Musée du Louvre is one of the most amazing art museums in the world and a top attraction in Paris. This is one museum we highly recommend visiting, even if you don’t go inside to see the art. It’s worth a stop just to walk around in the free public access areas, and gawk at the sheer size of this palace turned museum.
Or, just to step into a truly unique main entrance, the Pyramide du Louvre, which has you entering a glass pyramid at ground level – the Cour Napoléon – and descending a stairway to the main lobby, where you’ll find the reception area, ticket counter, and entrances to the various wings of the museum.
(A spectacular feature designed by architect I.M. Pei, the pyramid was constructed almost two decades before Apple Computers created its glass cube entrance to its store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.)
The Louvre, built as a defensive fortress in the 12th century, served for centuries as the palatial residence of French kings.
And with each successive ruler, the palace was renovated or expanded upon.
At one time the quadrangle was enclosed by another royal residence, the 16th century Tuileries Palace, demolished in 1872. One of the palace’s most notable residents was Louis XIV, the Sun King, a patron of the arts. It was this Louis and his successor, Louis XV who were responsible for much of the Louvre as it is today.
Since 1791, the Musée du Louvre has served as a monument to the arts and sciences, and since 1793 has been an official museum. This vast complex with seemingly endless corridors
and large salons filled with priceless art can be very overwhelming. And with four levels and three wings (Sully, Denon, and Richelieu) it can be a disorienting maze to negotiate.
So it helps to know what you want to see and where it’s located in the museum, or you may just wander around here for days.
In general, a tour of the Louvre, if you wish to see the highlights and a few other pieces, can take a few hours, so plan accordingly and review the museum floor plan before you visit. (Download a copy here or pick one up in the museum.)
Compared to any other museum in Western Europe, the Louvre has by far the largest and most comprehensive collection of art, and the vast number of pieces is truly mind-boggling. In addition to European art, there are Oriental, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Etruscan Antiquities, Arts of Islam, Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas, paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, and objets d’art. The collection includes some of the art world’s most renowned works, and unless a painting or object is being restored or on loan to another museum, you’ll see works like the very popular Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, The Lacemaker by Johannes Vermeer,
the Cheat with the Ace of Diamonds by Georges de la Tour, July 28:
Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix,
the Venus de Milo (Aphrodite) a statue dating to around 100 BC,
and The Winged Victory of Samothrace, from about 190 BC.
In addition to these last two works, there are numerous other sculptural works throughout the Louvre.
And for anyone who really enjoys sculpture, don’t miss the glass-topped Sculpture gardens in the courtyards of the Richelieu wing.