Avoid long waits at the Louvre by visiting less-used museum entrances.
If you’re like most visitors to Paris, you’re probably looking to schedule your trip in the summer.
And who can blame you? Not me, definitely. One of the most beautiful times to visit Paris is during the summer months of June, July, and August. The days are long and warm, and the sky is (usually) clear and bright.
But of course, it is also peak tourism season.
You know what that means: the streets are brimming with visitors, who like yourself are all desperate to visit Paris’ most impressive monuments. The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Disneyland (yes, you read that right… with over 13 million visitors in 2016, Disneyland outranks even the Eiffel Tower).
And, of course, the famous Louvre museum.
The lines can get long. Super long. I’m talking 3+ hours long.
Now, standing in line is clearly no one’s ideal way to spend a morning. But for many travelers, a visit to Paris is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and seeing the Louvre (and the Mona Lisa) is often a “must-do”. Hence: all those willing souls, waiting for hours, just for a bit of culture.
A question we often get (especially on our Paris introductory tour) is how best to avoid those infamous waiting lines. And specifically: that line at the Louvre which seems to wrap around the courtyard and go on forever!
The Louvre is the most visited museum in Paris, among its other claims to fame. So, on any day from May to September and again in December, you will most likely to see a line like this:
This is the main entrance to the Louvre, Le Pyramide. I’ve seen people waiting in line here before the museum is even open. At this entrance, you don’t even get to skip this line with a Museum Pass – nope, this one is just to go through the metal detectors! (Though it is important to remember to stand in the correct Orange line if you do have a ticket – see below for more information on this).
Now before losing all hope of getting into the Louvre in a reasonable amount of time, let me tell you: there is hope. Years ago we scoured the Louvre museum and can up with some alternative options. They can be a little tricky, and the Louvre has a habit of switching things around pretty frequently… but hopefully this information will help you spend your time better than than waiting for 2 hours under Paris’ many seasons!
Here are some alternative entrances to the Louvre museum that you might like to try on your trip here:
1. PORTE DES LIONS ENTRANCE
UPDATE: as of June 2018, this entrance has re-opened to regular ticket holders!
In the past, this entrance had been changed to admit groups only. However, the museum has once again changed the rules, and now you can use this entrance with your ticket or Museum Pass.
One thing to note is that you must already have a ticket to use this entrance. You can purchase your ticket online, and as always, I HIGHLY recommend you do so.
This entrance will get you into the Louvre not far from Mona Lisa. This is great in terms of seeing her first… but beware as this is also the most crowded area of the museum. Don’t let it discourage you! And see my tips about when to visit the Louvre, below.
2. LE CARROUSEL DU LOUVRE
This is by far your best bet if you do not already have a ticket for the Louvre. (But you can get in through here if you already have a ticket, as well).
This is basically the underground entrance to the Louvre. This is the one you access if you take the metro (metro stop for the Louvre: ‘Palais Royale-Musee du Louvre’ on line 1 and 7).
You can also access it from the Rue de Rivoli, at number 99 (see the picture above for what this entrance looks like).
If you enter from the Rue de Rivoli, walk down two sets of escalators into a small underground shopping strip:
Pass all the shops and you will find an inverted pyramid:
On the same day that I took the picture of the crazy long line at Le Pyramide, this is the line at the entrance of Le Carrousel du Louvre:
That line is about 5 minutes long! Much better than a 2 hour wait, yes?
Even though in the summer the Carousel line can also get pretty long, it is never, ever as long as the main entrance Pyramide line.
The best part: After going through the metal detectors at this entrance, you enter the same part of the Louvre as everyone who waited in the Pyramide line -but you didn’t have to stand there for 2 hours like they did!
Now, with all that time saved from waiting in the lines, you might even have time to enjoy a macaron from the famous Laduree store, which luckily has a little shop inside Le Carrousel du Louvre shopping strip…
One last entrance:
3. PORTE DE RICHELIEU
This is an entrance into the sculpture section of the museum, and is between the exteriour Louvre courtyard (the part with the pyramid) and the Rue de Rivoli (street running parallel to the Louvre).
Don’t even bother about this entrance, this is for tour groups and people who have an annual Membership pass to the Louvre. I only mention it so you don’t end up wasting time waiting at this entrance.
So, to resume, let me give you a map of all the Louvre entrances, including the secret ones:
My tip: In case you ever are stuck in the Pyramid line, there are actually different color coded lines:
As a general rule, it’s always best to pre-purchsae your Louvre ticket… and that way be sure you are waiting in the Orange line for visitors with tickets (it is shorter than the green line).
WHAT TIME TO VISIT THE LOUVRE?
This is another big question we get all the time. Let me lay it out for you:
First thing, don’t forget that the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays (seriously: this is one of those common mistakes we see ALL the time.)
Most Parisian museums are closed on Mondays, not Tuesdays like the Louvre. What does this mean for a Monday Louvre visit? Since it’s one of the only museums open – and the most popular – it is absolutely at its busiest!
If you have any flexibility whatsoever, avoid the Louvre on Mondays. You’ll thank me for this, I promise. (In the busy summer season we don’t even offer our Louvre tour on Mondays because the crowds get so insane).
YES on Wednesday or Friday evening
Wednesdays and Fridays are “Nocturnes” – that is, the museum is open late. This is by far the best time to visit! We always encourage Wednesday or Friday evenings for the Louvre tour. You have until 9:45pm, so booking the tour as late as 7pm is definitely an option (and one of the best ones, too).
To give you an example: the only time I have ever been in a room in the Louvre completely alone (with no other people around me) was on a Wednesday evening in the Egyptian section.
To get the most ‘bang for your buck’ no matter when you visit the Louvre museum, I’d suggest this Keys to the Louvre tour. It takes you on a 2-hour whirlwind through the museum, hitting all the main attractions (and then some), in a seriously funny way. The guide Steph is a licensed guide who has the humor and depth of knowledge to really help you appreciate this enormous maze of a museum! And, my gift to you? 5 euros off your ticket! Just enter “BLOGTHX” as the promo code when booking.
Louvre Museum Opening hours
Monday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday: from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Wednesday, Friday: from 9 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.
Closed on Tuesdays
Rooms begin closing 30 minutes before museum closing time.
I hope this makes your Louvre experience as quick and easy as possible. Don’t forget, even if you had to wait in line, once you are inside you will quickly forget that part and get swept away by all the amazing works of art you will find in there! Say hi to Mona for me 🙂
Additional Paris resources
- Eiffel Tower tickets sold out? 13 impressive alternatives
- The worst Paris vacation planning mistakes you can make
- 9 surprisingly easy ways to avoid tourist trap restaurants in Paris
- Complete guide to useful apps for Paris: 2017 Edition
- Need personalized recommendations for your Paris trip? Save time and frustration by getting expert help here.
This article was originally published 24 July 2015 but has been updated for accuracy. Written colaboratively by Claire & Louise.