A tour director friend of mine just finished a London, Paris and Madrid tour. Quite a super trip to go on, and one that offers a chance to visit three exceptional galleries. EF tours are busy places; sometimes a visit to a sight can be limited in scope due to the huge range of other great places to get to in a city. It seems a shame to lose some time coming to terms with what a museum has to offer and what you might want to see while standing, clutching your ticket, in the doorway.
Fortunately, the British Museum, Louvre and Prado all offer some great online help for you to do a little pre-tour planning.
Although not included in the actual tour, London’s British Museum is free of charge to enter (great price) and open until 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, making it an outstanding choice for free time. In 2010, BBC Radio 4 has been running a superb “History of the World in 100 Objects” series in conjunction with the museum, and this offers a chance to get a great overview of the range and depth of exhibits on offer. Maximize your time and make use of the museum’s sheets offering the best way to spend one or three hours at the museum. Make sure to have a look inside the reading room, restored in the late 20th century and now available for all to visit. Around the museum, the neighborhood of Bloomsbury is a relaxing place to get lunch or just enjoy the atmosphere.
Meanwhile in Paris, one of the great ways to enter the Louvre is via the Carrousel. Your EF Tour Director can lead you to this point, having first given you some time to see the large glass pyramid (above) and courtyard as well as views of Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe through the small arch. Heading down some stairs, you immediately see some of the original fortification walls and the inverted pyramid. Your tour director can point you toward the information desk (free floor plans available) and entrance to the three main galleries. I would suggest heading up the stairs toward Sully and all the way to the end of the corridor. Going down some steps, you will walk through parts of the old fortifications. Where do you go from here? Well, the Louvre website offers some great self-guided routes that you can follow, each of them 90 minutes.
The Prado in Madrid, located close to the Ritz hotel, was originally designed to be a natural history museum, so you will find plenty of animal sculptures around the exterior. The museum website has a choice of three self-guided routes to follow around the gallery. Featuring some of the great European art and sculpture, this easily accessible art gallery can be a relaxing treat after the overwhelming size of the Louvre. Also, if you are in the mood, it is only half a mile or so to walk from the Prado to the excellent Reina Sofia gallery (featuring Picasso’s Guernica and so much more).