The Louvre Museum in Paris is a must-see for any museum aficionado, but even novice art fans should spend at least a day there for three reasons: the Mona Lisa, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, and the Venus de Milo. These are perhaps the three most famous pieces included in the Louvre’s ultra-vast collection, and will be standard sights in a pre-arranged tour. However, the Louvre displays over 35,000 works of art in a 60 square mile area. These staggering statistics should help you begin to understand the Louvre’s world-class status, and why it is worth more than just a tour of its “greatest hits.”
The smart traveler will purchase the Paris Museum Pass before traveling. Passes can be pre-purchased online at en.parismuseumpass.com. The pass provides access to more than 60 Paris museums and monuments without standing in line for tickets. You can choose two, four, or six day passes. With each, you have unlimited visits to any of the 60 participating museums. At about $87 per six-day pass (compare at about $20 per day just for the Louvre), you’ll appreciate the convenience of “skipping the queue” and heading right in – the Louvre always has a ticket line, even in the dead of winter. As you enter, you’ll receive a map and guide – make sure to hang onto these; they are vital to navigating your way through the Louvre’s three wings.
The museum is open daily, except Tuesdays, and is open until 9:45 pm on Wednesday and Friday evenings. The audio guides come highly recommended, and are available at the entrance to each wing. The guides cost about $10. Armed with your audio guide, you’ll share the passion of curators and art experts by listening to their comments as you tour the museum. Recently updated, in 2008, the audio tour helps you navigate the museum, and even offers a selection of themed tours available in six languages for adults, children, and are visually- or audio-impaired.
You’ll want to be prepared for your Louvre visit, since the museum has three vast wings to explore. Common lore states that if you were to take four seconds to look at each work of art in the Louvre, you’d be there for 3 months - so you can see how critical advance planning is.
Enter the museum through I.M. Pei’s controversial pyramid that premiered in 1988 to mixed Parisian reviews. Visit www.louvre.fr, click on “Plan your visit,” then select “Floor Plans.” Here, you’ll find an interactive floor plan to give you an overview of the museum’s layout and three major wings: the Sully, the Denon, and the Richelieu. For each floor and wing you select, you’ll receive a selection of important works along with the types of art to explore in that location. Alternatively, visit www.louvre.fr/en/parcours, where you’ll find 29 “visitor trails” that take you on a journey through art history. According to the site, “Each trail is based on a selection of works that typify a period, an artistic movement, or a theme. They can be viewed online or printed out prior to a museum visit.” In addition to the trails, the Louvre has links to “mini-sites” to help you learn about art.
With 15 restaurants inside the Louvre, don’t worry about getting hungry. Other amenities include a coat and luggage check, wheelchair, walking stick and stroller lending, pay phones, restrooms, underground parking and post office. During warmer months, several children’s play areas are available in and near the Tuileries. Do your shopping outdoors at The Tuileries Gardens bookstore or inside at The Louvre Bookstore. Three souvenir stores offer a wide selection of mementos ranging from children’s games and toys to replicas and prints of selected works, and everything in between.
In all respects, prepare to be overwhelmed by the Louvre. Give yourself ample time to soak in its vastness, to appreciate what an absolute international treasure the Louvre truly is.
The Louvre address and hours
Musée du Louvre
Métro: Palais-Royal Musée du Louvre (lines 1 and 7)
Monday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday: from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Wednesday, Friday: from 9 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.
Closed on Tuesday
Photos by Storm Crypt (1, 2), and wecand (3) on flickr
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