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How to visit the Louvre

Once a medieval fortress, turned into a royal palace, then a museum: with around 38,000 works of art on display, the Louvre takes you on a cultural journey through the ages. The Louvre has three...
The Louvre cour Napoléon

Once a medieval fortress, turned into a royal palace, then a museum: with around 38,000 works of art on display, the Louvre takes you on a cultural journey through the ages.

The Louvre has three wings, Sully, Richelieu and Denon, that are all connected through the Pyramid reception on Level 2, and are interlinked to each other. To avoid endless walking through the vast halls, having a map is vital.

A plan

The map is like an intricate board game; rise to Level 1 and you’ll stumble across Spanish and Italian masterpieces then a dazzling collection of objet d’art. One option is to plan your route around certain works you want to see. Absorb the atmosphere from sculptures such as the Egyptian Seated Scribe, dated to 2620 to 2500 BC, the two winged, human-headed bulls carved from a single block from Mesopotamia, or the mysterious Venus de Milo – could she be Aphrodite? In the Richelieu wing on Level 1, wander through the illustrious Decorative Arts to the lavish Napoleon III apartments. Be sure to discover the evolution of the building and its layout on Level 1 of the Pavillon de l’Horloge.

The Louvre under the French King Philippe Auguste
The Louvre was created under the French King Philippe Auguste in 1190 as protection from Anglo-Norman invaders. The reconstruction above shows the contrast of the original building to the floor plan today. Over the coming years it evolved from a fortress, to a Royal Palace, then a museum. (© Aristeas 2016/Musée du Louvre)

Level 1 is home to the Mona Lisa. The crowds of people taking selfies around the Mona Lisa are a spectacle. If you squeeze past the throngs, you might decide that her faint smile attracts attention that exceeds her mastery. Not too far away is another painting by Leonardo Da Vinci, The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, that is as poetic and unearthly as the Mona Lisa, but minus the crowds.

Another option is to prioritise which ancient cultures and collections you’d like to delve into on your visit, as it’s impossible to see it all in one day. Antiquities from ancient civilisations are spread across different levels. Or embrace the fact that plans often fall through. If you’re more of a spontaneous type, ditch the plan. In an age of time efficiency and over-scheduling, just leave it to serendipity.

Buying tickets

It’s best to pre-order tickets. The standard ticket price to enter the Louvre is €15. If you’re staying in a hotel, tickets are usually available to purchase there. Alternatively, buy a ticket before entering the museum at the tabac that is located near the Métro. Use the Carrousel exit and walk across the road to a shopping centre with a red sign that reads “99 Le Carrousel du Louvre”. Go down the escalators and turn right. Then you will find the tabac on your right.

If you’re planning to visit several sites in Paris, the Paris Museum Pass grants unlimited access to over 50 sites in and around Paris, including the Louvre. Tickets cost €48 for 2 days, €62 for 4 days and €74 for 6 days, and are free for under 18s or EU members between 18 and 25 years old. Tickets can be ordered online too, where you can also pre-order an audio guide. Check online in advance to see if there are any room closures to avoid disappointments.

Skipping the queues

Around 7.4 million people visited the Louvre in 2016, and 70 per cent were foreign tourists. Many enter through the iconic glass pyramid. There are three more entrances, which can sometimes be quieter. These are located in the Carrousel du Louvre shopping centre, the Passage Richelieu and the Porte des Lions.

On the first Sunday of the month, from October to March, the permanent exhibitions at the Louvre are free, but queues can be much longer than normal on these days, so avoid these Sundays for a quieter experience.

The Louvre is open every day, except Tuesdays, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Wednesdays and Fridays it is open late until 9:45 p.m.
It is closed on the following holidays: 1 January, 1 May, 25 December

By Jane Gray