Lost in the Louvre Museum:
Paris’ Most Crowded Moments.
If you’ve ever visited Paris’ Louvre Museum, perhaps you can recall a moment that looked a little like this:
My first visit to the museum, on my first trip to Paris back in 2006, was very much like that. An all-out sprint to the Mona Lisa via the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Venus de Milo, with perhaps a brief glance into the Salon of Apollo to see the Crown Jewels. It was great and miserable, all at the same time.
More recently, then, visiting the Louvre came with two basic goals:
1) Take the time to see what else is in this giant museum. There are almost 15 acres of exhibition space inside the Louvre, and presumably the showcase a bit more than just those 4 main pieces.
2) Try to escape the crowds. Almost 10 million (that’s 10,000,000!) people visit the Louvre every year, making it the single most popular museum in the world.
I ended up visiting this time as part of a tour I was taking photos for, a three-hour guided thing that skipped past the entrance queue and hit an overview of the more ‘important’ sections of the museum. In practice, our guide had a strong affinity for Greek and Roman Antiquities as well as large French paintings, and of course a couple of well-known Italian pieces.
We did visit all the popular favorites, of course, and it was just as wild as I remembered it being from my first trip. The average Louvre visitor stands in front of the Mona Lisa for about 15 seconds, just long enough to snap a selfie and then elbow their way to the side in order to escape the chaos. Most of the other works in the museum don’t fare much better as to time spent, but at least the act of getting close to them doesn’t require more time than a visitor will spend enjoying the work itself!
The great thing, perhaps the best thing, about having a second chance to visit the Louvre is that I no longer felt like it was my touristic duty to rush around visiting all the big names. Instead, there was both time and impetus to linger among the unseen details in the rest of the museum. I don’t mean to suggest that I ‘discovered’ anything, to be sure, but I certainly saw a lot more than my first visit – in the sense that I actually had the time to pay attention instead of a cursory glance before moving on to something else.
Given the passion of our guide for Greek and Roman sculpture, it would have been difficult not to enjoy that section of the Richelieu Wing. There were still plenty of other visitors, but as the guide spoke in depth about the history of some of his favorite works I could wander within earshot taking photos and examining details and trying to not only see but to appreciate. At the end of an already long day three hours was quite enough, but given a day to devote entire to the Louvre just imagine how much more I could find.
And of course, there really is so much more. We breezed through the Medieval Louvre Fortress and Decorative Arts halls, paused briefly in the Napoleon III Apartments, and never so much as saw any African or Asian artwork.
Which only means, of course, that I’ll have to go back! If that first trip was a sprint through, this one was more of a brisk walk. Next time I’m in Paris, I hope to make time for more of a quiet stroll.
And if I still can’t find a way to deal with the crowds? Perhaps its time for a visit to Abu Dhabi to see the newest branch of the Louvre there!
Open Monday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday from 9:00am – 6:00pm.
Open Wednesday and Friday from 9:00am – 9:45pm.
Permanent Collection: €12.
Hall Napoleon: €13.
Combined Ticket: €16.
Free the first sunday of each month from October to March, or for visitors under 18. Also free on Friday from 6:00pm to 9:45pm for all visitors under 26 years old.
They’re no real secret, but you should pay attention to this. The lines at the ‘Pyramid’ can be horrendous, and there is absolutely no reason to wait there. The easiest alternate entrance is just across the road at the entrance to the Place du Carrousel, to the right of the big triumphal arch (which should serve as your landmark). [See photo below.] There is another in the Passage Richelieu (just to the north of the Pyramid), but it doesn’t stay open late on Wednesday and Friday.
I was in Paris to work as a photographer with GetYourGuide, including my visit here. You can see the official website of the Louvre for more info on their exhibits. If you just want to wander on your own, it would be a lot cheaper to buy tickets from the museum directly. If you’re looking for a guide to explain the history and art inside, though, the guide I went with was very well informed.
Budget travelers will want to check out these hostels in Paris for cheap accommodation. Otherwise, there are countless hotels in Paris. The Louvre is incredibly central, and easy to reach from anywhere in Paris by Metro.