The Louvre is a beast. (Did you think I was talking about the museum or the kids?) That is how we will start this post. Having been to the Louvre three times, I thought I could tackle this a little strategically with my teens. But it’s often difficult to tame a beast. I will share what we did to prepare and what worked and what didn’t.
Shortly before our trip to Paris, I had the kids research what artwork they wanted to see. Here are a few sites that might help you get started.
- Top 13 Things to See at the Louvre
- 10 Things You Must See at the Louvre
- 15 Top Highlights, Tips & Tours at the Louvre
- How to Visit the Louvre Quickly and Efficiently (video)
Each of my teenagers produced a list of eight to 10 pieces they wanted to see. That was where it ended. We ran out of time. The truth is I should have had them research each piece, and, most importantly, locate where it is in the museum. That last part if the critical piece.
Related: 5-Day Paris Family Adventure Begins
1. Buy Your Tickets Online
Planning activities has been a learning process for us. We typically decide the morning of what our plans will be for the day. If the Louvre is on your list of things to see in Paris, commit to a day/time and book ahead of time. Kids under 18 are free (bring an ID just in case) and do not need an actual ticket (as of 2019). You also do not need the paper ticket, which used to be case. I like to print out just in case, but after your purchase, an email will include your mobile ticket so you can book a day or two in advance, including while you’re already in town.
When to go? It’s always crowded so just get over that. Even first thing in the morning, you will find a queue for security. We tried for later in the day around 4 pm, but it was almost unbearable in some halls. Level 2 and 0 tend to be less crowded so when you need a break, you can head there. If you do first thing in the morning, go see the Mona Lisa first as she’s the busiest. From there you can move onto other things.
2. Consider the Lesser-Known Entrances
There are three entrances to the Louvre. Most people will head to the glass pyramid entrance, but you can also enter through Porte des Lions or the Le Carrousel du Louvre (see above), and they are usually not as busy. We ended up not needing this as there was no queue to get in for our timed entry, but we saw the entrance upon leaving.
3. Unless You Know Art History, Get an Audio Guide
The Louvre does not have plaques in English. If you want to know about the art, you either need to research ahead of time or get the audio guide. You can download an app for the audio guide, but we barely had Wi-Fi or connectivity through the buildings. An audio guide costs five euros. Feel free to get one or two and share with your family. You won’t see every piece of art, but when you get to your destination you will want to know about the piece. We did NOT do this, and I urge you to pay for the guide!
4. Have a Plan & Get a Map
As mentioned earlier, make sure your list of “must see” art also has the room number next to it. You can find that all on the Louvre website ahead of time. We were trying to look everything up inside the museum and it would have been nice to have it all ready to go. Here is our list.
Don’t forget your map at the information desk. The maps are free, although I think the audio guide may have one built in. But you will need the map to get around, especially if you’re working from a list of things you want to see.
This video I posted earlier is a great tutorial before you go. Next time, I will plan ahead to make one just like this with my crazy teens!
5. Set a Time Limit for the Visit
The Louvre is the biggest art museum in the world with 380,000 pieces of art. You won’t even scratch the surface, and that’s OK. We did the museum in about two and a half hours and that was just enough. Two of the four of us gave out after two hours, but my son still had a few things to see. So dad and daughter plopped on a bench while my son and I raced up to the top floor to check out the final two paintings. If you plan where you’re headed first, you’ll make progress faster and then can stop to see things along the way.
6. The Louvre is More Than Just a Museum
To fully appreciate the structure, I think it’s good to know a little history. The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, originally built as the Louvre castle in the late 12th to 13th century. Remnants of the fortress are visible in the basement of the museum. If you have teens who like ruins and engineering, don’t miss this part of the museum. It’s really interesting. Due to the urban expansion of the city, the fortress eventually became the main residence of the French Kings. Mind blowing, right? The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace. In 1682, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles for his household, leaving the Louvre primarily as a place to display the royal collection.
Final Thoughts: The Louvre may seem like a once-in-a-lifetime experience for your teens. Spend a little time planning your trip through the museum. Do the best you can with the time you have. Perhaps even a couple of hours will be enough to draw them back years later.