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I visited the Louvre Museum for the first time this past May and I have to say: I’m glad I didn’t listen to the guidebooks. If I had, I don’t think my experience would have been nearly as easy-breezy! Read on for the top three tried-and-true ways to beat the crowds at The Louvre!
Visit During Shoulder Season
This bit of advice can be applied to every tourist activity in Paris. The high season for tourists in Paris (and all of Europe) is summer — June, July, and August. “Shoulder season” refers to the months on either side of the high season. This means spring (April and May) or fall (September and October). Paris in the spring is absolutely lovely — the flowers are blooming, the temperatures are mild and comfortable, and Parisians are out and about enjoying the nice days. If you visit Paris in the fall, you will find even fewer tourists. Since most people plan their vacations for summertime, students and workers are typically back in the daily grind by the time fall rolls around. This makes fall one of the best times to beat the crowds at the Louvre.
Visit in the Evening
The Louvre is open Wednesday and Friday evenings until 9:45pm! This is easily the least-visited time of day and makes navigating even the most famous pieces a breeze. We found ourselves alone in several of the halls and rooms. All the benches were free and there was plenty of space to take in the art without feeling crowded or rushed. The ‘crowded’ rooms had just a few other people inside. Considering the Louvre sees an average of 30,000 visitors every day, this was a huge difference! All the guidebooks and websites tell you to get to the Louvre first thing in the morning, but I think this is what everyone does and that actually makes it so much more crowded than it needs to be. There are also giant tour buses that make daily stops at the Louvre, and guess when they arrive? Yep, in the morning.
If you’ve see photos of room housing the Mona Lisa, you know that it’s typically insanely crowded and the painting is actually so much smaller than you would expect. However, the Wednesday evening that we visited, there were maybe 30 people in the room? We only waited a few minutes to make our way to the front of the crowd to see the painting and take a photo. I don’t think my husband would have lasted half as long in the museum if he was crowded shoulder-to-shoulder with tourists every step of the way.
We spent some time taking photos in the courtyard before heading into the museum, and the light was just perfect. At around 7pm, golden hour was just setting in and we had plenty of light for photos and no competition for the best spots because we were basically the only people there.
Use a Secret Entrance
Everyone knows that the entrance to the Louvre lies beneath the iconic glass pyramid. However, there are two more entrances that involve much less queuing! This is the very best way to beat the crowds at the Louvre. Le Carrousel du Louvre is an underground entrance that puts you in the same place as the sad folks who waited in line for 3+ hours outside. You can purchase a ticket at this entrance, but I highly recommend purchasing yours online in advance.
If you’re taking the Metro, exit at the Palais Royale-Musee du Louvre stop, which is accessible via lines 1 and 7 (or the yellow and pink lines). Once you descend the escalators, you will walk past some underground shops for a few minutes until you reach the ticket line. Once you pass through the metal detectors, you’re in! I used this entrance during my visit to the Louvre and did not have to wait at all. Even in the height of tourist season, this line is nowhere near as long as the main pyramid entrance.
When NOT to Visit the Louvre
NOT Tuesdays: The Louvre is closed all day every Tuesday.
NOT Mondays: Since almost all other Paris museums are closed Mondays, the Louvre is packed! Visit another day when the number of tourists are spread out throughout other sites as well.
The Louvre Hours:
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 Tuesdays
Rooms begin closing 30 minutes before museum closing time.