How to survive the Louvre in one day
The Louvre. It’s as synonymous to Paris as baguettes, berets, croissants and the Eiffel Tower. It is also one of the most visited museums in the world … and rightfully so. With more than 35,000 works of art spanning a whopping 60,000 square meters, most travel gurus suggest taking at least two or three days to fully appreciate the beauty that lies within. However, when you’ve been traipsing around the city with two semi-surly teenagers who haven’t quite mastered art appreciation, the last thing they (and you) want is to spend more than one day at yet another museum. With a little advanced planning and a whole lot of patience, you can survive the Louvre in one day.
When you start thinking about conquering this behemoth in one fail swoop, keep your expectations to a minimum. You’re going to be there with about 25,000 other awestruck visitors on any given day. Selfie sticks will get whipped out, little ones will inevitably wander off, and your elbows might get a little tired from fending off crowds. You won’t be able to see every single collection, but with preemptive planning you’ll see some favorites.
Figure out the basics first.
In Europe, many museums and exhibits are closed one day in the middle of the week. Unless you feel like communing with the pigeons, don’t plan your Louvre visit for a Tuesday — it’s closed. If you’re watching your budget, most museums in Paris have free admission the first Sunday of the month, the Louvre included. However, it’s a well-known secret, and locals take advantage of this offer. Instead, try for Wednesday or Friday, when the museum is open until 9:45 p.m.
Do your homework.
Did you know that there are four entrances? Neither did I, until we discovered them on the way out of the Louvre. Don’t wait in the long line at the pyramid. The entrance nearest to the Seine (Porte des Lions) is also the closest to the “Mona Lisa” when you enter. If you’re not sure if an entrance will be open, call ahead and verify with museum staff.
Hop on the internet and study the collections. Figure out which paintings, sculptures and tapestries are your must-sees. Pull up a map of where those particular works are located and start plotting your route. Many of the famed pieces, such as the "Mona Lisa" and "Winged Victory," are actually en route to each other, which is quite helpful. When my friends and I visited recently, we hit up our three favorites first and then started on the top floor, methodically working our way to the bottom.
Buy ahead of time.
Even if you’ve waited until the night before, save yourself the line ride and buy your tickets online. The average wait time to purchase same-day tickets at the Louvre is almost two hours. If you’re planning on visiting more museums or exhibits in Paris, consider picking up a Paris Pass. This pass includes entry to more than 60 different sites and attractions throughout the city.
Inside the Louvre
Congratulations! You’ve made it inside. Now, go. Hit the famous ones first, before crowds start forming. Remember, size matters. Some paintings aren’t as large as you may think. When you have a crowd four or five people deep staring at a painting that is the size of a piece of paper, you may not be able to see much. If you visit a crowded piece, try standing on the side toward the front. Often, you can get a closer vantage point and eventually shift your way to the center.
If you’re not sure where to start, consider looking into the self-guided tours. Each tour is 90 minutes long, and there are different tours exploring the vast collections. If you’re sticking around for the day, you could squeeze in a few of them.
Hit the brakes.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Take a moment to breathe. There are plenty of cafés strategically placed throughout the Louvre. If the sun is out, head outside to the courtyard and savor a warm café au lait with a luscious pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant). Your ticket is good for the entire day, so you can enter and exit the museum at your discretion.
For art history buffs and aficionados to truly appreciate the great works of art, you may want to spend more than one day at the Louvre. For the rest of us, one day might just be more than enough.