Updated: Jan 24, 2020
Long lines, hushed spaces and precious art can make the Louvre museum a daunting idea for parents. But, with a little planning and creativity, the world's most famous museum can be a pleasure for everyone involved.
Now - I know what you're thinking - 'Why on Earth would I want to put myself, my kids, and all the other visitors through that???' I know, because even pre-kids, I found the Louvre museum to be very overwhelming and usually avoided it, favoring the smaller, more intimate art collections of the city!
The Louvre is the most famous and biggest museum in the world - 42,000 works can be on display at any given time, and if you strung all the galleries out, they would stretch 8 miles. The lines can be massive, there's no food or drink in the galleries, and it's crowded (there was a record-breaking 10 million visitors in 2018 - that's 28,000 visitors per day!). Exactly the kind of place you want to take kids, right?
BUT it would also be a pity to miss this famous museum and the iconic works of art it houses - the Winged Victory of Samothrace (my personal favorite), The Venus de Milo, the Mona Lisa, just to name a few.
Well, I am here to tell you that with a few simple tips, the Louvre can be a great experience for everyone! It just takes a little planning, a little changing of expectations, and a little creativity!
1) These first two tips are crucial for avoiding long lines, which drain you and your kids of energy before you've even begun tackling the art! Number one most important tip - buy your ticket in advance! You will still have to go through the security line, but thanks to the next tip, you can cut that time in line down too!
2) Don't enter through the Pyramid! While this is the most obvious and beautiful entrance, it is also the most crowded. Instead, head over to the mini Arc de Triomphe in the Tuileries Gardens, and go down the hidden staircases to either side. Then follow the signs to the Louvre museum. This security line tends to much shorter.
3) Make a plan before tackling the museum. This is the part where your expectations have to change - you cannot expect to see everything (even without kids in tow this is the case!), and even with a reduced list, you still may not get to see everything you wanted. The English version of the Louvre website suggests some visitor trails of the museum highlights - this is a great way to get an idea of what there is to see and make a game plan. Choose ten or so works, study up on them a bit if you can, and map out where they are.
4) Get the kids involved! Starting around 4 years old, kids can start sketching works they like. I try to bring a new pack of markers and a mini-sketch book, which I unveil once inside the museum. Kids are usually really excited with the new art supplies and get right to work drawing some of their favorite works of art. For kids that aren't into drawing, you could suggest they take notes on what they like to look up later. Bonus for parents - it is really heartwarming to see kids enjoying art and you get to see their masterpieces!
5) Tell stories about the art. I will always remember the first time I took my 3 year old to a museum. About 20 minutes in, he was bored and saying his feet hurt. I looked around and found a statue of an eagle hunter trying to steal chicks while the angry mother bird swooped down, and turned this into a gripping story. My son loved it and was begging for more tales! Did we get to see much of the museum? No. Did it require more effort? Yes. BUT we had a really nice time and my son now looks forward to museums!
6) Stop for a snack mid-visit. The Café Mollien is the only café inside the museum, and while it offers just the basics, it's worth sitting down for a drink and snack to re-fuel and avoid any hunger breakdowns!
7) This tip came from a reader, and I really like it! Promise kids a stop at the giftshop afterwards to buy a postcard of their favorite work of art. This will keep them examining art to see which piece is their favorite, and will make for some discussion on why they like it too! Another option is to let kids take a photo of their favorite pieces to look at or sketch later.
8) Lastly - consider booking a The Petit Guide tour! I'll construct a custom itinerary based on your interests, help you navigate the museum, and entertain kids with stories about the art works. Everyone will learn about the history of the fortress turned palace turned museum and the stories behind the masterpieces, all during a pleasant and stress-free museum visit!
So, there you have it - my tried and true tips for actually enjoying a museum visit with kids. I hope next time you are in Paris with kids, you get to put some of these suggestions to use for a fun family outing!