The Louvre Museum ranks among the largest, most famous and prestigious on Earth. No trip to Paris is complete without a visit to this historic palace. Yet tourists might consider skipping its price of admission if they’re traveling on a budget or with little time to spare. After all, the sheer size makes it impossible to appreciate its priceless artifacts and architecture in just one visit.
Still, should frugal art lovers traveling to France risk their chance to see the Musée du Louvre for themselves? Fear not, for you can actually enjoy plenty of things about the Louvre without breaking the bank. Here are six things you can enjoy from the Louvre for free.
6 Download the App
If you cannot go to the Louvre, let the museum come to you, or more specifically to your smartphone. My Visit to the Louvre, the official Louvre app, is an essential tool to learn everything the palace has to offer and plan your visit accordingly. The software was developed as a direct result of several renovation initiatives launched in 2014 to make the Louvre more user-friendly.
Available in multiple languages for both iOS and Android devices, this nifty geolocation app holds practical information on every collection within the compound. For example, the app shows the location for each piece of art by floor level and wing. You can also go directly to your painting or sculpture of choice from anywhere inside the museum premises with the app’s interactive 3D map.
Another great feature is your Personalized Visit profile, where you can plan your day inside the museum halls according to how long your visit will be. Choose what art categories interest you the most, as well as whether you have impaired vision and/or mobility issues. Afterwards, you get a customized route to follow according to your needs.
If you’re willing to spend a few bucks, My Visit to the Louvre also includes guided audio tours you can purchase and download to your device. Each audio guide will set you back around one euro, or you can buy the complete audio guide collection for about 4.99€ (still cheaper than the actual guided tours).
5 Explore the Gardens
There’s an admission fee for to the museum itself, but access to the outer palace grounds is free and open to the public. This includes the adjacent Jardin de Tuileries, a majestic 16th Century garden turned public park. The Tuileries Gardens give locals and tourists a great view of the Louvre Palace, as well as a refreshing place to rest or take a stroll. You can even find outdoor restaurants to enjoy some of the local cuisine or just a cup of coffee in the shade.
A great sight to see is the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, the former entrance to the demolished palace that gave the gardens their name. The statues and reliefs that adorn the Arc celebrate Napoleon Bonaparte’s diplomatic and military victories in a style based on Roman arches. This arch measure three times smaller than its more famous cousin, the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile at Place Charles de Gaulle. Regardless, it’s a prominent masterpiece of sculpture and design in its own right.
There is also plenty of outdoor art to enjoy. For instance, the pond at the park’s eastern Grand Carré or large square features several 19th century statues with mythical and religious themes. The Cour Napoléon at the front entrance to the museum is surrounded by breathtaking statues like that of the Sun King himself, Louis XIV.
On occasion, the Louvre also organizes outdoor events and exhibitions in the Napoleon Courtyard, most of which are open to the public. Check the Louvre’s calendar to find all events available during your desired date of visit.
4 Enjoy the Pyramid
Paris is shaped by a unique blend of classic and modern artistic styles. Possibly no other structure in the city besides the Eiffel Tower proves this more than the Louvre Pyramid at the front entrance. Or Pyramids plural, for there are actually two: the outside section that adorns the palace’s Cour Napoléon courtyard and the Inverted Pyramid that is located underground.
Built between 1988 and 1993 by architect I.M. Pei, the pyramid came into being as part of President François Mitterrand’s grand plan to modernize the French capital. This geometric marvel of glass and metal received mixed opinions from its inception, a point that even gets mentioned at the start of Dan Brown’s popular novel, The Da Vinci Code. (Like many museums, the Louvre has embraced the popularity of the book with its own Da Vinci-themed tour route.)
Regardless, Parisians have accepted the glass pyramid as their own. More importantly, the museum’s popularity attendance has risen exponentially since its inauguration, receiving a record 10.2 million visitors in 2018. It seems a selfie with the Louvre Pyramid is as important to any tourist as gazing at Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
3 Go Shopping
Remember when we said there is an Inverted Pyramid at the lower levels? You can walk down and take a look for yourself. While you’re at it, why not grab some clothes or rent a car?
As it turns out, the Louvre has a shopping mall between the palace building and the lower parking levels. At Le Carrousel Du Louvre you can shop for items from many brands such as Lacoste, Pandora, L’Occitane, Bose, Fossil, Hertz, Tommy Hilfiger and Swatch, to name a few.
Visitors also have their choice of lunch with restaurants that range from world-class cuisine to a burger at McDonald’s. The WiFi is also free of charge.
Just browsing? There are open exhibits to find below as well, such as Ni apparence ni illusion (Neither Appearance Nor Illusion). This installation by conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth consists of neon phrases covering the 12th century walls of the Louvre’s medieval foundation.
2 Use the Bathroom (Sort Of)
Nature calls, even at the largest museum in the world. Fortunately, the food court and shopping levels have restrooms for your convenience, but only restaurant customers have free access.
Otherwise, your best bet is the chic Point WC lavatory at the shopping mall, adorned with Renova toilet paper rolls in every color. It’ll set you back around 1.50€, but each stall is thoroughly cleaned after each use with disinfectant products approved by the French government.
1 Visit the Louvre Museum Itself
You’ve done every free activity the Louvre has to offer and milked each one for all it was worth. All that’s left is to enter the museum itself, but you’re on a roll. Why pull out your credit card now?
Actually, you can visit the museum and enjoy its treasures for free, under any one of the following conditions:
- If you visit on the first Saturday of each month.
- If you’re under the age of 18.
- If you visit on Bastille Day, July 14.
- If you’re under the age of 26 and visit on Friday from 6 p.m. to 9:45 p.m.
- If you have a disability of accompany someone who does.
- If you’re an accredited high school teacher or professor of art, art history, and the applied arts.
- If you’re a legal resident between 18 and 25 years old of the European Economic Area (which encompasses the European Union, as well as Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein).
- If you have a membership to the Société des Amis du Louvre, which starts at 35 euro per year based on your age, education level or profession.
There you have it! You just ran out of excuses to skip on visiting the Louvre Museum, a must-see on any trip to Paris.
Now, Some Tips
Join the Celebration
As of this writing, the Pyramid du Louvre marks its thirtieth anniversary in 2019. The Louvre Museum planned plenty of activities to mark the occasion, many free of charge.
Get You Souvenir
Besides its brand-name shops, Le Carrousel Du Louvre includes several Louvre-themed gift shops (as well as an online option).
Wash & Go
The staff at Point WC frown upon doing anything in this lavatory other than relieving yourself and washing your hands. We advise against washing your face and especially brushing your teeth.
Pay It Forward
Anything that brings attention to the Louvre is beneficial for its long-term success. After using some of the Louvre’s free amenities, consider giving something back.
Everyone involved with the Louvre Museum would love nothing more than to open its doors free of charge, for all to enjoy it as a repository of art and history. However, like many historical monuments, the Louvre depends on donations and admissions fees to keep itself afloat.
As the recent fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral showed, historic does not mean permanent. Many travelers who never visited that monument must now wait indefinitely for it to be rebuilt. The debate on whether Notre-Dame could have avoided this continues still, but the recent influx of donations will certainly help the cathedral return sooner to its former glory.
In short, when give your time and money to the Musée du Louvre and other museums around the globe, you help preserve our history and heritage for future generations.
Where to Find It
Rue de Rivoli, Palais Royale Musée du Louvre, 75058 Paris, France
+33 (0) 1 40 20 53 17