Featuring a distinctive collection, secured by kings, revolutionists and modern day curators, the Louvre is the most famous museum in the world. While not the largest, it claims the honor of being the most visited. The Louvre houses a diverse collection of paintings, sculptures and artifacts spanning antiquity to the 21st century. The massive building is a former palace where French royalty once reigned. It was transformed into a public museum during the French Revolution in 1793.
Paris has many exciting attractions, but no trip to the City of Lights would be complete without exploring the Louvre. Unfortunately, there is no way to see the array of awe inspiring pieces that the Louvre displays, in just one day. With over 35,000 works of art, examining each one would take months. So how do you tour the Louvre without becoming overwhelmed? Bring comfortable shoes and rest well the night before. Your visit will require advance planning and focusing on which pieces are most important to you.
Whether you are a casual art lover, a collector or an art history major, covering the Louvre highlights will make you smile. Boasting such masterpieces as The Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and The Wedding Feast at Cana, The Louvre highlights can occupy your whole day. The maps provided upon entry point out where the most famous pieces are located. Secure a map and decide which to view first. Note that these works will have the biggest crowds of photo happy tourists surrounding them. If you plan on taking pictures, you will have to jockey for a position.
Rent a self guided audio tour, available in 9 languages, from the information desk. You’ll come away with a clearer understanding of each piece and the collections as a whole. Other self guided tours are available through the Louvre and tour groups. Prices range from 5 euro and up. App makers have created several Iphone apps that recognize paintings, have the popular ones pre-downloaded and guide you with audio. Apps, like Louvre Top 100, are free.
The museum offers 2-3 English, live guided tours daily, with the exception of Sunday, at 11am, 2pm and 3:45pm. Each tour lasts for 1.5 hours and cost 5 euro in addition to the entry ticket price. You have to register, pre-purchase tickets, and leave ID for the headsets. The tour office sits behind the regular ticket booths.
Private tour groups offer packages that go to the Louvre only or take travelers to other sights first. An expert will guide you, commenting on the history and significance of chosen pieces. These group and private tours enable you to skip the lines and cost about 50 euro and up. Book them through online companies like Paris Walks, My Parisian Tour or Tours By Locals.
Choose a Collection or a Wing
Maybe you have an affinity for Egyptian civilization, or the story of Napoleon fascinates you. The Louvre houses both Napoleon Bonaparte’s former living quarters and a vast collection of Egyptian artifacts. Eight defined departments make up the collections of the Louvre. The Egyptian, Greco-Roman & Etruscan, Islamic, Near Eastern, Sculpture, Decorative Arts, Paintings, Prints and Drawings departments contain treasures plundered, borrowed, bought and discovered. The Egyptian collection has sculptures, jewelry, weapons and scrolls on display. Paintings are divided by French, Spanish and Italian artists; this makes focusing on a particular region easy. The Louvre has three wings, Sully, Denon and Richelieu. If you are completely clueless, tourless and mapless, just pick a wing and walk through.
Getting There and Getting In
Once you’ve landed in Paris and settled, get ready to board the metro. Paris’s metro lines are color and number coded, making them easier to navigate. The Louvre is located in the scenery rich 1st arrondisment. Get off at the Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre stop on Line 1. The Louvre-Rivoli stop is also close. Both are less than a 10 minute walk. Several bus lines stop nearby including lines 21, 24, 27, 48, 68, 72 and 81. Most tour operators stop directly in front of the pyramid.
The Louvre is free for all on the first Sunday of the Month, but normally costs 12 euro to enter. As lines will indicate, the main entrance is at the glass pyramid, in the middle of the Louvre courtyard. There is an entrance through the underground shopping center and an entrance near the Denon Wing’s western end. Those in wheelchairs have priority access and are able to skip the line.
With collections representing the greatest artists throughout history, the Louvre is the museum on every traveler’s bucket list. All of the featured artwork is worthwhile, but narrowing your focus will allow you to enjoy your visit. If you’d really like to see the bulk of the art in the Louvre, plan on coming back several times. This grand museum can fill many long afternoons.
- On the First Sunday of every month entrance to the Louvre is free for everyone!
- The museum is closed on Tuesdays, New Year’s Day, Christmas Day, May 1 and May 8.
- Regular hours are 9am-6pm Sunday, Monday, Thursday, Saturday, 9am-10pm Wednesday and Friday
- The museum is accessible and wheelchair rentals are free at the information desk.
- The Louvre complex includes dining and cafes. Check the website for locations and hours. at www.Louvre.fr
- There is a bookstore (Open 9:30-7pm) under the pyramid and a shopping center near the Rue de Rivoli entrance.
- The Louvre has WI-Fi.
- If you spent just 5 minutes with each of the estimated 35,000 pieces of art in the Louvre, you’d inside for 4 months straight. Double that if you can only handle 12 hours a day; you might need sleep!
- King Francis I acquired the Mona Lisa in the 16th century. Mona was stolen in 1911 and MIA for 2 years. She was found in the possession of a former Louvre handyman that had wanted to reclaim Mona for Italy.
- You can see the original fortress construction of the Louvre if you visit the basement.