5 Tips For Visiting Museums & Galleries

One of my goals for this year is to visit some more museums and art galleries, but after our trip to the Louvre back in October last year I've been meaning to put together some tips for visiting the big boys in particular. With the Louvre being the biggest museum in the world, it's no wonder a lot of these tips were realised during this visit and I wish I had known them before going. There were also a few from visiting Rome a couple of years earlier so let's get stuck in.

1. Wear Comfortable Shoes
Luckily I wore trainer like shoes in Paris but they weren't proper walking shoes by any means. They were cheap ones from New Look so not exactly practical for all day walking and I did get severe pains in my feet and needed to stop to sit down a lot. This was also something I should have picked up on after visiting the Vatican Museum a couple of years back, but with it being so hot over there at the time I just wanted light and airy plimsols. Bad idea. I do remember my trainer shoes being really comfy down in the Paris Catacombs though where the ground is very uneven and there are hundreds of steps to go down and back up again. I can't imagine anything worse than going down there in healed boots or sandals. You'll enjoy your trip so much more if you're wearing decent footwear, trust me!

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2. Grab A Map
I think most museums have a little map of the place so you can find your bearings and also pin point locations you're really keen on seeing. Somewhere like the Louvre is an all day thing but one of the biggest pieces of advice I could possibly give is see the areas you're most excited for first. I was dying to see the art galleries in the Louvre but we told ourselves we'd make our way around as much of the museum as possible. Unfortunately this place is so big that even after getting half way round we found our brains being overwhelmed with information and artefacts that by the time we had reached the artworks, we were fed up and couldn't pay attention to them properly. I wish we had done this area first so I could have sketched a little, taken more photos, learnt some more about the works and the artists behind them but we quickly skimmed them before locating the Mona Lisa where we spent around 15 minutes trying to get a view then we decided to call the whole thing a day. If only we had done the art zones first.

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3. Take A Snack & Some Water
It wasn't getting hungry that hit me hard half way around the Louvre, it was the need for a strong hit of energy! Taking some fruit would be a good idea, something like an orange to zing you up when you're feeling tired and also, stay hydrated by taking some water with you. I also had a cheeky packet of vegan cola bottles in my pocket which I shared with James and they certainly helped to keep us going. As you can see at the Vatican, you could end up queueing for hours to get in and I don't need to tell you how hot Italy can get so make sure you've got some water in your bag. Whilst we're talking about the Vatican and standing in the heat, they won't let you in if you're wearing shorts or vests. We saw a lot of people taking light weight scarves with them or shawls to wrap around their waists and a lot of holy places are like this. If it's hot, pop something light into your bag that you can put on during these visits otherwise you'll be refused entry and what a disappointment that could be! If you forget, they do have thousands of tacky tourist gift shops selling flags with the Pope's face on that we also saw people sporting just so they could get in so ya know, you win some you loose some.

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4. Camera & Sketchbook
If you're a creative and if they also allow camera's within your chosen museum or gallery, then absolutely take yours with you and maybe even a little sketchbook. You never know what might really inspire you and it's good to get a photo image too in case you don't have time to complete a sketch whilst you're there. One place where I wish they had allowed cameras was the Capuchin Crypt in Rome but this was so strict that I'm not even sure whether they'd be happy with you sketching in there either. To be fair, it is the final resting place of 3,700 friars so out of respect this doesn't surprise me, but keep an eye out for signs or information points which will tell you where you stand. The last thing you want is to be shouted at in a foreign language in front of everyone, which is what I witnessed happen to a foolish lady who tried to take photos in the Sistine Chapel after being told twice not to bother. The Creation of Adam is spectacular but do as you're told or you could be kicked out.

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5. Travel Light & Secure
Aside from a snack, some water, potentially your camera & a little sketchbook, phone and money, I'd try to leave anything unnecessary back home or in your hotel room. I'm a crazy lady who insists on taking hand sanitiser, baby wipes and tissues too but these don't weigh very much. If you can avoid taking your makeup bag and any other bits you usually like to lug around with you, do it. You'll thank yourself half way through the day when you're the one carrying it all around and you're back feels as though it's going to snap. Also, stay safe and secure. Museums tend to be a goldmine for pick pocket's so take a sensible bag that at least has a zip as well as a clasp of some sort, check your belongings throughout the day and keep your things with you at all times. I'm half way through reading Frannerd's book right now and she got her camera stolen at the Louvre, poor girl! So stay safe, alert and have fun too.

Thanks for reading!

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