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The Louvre Museum in Paris France is one of, if not the, most famous museum in the world and most people, no matter how uninterested they are in art, are familiar with the museum's best-known work of art – The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.
But of course, there is a lot more to the Louvre Museum than the one painting.
Here are some fact about the Louvre. The building itself was originally constructed as a fortress (1190-1202) it was then converted to a royal residence (1364) which continued to grow and change over several centuries.
In 1793 the royal residence was first opened as the Museum Central des Arts and the structure and art collections continue to grow. In 1989 the controversial glass Pyramid was added above the Louvre entrance to the museum. And so architecturally the museum itself is fascinating.
The Museum is huge, it covers 60,600m², has over 1 million works of art, is spread over three buildings with four floors and has several sections: Egyptian antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan and Roman; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Arts; Painting and Prints and Drawings.
In fact a visit to the Louvre can be overwhelming. Where to start? How long to spend there? And what are the most "important" things to see.
Luckily there are ways to plan your visit which will let you enjoy a relaxed and enriching visit to the Louvre during your trip to Paris.
A few basic tips about making your trip to the Louvre successful are to buy your tickets in advance, arrive early, buy a map of the museum, locate the exhibits which interest you and map out your battle plan of how to get around to all of these interest points without getting lost or wasting time.
If you arrive without tickets, you will see a long line in front of the pyramid-many people think this is the only entrance, however you can actually go in through the side doors on the left and right of the building at the ends of the u-shape entrance-just walk in and through the shops until you reach the ticket counter without the huge line.
Check out the Museum website to see what exhibits are open and make sure you take food with you to avoid paying the exorbitant prices in the museum restaurants, especially if you are with children.
The Museum is not air-conditioned so take appropriate clothing for the kids and yourselves. Get to know your camera and discover how to use it without a flash (flashes are not allowed in the Louvre) and indoors.
If you are visiting during the high season avoid the main entrance through the Pyramid and rather go for the Porte des Lions, Arc du Carousel or the entrance on the Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre metro station's platform #1.
If you're with kids consider visiting several times during the day for short visits to different sections or to limit your visit to the most important highlights (Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Venus de Milo, Rembrandt etc depending on your taste). Also bring along a sketch book and get your kids to sketch their on replicas! My kids loved this!
Once you arrive you might consider taking one of the Louvre guided tours which leave from under the Pyramid throughout the day.
There is a board in the entrance of the Louvre displaying tour times and languages.
The best tour for first time visitors lasts 1.5 hours and covers the highlights.
In the Tuileries Gardens (which are part of the Louvre Museum) are a number of distractions for little ones including boats on a pond; trampolines; play areas and a carousel.
So you can take regular breaks to let kids run around and get some fresh air or even have a picnic.
You can take a Paris Muse Clues family tour (€290 for whole family) through the museum with a personal guide who will guide adults and kids as the kid search for clues on a scavenger hunt and learn about the artwork as they go.
You can borrow strollers from the entrance desk and rent an audio guide for €5 for adults and €3 for under 18s. There are two audio guides geared towards children (7-11 years), they last 90 minutes and highlight one section of the museum.
The museum is free to people under 18 years old, adults pay €11 for the permanent collection and €12 and €15 for various combination tickets.
The Louvre Paris is open daily from 9am to 6pm except for Tuesdays and on Wednesdays and Fridays stays open until 9:45pm.
The Museum can be reached from the Palais-Royal Musee du Louvre metro station and for more details see the Louvre Museum website.
Did you know there is a Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi too? Read more here!