When coming to Paris, make sure you take a Louvre museum tour. Undoubtedly being one of the main highlights of Paris, the Louvre Museum both impresses and frightens tourists. Check out our tips on how to enjoy your Louvre museum tour.
Boasting arguably the greatest collection of art in the world, this immense museum always stupefies the first time visitor – after which he gets lost, can’t find any of the pieces he had come here to see or loses friends and family alike, never to be found again. There are plenty of websites offering supposedly clear instructions how to deal with these problems, but none of them seem to address the main goal: How to enjoy your visit of the Louvre.
The first thing you should realize is that if you’re under 26 years old and an EU citizen, all you need is your ID card or passport to get in. If not, you will have to buy a ticket, but the many ticket counters make this fairly straightforward even on the busiest of days. Approaching the main entrance, the biggest glass pyramid, you will notice a queue stretching into the suburbs of Paris.
Hold your hand up to block these people from your view, enjoy the beautiful façade of the Louvre all around you, and then head towards the mini-Arc de Triomphe you can see just a small walk away. Crossing the street you will find two inconspicuous staircases, one on each side of the Arc, leading to an underground shopping mall called ‘Carrousel du Louvre’.
Marvel at the inversed pyramid -I think it is the best out of all of them- and then face the always tiny queue going into the Louvre main hall. Buy a ticket if your need to, leave your coat and umbrella at the free wardrobe, fetch a free map at the info desk and get ready to face that second problem: not getting lost.
Navigating the maze
If you can spare the money, a Louvre museum tour is always worth arranging. If you don’t, take my advice on matters. When I walk through any other museum part of my brain is always keeping track of directions. Even if you also practice this ridiculous trade, force yourself to stop doing so the moment you enter the Louvre Museum.
Spend a moment instead facing an inevitable fact: you will get lost. The trick then is not to avoid getting lost, but to quickly regain your directions when this happens. Luckily the Louvre possesses nearly as many windows as it does pieces of art-nearly-, always providing you with a view out of the maze and as such an opportunity to find your way once more. There are only three different views you can have:
- View on the ‘pyramid court’
You can see the main pyramid somewhere, with the rest of the Louvre on three sides of it. Locate the side with no buildings. Is it to the right of the pyramid (A)? Then you are in the north wing (Richelieu). To the left (B)? South wing (Denon). Or behind it (C)? East wing (Sully).
- View on the ‘square court’
You can see no pyramids at all, and buildings on all sides of a square-shaped court. There are four main gates within your view, but one of them is bigger (D); this is wing separating the square court from the pyramid court. Is it on your left? You are in the south building of the square. Your right? North building. In front of you? East building. Can’t see it at all? Then you are on the west side of the square!
- View on the ‘outside’
You can see the outside world. Turn around, find a window facing the rest of the Louvre, and use one of the above.
Using these three points you can always easily find where you are on the map of the Louvre. The only thing remaining is to remember which floor you’re on. Tip: when you want to quickly go a few floors up or down, use the elevators instead of four different staircases!
All this comforting knowledge leaves you able to spend the remainder of your time looking for, and perhaps even at the pieces of art you came to see. So now let’s look at the ways to get the most out of the Louvre’s collection.
Seeing the right things, the right way
Of course, everyone coming to this museum has a different approach to start with. Some come to view a predetermined selection -the entrance, two flights of stairs, three hallways, the Mona Lisa and the exit-, some want to see everything and some don’t have a clue. Trust me, none of these ways will see you leaving the Louvre satisfied. Here’s what to do:
If you only have time to see the museum once and are not particularly art-orientated, put a time limit on your visit. Two, maybe two and a half hours is the longest you will want to stay to avoid overkill, since after a while every new painting will only add to the blur.
Just wonder around the building without a plan de champagne; if you don’t like the wing you are in just walk on until you find something that looks nice. The sheer size of the place will allow you to do this for a whole day if need be, let alone two hours. Crucially, force yourself not to go near the Mona Lisa until the very end. Follow the crowd to find it towards the end of your stay, and follow it some more to locate the exit.
If you however are an art-enthusiast, your approach must be slightly different. Try to visit more than just once to begin with, and do so focusing on your personals tastes rather than the ‘highlights’. You can follow the signs walking through the entire museum in chronological order -starting at the foundations of the Louvre itself working your way through history- or you can find wings with certain pieces on your own using the map and above mentioned navigation skills thus creating a personalized tour.
Maybe the museum itself will seem less of an obstacle to you after the information overload this article has caused. Or maybe you are now suddenly eager to go there to find out if all this works. Either way, you are thinking in the right direction now. The Louvre Museum is a magnificent place, and definitely one you need to visit. So, use all these tips and tricks to your advantage, and head straight for Paris!