Thanks to its glittering central pyramid and status as the largest art museum in the world, the Louvre is one of Paris’ top attractions. Home to the likes of the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and the Winged Victory of Samothrace, here are nine must-know things before visiting the Louvre!
What started out as a medieval palace during the 12th-century has since been transformed into a Royal Residence, and nowadays, a world-class museum. Spanning 60,600 square metres of publically viewable exhibition space, the collection comprises of over 30,000 pieces across eight departments.
Editor’s note: If I were to give you just one Louvre travel tip, it would be to make sure that you buy your Louvre tickets in advance. Overcrowding means that queues are ever longer and so I highly recommend booking a guided tour like this one, or at the very least booking a timed entry ticket like this one.
Things to know before visiting the Louvre for the first time
#1 There are two entrances to the Louvre
Of course, the main entrance to the Parisian museum can be viewed from the nearby Tuileries garden. After all, it’s in the 1989-opened central glass pyramid. But what many visitors to the Louvre don’t know is that there’s actually a second, more hidden and secluded entrance close to the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel.
The ‘hidden’ entrance’s name is Porte des Lions and it can be accessed if you cross over the roundabout near the glass pyramid as if you were heading into the Jardin des Tuileries. Just before you reach the triumphal arch, turn left and you’ll see a lion statue with a set of steps. Descend these and… Voilá! You’re in the hidden Louvre entryway.
#2 Book your Louvre ticket in advance, and you can get a skip-the-line ticket
Of all the tips for visiting the Louvre I could give you, the number one would be to book your tickets for visiting well in advance. For example, this Louvre timed entrance ticket grants access to a skip-the-line and oh so much shorter queue, allowing for more exploration time and the chance to save on some of your precious time in Paris. If you’re looking for a more guided experience of the museum, then you might consider booking this Louvre Museum Skip-the-Queue Guided Tour.
#3 The Mona Lisa isn’t Da Vinci’s only work at the Louvre
The most famous artwork in the world may well be the Mona Lisa (in room six of the Louvre). The mystery (self?) portrait was painted by Leonardo da Vinci at the beginning of the 16th-century and is a tiny painting in the heart of the Louvre.
But what perhaps made the Mona Lisa so famous is not the mystery surrounding the identity of the Mona Lisa, but actually that the painting was stolen during the 1900s! Now, the work of art is surrounded by security at all times and can be viewed through a particularly thick pane of glass. In an adjacent room, other Da Vinci works on display include The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and the Annunciation.
#4 Don’t try and see everything on your first visit!
Perhaps this Louvre travel tip seems a bit self-explanatory, but I’ll reiterate it again for good measure: don’t try and see everything in one go the first time you visit the Louvre! Instead, focus on one set of collections or even one wing. Soak up the ambience of the place and allow the secrets of the Louvre to reveal itself to you.
Some of the best ways to see the Louvre (aside from via guided tour) include selecting a certain theme (vases from antiquity, Renaissance art, etc) or following the free map upon entry to the Louvre’s main highlights. Finally, you could simply stroll around the museum and stop to admire those pieces which particularly catch your eye.
#5 Visit the Louvre at the right time!
If you want to make the most of your venture inside, you should know that certain times are most definitely busier than others. For example, June through to September is peak tourist season in the city and so pretty much everywhere will be packed! Otherwise, weekends and school holidays are also always very busy!
It’s also worth noting that the museum is completely closed on a Tuesday! If you’ll be in Paris on this day of the week, then other museums in the French capital that are actually open include Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and of course, the Eiffel Tower!
#6 You can see Napoleon III’s palatial apartments
Little-known in comparison with some of the other pieces in the Louvre’s collection is that you can actually view the sumptuous chandeliers and soft furnishings of Napoleon III’s apartments. A glimpse of prestigious Second Empire art, highlights include an ornate State dining room, as well as plenty of wonderful wallpaper!
#7 There are plenty of legends and mysteries surrounding the Louvre!
As with any particularly historic and important building, it’s pretty fair to say that the Louvre has weathered its fair share of controversies, mysteries, and is simply full of history. Reputedly haunted by the ghosts of Jean l’Ecorcheur (a butcher by professional trade, he was allegedly killed by Catherine de Medicis as she feared he knew too many secrets about the Royal family!) and even a Roman soldier!
From the theory that the glass pyramid has 666 window panes (this is actually mathematically impossible) to the fact that Napoleon temporarily named the cultural hub Musée Napoleon during the 19th-century. For more quirky information, check out this post to unusual and fun facts about the Louvre.
#8 The Louvre is free the first Sunday of every month
Want to dodge the high cost of pricey tickets? Coincide your Paris trip with the first Sunday of every month, when everyone can get into many of the French capital’s main attractions for free! However, you should know before you go that this event is undeniably popular and so you’ll want to arrive as early in the day as possible to ensure the shortest waiting times.
Other times when you can enter the Louvre for free include Bastille Day and the White Night festival which takes place during Paris in May. Finally, museum entry is always free for under 18s, residents of the EU under 26, and for all under 26s on a Friday night.
#9 You can see the Louvre at night
If you fancy wandering through the glass dome under the night sky, then it’s worth visiting the Louvre after sunset and heading to the Parisian museum. It’s also worth noting that nighttime visits to the Louvre Museum tend to be much less crowded during the daytime, allowing for you to enjoy more of the museum to yourself!
Louvre Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs about the Louvre)
How do you avoid lines at the Louvre?
The easiest (and most efficient way) to avoid lines when visiting the Louvre is two-fold. Firstly, be sure to avoid the main entrance way. Instead, head to the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel entryway, where the lines are much shorter. What’s more, be sure to purchase a skip the line tour like this one to see the museum even faster.
Is the Louvre worth visiting?
If you’re wondering whether or not to visit the Louvre, then know that it’s not only the largest museum in the world, but also set against the backdrop of a beautiful French palace. As such, many visitors to the city cite a visit to the French institution as a true highlight of visiting Paris.
When is the best time to visit the Louvre?
Truth be told, a visit to the Louvre is always pretty busy! With this being said, there are times you can opt to pay a visit inside when the crowds are fewer and you’ll get more of the place to yourself. I would personally say that the best time to visit the Louvre is in the morning and mid-week if possible. The quietest months to visit Paris tend to be in November and January.
How much time do you need at the Louvre?
The age old question as to how much time you need to truly discover the Louvre and enjoy its art pieces is entirely dependant on your personal preferences and how much time you actually have to discover Paris. Typically, I would allow yourself at least two to three hours and up to half a day to visit the Louvre, so that you can fit plenty of other Paris attractions in your schedule!
What should I bring to the Louvre?
If you’re visiting the Louvre for the first time, then know that only small bags and backpacks are allowed in the museum. Larger items must be left at the left luggage desk and so only bring smaller items with you. Be sure to wear layers as the temperatures throughout the museum can fluctuate. You are not allowed to eat or drink in the collection areas, though the consumption of still water is permitted away from the artworks.
As always in a particularly touristic area, be sure to keep an eye on your personal belongings at all times. I personally recommend bringing along a crossbody bag like these ones which have zips and can be carried to the front of your body. For more common Parisian tourist scams, check out my tips for avoiding pickpockets.