No trip to Paris is complete without a visit to the Louvre. Learn all our travel secrets - including the entrance to the Louvre everyone forgets.
When you think about "secrets" at the Louvre, you probably imagine some dark and mysterious tales, straight from the Da Vinci Code. But the secrets I'm about to share - like the entrance to the Louvre that everyone forgets about -are lot more travel friendly than anything Dan Brown created!
The Louvre is one of my favourite places in all of Paris. And I'm not alone. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say it's the most famous, the most spectacular art gallery in the world. But it's so much more than that! It's also a museum, a piece of royal history, and a medieval fortress. At times, it's been the most crowded place I've ever experienced and I've also been completely alone in several rooms.
If your trip to Paris includes a visit to the Louvre - and it absolutely should - here are some insider secrets to help you get the most out of your visit.
Secret #1: The Louvre Has FOUR Entrances. Read About The Entrance to the Louvre That Even Guidebooks Overlook.
While you might not know it at first glance, the Louvre actually has four different entrances. The first one is the main entrance through the famous I.M. Pei glass pyramid in the centre of the courtyard. It's a beautiful site but frantically busy. Note that there are two lines here. One is for people who have pre-purchased their tickets (good job, you!) And the second line? It's not to buy tickets. It's to get through security in order to buy tickets! Yikes!
Only slightly less busy is the second entrance at Galerie du Carrousel, which takes you through some of the Louvre shops. One great reason to make note of the Louve Carrousel entrance despite the busy foot traffic? The Carrousel's stone arch is often used as a meeting point for tour groups. But if you don't already have your ticket, you'll find the same long, slow lines as the main entrance.
Far less busy at the third and fourth locations on my list, the spots often referred to as the legendary "Secret entrances to the Louvre". One of them is the entrance at Passage Richelieu (off Rue Rivoli). I personally have never used this one as I was told it's only for groups and for individuals who have a Louvre membership. If you know more - please let me know!
Last but not least is my personal favourite entrance of the Louvre - the Porte des Lions entrance. The Louvre Porte des Lions entrance is very quiet and is only open Monday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. It makes for a great rendez-vous point for meeting up with friends and family, as it's easy to find and away from the crowds. And a sneaky extra bonus is that it's by the Denon Wing, making it the closest Louvre entrance to the Mona Lisa and other famous treasures.
No matter what Louvre entrance you use, keep in mind that while Paris is normally a very safe city, pickpockets are thick as thieves (hmmm.... bad pun?) around the pyramid entrance, inside the Grand Gallery, and around key attractions like the Mona Lisa. Wallets stashed in jacket and jean pockets or in open tote bags are at especially high risk. Keep your belongings close and your wits sharp. I've been using this anti-theft bag from PacSafe since 2013.
Secret 2: Your Louvre Visit Might Be Free.
Seeing the Louvre for free? It may be possible! The Louvre offers free admission to its permanent collection on the first Sunday of the month from October to March for all visitors. It will be busy but worth it for frugal travelers. And on every Friday evening from 6 p.m. to 9:45 p.m., admission to the permanent collections is free for all under-26s regardless of nationality. Backpackers, this is for you!
As well, the following visitors can enjoy free admission year round: - visitors under the age of 18, 18-25 year-old residents of the European Economic Area, teachers of art, art history, and the applied arts, holders of a valid "Pass Education" card (primary and secondary school teachers in French public schools and private schools receiving government subsidies), artists affiliated to the Maison des Artistes (in France) or the AIAP (Association Internationale des Arts Plastiques), unemployed individuals and visitors receiving benefits (proof of entitlement must be dated within the last six months), and disabled visitors and their guest or helper.
Whatever you do, don't try to get in on a Tuesday. The Louvre is always closed on Tuesdays, no matter how much you're willing to pay!
Secret 3: Become an Official "Ami de Louvre" for VIP Treatment.
Planning several visits to the Louvre or considering a move to Paris? You might want to invest in a membership to the Louvre, known as the Ami de Louvre program. There are different prices depending on your age, your professional status (there are deep discounts for art students and those who work with youth), and family status. A personal membership costs 80 Euros and a family membership is just a bit more and it covers admission for two adults and three children, a children's magazine subscription, and free admission to the Louvre children's programs, including animation films and music appreciation events.
And remember, members, the Louvre Passage Richelieu entrance is meant just for you!
Secret 4: You Can Skip the Lines - And You Can Have The Louvre To Yourself!
Even if you enter through one of the lesser used entrances, you're likely to encounter line ups and crowds at someone point in the Louvre. Whether you're buying your ticket or queuing up for a washroom, you're certain not to be alone. And Parisian time is too precious to be spent waiting in line and tapping your toes!
You can buy tickets in advance directly through the Louvre's website and also through a number of tourist pass programs. My best advice before you invest in a pass is to carefully read about what attractions are included. These are often advertised as "admission to the Louvre and X number of other museums" - but they're only really a good deal if you actually go to the other museums.
PS: Haven't bought your ticket in advance but keen to avoid the lines and still have a great last minute visit? I just read this savvy tip. "Head to the underground Carrousel du Louvre shopping centre (99 Rue de Rivoli), where you’ll find Louvre ticket machines. They’re busy too? Buy your ticket from the Civette du Carrousel tobacconist on level 0 (Allée de France; from 9am) — there’s never a queue as hardly anyone knows the shop exists."
You can also skip the lines and avoid some of the crowds buy purchasing a private guided tour that includes your general admission. An experienced tour guide can bring the Louvre to light, will deftly guide you through the crowds, and has the knowledge to know when the lines to see the Mona Lisa are less congested.
On our last trip to the Louvre, we did a three hour guided tour. Our guide was fantastic - this was no pre-recorded commentary but genuine insights from a trained art historian. While our guide did an excellent job of navigating the crazy crowds of the Denon Wing, my favourite part of the tour was when she brought up to some of the quietest corners of the Richelieu and Sully wings. There were times when were were the only people for several rooms in a row. It felt like the entire Louvre had suddenly closed down just for us!
Secret 5: Touchable Art, Trampolines, and Tuileries Tours.
The Louvre is rightly the last place on earth you'd ever think about touching the artwork, but the Touch Gallery offers visually impaired visitors, children, and the artistically curious to interact with the artwork (and some duplicate sculpture casts) in a much more intimate, hands on way than you ever traditionally experience in an art gallery.
The Tuileries Gardens, just beyond the Carrousel Arc, is the oldest and largest public park in Paris, but a complimentary guided tour is just the thing to make you feel cozy and at home. Tours depart on Saturdays and Sundays at 3:30pm from the Carrousel Arc from late April to late October.
While in the Tuileries Gardens, be sure to head to the Trampolines between the Terrasse des Feuillants and the octagonal pond -this is the best way for children to burn off some extra energy and for visitors of all ages to enjoy some fresh air. And, as always, I highly recommend picking up a guidebook like Lonely Planet Paris before your trip - it will have fantastic tips for exploring the city and the Louvre on your own or with a family.
It's No Secret - The Louvre is the Heart of Paris
The Louvre is the geographic, historical, and artistic heart of Paris and no visit to the City of Lights would be complete without a visit.
I have been on multiple occasions and every stop it feels like I'm seeing everything again for the first time. I always book a hotel close by for convenience and I have spent many an hour sitting in the ground floor cafe, filling out postcards, and writing down memories of everything I had experienced, all while watching the world go by. I know I'll be back for another visit - and I hope to see you there!
Are you planning a trip to Paris? These blog posts are sure to help!
My Favourite Secret Spots in Paris
Hotel Review: Paris' Hotel Academie
Paris: Day 2 & 3 of our Round The World Trip
Budget Friendly Paris for First Timers
Touring Paris by Bike
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