Few, if any museum openings have been anticipated as widely as the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Ever since November 11t,h 20017 visitors of the capital of the United Arabian Emirates got the chance to delve deep into the history of humanity. I had the rare chance to attend the opening weekend and felt like writing up a detailed guide for other tourists.
The architect of the Louvre Abu Dhabi is none other than the famed Jean Nouvel. Without a doubt, it can be admitted that the emirates latest landmark is his masterpiece (click here to see the other must-sees in Abu Dhabi) It took more than a decade, deadline not being held multiple times, but the result is beyond striking.
From afar you, see a rather simple flat dome of metal and white marble. But the closer you approach, the more stunning is the vista. A flotilla of small boats is moored around the sprawling complex of 40,000 square meters, while little jetties intersect the sparkling ocean around it.
It’s not hard to image the superyachts of the sheiks dropping by for a visit or crowded tourist boats on a day trip from Dubai. The gigantic cupola with a diameter of breathtaking 180 meters (590ft) shields an archipelago of 55 stark white buildings. Each housing a different collection, stages, shops, and offices.
The cupola rests on a mere four pillars creating a surreal floating effect very hard to describe. Once you enter, you are left gawking at the plays of shadow and light meant to resemble the shadow created by palm trees in an Arabian oasis.
And I certainly have to admit that Jean Nouvel managed to create a truly novel Arabian atmosphere – utterly without the kitsch so commonly associated with the peninsula. Every angle, every single line seems well placed, well weighted, despite being so asymmetrical, almost random.
Also, I feel it is an outshining beacon to anyone who thought Abu Dhabi is unsafe (read my detailed Abu Dhabi safety guide here).
Abu Dhabi paid 525 million US-Dollars to license the brand name “Louvre” and an additional 747 million US-Dollars for art loans and special exhibitions. As a result, the collection of the Louvre Abu Dhabi is nothing short of stunning for a museum so young.
That being said, the collection is pretty small. Only around 700 exhibits are on display in the exhibition. What sounds little (compared to places like the Hermitage, the British Museum or the Louvre in Paris) is actually a blessing. You don’t need to plan ahead of your visit and decide what to see and what to skip.
I always felt that the largest museums should vastly cut down their displays so every single artwork has room to breath. A visitor has to enter a dialogue with the artwork but that is hard with too many voices clamoring for attention. And here the Louvre Abu Dhabi succeeded in creating a unique atmosphere where each artwork has its place and context. The cabinets are wide open and often allowing a 360° view on the exhibits. I truly loved it.
But the best part about the Louvre Abu Dhabi is the new take on human (art) history. Instead of focusing on presenting highlights the focus lies on presenting outstanding artwork within the rich tapestry of global history.
So, you’ll see a golden greek burial mask from 2,000 BC right next to a similar mask from China the 2nd century and one from Peru, dating perhaps to the 16th century. As a result, the Louvre Abu Dhabi tells a wonderful, yet subtle story of diversity and equality. When a Da Vinci hangs right next to an African tribal mask, it surely tells an interesting story about the distorted perception of the commercialized art marked.
Art has changed over the past century, faster than probably ever before. With movements like Jugendstil (art nouveau) it invaded our everyday life, Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Beuys redefined it, while new technologies created whole new forms of art our ancestors would never have thought of.
To accommodate the resulting performing and visual arts, the Louvre Abu Dhabi itself becomes the canvas. Around every nook and cranny, you will find little and larger stages – in the basement, in the courtyards, in the middle of the exhibitions. Even the circumferencing stairs double function as an open-air auditorium, with the outer hull being the screen. It’s pretty damn well ingenious!
On the opening weekend, they had a tremendously tight schedule of outstanding performances happening all around the museum. But obviously the Louvre Abu Dhabi plans to make use of all these facilities in the future, so before your visit, you should definitely check out the event schedule.
Louvre Abu Dhabi opening hours
So, what time does the Louvre Abu Dhabi open? As a general rule of thumb, tourist attractions in the UAE open later but will close late at night as well. The Louvre is no exception:
- From Saturday to Wednesday: 10 am – 10 pm
- Thursday and Friday: 10 am – 11 pm
While the galleries of the exhibition are air-conditioned, the surrounding open-air structure obviously isn’t. Especially during the hotter months of the year, you really should consider going in the evening (maybe 1 hour before sunset, so you can see it in bright daylight as well).
You will need approximately two or two and a half hours to tour the main exhibition (if you really want to get intimate with each artwork, dig through the free app, you could obviously easily spend a day there).
Louvre Abu Dhabi tickets & price
Grand as the Louvre is, the entry fee is actually quite high, but I feel the price is more than justified. The Louvre Abu Dhabi ticket prices are:
- Adults – 60 AED
- Children between 13 & 23 years – 30 AED
- Children & disabled visitors under 13 – free
You can buy the tickets at the gallery or online. Most of the attractions in the Emirate are not particularly crowded (as of now), so buying your Louvre Abu Dhabi tickets in advance is not really needed.
Location of the Louvre Abu Dhabi – how to get there
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is located on the eastern end of Saadiyat Island. Just follow the Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Highway out of the city and will be on the left-hand side, right after you crossed the bridge. A taxi from Downtown Abu Dhabi will cost approximately 20 to 30 AED
How to get to the Louvre Abu Dhabi by bus?
There is a regular bus leaving from Dhafeer Street. It’s bus number 094, and it will stop at the Emirates Tower, Hamdan St. Abu Dhabi Bus station and the Pakistani School before. Personally speaking, I’d say it’s not worth it, especially as the bus is not leaving that regular anyway.
There are a couple of hop-on-hop-off bus tour companies in Abu Dhabi and they should be stopping by the Louvre starting from 2018.
So, that was my little Louvre Abu Dhabi tourist guide. Got any questions? Feel free to use the comment form below. And don’t forget to pin this to your Pinterest board.
how much of it can you see without buying a ticket?
almost nothing. I suppose you could walk around it and admire the dome from afar.