A trip to Paris, especially a first trip, you must ask yourself, to Louvre or not to Louvre? Paris, with its numerous attractions, can be daunting. One of the most daunting destinations is the Louvre.
Don’t get me wrong, it is a wonderful museum, even for someone like myself who is not a real museum buff. With the number of world class museums in Paris, however, even non-museum people will be drawn to at least a few and will enjoy them. Really, you will as long as they don’t become time hogs. That is one of the benefits of a Paris trip; it does broaden ones horizons.
… And the Louvre does give one the opportunity to broaden ones horizons for sure, all 600,000 plus square feet of it. Depending on the length of your stay in Paris, it could broaden your horizons – for your whole vacation. That is the dilemma. How much time should or can one devote to it? Do you try to really experience it on the high time end or do you just do the big three on the low time end? It has been said there is a 3 point trail etched between those big three, the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory.
For my first visit to Paris, the Louvre visit was really on the low time end. Didn’t go in. Certainly while walking around the Jardin des Tuileries, which run in front of it, I did get to experience the grandeur of the building itself. I also got to experience, visually, the lineup of people going in. The lineup was expected and the not going in was kind of pre-planned. My wife had been there a number of times before as she had worked in northern France before we met. Because she had this tie to France already, it was a pretty sure thing this would not be our only trip to Paris. Not navigating the vastness of the this museum was a better option for us; to break me in to Paris in a more relaxing manner.
Or not to Louvre
For many people, this is not an option. If, however, this is a first trip to Paris but there are very good possibilities for future trips and if you are not too much of a museum person, then our plan may be the one for you. Still one should experience some museum life but in a more manageable dosage. I would recommend the Musée d’Orsay. It is right across the Seine from the Tuileries and the Louvre. You can take the pedestrian bridge where you might want to add to the padlock collection and throw away the key (if you are with someone dear to you). (Update: not anymore)
The Musée d’Orsay is, however, not a small museum. It does require some time as well, but it is much more manageable. This transformed former railway station (and looks the part) is my favourite museum. In my ‘not a real museum buff’ role, I have taken a liking to Van Gogh and some impressionists like Monet and Sisley. This is a prime spot for those.
To cut the museum time load down a bit more, there are many smaller options with the time commitment to match. A couple I like are the Musée Rodin, possibly because I like to think of myself as a ‘Thinker’ and the Musée Picasso. For art lovers and probably most others, the names of these museums may be self-explanatory.
Back to the Louvre though. For most, you will want to have some type of Louvre experience, first trip or not. After my first Paris visit, the next time we did devote a day to the Louvre. Sometime later, my wife and I had the good fortune to live outside Paris and became Amis du Louvre, meaning we had Friends of the Louvre memberships. Now that is the way to experience the Louvre but to keep in the perspective of how vast the Louvre is, we certainly are no experts on it even with the benefits of visiting through the card while living there.
The best bet for success in visiting the Louvre is pre-planning. For travel and definitely for Paris, I normally am not a fan of too much pre-planning. Paris is a wonderful city to get lost in. I would say this figuratively. The reality is usually not fun but if not under time constraints and depending on the area you get lost in, getting lost can add to a visit as well. But for the Louvre, check it out (web or whatever sources you can find) and isolate what you think may be of interest to you. Many people can recommend what they like but the diversity of the Louvre lends itself to trying to narrow down alternatives to fit you. As Amis du Louvre, when we visited we ensured we only ventured into a specific area or else we would be running the maze. While you may want to do more than one area, web resources, interactive maps, apps and pre-planned visitor trails offered by the museum can help you move to the next thing you want to see if you want to move around independently. Guided tours are also available but I’m a do it yourself kind of guy so I haven’t done any of those to comment on how good they may be.
For me the bottom line is, let Paris move you but plan your moves for the Louvre. Remember, ask yourself, to Louvre or not to Louvre?
- Scot Fin, author of Ralph and the Girl From Mayfair Towers