Nine million people visit the Louvre Museum each year and a good proportion of them were there with us yesterday.
The Musee d’Orsay and Palais de Versailles were shut. Rain was threatening, so it was ‘Let’s get the Louvre out of the way’ day.
We can’t blame the Louvre for being popular. The largest museum in the world has over 400,000 artworks, and as our guides proudly told us, if we spent thirty seconds in front of each one we’d need to live a few extra years to get around them all.
Only 6% of the collection is on show at any one time, which saves us a bit of time, but naturally everyone wants to see the highlights.
Yes, it was incredibly busy, but this was a two-hour guided tour so it was understandable that we were shown the most popular works. On other visits to the Louvre we’ve been able to escape to less crowded areas, where there still is plenty worth seeing.
Nevertheless, the sheer pressure of numbers is likely to increase. By 2020 it’s estimated that there will be another 100 million tourists from China alone, and the Mona Lisa will be on many of their bucket lists.
With this is mind, the Louvre will open a new branch in Lens, near the Belgian border this month. A branch in Abu Dhabi was planned to open later this year, though it now seems that won’t happen until at least 2014.
Meanwhile, despite the crowds, we found plenty of work that we could get close to. And unlike many of the world’s museums, the Louvre permits photography.
The writer was the guest of Viking River Cruises.