Whether you’re getting up close and personal with 200-million-year-old fossils or witnessing the magnificence of the Mona Lisa, museum trips are unique and wonderful experiences.
But with the utter joy comes the irritation of bustling crowds blocking exhibits and making the experience much more stressful than it needs to be.
If you’re planning a trip to a museum and want to do it like a VIP, we’ve put together a guide on how to avoid museum crowds and enjoy the exhibits in peace.
Expert Tips For Planning Your Museum Visit
Some museums are huge, and it’s hard to picture the enormity of some of them until you arrive.
The Louvre, in Paris, France, is the largest museum on Earth, with over 78,500 square feet of exhibition space. That’s bigger than a stadium football pitch.
Without proper planning, you won’t get to see all the exhibits because you’ll run out of time, so start the process by planning your route.
“First, see if the museum has a set route – they often have maps on their websites with “trail” options around the exhibits. If not, you’ll need to look up the current exhibits and figure out a good walking route. Don’t forget to plan breaks if it’s a huge museum like the Met or British Museum.” – Christen Thomas from Travel Wander Grow
If you have no choice but to go to the museum early, the set route given by the museum will be the busiest. To avoid the crowd, take the tour backward or plan your own route. That way, you’ll be able to skip the huge queues of the early morning rush.
Little-Known Techniques to Escape Museum Crowds
Museums are usually extremely crowded, making it hard to truly appreciate the exhibits. Here are a few ways to escape the museum crowds so you can take in the exhibits in peace.
Opt for Off-Peak Hours
Most of the iconic museums around the world have long lines at opening times. People want to get into the museum and explore every inch, so they arrive early.
To avoid the long morning lines, head to the museum after lunch. You’ll get less time to explore, but the crowds will be much, much thinner.
“The Natural History Museum in Los Cabos opens at 10am, so it’s busiest in the morning. However, you can beat the crowds by arriving around 3pm. The museum is open until 8pm, so you can explore the exhibits in the cool afternoon without the crowds.” – Janice Mucalov from Cabo Visitor
Take a Late Night Tour
Many museums also offer night-time tours. These are more expensive to book, but you get the unique experience of exploring a museum at night as part of a much smaller tour group.
The Vatican Museums in Rome have late-night tours, which allow you to admire the ornate chapels and palaces without the crushing daytime crowds.
“The Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum opens until 9pm on Fridays, and it’s a beautiful museum to visit at night. The crowds are much thinner after 7pm, and students get free entry to some of the exhibits after 5:30pm.” – Anne Sutherland-Smith from Japan Travel Planning
Visit During Extended Hours
Many well-known museums have extended hours on certain days as a way of spreading visitor traffic. Extended hours are popular with tourists, but you’ll find far fewer people the later it gets at most museums.
Easy Ways to Enhance Your Museum Experience
When you visit a museum for the first time, you’ll want to cram in as much as possible. The problem is, you’ll quickly end up tired and won’t actually appreciate any of the exhibits. Here are some easy and simple ways to enhance your museum experience.
Schedule in Breaks
Museum or gallery fatigue is the utter exhaustion you feel when taking in so much information at an exhibit. Your brain has to process a lot of information about all the different paintings, sculptures, and pieces, so you’ll tire quickly.
To avoid museum fatigue, schedule regular breaks where you sit and stop looking at the exhibits for a few minutes. Have a drink and a snack, and avoid your phone to give your brain a much-needed info break.
Engage with Art on Your Own Terms
People appreciate art in different ways; there are no set rules for looking at exhibits. If you’re the type of person who likes to stand and ponder a painting for a while, do that. If you prefer a quick glance while you’re walking around, that’s fine, too.
You’ll enjoy your visit more if you engage with the art on your own terms and forget what other people are doing.
Explore the Different Forms of Art
We all tend to gravitate towards different forms of art, but you should try and explore the different forms of art in each exhibit.
For example, if you love looking at sculptures, take some time to look around the paintings or line drawings. There may also be interactive exhibits that can be a lot of fun.
“I have a personal affinity for watercolor, and I could stare at watercolor paintings in museums all day. But there are so many other forms of art to explore. I make an effort to seek out different styles to draw inspiration from different artists whenever I visit a museum.” – Anthony Roebuck from Watercolor Affair
How to Use Tech to Make Your Day Even Better
Visiting a museum is a wonderful way to explore history and engage with art and knowledge of the past. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use tech to make your experience even better.
With apps like Tiqets, it’s easy to book your museum tickets in advance and even skip the queues. You’ll also get alerts on great deals on prices and notifications about any events that local museums might be hosting.
Around 16% of museums have mobile experiences, while 12% have native apps to make your experience more interactive.
The British Museum in London has a dedicated app that gives walking tours, itineraries, and important information about the museum and current exhibits.
Some museums use VR headsets to bring exhibits to life. In 2019, the Prado Museum in Madrid introduced a 360-degree immersive exhibition experience that allows visitors to get much closer to the artwork and artifacts it holds.
Effective Crowd Management Techniques for Museums
When you visit a museum, you’ll notice some clever crowd management techniques used to manage crowds and avoid accidents. Now you’re a pro at beating museum crowds, you’ll notice them more:
- Timed slots: this helps staff monitor how many people are in the museum at a given time to avoid breaking overcrowding laws.
- Multiple entrances: some museums have multiple entrances, each offering different routes around the exhibits. Again, this is to split people up and break crowds up into different areas.
- Walkway barriers: without even noticing, you’ll be herded down specific walkways by strategically placed barriers. This helps create a one-way flow of traffic in certain areas.
Which Museum Will You Visit?
Whether you take a leisurely stroll around the Hakone Open-Air Museum in Japan or go toe-to-toe with the dinosaurs at the Smithsonian, planning your trip will make your visit much more enjoyable.
Figure out the busiest visiting times, check for late-night tours, and pre-plan your route around the must-see exhibits to enjoy the sights without the rush of the crowds.