If you’re headed to Paris, chances are you’re headed to the Louvre, right? It’s one of the largest and most famous museums in the world, not least of which for the historic palace it’s housed in and the giant glass pyramid that attracted the eye of architects from every corner of the globe. Let’s be real, if Paris has one must-see destination, the Musee du Louvre is it.
But that insanely large collection that makes the Louvre so appealing can be completely overwhelming for the first time visitor, especially when that pressure is coupled by the desire to see as many of the famous pieces as you can while still aiming to see everything else.
That being said, there are a few easy tips and tricks to help make a visit to the Louvre as smooth and stress-free as any of us hope our trips to be.
1 – Plan the areas you want to see
Let it be known that I am a stickler for planning – oh who am I kidding, you guys all know that. My first tip for visiting the Louvre is no exception to this rule.
The Louvre is massive and entirely unconquerable in the day or half-day you scheduled in to see it on your trip, so we’ll have to get selective.
The museum is conveniently organised into eight curatorial departments: Paintings (where the iconic Mona Lisa resides), Egyptian antiquities, Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities, Near Eastern antiquities, Sculptures, Decorative Arts, Islamic art, and Prints and Drawings. From this list you’re probably already leaning towards some area in particular you’d like to see; for me it was all of the antiquities departments and the sculptures, so that’s where I headed first.
This way you get to see the areas you really want to see, and might even have some spare time left over to have a squiz at the other departments. Everybody wins!
For more information on what each department encompasses, the Louvre Museum website has a pretty comprehensive description and overview of the collection, which can be found here.
2 – Book your tickets in advance
You’ve probably heard me say this before, but book your tickets in advance for the Louvre! I’m serious. Since you’re headed to the Louvre, it’s probably safe to assume that every other tourist in the city of Paris is doing the same thing, which means that the queue for buying tickets is going to be loooooong.
Save yourself the stress and inconvenience of standing in line, and worrying about whether you’re going to get in, and book your tickets in advance! You can find all the information you’ll need here.
Note: Since the November 2015 Paris Terrorist Attacks security is on high alert across all Parisian institutions, which includes the Louvre and other museums. Make sure you’re aware of what this could entail, and any changes it could make to museum admission.
3 – Don’t just go for the iconic pieces
Okay, so you’ve got your tickets and a rough plan of what you want to see, and now you’re eagerly awaiting the day you can set foot in the wonderland that is the Musee du Louvre. But wait a minute, your best friend/Mum/interested co-worker just asked if you’re going to see the Mona Lisa, or what about the Venus de Milo? Oh well you’ll have to see Delacroix’s iconic works, right? Engage: plan freak-out mode.
Don’t panic! Sure, it’s tempting to just follow the herds of people and see all the famous pieces littering the Louvre, but why do you want to? Sure, see them if you can, and be that one millionth person to snap a ‘gram with Da Vinci’s enigmatic woman if that’s your style. But there is so much more to the Louvre than what everybody else sees.
At the end of the day do you want to tell your friends that yeah you saw [insert famous piece here], or do you also want to be able to tell them the time you wandered off the beaten track inside the museum and discovered a room filled entirely with illuminated manuscripts from the 12th century. The choice is yours.
4 – Look up!
Yes, the Louvre is amazing. Yes, that sculpture is mind-blowing. But did you know that before the museum moved in the, the building that the Louvre is housed in was originally a 12th century fortress built by King Phillip II.
Over the years the palace was expanded and grown until in 1682, King Louis XIV decided to move the entire royal household to the Palace of Versailles, leaving the Louvre Palace behind as a place to display the royal collection of art and antiquities.
As you can imagine, the Louvre Palace itself is a work of art. Many of the ceilings are painted with stunning artworks rivalling those that hang on its walls, and that’s not even noting the classic style of French architecture that oozes out of every window and archway.
While it may be hard to drag your eyes away from all the splendours around you, don’t forget to look up every once in a while and marvel at the decadence of the French monarchy. I promise you won’t regret it!
5 – Don’t be afraid to explore
I touched on this lightly in tip 3, but my fifth and final tip, which you can apply to pretty much any aspect of travelling, is that don’t be afraid to explore. Take a plunge and dip into that less crowded side room that caught your eye, or spend a few more minutes reading about a sculpture you just can’t stop gawking at. Travel is all about learning more about yourself and about the world around you, and what better way to do that than to connect with the past and culture of the country you are visiting.
The Louvre is a huge, intimidating, and simply wonderful place to lose yourself in, and truly worth throwing out all other plans you had made for the day so you are able to get the full experience.
You may only ever be in Paris once, so why not make it count!
I hope this article helps any first-time Louvre visitors, and I’d love to know your thoughts on this iconic museum. Let me know in the comments down below if you have any other tips I might have missed and help out your fellow wanderers!