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The Best Louvre Guided Tour

If you are headed to Paris, the Louvre is always a must-visit destination. But it can be overwhelming. We debated whether we wanted to use a tour guide or explore it on our own. In the end, we booked a small group skip-the-line tour with The Tour Guy, and we are so glad that we did.

Image shows  the entrance to the Louvre from slightly above with the famous pyramid.

Why You Need to Visit the Louvre

The Louvre isn’t just a museum; it’s a sprawling palace-turned-art haven housing some of the world’s most iconic pieces. You know this is the home to Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile, but it also contains Venus de Milo’s timeless beauty, and countless other masterpieces waiting to be discovered.

Image shows Venus de Milo at the Louvre.

There are more exhibits in the museum than you will have time to visit. Our guide estimated that it would take two weeks to really experience the entire museum and all it contains.

Whether you’re interested in ancient Egyptian artifacts, Renaissance paintings, Greek sculptures, or anything in between, you can find it at the Louvre. While some exhibits are constantly there, others rotate in and out, so you can visit again and again and see something new. We explored special exhibits for Jan van Eyck and the Olympics on our own after the tour ended.

Note that for some of the special exhibits like the van Eyck, you cannot enter it as part of a tour group. This is available only for individuals, and there was a line to get in that moved pretty quickly when we visited. Thankfully, there was not an additional fee for these.

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Should You Use a Tour Guide?

I had visited the Louvre before on a group tour, and it wasn’t the best experience, which is why I hesitated. However, we found The Tour Guy, which offered a small group Louvre tour that also included a skip-the-line, and we booked it. This was an entirely different experience from what I had the last time I was at the Louvre, and I cannot recommend it more.

Without question, book a tour guide to maximize your experience. While the Louvre has audio tours you can rent, they absolutely do not compare. The Louvre is massive, with over 35,000 works of art on display (and tons more in storage). Trying to navigate it all on your own is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Our guide was Etienne, who had decades of experience doing tours. He was incredibly personable and knew way more about the Louvre and the artwork within than I would have expected. I loved that we could ask questions as we went and have him point out small details that we would have missed on our own or just with an audio guide.

Image shows the Statue of Nike at the Louvre.

He explained the stories behind the pieces, the techniques used by the artists, and the historical context. It made the whole experience so much richer and interesting for all of us.

The fact that this was a small group tour meant that there is a maximum of six people on the tour. As a group of five, it was just the five of us so it is almost like a private tour but at a far lower cost.

With only six people, it’s far easier to hear the guide and get into smaller spaces than it would be with a larger group. When I did a tour before, it was closer to 20 people, and that is a much different experience that I did not like anywhere near as much.

Guides know the Louvre inside and out, and they can show you hidden gems and lesser-known masterpieces you might miss on your own. We also let him know at the start that there were a couple of pieces we really wanted to see, and he made sure to include them.

Why Skip-the-Line is Worth the Price

The Louvre can get ridiculously crowded, especially during peak season. I quite simply do not want to waste my vacation time stuck in line.

With skip-the-line access, you breeze past the hordes and head straight inside, maximizing your time admiring the art. We met right by a statue just outside the Louvre, and it was amazing to see how many people were already queuing up to get into the Louvre.

Image shows long lines of people waiting to enter the Louvre through the pyramid.

Skip the line doesn’t mean you can skip the security line, but that went very quickly for us. Those who purchase tickets onsite and easily wait for three hours or longer. Even if you purchase your tickets in advance, you still have to wait in a queue, though it will be shorter.

Pro tip: Weekdays are generally less crowded than weekends if you have flexibility. Wednesdays and Fridays are great because the museum is open later, allowing you even more time to explore.

Ready? Book this Skip-the-Line Small Group Louvre Tour!

What to Expect on Your Tour

Our guide met us by a designated statue and was there before the designated time. He had a clearly marked sign and was easy for us to spot.

The first thing you do when you enter is use the restrooms. There are no bathrooms during the tour, so be sure to take advantage if you think you may need to.

Be prepared for the usual bag checks. While you get to skip the primary queue, you do still need to go through security.

Pro tip: Know what is and isn’t allowed in the Louvre. You cannot bring large bags or umbrellas, and the tour does not go near the lockers where you would otherwise be able to store them. The same holds true for any umbrella that does not fit into a bag you bring into the museum. Be sure to check the full list of prohibited items before you visit.

On the other hand, you are allowed to bring a small bottle of water in your bag. You must drink it away from any artwork and not near any displays.

The tour is promoted that it lasts for three hours. We met at 10:15am, and we were inside the museum by 10:30am which is pretty impressive on a summer day.

However, our tour was over just before 1pm, which was a little less than the three hours we were promised. My guess is that because our group did not use to use the restrooms and we were also successful at quickly getting to the front of viewing the Mona Lisa, we saved ourselves some time, but I would have loved to squeeze out a little more knowledge in those last 15 or so minutes.

The tour may vary in the specific route you take in terms of what rooms are open on a given day or what is more or less crowded. Many of the rooms are one way only, so there is a route for much of the tour that makes sense to follow.

The Tour Itself: A Journey Through Art History

The Louvre is over 800 years old, and the original fortress under the museum from the 12th century was only discovered when they made the new entrances and had to excavate to create them in the 1980s. It was a palace for a short time and only became a museum in the 1790s after the French Revolution.

Image shows the Fortress walkway under the Louvre.

I had no idea about much of this history, and I loved that we started the tour in the fortress area. It was beautiful to see the excavated areas and learn about how it was built, including the makers’ marks that denoted where builders started and stopped their work.

Image shows a makers mark on a stone at the Louvre.

Our tour continued from the underground fortress and moved into the Medieval Art section before moving to the Ballet Hall with the Greek and Roman sculptures. It was fascinating to learn that when you see Roman statues, they are generally marble copies of bronze statues made by Greeks. The Roman copies have extra supports because they are not as strong or balanced as bronze, which makes it easy to identify.

In this area, our guide was sure to point out the iconic Venus de Milo and the Nike of Samothrace. Etienne was sure to note the small details like the small portion of the Nike statue that was broken off and exhibited to the side that many people missed.

Image shows the Hand of Nike at the Louvre.

From there, we moved to the lavish Salon d’Apollon, a gallery showcasing French royal art and decorative objects. This includes the French Crown Jewels, which are just as fascinating and impressive as the British Crown Jewels, even though they are definitely lesser known.

The next stop was the Grand Gallery where we learned about works by Renaissance Masters like Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio, two of the titans of the Italian Renaissance. Our guide pointed out the innovative techniques used by da Vinci in works like the Virgin of the Rocks, and the dramatic use of light and shadow in Caravaggio’s paintings, like The Death of the Virgin.

And of course, we visit the Mona Lisa. As our guide pointed out, that is not the most prominent work in the room. On the opposite side, the wall is taken up by the largest painting in the Louvre, the Wedding at Cana painting by Veronese. This massive canvas was cut into three pieces when Napoleon confiscated it during his conquests in Italy.

Image of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre.

That was a great lesson overall. In every room and on practically every surface, you find amazing artwork. Don’t just look for the known pieces, as you may discover artwork you love just next to it.

We also explored the Neoclassical section, where sculptures inspired by Greco-Roman ideals take center stage. The tour finished with a visit to Michelangelo’s masterpieces, including his famous Pieta sculpture.

The tour ends at this point, where you are still in the heart of the Louvre. You are very near the Cafe Mollien, just outside the Neoclassical Hall, which is a perfect time and place to take a break and refresh yourself before you explore on your own.

Tips to Best See the Mona Lisa

There’s no queue for the Mona Lisa, so it’s basically a patient shuffle to get close. We found that the best strategy was to go to one side or the other, as the ends seemed to move towards the front much faster than those waiting in the center.

As you got to the front, you can then squeeze over to the center with the rest of the crowd. Know that you will have a bit of time to admire the painting and take photos, but there are security guards who will eventually hustle you along to move to the next gallery, especially if people start to push too close to the ropes.

Pro tip: Be prepared for a crowd, but don’t let it discourage you. You will need to be patient but also slightly aggressive to ensure you make it to the front. For us, it took less than 15 minutes even with the huge crowd.

This photo I took shows an idea of part of the crowd waiting to see the Mona Lisa. And yet, so few people are paying attention to the gorgeous Wedding of Cana piece.

Image shows some of the Crowd waiting to see the Mona Lisa.

Our guide gave us tips to make it to the front of the viewing area, then he went to wait for us on the other side of the wall. I appreciated this, as it was silly for guides to add to the pressure of trying to get to a suitable viewing point.

I did see two families get about halfway to the front and flat out give up and leave. Both had relatively young children, so that’s a good reminder to know your group and what their tolerance and patience level is before you get into the crowd.

Do You Need to Tip?

While tipping is much less a thing in Europe than it is in the States, you still ought to tip your tour guides, especially when they give you fantastic service the way Etienne did. The guides we had were never overt in their hinting at tips that way they are often in other areas of the world, but they were very appreciative as we did tip them.

While overall we did not carry many Euros and paid via a credit card without exchange rate fees, we did make sure to include enough money for tips. If you do not have Euros, they will accept US dollars, though obviously that is not their preference as they then need to go to a bank to exchange them.

Important Info About The Tour Guy Semi-Private Louvre Tour with Mona Lisa

We would absolutely book this semi-private Louvre tour again. The guide was fantastic, and we really felt it was worth the ticket price with what we learned and experienced.

You can book this tour pretty much every day the Louvre is open. Be aware that the Louvre closes on Tuesdays when you plan your trip. This Louvre tour does often sell out, so book it as soon as you can.

The good news is that they offer several tours each day, starting as early as 8:45am. Remember that the early day and later afternoon tours are likely to experience less crowding than the ones in the middle of the day.

It’s easy to book it directly on The Tour Guy website. Even better, if you book multiple tours, they give you a discount. There’s so much to see and do in Paris from the food and history tour of Monmartre that we also did to the Bateaux Mouches to the Eiffel Tower and more that you’re sure to find other great options to book during your stay.

If something happens to your travel, you can cancel at least 24 hours in advance of your tour and receive a full refund. I appreciate this when I book travel plans far in advance because sometimes things come up. While I never want or expect to have to cancel, this gives me an additional peace of mind.

Tickets are included in this skip-the-line tour. The price you pay when you book is the full, all-inclusive price – less any gratuity you choose to give your guide.

The rates vary based on the age of the participate. You can choose to pay either in Euros or dollars.

  • Adults (18 years old and over) are $139.95 or 124,95 Euros
  • Youth (7-17 years old) are $134.95 or 119,95 Euros
  • Children (under 6 years old) are $128.75 or 114,95 Euros

Make sure to be on time. Even though this is a small group tour, if you are late, the tour will leave without you. When we visited Versailles – also with The Tour Guy – there were several people who did not show up, and we had to leave without them. The same held true with the Monmatre Food and History tour we did with The Tour Guy where three people were late and missed out.

The Louvre is massive. When you plan your arrival time, give yourself an extra 10 to 15 minutes to ensure you are able to get to the right meeting spot. It is a long walk from one end of the Louvre to the other.

Along the same lines, make sure you map out your travel route not just to the Louvre but to the exact meeting point of Louis XIV statue in front of the iconic pyramid. The email confirmation you receive includes a link to the Google Maps location, which makes it easier to navigate.

Don’t Miss the Louvre When You Visit Paris

The Louvre is a treasure trove waiting to be explored. With a skip-the-line tour and a knowledgeable guide, you can fully enjoy these artistic masterpieces and create memories that will last a lifetime. With a little planning and the right guide, your Louvre adventure will be an unforgettable journey through the history of art.

Image shows the Entrance to Louvre with text book the best tour of the Louvre.

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