The Louvre Museum in Paris
Stuart Bak

Best Time to Visit The Louvre - Avoid Queues

Paris’s mighty Louvre Museum requires little introduction. But we’re going to introduce it anyway, so buckle up. Only the planet’s largest art museum, the Louvre holds the title of most visited tourist attraction in Paris thanks to its frankly epic collection of priceless artistic treasures: everything from Ancient Egyptian sarcophagi to Islamic art, Etruscan sculpture, French decorative arts and, yep, the Mona Lisa herself. Popularity means crowds and crowds mean long lines. So what’s the best time to visit the Louvre and avoid queues? Read on to find out…

The Louvre: A (Very) Short History

The Louvre Museum seen from the Seine

The Louvre began life as a fortress, built on the orders of King Philip II way back in the 12th Century. Years of construction, demolition, reconstruction and, you know, the occasional fire, means that little of the original medieval structure now remains. Instead, flamboyant emperors and monarchs (looking at you, Francis I, Louis XIV and Napoleon I) have, over the centuries, created the almost comically opulent palace you see before you today. Completed in 1989, the iconic glass pyramid in the courtyard – designed by Chinese-American architect I. M. Pei marks the last major alteration at the palace.

The Louvre first opened as a museum in August 1793 with a relatively modest exhibition of just 537 paintings, a far cry from the 35,000 or so on display today.

Venus de Milo statue at The Louvre Museum in Paris

Among the great many treasures you can feast your eyes on there today are, of course, ‘the big three’ – that’s the Venus de Milo, Winged Victory of Samothrace and Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, to you – plus hundreds more artistic masterpieces by the likes of Vermeer, Picasso, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Titian, Raphael and the rest of the Ninja Turtles. Ogle iconic Roman amphoras, check out the 9,000-year-old (!) Ain Ghazal Statue from Jordan, and nab a selfie or six posing by the Great Sphinx of Tanis.

History buffs can even take a stroll through Napoleon III’s ludicrously opulent apartments, lavish state dining rooms and gilded drawing room in classic 18th-century rococo style. How the other half live, eh?

The Louvre in Numbers

Close-up shot of the Louvre Pyramid

Love stats? Us too…

  • The Louvre’s collection stretches to some 616,000 pieces, around 35,000-40,000 of which are on display at any one time.
  • The vast labyrinth of galleries, hallways and stairwells covers a fairly epic 782,000 square feet – that’s 73,000 square meters, metric fans! This makes it the world’s largest museum by some way. Its closest rival, the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg comes in at a relatively lightweight 67,000 square meters.
  • If you placed the many levels of the Louvre end to end, you’d create a walkway eight miles long – that’s 2-3 hours of solid walking at a brisk trot for the average human adult.
  • The Louvre Museum welcomes around 7.8 million visitors annually so, yep, it’s also the world’s most visited.
  • There are 673 panes of glass in the Louvre Pyramid, not 666 as some conspiracy theorists would have you believe.

Best Time to Visit The Louvre and Avoid Queues

Room six at The Louvre, with the Mona Lisa in the background

As we’ve already established, The Louvre is Paris’s most-visited attraction, so it pays to be clued up when it comes to how and when to visit. The museum is open from 9AM-6PM daily except Tuesdays (closed) and Fridays, when it stays open until 9.45PM.

You might think getting there early is the key to beating the crowds, but you’d be wrong. Why? Because every man and his chien has the exact same idea. Morning lines can be brutal and the courtyard is usually packed with impatient tourists well before the doors open. So, if you want to dodge the dreaded Louvre queues, pitch up later in the day. Around 3PM is prime time. By now, the queues will have subsided significantly, and you’ll still have plenty of time left to ogle the art inside.

Late openings on Friday are also less popular than you might imagine. Primarily, perhaps, because a lot of tourists are unaware it’s an option. Roll up at 6PM and enjoy visiting the sainted Mona Lisa in relative peace and quiet.

Top tip: the first Sunday of every month is free during the quieter autumn and winter season. But don’t be fooled: free Louvre Sundays are hectic. You’re better off dodging these and paying for your ticket instead.

The Louvre: Top Tips

The Great Sphinx of Tanis at The Louvre Museum in Paris

Getting inside the world’s most popular museum is never going to be a picnic, so here are a few more tips to help take the edge off…

  • Book your tickets online in advance. They’re time allocated and will save you a fair bit of time queueing once you get there. Planning to tick off a few bucket-list attractions while you’re in town? Buy a Paris Pass for entry to dozens of Paris attractions (including the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Eiffel Tower and more) for one money-saving price.
  • Pretty much everyone queues through the main entrance at the Louvre Pyramid. Be smart and make for one of the other entrances. Hit up the Porte des Lions in the museum’s Denon wing for the win. This is also the closest entrance to the Mona Lisa, meaning you can hurtle straight up to room six and join the bobbing sea of heads straining to catch a glimpse of La Gioconda’s famously enigmatic smile.
  • It’s estimated it would take one person around 200 days to comfortably view all of the art on display inside The Louvre. So don’t try to see it all, because that would be crazy. Instead make a plan of attack and try to stick to it. Get ahead with a printable online map, or grab a floorplan on your way in.

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