You could spend a month in the Louvre and not even scratch the surface of the museum’s collection of 35,000 works of art. Most of us don’t have the time for that, so here’s how to get the most from your visit without getting overstimulated.
Buy a museum pass
With the museum pass, there’s no admission charge, no waiting in lines and no limit to the number of times you can visit more than 70 museums and monuments in Paris and the surrounding area. Consider making two shorter visits to the museum, say a couple of hours on day one and an hour or so on day two. The pass will allow you to split up your visits without paying twice.
Choose your time wisely
The museum is closed on Tuesdays and on the following holidays: January 1, May 1, November 11 and December 25. Wednesdays and Fridays the Louvre is open from 9 am to 10 pm on Wednesdays and Fridays and from 9 am to 6 pm every other day. Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month. Veterans of the experience suggest going first thing in the morning, and avoiding the free Sunday if you don’t want to spend a long time in a queue.
Read about the collections and decide what you want to visit before going
You can’t see it all in one day. So familiarize yourself with what’s there and set priorities.
The Louvre departments include Near Eastern antiquities; Egyptian antiquities; Greek and Roman antiquities; sculpture from the Middle Ages to modern times; furniture and objets d’art; and paintings representing all the European schools. A section of the museum is devoted to Islamic art.
Famous ancient works of art in the Louvre include a statuette of the Sumerian ruler Gudea, a stele bearing Hammurabi’s code, an Egyptian painted stone statue of a scribe sitting cross-legged, the Venus de Milo, and the Victory of Samothrace. Among outstanding later works are two marble Slaves by Michelangelo, the treasure of the abbey of St. Denis, and the French crown diamonds. Important paintings include the Pietà of Avignon, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Veronese’s immense Wedding at Cana and Watteau’s Embarkation for Cythera.
One way to explore the museum is a thematic trail. These self-guided tours are about an hour and a half long and arranged by themes such as the Da Vinci code. On your first visit, you might want to explore the Masterpiece of the Louvre, which will take you past the museum’s most famous works like Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. Hardier souls may want to take the three hour tour of the history of the Louvre. Fortress, palace and now museum, the Louvre has been sitting on the right bank of Paris in some form or other for the last 800 years, during which successive rulers added their own touches to the former royal residence. The tour takes you from the 13th Century fortress of Philippe Auguste to the pyramid of IM Pei. Print out copies of your chosen tour to take with you if you’re going this route.
Devote part of your visit to the gardens
The Tuileries, the largest and oldest public park in Paris, became part of the museum in 2005. When the Louvre was a royal palace they were an integral part of the structure. There are statues, formal plantings and sculpture throughout. In addition, there’s a merry go round and play areas for the kids as well as snack bars, cafes and a bookstore.
Photo credit: minor9th