I’ve said it all over my blog: I don’t really care for museums. I don’t have any particular passion for Etruscan pottery, stuffed birds from centuries ago, or Impressionist art. It’s just not my thing.
Because of that, museums rarely make up much of my travel itinerary. If I’m going to check out a museum, it really has to be quirky, eccentric, or interactive like the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam or the Hospital in the Rock in Budapest. But a regular ‘ole art or natural history museum? Pass.
(Are you curious what your travel style is? Take the quiz here!)
I’ve visited Paris twice and opted to avoid the Louvre on my first visit. The idea of standing in line for potentially hours only to walk around the biggest museum in the world smushed amongst hordes of tourists to see art that I know nothing about sounded dreadful.
On my second visit to Paris, however, I decided to visit the Louvre to see if it’s something that even I could enjoy.
My verdict? The Louvre is absolutely worth visiting, even if you aren’t a museum person. However, you need to be strategic. With this guide, you will know exactly what to see at the Louvre, even if you aren’t an art or museum person!
Pre-book your time
I read so many blogs that said it’s a waste of time to pre-book your ticket because if you do this strategy or that strategy, you’ll be sure to avoid the lines.
False. Absolutely false. I visited in January (low season) and went on a Wednesday evening (their extended hours and supposedly a slow time) and stood in line FOR OVER AN HOUR.
Y’all. It was raining.
Just pre-book a time here. I recommend you visit in the morning because crowds should be a bit lower. I know, some people are rolling their eyes and say they want to have flexibility in their trip. Yes, fine, but just plan this one thing. This museum gets 10 million visitors PER YEAR. That averages out to just about 30,000 people per day. Book a timeslot and save yourself a headache.
Yes, you need a map
It’s hard to fathom how large the Louvre is until you get inside. It’s overwhelmingly large. When I visited, I walked pretty briskly for hours and didn’t see everything.
- Check out a map of the Louvre before you visit. It’ll help you feel more comfortable with the floorplan before you go in and get crushed by the hordes of tourists. Figure out where the Mona Lisa is, since that’s the most famous piece of art, for some reason.
- Be sure to get a map when you get in. It’s ok if you now have two maps. I forgot a map and didn’t have my own map and getting lost in the Louvre is the stuff of nightmares.
The path to the Mona Lisa
If you actually enjoyed museums, I would recommend a more strategic approach than just “GO TO THE MONA LISA”. If you’re reading this post, I think it’s safe to assume you’re not a museum person. This tells me you want to hit the high points and avoid spending much more than 3 hours in the Louvre.
I’m assuming you’re entering through the main entrance under the pyramid. With these directions, you can hit the high points on the way to the Mona Lisa.
Meander through Greek Antiquities
Once you go down the stairs, head towards your right. We’re going to the 1st floor of the Sully Wing towards Greek Antiquities.
You can pretty well just breeze through here and admire any pieces that stand out to you. I discovered from this visit that I actually do enjoy sculptures, especially up close.
Admire Italian (and some French) Masterpieces
When you’ve gotten your fill of Greek Antiquities, head upstairs to the 1st floor of the Denon wing. The 1st floor of the Denon wing is almost entirely Italian masterpieces with some rooms dedicated to Spanish and French art, as well.
Da Vinci was Italian, so now you’re getting close to the famed Mona Lisa.
There will be a lovely sculpture in the middle of the room you pop out on. This is famed Venus de Milo, which is, probably, the only ancient Greek sculpture you’ve ever heard of. She’s beautiful, so take a moment to appreciate her.
Continuing on, feel free to stroll through the European works at whatever pace you need. Some rooms were less exciting to me so I just breezed through them. I definitely recommend you take some time in the room filled with large-format 18th-century French art. It was PHENOMENAL. I recognized some of the pieces from AP European History but textbooks don’t show the scale of these pieces.
The Mona Lisa lies in a passage in the center of the Denon Wing. There may be signs pointing towards her but I found them a bit confusing.
You can basically complete the loop around the Mona Lisa and quickly move on from the rest of the Denon Wing or you can explore the Denon Wing and check out the Mona Lisa on the way out.
The famed Mona Lisa
Now is the time to see the world-famous Mona Lisa. You approach her room anxiously and see…
The smallest painting that you’ve seen so far, hidden behind glass, with a snaking line in front of her.
That’s right! If you want to get anywhere near the Mona Lisa, get in line.
I opted not to do that because everything I read was that it was overhyped. I walked along the right edge of the above photo and got a glance at her from the side.
Pro tip! Turn around and face the wall opposite of the Mona Lisa. There is a splendid fresco that is, frankly, much more magnificent but often missed.
Disappointed? Go to the Galerie d’Apollon
If you’re anything like me, you’ll leave the Mona Lisa feeling disappointed. I came to the Louvre for THAT?!
Never fear. If Greek sculptures and massive French Revolution frescoes don’t awe you, continue on to the Galerie d’Apollon.
At the end of the Denon Wing on floor 1 lies this MASSIVE hall with intricate, gilded adornments and the French Crown Jewels.
It was stunning. Art has never left me awe-struck but this wing did.
This is exactly what I imagined a French palace would feel like. I spent probably half an hour in this room and probably could have spent longer. Frankly, for me, seeing the Gallerie d’Apollon was worth both the cost of admission and the time in the line.
Well, the amount of time I spent just meandering around the Denon Wing and the Gallerie d’Apollon was about 2 hours. This, plus the hour I spent in line, left me exhausted. No shame!
Remember how I said you should look at your map before you came? This will come in handy because surely something sort-of spoke to you. There is SO much in the Louvre that it’s important to have a game plan.
The Sully Wing was closed when I visited, but I would probably have been interested in “Precious Objects”. Interested in luxe furniture? The Napolean Apartments may interest you. There’s something for everyone.
LEAVE when you get tired or overwhelmed
It’s ok if you just explored one floor of one wing. It’s ok if you’re overwhelmed. Hit whatever interests you and move on! I know some people struggle with FOMO but it would be literally impossible to see everything the Louvre has to offer in even just a couple days. So if you’re done, move on – this is your trip, do it the way you want to.
I explored the Denon Wing and then meandered around and through the Napoleon Apartments. All in, I invested about 3 hours actually inside the Louvre and that was enough for me. I didn’t see much of the Louvre, frankly, but I saw what I wanted to and I left satisfied.
Finish with decadent hot chocolate
Exit the Louvre and walk through the Tuileries Gardens. Just off the Tuileries on Rue Rivoli is Angelina, a cafe serving up world-famous hot chocolate.
Is it summertime? That’s ok! Angelina offers frozen chocolate, as well.
The hot chocolate is decadent & thick. Don’t order a big lunch or you won’t be able to really enjoy the experience.
If the line is too long and you’re sick of lines, there are so many other equally splendid hot chocolate options in Paris that I fully recommend. You can’t visit Paris without trying at least some famous Parisian chocolat chaud.
You may feel like this guide only scratches the surface on what the Louvre has to offer, and you’re not wrong. The Louvre is so massive so this is, in my opinion, what to see at the Louvre if you only have a few hours to dedicate to your excursion.
Have you been to the Louvre? Are there any wings that you particularly enjoyed? Comment below!