I have a secret to tell you about the Louvre Museum in Paris.
I know what you’re thinking.
How can anyone possibly discover anything new about the Louvre that has not already been covered ad nauseum on the internet?
And maybe you are right. But I had done my homework before going to the Louvre. Not the homework about what is actually inside the Louvre. I mean, I know that is important and all but hello, OVERWHELMING.
No, what I mean is that I had done my homework about the best way to get into the Louvre.
The best time to visit. (early)
When to go for free. (first Sunday of every month, oh and also Bastille Day!)
Which entrance to look for. (Go past the Pyramid and enter by the underground shopping mall instead, the Carrousel Entrance)
But nowhere in all my internet scrolling and guidebook reading did I ever find this secret.
We woke up early on Bastille Day to walk over to the Louvre Museum. My brother and his wife, Peter and Whitney, and our four boys had decided that it would be fun to go to the Louvre for a very short visit if the lines were not long since the museum is free on Bastille Day.
We were going to be walking by it anyway and even if we did not go in, we could catch a glimpse of the glass pyramid in the courtyard. Our boys wanted to see the Mona Lisa, and Ben wanted to see Venus de Milo, but none of them were excited about long lines or hours of looking at art.
So off we went to the Louvre, holding our plans loosely and enjoying the beauty of Paris along the way.
We saw the line to the Pyramid before we even realized we had reached the museum. Even though the Louvre is free on Bastille Day, everyone still has to go through security and have bags checked. So we walked a few blocks and went into the courtyard from another entrance to see the Pyramid. All the while the kids were all saying things like:
We’re not getting in the line are we?
I don’t really care that much about seeing the Mona Lisa.
I told Peter that I had read that you could also enter through an underground shopping mall, the Carrousel Entrance, and we just had to find it. We took pictures of the Pyramid and watched the line for a minute to see how quickly it was moving. Then we set off in the opposite direction to find the other entrance.
Then Peter said,
Wait a second. I’m going to ask someone.
Stationed throughout the line to the Pyramid were attendants for the museum, so Peter went over to one and asked,
Excuse me, can you tell me where the Carrousel Entrance is to the museum?
Yes, it is just on the other side of the courtyard there (pointing) but if you walk down just to the end of this wing to my left, you can enter through the Porte des Lions and there is no line there.
Peter came back over to us and we followed him to the Southwest corner of the Louvre.
While we were walking I thought: Porte des Lions? What? How can it be that I’ve never heard of this entrance? And if it really is empty, why are all the people lined up at the Pyramid instead of going over there?
But true to the attendant’s word, there was an entrance in that corner and there was no line. Zero people waiting.
We walked right in.
I kept waiting for the catch, like we were going to have to go back to the front to be checked for security or that we would find another line inside the building.
But there was no catch. We wandered in and discovered that we were already really close to the Mona Lisa. Ben had a map and we followed him to the places he wanted us not to miss. Then we went underground to the Medieval Louvre, which I had never before seen. (Very fun)
We exited through the Pyramid so we got to stand under the glass, and there were even planes going over for Bastille Day.
We walked out into the sun and past the (still very long) line outside the Pyramid to have picnic lunch on the lawn in the courtyard.
We could still see the empty Porte des Lions and in fact, we watched people walk past it for the next hour, only to go stand in the line by the Pyramid.
It’s like you don’t really think it could possibly be an entrance because it’s so deserted. Also there are no signs indicating that you can enter there. So everyone just follows the crowd. You want to go and stop them but when you try to talk to strangers in Paris in English, they think you are going to steal from them and they just shake their heads at you. And it is true that there are a lot of con artists robbing people just by getting their attention for a minute.
So we just shrugged our shoulders, leaned back in the grass and felt smug about not having to stand in line.
Now I told you that there was going to be a secret about the Louvre buried somewhere in this story, so did you spot it?
Here’s a hint.
The secret is not that the Porte des Lions is the best entrance for the Louvre.
In fact, after I got home, I googled it and I found some information about it. Sometimes it is not open. If it’s not a free day at the museum, you have to have your ticket ahead of time to use the entrance.
So if that’s not the secret I wanted to share about the Louvre, then what is it?
Well I’ll tell you.
When you’re wondering if you have to stand in line to get inside the Louvre (or anywhere else), find someone to ask.
I am really the worst when it comes to thinking I can figure it out for myself. The worst. I don’t want to look like a fool.
But on this trip, I learned more than once from my brother that asking not only saves time, it opens doors.
I would LOVE to hear. When was the last time you discovered something wonderful, just because you were willing to ask?