When I first walked into Paris's enormous, bewildering Musée du Louvre (map) I was overwhelmed: crowds of people, escalators, signs, and movement, but no clear sense of where I should go or what I should do.
Here are some tips to help you as you plan your visit.
Buy Tickets in Advance
Buying your Louvre tickets in advance allows you to skip the long ticket-buying line (but not the security line). The Paris Pass or Paris Museum Pass gets you in quicker and easier. If you're interested in a 3-hour guided tour of the Louvre's most famous artworks, Ceetiz, a FranceTravelPlanner.com partner, has a discounted price that includes admission to the museum as well as the audio tour. More...
Ceetiz also offers a discounted combination skip-the-line ticket valid at both the Picasso Museum and the Louvre. More...
Tickets are on sale at the Louvre in the tabac (newsstand/shop) in the Carrousel du Louvre, or at ticket machines or ticket windows in the glass pyramid.
From October 1 to March 31, the Louvre offers free admission on the first Sunday of the month. Be aware that this can mean very large crowds, so you might want to visit a less popular museum if you happen to be in Paris on the first Sunday.
First: The Glass Pyramid
First thing to know: almost everyone who visits the Louvre passes through the big glass pyramid, even if you come in some other entrance, of which there are several.
You can enter the Louvre directly through the glass pyramid itself, or through the Carrousel du Louvre, an underground shopping/restaurant area that connects to the pyramid.
A Quicker Way:
The Passage Richelieu
If you have the Paris Pass or the Paris Museum Pass, you may be able to enter through the Passage Richelieu, just off the Rue de Rivoli across from the Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre métro station. The lines—especially for the security check—are usually shorter here. Signs may indicate that the entrance is only for groups, but often they will let individual ticket holders enter here.
Porte des Lions Entrance
The Porte des Lions entrance provides direct access to the Arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas. Somewhat out of the way but convenient if you are coming from the Jardins des Tuileries, this entrance is less known and may be less crowded, but it also has fewer places to buy tickets. It is not open every day and may be closed "for technical reasons."
No matter where you enter, you have to go through a security check, and that's where the long lines are. The Paris Pass or Paris Museum Pass can pay off here, with shorter lines in the Passage Richelieu.
Carrousel du Louvre
If the security lines into the glass pyramid look very long, try going in the Carrousel du Louvre, which can be accessed off the Rue de Rivoli or by going down the external stairs to either side of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. Lines are sometimes shorter here.
L'Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel:
look for the stairs on either side.
(Note the glass pyramid through the arch.)
Lines also tend to be shorter on Wednesday and Friday evenings, when the museum is open until 10 PM (reduced admission after 6 PM).
OK, you're in and you have a ticket, and you've picked up a map of the museum. Now what? You need a strategy for your visit so you can use your time most effectively.
Planning Your Itinerary
You can start your visit to the Louvre's exhibits by taking an escalator to any one of three wings: Sully, Denon, or Richelieu. They are identified by name and have large red banners that highlight major offerings. The three wings are all connected, and you'll likely move back and forth among all three, but you may want to choose your starting point based on your Louvre strategy. Want some tips for figuring out your strategy? Click here.
Métro: Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre
Bus: 21, 24, 27, 39, 48, 68, 69, 72, 81, 95
Paris Pass and Paris Museum Pass accepted. Closed Tuesday. Open Wednesday and Friday evenings.