Visiting the Louvre Museum in Paris can be overwhelming and provoke a kind of sensory and intellectual overload if you attempt to take in too much.
Especially on a first visit, tourists end up making some very common mistakes and end up feeling drained or claustrophobic. That's why, in my book, it's so important to learn how not to approach an excursion to the world-famous museum. Follow these basic tips on how to take on this mammoth of a museum, and we can all but guarantee that you'll come away with a much more enriching and satisfying experience.
It's all too easy to suffer from a sudden bout of burnout when visiting the Louvre. This may seem inevitable given the museum's collection of 35,000 works of art and eight massive curatorial departments.
Even though it's tempting to try to conquer the collections in a single day, and thus earn bragging rights for when you get home, this is likely the worst strategy one can take. Instead, start by browsing the collections online before your visit (or refer to the brochures you can pick up near the entrance to the collections) and settling on one or two wings within these to focus on. You can also choose a thematic trail if you wish to focus on certain periods of history or artistic schools. You'll likely find the experience much more enjoyable and enriching by taking this approach.
The Louvre currently boasts an average of over eight million visitors per year — making it pretty clear why avoiding peak times is absolutely necessary if you want to experience the collections in more than a superficial way. Avoid weekdays and the first Sunday of the month, when admission is free for all visitors. The free-admission option may sound like a tempting proposition, but if you're more interested in painting and sculpture than shoulders, elbows and heads, we suggest you avoid.
The Louvre's collections are head-spinningly rich and complex. Rather than fend for yourself, booking a guided tour can be a good choice, particularly on a first visit. The Louvre offers a range of guided tours likely to suit most visitors' needs and centers of interest, including tours for children and families, disabled individuals or groups, and thematic gallery talks focusing on specific artistic movements or collection highlights-- such as the Dutch painting of masters like Vermeer.
On a first visit to the Louvre, many, if not most, people make a beeline for the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. This is perfectly understandable, but make sure not to overlook some of the less well-publicized treasures housed at the museum.
As previously mentioned, traipsing through the Louvre for an entire morning or afternoon can easily induce a feeling of sensory and mental overload. One way to avoid feeling burnout during your visit is to take a virtual tour of the collections and read up on the museum's history and highlights ahead of time. You'll be more likely to be able to put things into a meaningful context and enjoy focusing your concentration on the works themselves.