It’s gigantic, incredibly crowded, and overwhelming. But that doesn’t mean that a trip to the Louvre has to end in tears of frustration – for you or your children. It’s all in the planning.
1) Come prepared: notebooks, drawing pads, crayons, pencils, matchbox cars, teenage mutant ninja turtles (yes, they’re named after Italian Renaissance artists) – whatever works. The museum stores that are located past the final entrance (ie, where you finally hand over your tickets) have some “treasure hunt” books (Mission Louvre and On the Trail of the Mona Lisa, €6.90), which are suitable for kids in the 7-14 age range.
2) Follow one of the museum’s Thematic Trails: These may not work so well for younger children, but they offer some good ideas, and with a little bit of preparation you can make them more fun. Watch out with the walking on some of these, though – they can go on for miles.
3) Don’t try and do it all. This should be obvious, but it is so tempting to “just see one more thing” that you need to be reminded ahead of time that this is a bad idea. Stick to one or two main exhibits instead of trying to dash from one end of the palace to the other. The Egyptian wing is a good choice, as is the Near Eastern Antiquities collection. A bit of a surprise on our first family visit was the Italian Renaissance collection, which was apparently gory enough to provoke some interesting questions from my own kids.
4) Try out the Louvre’s iPhone app: If you have an iTouch or iPhone, you’re obviously aware that kids love to play with them. Using the museum app can be a good way for children to engage with the art ahead of time or decide what they’d like to see. Use the Artworks section to browse through the highlights, select one (not the Mona Lisa though – way too crowded), and you’re off on an adventure.
5) Know where the food is: Again, this sounds obvious, but once you’re in the museum you’ll realize that it’s not that obvious. If the kids (or adults) need to eat, the easiest solution is to exit the collections area and go to the Carrousel du Louvre. This is the underground shopping complex that’s past the main hall underneath the pyramid. Here you’ll find a food court (Restaurants du Monde) that should be able to handle the whims of most children, and, considering the location, is not outrageously expensive. If you bring your own snacks be forewarned that you’ll still need to exit the collections area (unless the kids are discreet eaters!), though it may be more pleasant to run around in the outdoor courtyard or Tuileries Gardens than heading to the food court.