• Leslie

Louvre Survival Tips: How To Prepare For Your Visit

Updated: Feb 16

golden equestrian sculpture of Joan of Arc by Emmanuel Fremiet in the square of the Louvre Museum Palace

Here's my my ridiculously useful DIY guide to everything you can do to prepare for a visit to Paris' truly amazing Louvre Museum.

If you love art, the Louvre is likely on your Paris or museum bucket list. The Louvre is the quintessential example of the museum idea: that you can go into one place and confront the the finest things ever created.

The Louvre is the largest, busiest, most visited museum in the world. It has 35,000 works of art from the 6th century BC to the 19th century AD. It's a sumptuous Renaissance palace itself, with a lavishly decorated interior and beautifully painted ceilings.

A visit to the Louvre is a visually rewarding experience. But it can be exhausting, an intimidating overcrowded madhouse. There's a masterpiece at every turn. Plus, if you're not an art expert, the Louvre can be hard to decipher.

Don't just show up. Or you could come out a bit huffy and frustrated. It's best to have a plan of attack to survive the Louvre.

The museum is much more appealing if you've done your background research and know what to expect and see at the Louvre. Then, you can take in the astonishing art without undue confusion, stress, or FOMO.

READ: 5 Day itinerary for Paris

the I.M. Pei Pyramid at the Louvre

Everything You Need To Know To Prepare For Visiting the Louvre

If you're like me, you don't always like formal tours. I like to linger over things and not be rushed from room to room. Plus, what I like may not be what a tour guide is showing me.

Here are my tips for how to survive a trip to the Louvre. In particular, here's what you can do, DYI style, to prepare for your visit to the Louvre. You can plan your visit down to the last detail, if you're so inclined.

1. Identify and Educate Yourself On the Must See Masterpieces of the Louvre

First, read up on what to see at the Louvre. You can't see everything in the Louvre on one visit. The Louvre is best experienced by going back repeatedly. But if you only have one day, figure out your priorities in advance. And perhaps determine which specific pieces of art you want to see in each wing.

Theodore Gericault, Raft of the Medusa, 1818-19 -- one of the Louvre's best and most dramatic paintings

Johannes Vermeer, The Lacemaker, 1669-70

If you want to know more about the history of the Louvre, click here. I've also written an extensive guide to the underrated masterpieces of the Louvre, with tips and tricks for visiting.

Hint, the world's most famous painting Mona Lisa is highly overrated. You'll be lucky if you get near the small painting cordoned off behind glass. The Mona Lisa only became famous when it was stolen in the early 20th century. In an adjacent room, you can saddle up to two equally good Leonardo masterpieces for a much closer look, the Annunciation and The Virgin and Child With St. Anne.

READ: All the Paintings of Leonardo da Vinci

I also have a guide to what I think is the best painting in the Louvre, Gericault's Raft of the Medusa, a then-scandalous painting based on a true story.

You can also study sixteen 1:30 minute thematic trails for visiting the Louvre on the museum website.

Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa, 1503 -- the most popular painting in the Louvre

2. Learn the Louvre Layout

The Louvre is huge, really massive. Even with a map, you may get lost. The Louvre is U shaped, divided into three wings: Denon, Sully, and Richelieu. Each of the wings has four floors. Click here for an interactive map of the Louvre.

The Denon Wing is home to the Louvre's best known paintings, including the Mona Lisa. The Sully Wing is known for its statuary and antiquities, including the Venus de Milo. The Richelieu Wing houses the lavish apartments of Napoleon III and some famed Dutch art works, including Vermeer's The Lacemaker.

You can't really do all three wings in one day without severe museum fatigue and sensory overload. Ideally, do one wing per day. But if you can't, and you want to see the most famous masterpieces, they're in the Denon and Sully wings.

Venus de Milo, 101 BC, attributed to Alexandros of Antioch

3. Learn Out Loud: Listen to Free Louvre Podcasts

Learn out loud before you go! Here are some of my favorite Louvre-related podcasts, which serve as handy primers for visiting the Louvre.

Is the Mona Lisa a Fake?

Shock Art: Gericault's Raft of the Medusa

Shock Art: David's Death of Marat

Leonardo da Vinci, Genius

Rick Steve's Louvre Audio Tour


FYI, if you're interested in more podcasts for art lovers, click here to read about my favorite arty podcasts.

Winged Victory of Samothrace, 190 B.C.

4. Listen to the Smarthistory YouTube Videos About Louvre Masterpieces

And there's more ways to learn out loud about Louvre art! Check out these 12 super informative YouTube videos, which make Louvre art come to life. They explain and analyze specific master art works at the Louvre:

Eugene Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, 1830

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Grand Odalisque, 1814

5. Take a Virtual Tour of the Louvre

One of the best ways to prepare for visiting the Louvre is to take a virtual tour.

Click here for a comprehensive virtual tour of the Louvre, wing by wing. In this curated tour, you can see all the must see masterpieces via 360 video tours, YouTube videos, or online tours from the Louvre website. For a lengthy overall YouTube tour of the Louvre, click here.

In addition, you can take a virtual 360 tour of the Louvre's Grand Gallery, which houses much of the Louvre's Italian art. If you're a Mona Lisa fan, the Louvre is offering the museum’s first virtual reality experience, which brings to life the story of the enigmatic portrait.

You can also take a virtual tour the Louvre's Roman Antiquities here, the famed Egyptian Antiquities here, and walk around the Medieval Louvre here.

detail from the Apollo Gallery at the Louvre

6. How To Get Tickets To the Louvre

Adults tickets are €15 and children under 18 are free. Admission is free for all visitors on the first Saturday of each month from 6:00 p.m. to 9:45 p.m, and, for those under 26, on Friday evenings from 6:00 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. But the free hours are extremely crowded.

You should really buy tickets for the Louvre online in advance. An online ticket is slightly more at € 17. But it saves you waiting in both a ticket line and a security line.

You also have skip the line entry and a designated entry to the Louvre with the Paris Museum Pass. Right now, however, the Paris Museum Pass is temporarily suspended. And to visit the Louvre, you must book a time slot. Click here for more information.

Antonio Canova, Psyche Revived By Cupid's Kiss, 1787

7. Know the Right Entrance To Use

Don't go in the I.M. Pei Pyramid entrance, beautiful as it is. Use the Carrousel du Louvre entrance. This is the underground entrance to the Louvre, which you can access if you take Metro Line 1 to the Palais Royale-Musee du Louvre stop. You can also access it from 99 Rue de Rivoli (go down two sets of escalators to the inverted pyramid).

At the Carrousel du Louvre entrance, the security line is often nonexistent. There are numerous ticket machines in the main lobby, make buying your ticket a breeze if you haven't already purchased one online.

Jaques Louis David, Oath of the Horatti, 1784

Other Practical Information & Tips for Visiting the Louvre

Address: Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France

Hours: Closed Tuesdays. Open other days 9:00 to 6:00 pm. On Wednesday and Friday, the Louvre is open until 9:45 pm. However, from July until September 2020, the museum will only be open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm every day except Tuesdays.

Entry fees: Adults € 17 online, € 15 at the museum. Children under 18 are free. Admission is free for all visitors on the first Saturday of each month from 6:00 p.m. to 9:45 p.m, and, for those under 26, on Friday evenings from 6:00 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. But the free hours are extremely crowded.

Metro: Palais-Royal Musée du Louvre (lines 1 and 7) and Pyramides (line 14)

Telephone: +33 (0)1 40 20 53 17

Pro tip: The least crowded months for visiting the Louvre are November and January. The best time to visit is during nighttime hours, especially Friday night. You'll have to check everything except a small handbag.

Napoleon III Apartments in the Richelieu wing of the Louvre

If you'd like to learn more about the magnificent art in Paris, here are some of my other guides:

25 Art Works at the Musee d'Orsay

Tips for Visiting the Musee d'Orsay

Virtual Museums in Paris

10 Secret Museums That Aren't the Louvre

8 Free Museums in Paris

Guide to the Rodin Museum

Guide to the Picasso Museum

If you'd like to visit the Louvre, pin it for later.

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