Traveling with kids in Paris should be a joy for everyone — both kids and adults, which is exactly the argument I make in my guidebook, Paris with Kids. Don’t think that means forsaking the Louvre — try my kid-tested, parent-approved Louvre for kids tour.
Since no trip to Paris is complete without a tour through Paris’ — nay, the world’s — preeminent art museum, the Louvre, here’s a basic primer on navigating this behemoth Collection of Collections, the Louvre, with your kids. A full tour will be available in the second edition of Paris with Kids, due out in December 2015.
Follow this Louvre for kids route and you’ll see most of the museum’s main highlights sans tears, tantrums and meltdowns.
Step 1: Preparation
Ok, you’ve got your Paris Museum Pass in-hand, right? This is your passport to skip the often-atrocious ticket-buying lines encountered inside the museum. You don’t need a Paris Museum Pass for your kids, only travelers 18 and over.
Now, make sure you’ve got plenty of water and snacks, and perhaps some coloring books. Next, choose your time wisely. I like the Louvre on Wednesday and Friday evenings when it’s open late until 9:45pm. Otherwise, I prefer arriving right at opening, 9am sharp. The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays, and always, always check online for up-to-date hours and admission information.
Step 2: Entry
Woah, hold up there family traveler — you’re not going through the Louvre’s main entrance, aka the “Louvre Pyramid.” No, that’s for suckers, or line lovers. We are neither. Instead, we’ll be entering through the Louvre’s secondary entrance on rue Rivoli — look for the red awning — where we’ll be strolling through security line-free. Don’t worry, we’ll exit the museum through the famed (and controversial) I.M. Pei-designed glass pyramid where we’ll marvel at the contrast between old and new.
Once into the museum lobby underneath the aforementioned glass pyramid, grab a free museum map from the impossible-to-miss information desk, hit the WCs near the Richelieu side and then make your way up toward the Italian masters in the Denon wing to see the museum’s most-famous painting first…
Step 3: Mona Lisa
Ain’t she gorgeous? No, she’s not. But this is why you’re here, right? Wade through the mass of people photographing, studying and taking selfies of the Louvre’s most famous and mystical resident. Push to the front so your kids can see this masterpiece. Ask them: Is she smiling? Are her eyes following you? Where does her hair end and her face begin?
The Mona Lisa is probably smaller than you expected and, in many ways, wholly underwhelming. But you’ve just done it. There are other, even more interesting paintings right in this room — especially the Louvre’s largest painting (over 32 feet wide), “The Wedding at Cana” by Paolo Veronese, which hangs on the wall directly across from Miss Mona. So, stroll around, see if anything catches your eye. Good news: It’s one down and two to go. You will
survive enjoy the Louvre!
Step 4: Venus de Milo
It’s time to leave the Italians and the crowds behind in search of some ancient Greek sculptures, namely Venus de Milo, in the Louvre’s Sully wing. Inside a hall packed with marble statues stands a rather unassuming, armless woman. The sculpture depicts the Greek god Aphrodite, in perfectly proportioned, angelic splendor. Every inch of marble on this woman is gorgeous…except the bits that are missing, her arms. Where are her arms? How did they go missing? It’s a mystery for the ages. That story, along with her propaganda value, makes Venus one of the world’s most intriguing works of art. After Mona, this is the next most-visited piece in the Louvre.
Now that you’ve ticked two must-see boxes, it’s time to strike far from the Louvre’s mainstream to enjoy a wee slice of ancient Egypt.
Step 5: Egyptians (and bathrooms)
It’s a partial backtrack from the Greeks back into the Denon wing, but kids love the Egyptian collection, featuring mummies, sarcophagi and cats, lots and lots of mummified cats. Oh, and you’re probably looking for a bathroom at this point — they’re located at the end of the Egyptian hall. And they’re clean, free and uncrowded.
Step 6: Exit
If you managed to coax your kids this deep into the Louvre without tears, tantrums or meltdowns, then I do believe they’ve just earned a carnival ride or two at nearby Tuileries Garden. Head out through the main “pyramid” entrance, admire the sharp contrast between it and the Louvre’s mishmash of Baroque, Renaissance, and Neo-Classic exterior.
Now, turn around, forget about art and head toward the Ferris Wheel in Tuileries Garden, where in summer you’ll find a small amusement park with rides for all ages, junk food and play space. Run free!
If you enjoyed this abbreviated self-guided tour of the Louvre for families, then you’ll love the forthcoming second edition of my guidebook, Paris with Kids. In this upcoming edition, I walk readers through the Louvre with Kids Tour step-by-step with in-depth information on the main artworks as well as some bonus works of art near Mona and Venus.