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The Louvre has been a medieval fortress, a palace for the kings of France, and just latterly (for the last two hundred years) a museum.
Not just any museum but the biggest museum in the world with the most visitors, housed in a royal palace which would be a major draw without the exhibits.
The exhibits are vast, with collections ranging from Egyptian art, through sculpture and the Mona Lisa, perhaps the most famous painting in the world.
In overview, the museum is open daily, except Tuesdays and certain public holidays, from 9am to 6pm. Evening openings until 10pm on Wednesdays and Fridays. Due to seasonality, best consult the official website to confirm for when you are visiting. You will also find a list of French national holidays when the museum is closed.
The standard ticket is for full-day access to the Louvre, except for temporary exhibitions held in the Hall Napoleon. There is a supplemental charge if you wish to view the temporary exhibitions.
Admission to the permanent collection is free for all on the first Sunday of every month October to March, but as you would expect it can be uncomfortably crowded.
If visiting the Louvre is a main reason to visit Paris then do check out getting a Paris Museum Pass.
Assuming you will want to visit other Paris art galleries and museums like the Orsay Museum or make multiple visits to the Louvre the Paris Museum Pass will save money and you can skip the ticket queues of the main venues.
For vast places like the Louvre you can come back and take in the exhibits in manageable bitesize chunks.
As you would expect, an audio guide is available for a charge. Several hundred artworks are translated into 7 languages (French, English, Spanish, Italian, German, Japanese, and Korean). You can buy a fast-track ticket with audio guide in advance (see below).
There are a number of self-guided tours you can download from the official website of the Louvre (link above). These are called thematic tours.
Each trail is based on a selection of works that typify a period, an artistic movement, or a theme. You can print them out from the website.
For individuals there is an introductory tour in English to the Louvre. The tour provides an introduction to a selection of masterpieces in the collection and lasts about 90 minutes.
Most tours are in French, typically only 2 tours a day in English, though do check in advance. These tours are of course not free and cannot be booked in advance.
You can avoid the long queues for entrance by buying your tickets in advance.
Unfortunately you can't buy these tickets direct from the Louvre and you can't pick the tickets up from the Louvre Museum. Instead you pick them up from an agency about 1 km from the Louvre.
However, the office is easy to get to and situated at the metro Bonne Nouvelle (line 8 or 9) or Strasbourg Saint Denis (line 4, line 8, and line 9) and is in the Grands Boulevards district of Paris, which is walkable from many hotels.
Fast track access followed by 2.5 hour audio guided tour. After your audio tour, you can continue to explore on your own.
3-hour walking tour covering highlights of the museum. You can continue exploring on your own pace after the tour. Morning, afternoon and evening tours available.
Numbers limited to 8 people. Break between museum visits. At the end of the tour, you can continue exploring Orsay Museum.
The Louvre is very central and easy to get to. By Paris Metro the Louvre has its own metro station on line 1 called Palais-Royal–Musee du Louvre.
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