The Louvre Museum in Paris has both the largest collection of art in the world and is also the most visited museum in the world. It’s also one of the best organized museums you’ll ever go to, so going with kids is not only easy, it can be just so much fun. With a few tips, you can take your kids to the Louvre and have it be a highlight of your trip, one they will still be talking about years later (making you feel like the world’s best parent).
Before you go:
- Buy your tickets ahead of time online to make the lines faster and easier. Have them up and ready on your phone, so that you can pass right through and get down to the business at hand. We recently bought ours several weeks ahead before we even left for our trip so that we knew that on a specific Friday, the Louvre was our mission. (For our 7 Tips for How to Travel to France with Kids, which includes what tickets to buy when, click here.)
- Leave your day open so that you can take the time you need and want at the Louvre. Feeling pressure to get somewhere else while working through the galleries with kids will only add to the stress. Plan to get there by late morning and stay for a while. Keep in mind that your kids may need to run around outside after, so build in the time for a walk through the gardens of the Palais-Royale. Later, perhaps a nice sit down at Breizh Café is in order for an afternoon crêpe and cup of tea (or cider, if you grown ups need something a bit stronger).
- Pack a snack bag. The Louvre is enormous and contains three major wings: Richelieu, Denon and Sully, all connected by an airy and light center courtyard where there is a coatcheck, snack bar, café, wonderful book and gift shop, bathrooms and benches to sit on. My suggestion is to make a quick trip from your Airbnb or hotel in the morning to a Monoprix or the local boulangerie and fromagerie so that you can make (or pick up) some easy baguette and cheese or baguette and meat sandwiches. Throw in a bag of salted nuts, some chips, some dried fruit and little dried saucisson, or sausage, and you have a ready to eat picnic. Don’t forget your water bottles. You can pick up some extra snacks at the museum cafe—Oranginas for the kids, Coke zeros or coffees for the parents, terrific (and enormous) Ladurée pistachio or chocolate macarons for everyone.
When you get there:
- Take the time to orient yourself: Get a locker and stow everything that you don’t want to lug around. (We gave our younger son the task of making the code, packing the locker and holding onto the key, which was fun and made him feel important.) Take one small cotton bag the most necessary items—but make sure it’s light. Leave all your snacks and water bottles as you cannot take them into the exhibition rooms. Now go get a map of the museum. And then everyone should use the bathroom. And, I suggest, that before you even start, you all should all sit down and have something to eat and drink in the common area of the courtyard. During that time, check out the map and plan on one of the wings—Richelieu, Denon or Sully—to try first.
- The Louvre is an enormous treasure hunt. Most kids over the age of seven have heard of the Mona Lisa, for instance, and finding it is part of the fun. They might not have heard of the Venus de Milo, but a search for the lady (Aphrodite) with two broken arms and lots of people taking pictures is sure to be fun. There are other fun things to search for, too, like the one Vermeer (“The Lacemaker”); the headless greek sculpture of Niké; the Winged Victory of Samothrace; the enormous Delacroix of Liberty Leading the People; Canova’s sculpture of Psyche getting a kiss from Cupid; or lesser known sculptures, like “the guy whose hand is stuck in a tree and a lion is biting his butt” ( Puget’s “Milon de Crotone”). Older children might be interested in finding David’s painting of Jean Paul Marat dead in his bath, and hearing the story of how he was murdered by Charlotte Corday. Not to mention, there are wild boars, lions, half man/half animal creatures, bloody battles, heads on plates, half-clothed women and men (and lots of butts, boobs and penises to discuss) and even tiny self- portraits within paintings of someone else. Along the way, there are rooms and rooms of unexpectedly wonderful things to see and experience, all of which are fabulous conversation starters with kids. Ever. Even if you looked at one work of art a minute at the Louvre, it would take you 65 days to see everything. Go have a fun treasure hunt and realize it’s futile to be stressed about it.
- Take lots of breaks. Go find the Mona Lisa (but please don’t stand in line for it—that is a sure fire way to kill the day. Walk past, check it out, and go on to something you can stand next to). After about an hour, go back down to the atrium and eat your sandwiches, have another macaron (because you’re in Paris, after all) and have a beverage. Talk to each other about what you saw. Or just how good the gooey center of that macaron is. Then use the bathroom before you go back to another wing to find another piece of art. This is a slow process. Enjoy your life being slowed down to this one, luxurious task: seeing art with your kids in Paris.
- Read the crowd: My kids (amazingly) did 5 hours of the Louvre on our first go (with plenty of breaks and that also included the gift shop at the end for about 30 minutes). And then, at exactly 5 hours, everyone had a meltdown at the exact same moment. It was time to go. When the energy starts to flag, you can likely press for one more trip to see one more thing, but then your window has closed. Be ready to pack up and take off. If the quality of the time that was spent was good, and a few things were enjoyed, trust me, you had a win even if you were only there forty five minutes. Your kids have their whole lives to go back to the Louvre and see more. After all, your job was just to get them started. Which is exactly what you did! Bravo. (And you got a small bite of a good macaron out of it, right?)
Caitlin Shetterly is the Editor-in-Chief of Frenchly. She is also the author of 4 books: Fault Lines, Made for You and Me, Modified and the upcoming novel, Pete and Alice in Maine, which will be published on July 4th, 2023 by Harper Books. She is a native daughter and she lives with her two sons and husband in an old house on the coast of Maine.