Visiting Paris: The Louvre

The Louvre Pyramid at night.

Cameron had been to the Louvre before and hadn’t seen the whole thing…with a three day pass. 

We went first thing on our trip to Paris this past winter, spent six whole hours (since our entrance time at 11:30am until closing at around six thirty) and barely scratched the surface. I’m not entirely sure we even saw a whole wing. 

I think we did, but every time we turned a corner, we found a new thing we hadn’t seen, so who knows. 

The Louvre was at the top of my list of places to see in Paris. There are way too many things that are pictured in history books that are housed in the Louvre and I’ve wanted to see in person since I was a kid. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a history person, or an art person. You may spend less time in there and look at artifacts and paintings more closely, but the Louvre is a must. It is, so save at least half a day for it. But I would suggest being prepared to get sucked in for a lot longer that you plan to be there for. 

Let’s start breaking this down, including how to get your tickets, getting to the Louvre, eating and drinking inside the museum or around it. 

Getting your tickets

There are two ways to get tickets to the Louvre: 

  1. Paris Museum Pass (which we should have probably done, if we’re honest). There is a list of museums and attractions you can get into using this pass. Choose the number of days you’ll be spending visiting museums, and buy a pass that covers those days. There are two things to keep in mind, though: 

* Free entry days – there’s always the chance that you may be in Paris for a day when you get free entry. When it comes to the Louvre, entrance is free on July 14 (Bastille Day; France’s national holiday) unless it falls on a Tuesday, in which case the museum is closed. You can see more information about admission policies on the museum’s website. For all museums, we recommend checking the museums’ websites to make sure you’re aware of any restrictions or new rules in place. 

2. Buy tickets on the museum website. This portal also gives you access to book audio guides and guided tours. 

Where to go in

So you know the iconic pyramid you see in travel photos all the time? That’s the museum entrance. I didn’t actually know this before. I probably saw it somewhere before, but I didn’t realize it for some reason until we got in line. Make sure you come at night when the pyramid is lit up. It’s beautiful. 

There are other entrances you may be able to use (check the museum map), but the Pyramid is the main entrance and gives you access to all the museum wings.

Organizing your time inside the museum

The Louvre is divided in wings. All the wings gave different names, and house different permanent collections. So definitely pick up a map before you start. It may not necessarily be the most helpful in finding your bearings, but here is what I love about the map: 

The map shows you which big ticket items are in which wings. If you go to the Louvre JUST to see the big-ticket items, the map can help you find them easily without wandering aimlessly for what could be hours. This could also help you plan what you want to see first, as the crowd levels do fluctuate during the day. 

Except for the Mona Lisa, probably. 

There is a LINE for that one, like an actual line with ropes. We went to see it mid-day, and were in line for maybe 20 minutes or so. 

Personally, I wouldn’t say the Mona Lisa is the most impressive piece in the museum. I wouldn’t even say it’s the most impressive painting in the museum. But that’s entirely relative. 

My iPhone camera paying for itself. There’s no way you can get THIS close.

To further find your way in and around the museum, we recommend checking out the museum map ahead of time. This will show you the highlights of each of the wings, and help you find your way around the museum (you would not believe how tricky it can be to get to a restroom). Once again, the Louvre website comes to the rescue, with a copy of the museum map available for download, an interactive map you can check out online, and suggested itineraries, including some celebrity-curated ones. 

Eating and drinking at the museum

There is a cafeteria with some set menu options for breakfast and lunch. We got some sandwich options for lunch and ate at the museum. We ate in the area nearby; it was unclear to us how far from there we could go to eat, or, if in a non-COVID world, you’re allowed to pack your own lunch. 

Fun note, though: you can buy wine inside the museum and be super Parisian by having a glass of wine with your lunch. 

There is only food and drink available in one of the museum wings, so again, this is one of the reasons why it’s important to plan your day out. It’s tough to speak about the way things may be when there are little or no Covid restrictions in place, but we were not allowed to take food or water inside when we went. 

Museum highlights

I don’t really know what to say about all of these incredibly beautiful artifacts, paintings, and sculptures. It’s all impressive. It’s all laid out in a way that is bound to either take your breath away, or at least make you think. You may be tempted to think “oh, I’m seeing the pictures here, and I can see more online. I don’t need to go to the Louvre”. 

You’re wrong. Yes, you do. And don’t rush either. Really. 

Also, there are things in the museum that are FAR more impressive than the Mona Lisa. I’m still glad I made the line and saw it about as close as I could. In many ways, it was the painting that changed everything. Or at least, so much, of how people saw themselves in regards to divine forces. History buffs shouldn’t miss it. In the end, it was really the only real line we had to make, other than the lunch line and the line to go in.

I’m only going to mention a few of these impressive things:

  1. The Venus of Milo: Cam guided me to this first as far as seeing big-ticket items. I don’t know if it’s the location, and the lights, and all of that combined with the sculpture, but it is breathtaking. It’s hard to not look at it again and again. Luckily, there weren’t a lot of people around it, and we were able to circle back a few times with even fewer people around, so we had some great opportunities to see the Venus more closely and pause.
I wish I had more of the surroundings, but by the time we caught her alone with the night lights on, my phone was dead.
  1. The Winged Victory of Samothrace: This is a (headless at this point) statue of Nike, the goddess of Victory, with wings, on the prow of a ship. I didn’t know this existed. But it is impressive. And it’s on a stairway. And the lights hit it in a way that makes it look like it’s what flanks the entrance of heaven or something. The thing with the Louvre and some of these sculptures is that it’s not just the sculptures themselves, but the way they are displayed and how they work the lights to make them look different ways throughout the day. This was another favorite that we revisited multiple times in the six hours we were at the Louvre.
Please ignore all these people on the bottom and focus on the sculpture. Victorious indeed.
  1. The Delacroix paintings depicting the French revolution, including the super famous painting of the Marianne guiding the French, and the coronation of Napoleon: growing up, I was rather fascinated by the French Revolution, and researched it a bit for school papers and writing contests. So seeing these so close was very special and took me back to one of the parts of school I enjoyed the most – writing and researching on topics I was interested in.
No, this is not originally found on the Coldplay album cover.
  1. The French crown jewels: I’m not going to try for anything insightful or deep about this…it’s a collection of impressive jewelry that is shiny and probably worth more than any of us will make on our lifetimes.
This is all diamonds. But what is this exactly?
  1. The Hammurabi code: we ran into this almost at the end of our visit. At the time, Cam was teaching a Mesopotamia unit in his Social Studies class, so seeing this in person was very, very exciting. We shrieked probably a bit too loudly.

I don’t really know what else to say. The Louvre houses some of the most impactful artifacts describing the history of mankind. It’s all impressive. It’s all beautiful. Go see it for yourself. We sure will go again when we go back to Paris, which of course we will. We may be talking about our Paris trip for a while here. Is there anything you’d like to know? Leave a comment and we’d be happy to answer it as well as we can!

Published by Team McGregor

Living and teaching in the Middle East - previously in China, South Korea, and Hawaii (US). This is our blog dedicated to our travels and life living well as some other fun stuff!

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