It’s Bastille Day in France and the entrance to the Louvre is exceptionally free to celebrate. Today also marks the reopening of the Islamic Art gallery after this spring’s floods. The Louvre is the subject of popular posts on my blog: the Napoleon III rooms and the Ancient Egypt mummies still figure among my most-read posts years after I wrote them. So I thought I’d round up a few pieces of advice for your next visit.
Is the Louvre the right museum for you? Make sure the kind of art you want to see can indeed be viewed at the Louvre. Its collections cover art until 1848. If your thing is Impressionism, head to Musée d’Orsay (which I much prefer, by the way). Likewise, if you like Modern art only, you will need to explore other options.
Watch out for free entrance days. If you can, visit on one of the 1st Sundays of the month when the entrance is free (October to March). Otherwise, tickets are at 15€.
Arrive early in the morning. I waited about 30 minutes before entering, which is reasonable. When I glimpsed outside later in the day, I saw the lines had extended far beyond what I had expected.
Prepare your itinerary and target only a few galleries to visit. The Louvre is HUGE and you won’t be able to see it all within 1 day. (You probably gathered from the pictures above that I am a 19th-century fangirl.)
Wear comfortable shoes. See above: the Louvre is huge and you will be walking for hours.
Be prepared to fight your way to see Mona Lisa. Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is no doubt a masterpiece, but do not expect a life-changing experience when viewing it. The painting is kept under a glass case. Visitors are kept at a distance with a cord. Dozens of people try to catch a decent glimpse, picture or selfie while security guards loudly chat about what they did the night before. In short, there is no way you can truly appreciate the painting in these conditions.
Lunch! I enjoyed lunch at Angelina. Their restaurant is within the museum, a short walk from Napoléon III’s apartments. Yes, it is a bit pricey but it has a view on the Pyramid. And if your entrance to the Louvre was free, well, I believe that you can treat yourself to balance things out. Otherwise, there are lunch options underneath the Pyramid but they were less attractive. The choice was limited to a windowless cafeteria or a Paul with very few seats.
Look out for stunning views of Paris. Don’t just look at the art.
If you do not have the time to visit Versailles, visit the Department of Decorative Arts. The rooms hold collections similar to what you would see in the palace outside Paris. While beautiful, it does not have the same emotional dimension as if you where really in Versailles though.
Check out the history of the Louvre. While you may not choose to visit the newly-organized Pavillon de l’Horloge, where you can learn all about the history of the palace, it would be a shame not to look it up. The Louvre was the home of the Kings of France up until Louis XIV lived in Versailles. You can still see the medieval part of the building, which is quite impressive.
Enjoy your visit! If you have other advice on how to best visit the Louvre, I would love to hear about it.