What I’m about to say might shock some people: We did not go to the Louvre during our recent time in Paris.
Pause. Gasp! Ooh la la! Sacrebleu!
Yes, it’s true. The Louvre did not make the cut for our itinerary (which I’ll be sharing for next week’s Bon Voyage, so come back for the full scoop on our four days in the City of Light!)
Before we left, we tried to outline our priorities. Of course the Musee du Louvre was on the list of “Iconic Paris Landmarks.” The Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, and Venus de Milo are some of the first that come to mind, but there are over 600,000 square feet of museum space to explore in this former French palace. In few other places in the world can you be in the company of so many celebrated pieces of art.
However, this museum was one of the first things we decided to nix from our plans, and for a few reasons.
(I should mention that I did visit The Louvre on a prior trip to Paris during study abroad. So, I speak from that experience when I share the following thoughts.)
For one, consider the size of this museum. This place is beyond huge, and every few feet there is something incredible to see. If you plan to take in all that The Louvre has to offer, bring your walking shoes and a Protein Bar or three. Walking through a museum this size is practically a feat in itself. Take advantage of the benches in some spaces, pace yourself, and don’t plan to do much more walking after your visit.
The size is directly connected to my next point, which is time. Seeing more than just a tiny fraction of what this museum has to offer requires a significant investment of time. If you are serious about exploring a decent number of exhibits, plan to arrive early and devote your entire day. Even then, this is a lot to absorb in that time period. Break up the time with stops in the cafe or just a few minutes here and there to sit and contemplate the greatness you’re observing. It can be overwhelming.
“But Amye,” you say, “I don’t want to see ALL of the art. I just want to see the Mona Lisa.” Ok, mon amie, I see your point. But let me tell you something – you want to see the Mona Lisa, and so do about 120 other tourists who had that same idea as you. Don’t think you’re going to get anywhere closer than 30+ feet from this painting without hordes of other art appreciators holding their cameras and smart phones above their heads for a clear shot of this masterpiece. My advice: visit this link, scroll down to the first exhibit, and drink in the mystery of da Vinci’s work.
To be fair, I can see this museum being an incredible resource for residents of the city, or even for students in Paris for a semester or a year. The opportunity to bite off one chunk of exhibits at a time, knowing the rest of these great works will remain until you come back, allows the resident of Paris to approach the museum in an entirely different way.
For my own prior experience as frugal student, we waited for the Friday Evening special where under-26 set can access the museum for about 3 hours for free. A great deal, and in my opinion it is a solid choice if you can’t miss The Louvre. We even had a strategy going in, to see just a few highlights. Even so, the expansiveness of the place was exhausting and we were easily distracted by, well, everything.
For our recent 4 days in Paris because of the size, and the time investment, and the predicted throngs of tourists at the Mona Lisa, we decided early on to forego The Louvre. Not to worry, we did explore some of the other museums and culture that Paris has to offer. And ultimately I don’t think we felt any less for having skipped this behemoth of a museum.
What about you? Have you visited, and “Louvre’d” to regret it? (haha – I couldn’t help myself!) Or do you disagree and think The Louvre is a must-visit even if you’re in Paris for just a few days?
P.S. Don’t forget – I promised our full 4-day Paris Itinerary for next week, so plan to come back!