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Mona Lisa or Moaning Lousy: The Best Way to Visit the Louvre

Updated on April 28, 2020
alocsin profile image

The author enjoys traveling the world and visiting educational attractions such as museums where he can learn more about the local culture.

The Louvre at night.
The Louvre at night. | Source

Ask anybody what the most famous art museum is, and most likely you’ll get “The Louvre” as your answer. It boasts the Mona Lisa, for heaven’s sake, plus a lot of the art you’ve read about in schoolbooks. It was certainly the museum on my most wanted list when I visited Paris, France, for the first time recently.

I soon discovered, however, that a visit to its hallowed halls could either be a moaning nightmare of crowds and long lines rivaled only by a summer day at Disneyland, or an enlightening experience, akin to a class with a beloved teacher. To ensure your experience is closer to the latter, which mine was, follow these simple tips.

The Louvre is open late on Wednesdays and Fridays.
The Louvre is open late on Wednesdays and Fridays. | Source

Check the schedule.

Being the prepared traveler that you are, you already know that the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. But did you know that different galleries also close on different days? This is because the museum does not have the staff to keep everything open all the time. You’ll need to check the Schedule of Room Closures on their website to make sure that your favorite room is available on the day you intend to visit.

The Louvre is open from 9 AM to 6 PM, except on Wednesdays and Fridays, when certain galleries are open until 10 PM. The least crowded times to go are in the evening. The most crowded times are Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and mornings.

Crowds dwarf the Mona Lisa on the right.
Crowds dwarf the Mona Lisa on the right. | Source

Research the art.

Much of the collection’s 35,000 pieces of artwork is stored in the online index, so you can search for specific pieces or styles that you favor. Each piece is described by title; artist; size; creation date; whether it’s on display, stored or traveling; and a map showing its location. You can collect the art that you want to see in your own personal space, which is free to sign into. You can thus create a personal list of pieces, their graphics and their locations that you can take with you on your visit. This enables you to efficiently use your time, instead of wandering aimlessly hoping to bump into your favorite artwork. An interactive and downloadable floor plan is also available online to help you navigate.

I discovered that the database is about 95 percent accurate. Unfortunately, while the its maps give you the gallery location, they don’t tell you where in the gallery a piece is located. You can thus waste time searching for something, especially when a room contains dozens of works. The easy solution is to show your list to museum attendants, who are all over the place. They can point out the item to you.

The Two Coaches by Claude Gillot
The Two Coaches by Claude Gillot

Plan a route.

The worst way to see the Louvre is to spend 12 hours wandering from room to room in sequence, to study each piece individually. Given the number and magnificence of art available, you’ll be exhausted by the second gallery. A better way, if you have limited time, is to spend two or three hours doing one of the following:

  • Use the list you’ve created to visit only your chosen items.
  • Go on one of the English guided tours, included free with admission, for an introduction with a human being.
  • Print out and take one of the Thematic Trails, which are self-guided tours. The Masterpieces of the Louvre trail is the best option for beginners.
  • Buy an independent book or audio tour, available from bookstores or in the museum gift shop. My favorite is the free MP3 tour produced by travel guru Rick Steves, complete with printed maps. He actually gives you a path through the museum’s best pieces, with intelligent commentary, through the museum’s best works including the Mona Lisa, the Winged Victory and Michelangelo’s Slaves.

Crowds waiting to enter the Louvre galleries.
Crowds waiting to enter the Louvre galleries. | Source

Take your time.

If you’re spending several days in Paris, block out two-hour chunks each over three or more days. And then get yourself a Paris Museum Pass. This magic ticket enables you to visit over 60 of the city’s top attractions, including the Orsay, the Arc de Triomphe, the Pompidou Center, and the Louvre. It’s good for four two, four or six days.

Its best feature for me, other than the multiple free entries into the Louvre, was the ability to bypass the museum’s two interminable lines:

  • The first line, simply to buy the ticket, can last an hour or two, but can be avoided by buying your tickets at the museum website.
  • The second line, which is unavoidable, can take half-an-hour as your go through security.

These waits can take a significant chunk of your touring time and sap your energy.

With the Museum Pass, you enter a special door only for passholders that is north of the glass Pyramid. This isolated entrance has its own security check, and never any lines. We strolled right in on all of our three visits, reaching the galleries within minutes.

Spend your first visit going through the highlights of the collection through your tour of choice. Then spend your second and subsequent visits seeing just the pieces you’ve highlighted on your artwork list. Using several short trips enables you to remember and enjoy each piece, keeps you fresh for other city touring, and whets your appetite for future visits.

Still-Life with a Carafe of Barley Wine by Henri-Horace Roland De La Porte
Still-Life with a Carafe of Barley Wine by Henri-Horace Roland De La Porte

Take a break.

Negotiating the Louvre can be exhausting whether you take just a couple of hours or a full day. Take an occasional break by sitting for a few minutes after an hour or so to recharge your energies. If you're feeling thirsty or hungry, and don't want to leave the museum, the Café Mollien serves light snacks and is located in the Denon wing, not too far from the Mona Lisa. Otherwise, you will have to exit the museum to visit one of the remaining 14 eateries that are close by. You cannot bring food or drink into the museum, although some water and a small snack may be allowed.

© 2011 Aurelio Locsin


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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I utilized to find high on living however lately We have established a level of resistance.

    • seanorjohn profile image


      9 years ago

      That's ok. Alocsin. Another good tip is to avoid queing to see the Mona lisa to enter by another door and walk through the museum. Go through the African Museum I think. Anyway go through a different part of the museum and you will get in quick.

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR

      Aurelio Locsin 

      9 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Thanks for telling our readers about the free entry, seanorjohn.

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR

      Aurelio Locsin 

      9 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I loved the Prado as well, Peggy W.

    • LetitiaFT profile image


      9 years ago from Paris via California

      I've lived just across the river from the Louvre for years and even so you've taught me tricks here! This will come in so handy for me and my visitors. I can't thank you enough for this concise, effective approach. I'll use it. Voted up and awesome.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Excellent advice for the first-time visitor. The Louvre can be overwhelming, with its vast collection of masterpieces and a decidedly French approach of hanging works in groupings, or salon style. I think your tip about the museum pass is the best. This allows a more relaxed visit, without trying to see everything in one session, just to get your money's worth. Voted up and useful.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      Vespa Woolf 

      9 years ago from Peru, South America

      The Louvre is my favorite art museum. Unfortunately, we didn't invest in the Paris museum pass but it wasn't peak season, either, so the lines weren't too bad. We did research and planned our route ahead of time, but could have spent days in the museum. My biggest disappointment was the Mona Lisa. For some reason, we weren't allowed within 100 feet and I would've needed binoculars to get a good look at it! Still, it's hard to beat Paris. Great hub. Voted up and shared!

    • CloudExplorer profile image

      Mike Pugh 

      9 years ago from New York City

      Cool hub Alocsin, it seems like your quite the tour guide, nice! Voted up!

    • seanorjohn profile image


      9 years ago

      Great hub on a truly great museum. Voted up

      There is free entrance to the Louvre, Musee D'Orsay and the Rodin museum on the first Sunday of every month. Cheaper prices are available every Wednesday and Friday between 6pm and 9.45.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Very useful Hub, particularly since (I think) it can be a lot of (most, maybe) people's natural tendency to think they can just show up and see what there is to see even if they do, at least, expect a crowd.

    • profile image


      9 years ago from Fuck of HUBPAGES

      Great hub.. And useful too.

      voted up and sharing

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      9 years ago from Houston, Texas

      This is fantastic information to know. If we ever visit Paris we will surely take your advice on how to more efficiently visit the Louvre, and other sites for that matter. When we visited the Prado museum in Madrid, we also went several times because doing too many hours all on one day can become overwhelming. We did not have the excellent guidelines that you suggested (and they may or may not exist for the Prado), however we did take one tour in English.

      Voted up, useful, interesting and will definitely share.

    • algarveview profile image

      Joana e Bruno 

      9 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

      Hi, Alocsin, great hub, I could have used your advices, my visit could have been better, missed a lot of things I wanted to see and left completely exhausted... But I will go back and then... Voted up and useful and sharing!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      9 years ago from Nepal

      What a fantastic hub on visiting Louvre!

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR

      Aurelio Locsin 

      9 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Thanks formosangirl. When you do, carve out a day or two for the Louvre.

    • formosangirl profile image


      9 years ago from Los Angeles

      Alocsin, these are great tips. I hope to visit Paris some day.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image


      9 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Alocsin, thanks for sharing your ideas on visiting the Louvre. Visiting there is something that I very much want to do one day. Glad you shared your tips, that will help a lot of people there.

    • festersporling1 profile image

      Daniel Christian 

      10 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Nice, i enjoyed reading your hub.

      try to visit my hub too about the Louvre in Paris here:

    • princesswithapen profile image


      10 years ago

      Aurelio, I've always wanted to visit The Louvre. I'll keep these tips in mind when I'm in Pari.

      Good hub, voted up and useful.


    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 

      10 years ago

      Wonderful Rewarding Hub for the reader Alocsin, lots of Good and Useful information. You've certainly done your research. Thank you for sharing.


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