Visiting the Louvre – Ten Tips

The Louvre is the most visited museum in the world. It is also one of the largest with eight miles of corridors and 300 rooms housing 35,000 art works. It helps, therefore, to plan your visit so you can make the most of your time and stay sane as you battle the hordes and navigate the corridors of this mighty beast.

1. You will not be able to see it all and it would be foolish to attempt. There is just no way to take it all in. We saw a large part of the Egyptian section and the paintings wing. Discussing our visit over lunch, it was hard to remember all that we had seen. So relax and enjoy. Whatever you see will be magnificent.

2016 02 22 psyche revived by kiss louvre
Psyche revived by Cupid’s kiss, by Antonio Canova (1757 – 1822) at the Louvre. This beautiful and delicate work is remarkable.

2. The Mona Lisa is arguably the most famous painting in the world. It is certainly the most famous artwork in the Louvre. For this reason it sits behind bullet proof glass, a barrier set up a few feet away and a throng of tourists a few feet deep. To see her, you will need patience and nerves of steel to jostle your way to the front. Once you get there, you will ‘see’ a rather small painting, in a rather gloomy space. Is it worth it? Not in my opinion. There are better ways of spending your time and if you want to see the painting search the internet. You will have a much better view. (My parents took us to see the Mona Lisa when we were children – many years ago – and I still remember thinking at the time: is that it?) If you decide to try, good luck. Don’t say, you weren’t warned!

3. If you search the internet you will find lists of what you ‘must-see’ at the museum. They are useful for planning your visit, but don’t get stressed trying to tick things off a list. These highlights are simply picking the very best of the very best. The Louvre is jam packed with remarkable treasures worth seeing.

2016 02 22 Johannes_Vermeer_-_The_Astronomer_-_WGA24685
The Astronomer by Vermeer is a beautiful painting in the Richeleiu wing. The painting was looted by the Nazis and returned to the rightful owners after the war, before being donated to the museum.

4. The Louvre has peak periods and quieter times so pick the time of your visit carefully. If possible, try to visit during the week, first thing, late afternoon or during a late night opening.

5. The museum is housed in what were once royal palaces. Today, the palaces have been connected together to create a three sided building. Each wing has its own name: Denon, Sully and Richeleiu. Use the interactive map on the Louvre website to understand the layout. You can also download a floor plan in English and other languages. It is worth printing it off and taking a look before you arrive so you have an idea of the building’s layout.

6. The main entrance to the museum is at the glass Pyramid. There are two queues – one for those without tickets and another for those with tickets or passes. As you enter the pyramid there is a airport style security check. Then it’s down the escalators to the main lobby. Here you will find the cloakroom, information desk and ticket sales. To get into the museum, you take one of three escalators up into a wing of the museum. At this point you will need to show your ticket or pass.

2016 02 22 venus de milo louvre
As famous as the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo is easier to view. It’s a gorgeous sculpture, but no more so than many others in the museum. Its popularity and fame is a little baffling.

7. Although the main entrance to the museum is at the glass pyramid, there are other entrances. If you arrive during the day, i.e. not first thing, then it is wise to consider using one of these as the queues tend to be shorter. There are security checks at all entrances.

8. The cloakroom is a little piece of hell on earth. It should be avoided if at all possible. Take a small bag and a small umbrella which you can fit into your bag. Anything bigger will have to be stored.

The cloakroom (vestiaire in French) is a self-service room of lockers and umbrella racks. The lockers by the entrance are only for helmets. I don’t know why! Beyond these are the general use lockers. In the centre of the room is an umbrella stand. While the instructions are easy, in practice the stand was impossible to use. We spent an age trying to work out how to open a slot but could not so searched for an open lock. We found one, placed the brolly in and locked it. It was a short victory. When we returned, it was impossible to unlock it. We weren’t alone. People around us were in the same boat, struggling to open a slot or release a brolly. We finally found the one harassed member of staff manning the chaotic room to set my brolly free. Avoid, avoid, avoid!

nude youth sitting by sea flandrin
Young Male Nude Seated beside the Sea, by Hippolyte Flandrin (1835 – 1836) is a captivating painting.

9. As a former royal palace the rooms on the lower floors are on a grand scale. They are big spaces with high ceilings, vast windows, ornate plaster-work and painted ceilings. They are an attraction in themselves and perfect for showcasing antiquities. However, with grand rooms come grand staircases. Climbing from one floor to another is quite a task. For an easier life, take the lift to the highest floor you want to visit and walk down. It is far easier to go down, than to go up.

For those with mobility issues, it is worth noting that there are often steps between rooms on the same floor. In some areas there are lifts for accessibility, in others there are not.

10. If you want to spend the day at the museum, there are coffee shops and cafes marked on the floorplan. The passageway to/from the Richelieu entrance is home to a number of cafes and shops. Alternatively, leave the museum and have lunch at a nearby restaurant or coffee shop. The ticket allows you to return later the same day.

2016 02 22 WomenofAlgiers louvres
Women of Algiers in their Apartment by Eugène Delacroix shows concubines smoking hashish. It is an unusual subject matter for a painting and as a result stands out.

 

Useful Links: Louvre,

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