Millions of tourists flock to The City of Lights each year, almost all of them at least considering a visit to the Louvre – and with good reason. It's one of the world's largest museums, and it houses paintings and statues that have been famous for centuries. As always, a Paris trip requires serious planning; here are a few ways to maximize your time at the museum, avoid stress-inducing long lines, and beat the crowds once and for all.
Underground ticket kiosk: The vast majority of visitors buy tickets at the fabled glass pyramid (pictured). Instead of battling the mob that congregates here, point yourself to the nearby Apple Store in the underground mall; as you enter, you'll see a small line of walk-up ticket kiosks. They're located at the bottom of the sloping entrance, dead center of the walkway into the mall. Select your language, the quantity of tickets needed, and dip your credit card. You won't save any money here (it's still €16 for a full day of access to all of the exhibits), but, you'll have skipped the line and wound up with extra time to enjoy the sights inside.
Map out your viewing path: The Louvre's enormity cannot be overstated. It's four stories tall in some sections, and occupies over 652,300 square feet. To help you manage your time, the museum has provided interactive floor plans on the web; these are useful in mapping out your course before you enter. Chances are, certain sections won't tickle your fancy, and your time can be better spent in areas that truly interest you.
Save the best for last: Spoiler alert: the Mona Lisa is here. Huge crowds make a beeline for the painting after entering, and most are then shocked at just how small it is (and how far back you have to stand). You're better off waiting until 45 minutes before closing time. At that point, you'll get a better view, given that fewer people will be heading into the museum. With less than an hour before the museum closes, crowds will have greatly diminished.
Visit on Wednesday night: Did you know the Louvre is open until 9:45pm on Wednesday and Friday? Most visitors don't, and as a result, you'll find hallways surprisingly crowd-free on Wednesday evenings – partly because of the time extensions, and partly because it's a weeknight.
Avoid the high season: From a weather standpoint, July through August is the ideal time to visit Paris, but that's also when the Louvre is at its most crowded. Even if you attempt to avoid the summer, Paris hosts a many conferences and festivals throughout the year, and keeping an eye on the timing of those could be useful. For example, Paris Fashion Week occurs biannually, but the weeks vary from year to year; the Paris Marathon typically happens in mid-April. Generally speaking, late April and early October tend to be quieter. (A great guide to recurring festivals in the city is here.)
Have you visited the Louvre lately? Have any tips to share on making the most of a visit? Let us know in the comments section below!