In pre-Covid times, it was not uncommon to see hundreds of people queuing to get into the Louvre, the world’s largest museum.
I took these photos on a rainy Sunday afternoon in 2013 from inside the museum, where I was spending the day with the Belgian art connoisseur Eddy Dijssel (then known as “brueghel” on VirtualTourist). Every time we came to a window looking out onto the courtyard, we both took photos of all the people standing in line in the rain. We ourselves had used the priority entrance, because we had bought our advance tickets the day before at the fnac store near the Saint Lazare railway station.
As the day went on, I started seeing more and more lovely young women walking around the museum wearing very soggy light canvas shoes. This did not detract from their loveliness (nor did their shoes make squishy noises, particularly), but I’m sure it was uncomfortable for them and perhaps led to sniffles and sneezes later.
This is the advance ticket that I had bought the previous evening. I’m posting it here just as a historical artifact, because the system now is quite different.
The text on the ticket reads: “Ticket valid for one day (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday) starting at 9 am. Date of use: . . . . . . . . . [this I had to fill in myself]. Also permits access to the collections of the Delacroix Museum. Ticket valid 1 year starting with the day of purchase = August 24, 2013. Price including all taxes EUR 12.00 + 1.60 commission.”
Now (as of 2021) a ticket for individual entry to the Louvre costs € 17.00 when booked on the museum’s website. All visitors must now book a time slot, including those entitled to free admission. The advance tickets can no longer be used to skip the queue, but they do guarantee access to the Pyramid (the museum’s main entrance) within half an hour of the time shown on the ticket.
It is also possible to book museum tickets, with time slots, at the fnac stores in different parts of Paris. This costs a bit more, but might be useful if you don’t have access to a printer, for example.
The space under the Pyramid is the central entrance hall of the Louvre, where visitors can get information and have access to the three huge wings of the museum, called the Sully, Denon and Richelieu Wings, as well as access to the temporary exhibitions in the underground Hall Napoléon.
After seeing all these people under the Pyramid, I went home and looked up some statistics about how many people used to visit the Louvre each year. For the year 2010, for example, the official figure given by the French Ministry of Culture was 8,346,421. This made the Louvre by far the most-visited museum in the world.
The museum is only closed on Tuesdays and on January 1, May 1 and December 25, which means that in 2010 it was open on 310 days (because the three holidays did not happen to fall on Tuesdays that year). Dividing 8,346,421 by 310, we can work out that on an average day there were 26,924 people in the museum. Fortunately, the museum is so huge that in most rooms you didn’t feel uncomfortably crowded — unless you insisted on seeing the Mona Lisa or some such.
One reason for building the Pyramid in the first place was that the museum’s traditional entrances could not handle the large numbers of people who were already coming at the time. But in the decades after the Pyramid was inaugurated, which was in 1989, museum attendance more than doubled, so the Pyramid itself became inadequate for the task.
Now, of course, the number of visitors is greatly reduced because of the Covid pandemic, but I’m curious to see how this will all develop when the tourists return.
Location and aerial view of the Louvre on monumentum.fr.
My photos in this post are from 2013. I revised the text in 2021.