The Best Time to Visit the Louvre and Orsay

Everyone says that to go to the Louvre, you need to get there first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds. That was our plan all along until we realized that it’s open in the evening on Wednesdays. We decided to give that a shot because we only had two full days in Paris and wanted to fit in as much as possible. Going in the evening allowed us to use our days for places that closed at 5. Plus, the famous pyramid was even prettier lit up at night.

Visiting the Louvre

The Louvre pyramid at night in Paris, France
This is my  favorite shot of the Louvre.
We decided that the Mona Lisa would be our first stop because, well, it’s the Mona Lisa. We were surprised to find only about fifteen people crowded around the tiny portrait. It was a much better experience than I was expecting based on everything I’ve read about visiting the Louvre over the years. This is the main reason I’d choose to go back at night instead of rushing the gates in the morning.
The Mona Lisa in the Louvre in Paris, France
Hello, I am the Mona Lisa
I have to confess that I’m not a super huge art fan. I like to look at landscapes and enjoy the quality of intricately detailed paintings that I can’t fathom being able to create, but I’m not one to assess the use of shadows or brush technique. I prefer to just wander and pick out some of the pretty ones to look at more closely, so I felt like the Louvre was a little lost on me. The sheer amount of stunning artwork was almost overwhelming.
My mom had visited the museum in 1980 and remembered a particular painting called The Coronation of Napoleon that she wanted to show us. We eventually located it in one of the galleries and were in awe of the sheer size of it.
The Coronation of Napoleon in the Louvre in Paris, Frace
Unfortunately, my little sister apparently hates art museums, so after seeing the Mona Lisa, she was ready to go. I insisted on tracking down the Venus de Milo first, and we ended up wandering through the sculptures in that area for a while before heading out.
The Venus de Milo in the Louvre in Paris, France
We had entered through the mall coming from the Metro – I still have no idea exactly what we did. There were signs and arrows and a lot of people so we just kind of kept walking until we ended up by the coat/bag check. Speaking of which – it’s free – so it’s definitely worth taking advantage of. There’s even a locking umbrella rack that provided us with some entertainment as we watched an employee wrestle with it in order to free an oddly-shaped umbrella it was refusing to release.
We decided to exit through the pyramid so we could see that side. It had been added in the years since my mom had visited, so she was excited to see something new for a change. I’ve seen hundreds of pictures of it, but none of them do it justice. Especially at night. The reflections in the fountains were especially magical. I do wish we had stopped by in daylight at some point, but I was more than pleased to test out my photography skills on the glowing, glass pyramid contrasting against the dark night sky.
The Louvre pyramid at night in Paris, France
I was very glad that we defied conventional wisdom and visited in the evening. At the time I went, Wednesday was the late night, but that may change from time to time. Make sure to consult the Louvre website for opening hours to make sure you don’t miss out on anything because of outdated information.

Visiting the Musee d’Orsay

The Musee d’Orsay had evening hours the next day, so we decided to use the same strategy there. The Orsay doesn’t have the same reputation for crowds as the Louvre does, but going at night once again allowed us to maximize our time at other places we wanted to see.
Inside the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, France
The Orsay has a very different feel than the Louvre does. The main area is very open, with extremely high ceilings that keep the noise down and give it an airy feeling. I was fascinated with the way the old train station was repurposed and given new life because where I come from, we just let our beautiful old train station decay until it found itself as set for movies involving destruction.
I’m a big fan of the show “Doctor Who,” so I was pretty excited to see the Van Gogh gallery where parts of an episode were filmed. I quite like his style of painting, so I enjoyed wandering through that area.
Painting by Van Gogh at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, France
I quickly got separated from my family so I wandered the museum on my own. In a vain attempt to find them, I climbed to the highest point for a bird’s eye view of the main gallery area. It was high enough that I had to use the zoom on my camera to scan the crowds below in order to make out people on the far end. I was unsuccessful at locating anyone, so I gave up and went to wander the upper level galleries in search of the Monets. I like the impressionistic style of painting because it tends to be much more colorful and light-hearted than most of the paintings we saw at the Louvre.
The giant clock with a view over the city was stunning. I’d seen pictures of it online before, but i never knew where it was from. I was initially annoyed that these two women were standing in the way, but when comparing this shot to a clean one I got after they moved, I found that I liked this one way better because they give it scale. Plus, I like the woman off to the left who was trying to drag her male companion out of his comfy resting place.
Giant clock at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, France

Don’t worry about my fate: the story ends happily, as I was eventually reunited with my mom and sister, and we headed out into the cold downpour to make our way back to the hotel.

View from atop the gallery in the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, France

What are your favorite parts of the Louvre or Orsay?

Read more about Paris here:

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2 thoughts on “The Best Time to Visit the Louvre and Orsay

  1. ispyprettyplaces

    I’m a big art fan and loved both of these museums. Although I’d visited Paris many a time, I chose to visit these museums in the winter (Feb) as it was too cold to be walking around outside all day. I totally geeked out (by myself) in the Louvre, spending a solid 4 hrs walking around. I stopped because I was starving. Musee d’Orsay was also stunning. I believe for the impressionist/expressionist gallery (if I’m remembering correctly). Great tip on visiting in the evening. I had no idea!


  2. I’m visiting Paris for the first time in August and both of these museums are on my to-do list! I love art so I’m really looking forward to it 🙂 Thanks for the tips!


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