Home to the Mona Lisa, and instantly recognizable by its glass pyramid, this landmark has vast collections of well-known art from France and around the world.
With miles of corridors and 15 acres (six hectares) of exhibition space, Paris’ largest museum is one of the biggest in the world. Its official title is Musée du Louvre, but is known to locals simply as “the Louvre.”
This world-class museum has three wings: Denon, Sully and Richelieu. You can easily spend the entire day exploring the paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, Near Eastern antiquities, Egyptian antiquities, Islamic art, prints and drawings, and Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities. The objects in the collections range in date from 5,000 B.C. to the 19th century.
Perennially popular works include the marble statues Winged Victory of Samothrace and Venus de Milo, and the Mona Lisa to name just a few. The lines to view these masterpieces can move slowly, but there’s plenty to observe — both art and people — while waiting.
The Louvre’s vast collection can seem overwhelming, but a little planning in advance will ease the pressure. Make a succinct list of key works you wish to see. The Louvre website is an excellent resource, with features such as a detailed floor plan of the permanent and visiting exhibits, and an online catalogue of works.
Buy your entry ticket in advance from the website or from many stores in France. With advance purchase tickets, you will use an entrance where the lines are much shorter. Still, don’t miss the main entrance, as it is where you’ll find the Pyramide du Louvre (Louvre Pyramid), in the center of the main courtyard, the Cour Napoléon.
Like the Eiffel Tower and the Pompidou Centre, the Louvre Pyramid, a creation by Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei, was initially criticized for being too modern. Unveiled in 1989, the steel and glass structure was built as part of a new entrance foyer designed to better accommodate the thousands of daily visitors. Today the pyramid is regarded as an iconic symbol of Paris.
Once inside the museum, take a guided 90-minute tour for a good introductory overview of the museum and key pieces. You can also rent audio guides in the form of a Nintendo 3DS or a buy a smartphone application.
The Louvre is located in the center of Paris, along the Right Bank, in the neighborhood known as the 1st arrondissement. There are three entrances: the main entrance at the pyramid, an entrance from the Carrousel du Louvre underground shopping mall, and an entrance at the Porte des Lions (near the western end of the Denon wing). The museum is accessible by public transportation, including boat, and there is parking available.