It’s one of the most iconic sites in a city jam-packed with iconic sites. Paris’s Louvre Museum is located inside the elegant Louvre Palace, which was originally started as Louvre Castle in the late 12th century until the city swelled up around it. The museum took over in the 18th century, but the building continued to be expanded well into the 20th century. Much later, architect I.M. Pei added the landmark glass pyramids in the main courtyard and the museum as it’s known today was formed.
Of course, there is much about the Louvre, inside and out (the Mona Lisa, for example), that draws in visitors in droves. That can mean a long wait for tickets and queues can stretch back for hours on the busiest days. However, it is possible to skip the queue with special tickets. And being the world’s largest art museum, it’s hard to know where to start, or finish, and guided tours will get you to the main draws with a minimum of fuss. Here are five of the best options.
From €65/ per person
This excellent tour gives you the best of all worlds by, first, getting you past the queues with a skip-the-queue ticket. Once inside, you’re given the low-down on the museum’s best exhibits, such as the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo thanks to a knowledgeable local guide. This is a great way to get a feel for the place over your first two hours. Once the tour is finished, you can choose to explore on your own or leave, content in the knowledge you’ve seen the star attractions. Tours are available in either English or German.
From €59/ per person
Another option is to take the slightly longer tour that incorporates a walk through the Tuileries Gardens, with their topiary bushes and lovely fountains. There are thought to be around 100,000 objects on show at the Louvre, so the guide, once you’ve skipped the line to get inside, will highlight the various galleries, such as the Medieval section, and lead you through the cavernous rooms to see the classics, as well as the sublime Winged Victory of Samothrace statue, which has been in the Louvre for many years.
FROM: €20/per person
One system used by the Louvre to mediate the masses of visitors, is to have a timed entry ticket. That allows you to enter the museum during a narrow, strict window of time, although once in, you are free to spend as long as you want (opening hours-permitting) among the treasures of human creativity. There is no guide provided in this option, so it would suit those who prefer to experience things at their own pace and rely on reading the museum’s insightful information panels to add context to the visuals.
From €61/ per person
This more detailed tour delves straight in, skipping past the queues, to get to the main galleries. The comprehensive nature of guide’s approach means you’ll get the chance to see some of the more oft-overlooked treasures inside the gallery, like the Great Sphinx of Tanis, which might be bypassed on shorter tours in favour of the big hitters like the Mona Lisa. The tour is particularly focussed on the Renaissance riches of the Louvre, so it’s a great chance to see the works of artists like Caravaggio and Michelangelo, as well as Leonardo da Vinci.
From €54/ per person
If your time in Paris is limited but you’d like to catch the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo before you have to catch a plane, train or automobile, then this 90-minute tour, which includes a bypass of the queues, might be the best option. The guide will lead you straight to the masterpieces and fill you in on the salient details, such as the theories around the Winged Victory of Samothrace. As with the other guided tours, you’re free to explore on your own after the tour has ended too, so it works as an option for those who just want a quick overview before going it alone.