How to avoid the crowds in galleries and museums

Appreciating art and seeing the pieces in real life are two totally different experiences. Which is why when you travel to cultural centres to enjoy galleries and museums, you should wring every last second of your chance to see the pieces up close.

But there’s a problem, everyone else has the same idea, and visiting famous museums such as the Louvre has become an ordeal as people elbow each other out of the way to take pictures to post to their social media.

So how do you avoid the crowds? Well, with the big museums such as the Louvre and Victoria and Albert Museum you just need to accept you are never going to dodge your fellow humans completely.

Short of becoming famous and demanding a private session, you are always going to be up close and personal with fellow travellers.

But there are ways to minimise the drama.

Night moves

One of the easiest is to find some ‘out of hours’ sessions. Many museums and galleries now hold late-night openings.

Tour groups seldom attend these sessions, so that’s a big chunk of humanity gone, especially at the famous museums, and many locals would rather be home having dinner, so there’s another faction gone.

And who knows, you may get some bonus entertainment. Even the National Gallery Victoria has a Friday night music session for its larger exhibitions.

Short but sweet

Be fashionably late with your arrival. If you can budget your time to turn up an hour or so before closing, the crowds have usually thinned out considerably.

Once again, group tours will be gone by this time and people wanting to get value for their money will usually turn up earlier in the day to bank a chunk of time.

And while your time is limited, is that necessarily a bad thing? I know I’m exhausted about one-and-a-half hours in any gallery and ready to get off my feet.

Obviously, early entry is another good tactic, as in most public places the crowds don’t tend to turn up until 10am.

Can you book?

Check if the gallery or museum has some scheme to improve traffic flow. This could be timed entry, limited entry or VIP access. Not all galleries offer these options, but it may tip the balance in choosing which one to visit.

Naturally, these often come at a cost, but it may be worth it.

Timing is everything

It may be worth doing some research into when to visit. The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas in the US is traditionally slow as the locals don’t want to travel between these times.

In many European countries, half the population leaves the urban areas during summer, once again, easing the pressure on the cultural centres.

And naturally winter also plays its part, with people wanting to stay at home, rather than brave the outdoors.

Go online

Many museums and galleries will provide guides on the busiest times and exhibitions, so it’s always worth doing a search of their websites for some guidance.

And of course there are websites and apps to help you on your way.

Traveller recommends these three providers and They all seem to provide useful, real-time advice on how to get the best out of your next visit.

Do you have any tips for avoiding crowds when travelling? We’d love to hear your advice in the comments section below.

Also read: Could you retire to a cruise ship?

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.
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