So. Let’s say you’re in Paris. Maybe for Fashion Week. (Oh? Is that happening now? Quelle surprise!) Yes, all of the shows and parties are wonderful, but while you’re in the city you want to get some art and culture in – and what better place than the Louvre!
But on a tight schedule, how do you get the most out of your visit?
Based on my experience of having ‘done’ the Louvre (top to bottom), here are 5 tips to help you get the most out of your visit.
1) Be selective
Browse through the museum website (louvre.fr/en) ahead of time and figure out what you really want to see. I suggest selecting one ‘popular’ item (The Mona Lisa, Venus DiMilo or Victoire de Samothrace, for example) NOT all of them. As your second pick, focus on what type of art you tend to enjoy. French? Flemish? Italian? For me, I need to see Vermeer’s The Lacemaker on every visit, so I know that heading to the Richelieu wing is my best bet. Spend some time with the map before your visit to strategize.
2) Buy your ticket ahead of time
You can buy a ticket for the Louvre at the ‘billeterie’ inside FNAC stores. There are many locations through the city, and you can buy online and then simply pick up the ticket. If you think you’ll be trying to squeeze in a few museum visits, the Paris Museum Pass is a good idea – especially because having the Pass will let you skip the main entrance to the Louvre, and go in at either the Porte des Lions, or Passage Richelieu – serious time savings!
3) Fuel up
Grab a bite to eat before entering the Louvre – once you’re inside, you’ll want to keep walking and exploring – not spending time in the overpriced cafeteria. Make sure you’ve got a mix of carbohydrates and protein to keep you full for longer. Fromageries have great yoghurt pots – a great complement to that fresh baked croissant or pain au chocolat! A discreet snack inside your bag will likely be ok to bring in, but no eating in the galleries please.
4) Bathroom breaks
If you see a bathroom with a line of fewer than 3 people – go. Even if you don’t think you need to. Some of the lines (particularly in the main entrance hall) get really long, and you don’t have 15minutes to spend waiting to do your business. The deeper into the heart of the museum you are, the shorter the lines get – I’ve never had to wait for the facilities in the Napoleonic section (See the map below? It’s that bathroom at the far end of the purple section, right above the photo of ‘The Scribe’. I’ve now given away my number 1 ‘pro’ tip for the Louvre. Guard it carefully!). On the upper levels of the Sully wing there are some near-hidden bathrooms tucked throughout the passages between galleries – keep your eyes open!
5) Slow down
This may seem counter-intuitive; but remember, you’re looking to get the most out of your trip to the Louvre, and speed walking through all three wings and merely glancing at the artworks doesn’t amount to much. Go back to the plan you put together. Visit the ‘celebrity’ piece. And then take the time to meander through the galleries that house your favourite type of art. I spend as long as possible on the 2nd floor of the Richelieu wing studying the Dutch paintings. And then I tuck myself into a corner of the Cour Puget and marvel at the sculptures. At the end of a 90 minute visit, I feel as though I’ve experienced far more of the Louvre than if I had sped through the entire museum.
What’s your must-see at the Louvre? Are you a Richelieu, Denon or Sully fan?