For many parents, the Louvre is the final frontier. Its size, the crowds and the fear that children will be bored can be discouraging. But an outing to the Louvre can be great fun for child and parent. The key is diligent planning.
The first step is optional but highly recommended: Become a member. When you join the Société des Amis du Louvre, you can enter the museum for free, through the passage Richelieu (near the entrance to the Café Marly). And you can drop in for a short visit anytime, avoiding the lines at the pyramid and the ticket booths. A terrific bonus is reduced-rate entry to almost every other museum in Paris.
Before you bring your children, pay a solitary visit to the Louvre but try to see the museum through their eyes. Keep their interests in mind – angels, princesses, weapons, horses – and zero in on the areas with the most appeal. Bring a notebook and pen and note specific rooms, paintings, sculptures. Map out the most direct route to get to and from your target areas. Don’t be too ambitious; plan to spend an hour in the museum at most when you return with your children.
The following itinerary was designed for and tested on two boys, ages 3 and 6, whose interests include weapons, monsters and lions.
From the main entrance hall, take the escalator to the Sully wing and follow signs straight ahead to Louvre Mediéval. At the beginning of the exhibit is a child-sized model of the château in medieval times. After examining it, stroll through the vestiges, which include walls, towers and wells. Although the Egyptian Antiquities department is undergoing renovations, some items are displayed here, including sphinxes and other intriguing monsters. It’s an unusual pairing that works well.
When you come around the bend, don’t go up the stairs; follow the signs to Fosses des Donjon and Salle St. Louis. Keep going until you’re back where you started, at the entrance to Louvre Mediéval, between two staircases. Take the staircase on the left, heading toward the Oriental Antiquities.
At the Rez-de-Chausée level, turn left into Salle A, Pays de Levant, pointing out the tiny bronze figures as you pass. My 3-year-old thought they looked like action figures. Continue through Salle C, which has a “ghost” in the center (actually a much-eroded Bronze Age statue), and Salle D, saluting the headless woman (Statue de la Reine Napirasu, c. 1300 BC). Go up the stairs marked Sully/Richelieu; in Salle 8 turn right through the door marked with the green arrow, continue straight ahead into Salle 6, and take the second left into Salle 6. Prepare for your kids’ gasps.
The room is guarded by winged monsters over four meters high and is full of other amazingly intact fragments from the 7th century BC palace of Khorsabad, built by King Sargon. The ruins were discovered in 1843.
When everyone is ready to move on, turn left into Salle 2 and walk through into Salle 1, where you can see a miniature reconstruction of another palace, Mari, destroyed in 1760 BC. Before leaving the ancient world, let the kids discover the copper fragment of a lion statue found in the remains of the Mari palace. It’s in a nook just before the doorway into Salle 33, French Sculpture.
If you’ve still got their attention, go through that doorway and lead them to the silver model of Henri IV as a child, or the silver, gold and bronze “La Paix.” Exit into the courtyard (Cours Puget) to see the statue of Hercules fighting a giant monster with a serpent’s head. You can’t miss it, it’s the only green statue. Then head down the stairs for a rest under the trees.
Continue down more stairs to admire more green sculptures, the massive “Captifs” with their weapons. Horse lovers should then follow the Sortie sign straight ahead into the Cours Marly for a treat. When it’s time to leave, you’ll find the exit into the main entrance hall in the corridor between Cours Marly and Cours Puget.
If you stop at the postcard shop for souvenirs, you’ll find cards of the Khorsabad palace, copper lion and Cours Marly horses. Now head for the food court at the Carrousel du Louvre (great pizza!), checking out the new Swatch clock tower on the way. Nearby is the inverted pyramid, which casts beautiful rainbows on the floor on sunny days.
Musée du Louvre, Mº Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre.