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.
See more posts on the Louvre in Paris.
See also: Queuing for tickets in Versailles.
14 thoughts on “Queuing in the rain at the Louvre”
When I was visiting museums in Paris on a scooter they apparently assumed that I was entitled to free admission, even though I was not really in any of those categories. When I bought a ticket, it was not collected – I couldn’t give them my ticket. And we were ushered to the front of the line even though we didn’t ask. For instance, the Orangerie Museum is [ Free of charge : all children under 18 years of age, persons with disabilities and their companions, upon presentation of proof, They didn’t ask me for proof and I didn’t have any proof. The Louvre doesn’t say anything about proof – it just says all disabled visitors are free.
So I guess now, I would have to book a time.
Yes, on their website you would first have to choose a day and time that still had places available, and then in the next step chose a disabled ticket for € 0.00. (I assume it will stay like this after the pandemic is over. We shall see.)
26K visitors a day is a huge figure. It only testifies the popularity of Louvre. People are feeling restless sitting home & eager to travel. My guess is the museum will welcome more tourists once its open. It will be interesting to get an update on this blog.
It’s hard to imagine how it must be at the Louvre now, especially pre-COVID the queues were unbelievably-long! Must be a surreal experience to see the inside significantly emptier, and I’m sure it’s a lot pleasurable to wander the halls without the crowds, as well as to see masterpieces like the Mona Lisa with a clear shot!
Now that the Louvre has re-opened after a long Covid shutdown, they are advertising to residents of Paris and vicinity that now would be an ideal time for them to visit.
Wow, so many visitors, it´s definitely one of the magnet for tourism in Paris. Rain or shine I think people would pursue seeing it. I dream to see it.
Yes, the Louvre is well worth visiting again and again. I hope they retain the system of reserving time slots for entry, as that makes visiting a lot less hassle.
I seem to remember, as a young Aussie “backpacker” (actually I carried a tiny suitcase), visiting the Louvre in 1978 on a free admission day. Arthur Frommer’s “Europe on $10 a Day” no doubt guided me there. I vaguely remember a short wait, but nothing like your pictures.
Later in the early 90s my husband and I availed ourselves of the guided tour, which in essence was a dash from one major item to another.
Although besieged by tourists, my feeling is that the Louvre was built first and foremost for the locals, and is so vast that the idea would be to visit one gallery only on each trip. Otherwise it is sensory overload.
Oh to be one of those lucky locals!
Yes, it’s best not to try to see everything at once. My wife and I once spent an entire day just going through the Egyptian Antiquities section (= 30 rooms).
We visited the Louvre at l least 3 or 4 times before I had the courage to see the Mona Lisa. They had just moved her to a different room and there weren’t a lot of people there so my daughter dragged me over and we actually got an up-close look at it. A very large man with a huge camera tried to block me to get his photo but my husband ran interference. I snapped a picture and beat a hasty retreat.
We always set a goal in the Louvre, see that and then check out a few favorites and leave while we’re still in a good mood. You can always go back! Good excuse to return to Paris.
I think I have only seen the Mona Lisa once (the original, that is). Somewhere I have a photo with the backs of a lot of heads and a tiny painting in the background.
Now I understand they have established a one-way system to ensure social distancing, with separate entrance and exit doors, enforced by two guards.
The last time I was in the Louvre was 1978. I’ve had five trips to Paris since and never felt the need to go. There are so many wonderful museums in the city and I truly prefer the smaller venues. One of these days, however, I would like to go back but it won’t be at the height of tourist season if I do. Thanks for the stats!
I like your photo of the massive queue in the rain, though I think I’d just give up at that point! I visited the Louvre back in 2007, and even then I’m sure I must have been able to pre-book a ticket somehow, because I remember using the priority entrance too. I almost always pre-book for museums that allow it, even before Covid. It just makes life easier to know you definitely have a ticket!
I’m also something of a queuephobe (is that a word?) so I try to avoid it when I can.