The queue snakes along the Louvre’s corridors, up the steps and escalators and outside to the famous glass pyramid. Most of those waiting have one ultimate aim: to see the Mona Lisa.
The usual complaints from visitors about Leonardo Da Vinci’s celebrated oil-on-wood painting cover everything from the queues to its size – at just 77cm by 53cm, it is smaller than many expect.
But the Mona Lisa’s transfer from its usual gallery in the Salle des Etats, currently undergoing renovations, to the magnificent Médicis gallery, lined with Rubens paintings, has created a whole new palette of gripes.
To control the estimated 30,000 visitors a day making a beeline to the masterpiece, the Louvre is advising only those who pre-book visits will be guaranteed a glimpse.
Visitors say museum staff are giving them barely a minute to take a selfie in front of the painting before ushering them along, and complain of “total disorganisation” and “Louvre chaos”.
“Everything was perfect except the visit to the Mona Lisa. Several floors of queues but arriving in the gallery we were frankly shocked. The staff treated visitors like cattle … Result: stress to see the painting behind glass from several metres. Scandalous!,” complained Xavier on TripAdvisor.
“The Mona Lisa has moved so you have to queue a second time to see it for 10 seconds,” wrote another visitor on the site. “Queues were horrendous just to get in and another queue for the Mona Lisa and that was a letdown.”
An Israeli visitor wrote: “Just skip it. 99% of the tourists come to the Louvre for the Mona Lisa. To see it (for 30 seconds), you have to stand in the line for 1-2 hours. It’s not a single line, it’s a line for the security, a line to enter the museum, a line to get to each one of the 3 stairways to the 3rd floor, and then a big line to watch the Mona Lisa, from 3 Meyers (sic) distance.”
The Louvre is the world’s most visited museum, attracting 10.2 million people a year; around 80% are believed to come just to see the Mona Lisa. Last month, officials had to restrict access for three days because of the chaos caused by the queues.
The Louvre’s deputy managing director, Vincent Pomarède, said from the autumn all visitors would need to reserve a timed slot for their visit. “It’s the only way to guarantee entry,” Pomarède told AFP.
The Mona Lisa will be returned to her usual spot for a major exhibition marking the 500th anniversary of Da Vinci’s death, which opens in October.