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
Consider buying the Paris Museum Pass, which gets you in quicker and easier.
If not, try to obtain Louvre tickets in advance. If you need to buy a ticket, you can do so in the tabac (newsstand/shop) in the Carrousel du Louvre, or at ticket machines or ticket windows in the glass pyramid.
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 Museum Pass, you can 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.
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.
No matter where you enter, you have to go through a security check, and that's where the long lines are. The Paris Museum Pass can really 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 Museum Pass accepted. Closed Tuesday. Open Wednesday and Friday evenings.