointments (two days for 48 euros, four days for 62 euros, and six days for 74 euros; free for children under 18 and EU members ages 18 to 25).

Skipping the Lines

Around 7.4 million people visited the Louvre in 2016, and 70 per cent were foreign tourists. Many enter through the iconic glass pyramid. There are three more entrances, which can sometimes be quieter. These are located in the Carrousel du Louvre shopping center, the Passage Richelieu, and the Porte des Lions.

On the first Sunday of the month, from October to March, the permanent exhibitions at the Louvre are free, but lines can be much longer than normal on these days, so avoid these Sundays for a quieter experience.

The Louvre is open every day, except Tuesdays, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Open late on Wednesdays and Fridays. Closed on the following dates: Aug. 15 and Dec. 25, 2017.

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