“Quality over Quantity” is the motto for the new director of the Louvre Museum, Laurence des Cars, who announced earlier this month that the museum recently began limiting the number of visitors to 30,000 per day, or between 7 and 8.5 million each year, “in order to facilitate a comfortable visit and ensure optimal working conditions for museum staff.”
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New Director, New Plans
That’s a far cry from the last director, Jean-Luc Martinez, who congratulated himself after the record-shattering 10.2 million visitors in 2018 (and 9.6 million in 2019). But if you were one of those visitors, it’s likely you had a miserable time. Because even though the Louvre is the largest museum in the world, and even though not everyone is trying to go see the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, or Venus de Milo (especially repeat visitors), and even though it’s possible to get “skip the line” tickets or passes, everyone still has to funnel through the same maddening crowds once inside.
The announcement came right on the heels of the announcement by the City of Paris of a record 4.5 million total visitors to the 14 municipal museums and monuments. The figure is usually closer to three million per year, but because of the re-opening of the Carnavalet and the Victor Hugo Museum, and the popularity of the Palais Galliera and the Catacombes, they’ve broken records. And if you’ve tried to get a ticket for the Catacombes — which now ONLY allow for tickets to be pre-purchased online for a shocking €29 in advance and €18 if it’s for the same day – you’ll understand why that’s not necessarily a good thing.
According to an interview in the Journal des Arts, Des Cars plans on enacting several other new measures focusing on the comfort of the visitors and museum staff alike. In addition to limiting the number of daily visitors to the previously-mentioned 30k max each day, she also plans on adding a fourth entrance, possibly on the east side of the museum (closest to the Louvre-Rivoli metro station). This would alleviate the lines that form outside the Pyramid entrance, which was built to accommodate the approximately four million annual visitors to the Louvre when it was opened in 1989.
Finally, she’s considering opening the museum each night until 7pm (instead of the current 6pm plus Friday nocturnal openings) in an effort to attract more Parisians back to the museum, which helps disperse the visitors to the lesser-known works and also ensures the museum still has visitors when international travel takes a hit, such as during the pandemic.
None of this should come as a surprise if you’ve been following the news since Des Cars became the Louvre’s first female director in September 2021. “We have to be open a little later in the day if we want young working people to come,” she said in an interview that year in The Guardian. And a year ago in Le Monde she explained that “Visitors should feel good and not in a state of stress” due to the long lines, confusing signage, and bottlenecks around the most popular artworks. “Many visitors have bad memories.”
So now we’ll just have to wait and see what she manages to accomplish over the next few years as France’s visitor numbers creep back up to pre-pandemic numbers (the Louvre already had 7.8 million visitors in 2022).
Tips for Visiting the Louvre
Make sure you really want to go. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But I can tell you from over a dozen years of being a tour guide that most people visit the Louvre because they think they “should”, because someone is dragging them along, or because they’re traveling with a group and don’t have a choice.
If you need someone’s permission to tell you NOT to go, you can have mine. If there were fewer miserable people in the Louvre, everyone would be happier (there’s a food court and shopping mall — the Carrousel du Louvre — attached to the Louvre for those of you who would rather chill while your travel companions are inside).
Having said that, I think most people, even those who already really want to go, would benefit from reading up a bit in advance to focus on which artworks or rooms might actually make you excited enough to weather the inevitable crowds with a smile. If the Mona Lisa “disappoints” some visitors (not big enough, apparently), there are plenty of others that have the opposite effect. Have fun hunting them down, and when in doubt, check out Napoléon III’s apartments.
Louvre Tickets: Buy in Advance
While it’s not (yet) absolutely required, the Louvre highly recommends you purchase a ticket in advance if you want to be guaranteed entry to the museum. The exception is Paris Museum Pass holders, who MUST purchase a timed entry ticket in advance (you can do this before you’ve purchased your museum pass; in fact it’s a good idea to make sure there’s a slot open before you pay for the pass).
Also, if you already have a ticket you have three different entrances you can use: the Pyramid, the Carrousel du Louvre, and — my favorite — the Porte des Lions (see image below). Those without tickets have to use the Pyramid entrance.
Strangely, the English version of the visitors’ page says “Due to a technical problem, the online ticket office is temporarily suspended”:
However if you actually click on the green “Tickets” button at the top right of the screen, you can indeed purchase tickets online:
Tickets are €17 if purchased in advance online, and €15 at the door for same-day entry if there’s space. Anyone under 18 is free (under 26 if you’re an EU member resident). It’s also free for everyone on July 14th.
Opening Hours: No Changes Yet
For now, opening hours remain 9am-6pm daily except Tuesdays, with Friday night opening until 9:45pm. The museum is also closed on January 1st, May 1st, and December 25th.
Don’t Forget to Check Room Closures
If you have your heart set on a specific artwork or room in the Louvre (which, honestly, makes it a lot nicer to visit), you should check up on the daily schedule of closures and partial closures updated regularly before you decide on the day you want to visit.