Last Updated on May 31, 2023
…& Advice on What Not to Do
Paris’ Louvre Museum is less a collection of art and more a mammoth, maze-like underground world of masterpieces from around the world. Visited by millions of people every year, the Louvre boasts a collection of some 35,000 works of art and cultural artifacts, displayed across eight distinctive curatorial departments.
Once the seat of the monarch, the Palais du Louvre (palace) was first erected in the 12th century as a powerful fortress, designed to protect the city and the royal family. It was only in the late 18th century and in the wake of the French Revolution of 1789 that it first started to be used as a public museum.
Today, it houses famous and lesser-known works dating from the Antiquity to the late 18th century, with unforgettable masterpieces from the likes of Delacroix, Vermeer, Da Vinci, Reubens, and other Western painters, as well as sprawling collections of Egyptian, Greco-Roman, and Islamic art and artifacts.
Please do note that this article isn’t a typical, droning summary of the key works you can visit at the Louvre– you can simply visit the official website to find that sort of information. Instead, in what follows we offer some key tips on how to avoid burning out, especially on a first visit to the mammoth museum.
How to Avoid Burnout at the Louvre: Why to Beeline to (& Past) the Mona Lisa
You really need a good strategy to avoid burning out at the Louvre, especially if it’s your first time visiting The one mistake I see a lot of tourists make when it comes to tackling the world’s most-visited museum? Focusing too much energy on works like Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (Located in the Salle des Etats gallery) and the Greco-Roman masterpiece the Venus de Milo (located in the Galerie des Antiques).
These towering works are certainly worth seeing, obviously, but the enormous crowds and the heavy glass protecting them can result in a sense of “underwhelm” and even disappointment.
Feel free to head straight to see them, taking however much time you need to absorb their beauty–take in the other masterpieces held in the same galleries, and then move on. For the remainder of your visit, we recommend focusing most of your time and attention on other rooms and collections that pique your interest.
A Brief Overview of Highlights at the Louvre
Before you go, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the main collections and departments at the Louvre, and decide what you’d like to focus on. You can also follow one of the Louvre’s recommended visitor trails.
The paintings curatorial department harbors some 7,500 works from Italian, French and European masters, including Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Raphael Caravaggio, Vermeer, Delacroix, Ingrès, Caspar David Friedrich, Titian, Fragonard, Jacques-Louis David and countless others.
Head to the emblematic “Grande Galerie” at the Louvre to see numerous Italian masterpieces, to “Les Salles Rouges” (Red Rooms) for French masterpieces, and the Richelieu Wing (Level 2) for paintings from Dutch masters.
While many visitors limit their time to the paintings department, the Louvre’s other wings are also rare treasuries worth spending some time exploring, if you have it.
The Rotonde Sully harbors numerous remarkable prints, drawings, pastels, manuscripts and miniatures from European masters including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Titian, Delacroix, Géricault and Ingres, and from Northern European artists such as Hans Holbein, Rembrandt and Peter Paul Rubens.
The Egyptian Antiquities department almost rivals the Metropolitan Museum in New York with its own masterpieces. These include “The Seated Scribe” (pictured below), an enormous sphinx, numerous mummies, sarcophagi and scrolls, as well as objects from daily life.
Meanwhile, the Near Eastern Antiquities and Islamic art departments are full of their own wonders, housing thousands of sculptures and decorative pieces from the Near and Middle East.
The Babylonian Code of Hammurabi, an imposing stele displaying the ancient civilization’s laws, is one of the many highlights here.
Also make sure to visit the medieval foundations of the Louvre, which offer fascinating insight into the vast fortified walls that once surrounded the palace (and marked the boundaries of the city at the time).
Whether you’re deeply interested in medieval Paris or are a curious novice, it’s well worth spending some time in this frequently overlooked department at the museum.
You’ll learn about the Louvre’s royal history up to the French Revolution, when it was seized by the state and (eventually) made into one of the fledgling nation’s first public museums.
Wandering through the foundations, you’ll see remnants of the old fortifications first erected by King Philip II in the late 12th century– literally descending into and through layers of the city’s past.
Visiting the Louvre: Getting There, Tickets & Practical Info
The Louvre is located within the Palais du Louvre in Paris’ 1st arrondissement, with access via the glass pyramid designed by Chinese architect Ieoh Ming Pei in 1989.
There is a separate accessible entrance at 99 Rue de Rivoli (Carrousel entrance) designated for visitors with limited mobility or other special needs.
- Address: Porte des Lions, Galerie du Carrousel, or Pyramid entrances (located off of Rue de Rivoli)
- Metro: Palais-Royal/Musée du Louvre (Line 1) or Pyramide:
- Opening days and times: Open from 9 am to 6 pm on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday; and from 9 am to 9:45 pm on Friday. The museum is closed on Tuesdays.
Practical tip: Last entry is permitted one hour before closing time, and visitors are asked to vacate galleries 30 minutes before closing time. So make sure to arrive at least 2 hours before closing time to ensure you have adequate time to visit a wing or two.
For full information on the collections, current ticket prices, details on which galleries are currently open, and further info for visitors, see the Louvre’s official website.
It’s also a good idea to download a map of the museum prior to your visit, allowing you to orient yourself in advance and get around with ease.
Planning to Visit the Louvre? Book in Advance (& Consider a Guided Tour)
Consider booking a timed entrance ticket to the Louvre (via GetYourGuide). This will save you time waiting in line.
To see the essentials and beeline to the highlights at the museum, book a must-see guided tour of the Louvre via Viator (both private and non-private options are available).
What to See & Do Around the Louvre?
Finally, If you have the time, explore the Louvre’s surrounding district to the north, also known locally as the “Louvre-Tuileries” district. It’s full of gorgeous gardens, squares, covered passageways, shopping streets, and excellent spots for tea, coffee and other delicious treats.
For greenery and fresh air, stop at the adjoining Jardin de Tuileries (the former royal gardens) and the at the nearby Palais Royal, before wending through the area to explore old-world covered passageways lined with boutiques.
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Courtney Traub is the Founder and Editor of Paris Unlocked. She’s a longtime Paris resident who now divides her time (as well as she can manage) between the French capital and Norwich, UK. Co-author of the 2012 Michelin Green Guide to Northern France & the Paris Region, she has been interviewed as an expert on Paris and France by the BBC, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Le Figaro, Matador Network and other publications. Courtney has also written and reported stories for media outlets including Radio France Internationale, The Christian Science Monitor, Women’s Wear Daily and The Associated Press. In addition to pursuing an insatiable interest in French culture, history, food and art, Courtney is a scholar of literature and cultural history whose essays and reviews have appeared in various forums.