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The Musée du Louvre is possibly the most famous art museum in the world. Located in Paris, this museum spans over 60, 600 square meters and includes approximately 35, 000 individual works of art. The sheer scope of this museum often overwhelms many visitors, who feel nervous about visiting simply because they are afraid of not being able to find the artwork they want to see, or not having enough time to see everything.

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The truth is that you’ll never be able to see all 35, 000 individual works of art in a single day. You can, however, see all of the Louvre’s great masterpieces, including the famous Mona Lisa as well as the Venus de Milo and the Code of Hammurabi, in one trip. You can also spend some time exploring a few favorite artistic periods or special exhibits in more detail.

Do you have a pair of comfortable shoes at the ready? Here we go.

Step 1: Book a hotel room near the Louvre

You’re going to want to be ready to enter the museum as soon as it opens at 9 a.m., which means you’ll want to be lined up and ready to go before the doors open. Don’t waste time in the morning transiting across the city; get a hotel near the museum, such as the  Hotel du Louvre. That way, you can get a good night’s rest and still be first in line.

Step 2: Book your ticket

Always purchase your ticket in advance. If you attempt to buy your Louvre ticket directly from the museum, expect to spend at least an hour waiting in the ticket queue. As the Venere Travel Blog notes, Louvre tickets are available at Paris FNAC stores as well as other department stores. You can also buy tickets online from the Louvre website. Have your ticket in hand when you approach the museum, and save even more time by entering through the Porte des Lions entrance instead of through the Louvre pyramid.

(Pro tip: The Louvre is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, but stays open until 9:45 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays. For maximum Louvre time, plan your visit for a Wednesday or a Friday. Don’t try to go to the Louvre on Tuesdays; it is closed.)

Step 3: Take the Masterpieces Visitors Trail

Start your visit by taking the Museum’s Masterpieces Visitors Trail. This trail is designed to be completed in 90 minutes, and will take you by the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and the other works of art that have earned the Louvre its fame. If you start the tour at 9 a.m., you’ll have seen the “greatest hits” by 10:30, and can grab yourself a quick cup of coffee in one of the Louvre’s 15 cafes, to take a quick breath and plan out the rest of your day.

Step 4: Plan your strategy

If you like walking and absorbing artwork, it is possible to walk through every wing of the Louvre in a 12-hour day, although you won’t have too much time for rest breaks. If you would prefer to focus your visit, choose one of the following options:

  • Pick a few interesting collections or exhibits to visit, with the idea that you’ll spend about one hour in each exhibit. You can visit up to nine different exhibits this way, with an hour break for lunch.
  • Take another of the Louvre’s many self-guided tours; each one is designed to last around 90 minutes, so you can get several in.
  • Take a guided tour, but be careful — some of the tours are only in French!
  • Wander through the museum, following whatever path catches your eye. In 12 hours, you won’t see everything, but you will see enough to feel as if you’ve thoroughly explored this famous, beautiful museum.
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