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The Louvre 101: Everything You Need to Know About Visiting the World’s Most Popular Museum

See the Louvre’s highlights while avoiding crowds as much as possible.

More than 10.2 million people from around the globe visited the Louvre in 2018, making the Paris art museum the most popular in the world. It’s also one of the largest in the world covering roughly 18 acres. Simply seeing the highlights can be a challenge if you don’t plan before you go.

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PHOTO: Celine Solidum
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Why Is the Louvre So Popular?

The Louvre is more than just an art museum—it was originally a medieval fortress, then it was the royal palace before the monarchy moved to Versailles. Following the French Revolution, the National Assembly turned it into a museum showcasing 537 works of art.

Despite closing and reopening several times, the Louvre steadily amassed a collection of roughly 568,000 works spanning from ancient times to 1850, 38,000 of which are on display. While it is best known for Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid, which has served as the museum’s main entrance since 1988, is a recognizable Paris landmark.

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PHOTO: Valerie Sugar
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What Is There to See Besides the Mona Lisa?

Some of the world’s greatest masterpieces can be found in the Louvre, including the armless Aphrodite (better known as Venus de Milo) and the Winged Victory of Samothrace, one of the world’s most celebrated Greek sculptures. Also on display are Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People and Jacques-Louis David’s The Coronation of Napoleon plus works by Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and Raphael.

While the Louvre is known for its sculptures and European paintings, it also has an impressive collection of Egyptian and Near Eastern antiquities and Islamic art. In the Richelieu wing, you can glimpse what life for the royals might have been like by touring the Napoleon III apartments and, on the lower ground floor, you can walk around the remains of the original moat.

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PHOTO: Valerie Sugar
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How Should I Plan My Visit to See the Highlights?

You physically can’t see everything in one day. The Louvre’s exhibition space sprawls nearly 18 acres (782,913 square feet). It has 403 rooms in three wings on multiple levels connected by staircase after staircase. Even a few hours spent exploring can be a workout. Before you go, spend some time on the Louvre’s website getting a feel for the museum’s layout. The site also has thematic visitor trails you can print out before you go or use on your smartphone to guide you to the Louvre’s highlights.

If you just want to see the Mona Lisa and a few sculptures and paintings along the way, head for the Denon Wing and follow the signs (and crowds). The Venice de Milo is located on the ground floor in Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities.

 

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PHOTO: Cynthia Liang/Shutterstock
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Are There Guided Tours?

Yes. The Louvre actually offers three free guided tours in English. The Welcome to the Louvre tour covers the museum’s highlights every day at 11 am and 2 pm and on Wednesday at 7 pm. There’s also a My First Louvre tour on Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. for families and Another Louvre tour, which showcases the museum’s overlooked treasures, on Friday at 7:30 pm.

If you miss the guided tours, you can download the My Visit to the Louvre app, available on the App Store and Google Play. The free app includes a 3D map, 600 descriptions and 600 commentaries available for in-app purchase. Or, you can rent a Nintendo 3DS XL-based audio guide from the museum with a 3D map and 35 hours of content for €5.

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PHOTO: Takashi Images/Shutterstock
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How Much Time Should I Allow to Visit?

That depends not only on how much you want to see but how long you might have to wait to get through the security lines. Plan to spend at least two hours in the museum to see the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory of Samothrace, and a few pieces in between. If you plan to stay longer, there are six restaurants, cafes, and counters where you can grab a bite in the museum.

It can be hard to predict how much time you’ll spend in line to get in unless you purchase tickets online for a specific time. Lines tend to be longer first thing in the morning. You can see how busy the Louvre is before you go by downloading the Affluences app.

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PHOTO: Alessandro Colle/Shutterstock
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When Is the Best Time to Go to Avoid the Crowds?

In general, the Louvre will be more crowded during the summer when kids are out of school and less crowded during the winter, with the exception of the Christmas season. It also tends to be more crowded on weekends and on Monday, when many other Paris museums are closed (the Louvre closes on Tuesday, instead).

Your best bet is usually to go early in the afternoon or on Wednesday or Friday nights when the museum stays open until 9:45 pm. If the lines at the main entrance at the pyramid seem exceptionally long, try the underground entrance accessed through the Carrousel du Louvre shopping mall.

 

 

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Should I Buy Tickets Online Before I Go?

There are advantages and disadvantages to purchasing tickets online before you go. On the plus side, you’ll get into the museum within 30 minutes of your scheduled time regardless of how long the general security line is, and you won’t have to wait in another line inside to purchase your ticket.

On the other hand, you’ll pay €17 for tickets online versus €15 for tickets purchased at the museum. And, on those rare days when there isn’t much of a security line to get inside, you’ll have to wait until your ticket time instead of walking right in

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Are There Discounts or Free Admission Times?

Yes. Admission is free on the first Saturday of each month from 6 pm to 9:45 pm and on Bastille Day (July 14). The rest of the year, anyone under the age of 18 and all 18- to 25-year-old residents of the EU, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein can enter at no charge. On Friday evenings, everyone under the age of 26 can get in for free.

If you don’t fall into those categories, you can enter free of charge with either a Paris Pass or a Paris Museum Pass. Both allow fast track entry into the Louvre and cover many of the same attractions, but the Paris Pass also includes a one-day Paris Big Bus Hop-On-Hop-Off Tour and unlimited travel on the Metro, RER, buses, and trams for significantly more than you would pay for the Paris Museum Pass. Compare both options to see what best fits your needs.

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PHOTO: Marc Bruxelle/Shutterstock
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How Do I Get There?

You can take an Uber or a taxi, but the most economical option is the Metro. Lines 1 and 7 stop at Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre. From there, you can exit aboveground or proceed directly to the Louvre’s underground entrance through the Carrousel du Louvre.

Several buses stop near the Louvre’s entrance as does the Batobus, a river shuttle boat that cruises the Seine River.

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PHOTO: AlexKozlov/iStock
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What’s Nearby?

Quite a bit, actually. The 57-acre Jarden des Tuileries stretches west from the main entrance of the Louvre to the Palace de la Concorde. Formerly the palace’s royal gardens, it contains more than 200 sculptures and vases. It’s also home to the Musée de l’Orangerie where you can admire Claude Monet’s Water Lilies as well as works by Renoir, Matisse, Picasso, and other impressionist and post-impressionist masters.

Across the Seine from the Louvre, the Musée D’Orsay features art from 1848 to 1914 including works by Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Gaugin, and Van Gogh, to name a few. Don’t try to cram the Louvre, Musée de l’Orangerie, and Musée D’Orsay all into one day. Even though they are next to one another, they are best experienced over a two- or even three-day period.