With more than 10 million visitors a year, the Louvre is the most visited museum in the world, and for good reason. It is also the largest art museum in the world, covering approximately 18 acres (72,000 square meters) divided into three wings: Denon, Richelieu, Sully. Each wing has over 70 rooms, and there are also gigantic halls filled with sculptures. Each wing has over 70 rooms displaying a collection of approximately 38,000 works.
The Louvre is much more than an art museum. It was originally built as a fortress by Philip II at the end of the 12th century. You can still visit the remains of the fortress in the basement. With the expansion of Paris, the fortress lost its defensive function, so from the middle of the 16th century it became the principal residence of the kings of France. In 1682, Louis XIV moved outside Paris to the Palace of Versailles and the Louvre became the seat of the royal collection. It was only after the French Revolution that the National Assembly decided to officially make it a museum. At this point, it only featured 537 works.
Nowadays, the 38,000 works we were talking about earlier are just those on display. The Louvre has an impressive collection of around 568,000 works dating back to antiquity. Many of them belonged to the various kings who lived in the Louvre Palace. Part of the collection was acquired through treaties with the Vatican and the Republic of Venice. Some of the works are remains of the Napoleonic conquests.
There is a lot to see in the Louvre. You could spend weeks wandering around rooms, but you probably don’t have that kind of time. So let’s see how you can get the most out of your first visit to the Louvre.
How should I plan my visit to see the highlights?
As we said before, you can’t see everything. The Louvre is huge. Before you go, it might be a good idea to check out the website, to get an idea of the layout. Here you’ll find some of the world’s most famous masterpieces, including Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory of Samothrace, Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People and Napoleon’s Coronation. Jacques-Louis David.
Although the Louvre is renowned for its European art, it also has an extensive collection of Egyptian and Near Eastern antiquities and Islamic art.
Once you go to the museum or check the map, you will see that each wing has an entrance. If you go through the Sully entrance, you will find all the Roman, Greek and Egyptian sculptures and antiquities on the ground floor.
For Italian Renaissance paintings, including the Mona Lisa, you’ll want to head to the Denon Wing. This is where you will also find French masterpieces like the two we mentioned earlier.
If you’re not too tired, you can keep going through the different galleries, but even a few hours will feel like quite a workout, so it’s best to consult guides Tours of the Louvre which allow you to skip the queues to conserve much-needed energy, or you can plan what you want to see.
Most people will try to see at least the big three: Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and Winged Victory.
You will find the Mona Lisa in the Denon wing in room 711. As its value is estimated at over $700 million and has already been stolen, don’t be surprised to see it behind bulletproof glass and guarded by security personnel. The Mona Lisa was actually not that well known outside of the art world until 1911, when it was stolen by an employee.
Today it has become the most famous painting in the Louvre because it is shrouded in mystery. The woman in the painting is believed to be Lisa Gherardini, wife of a Florentine merchant named Francesco del Giocondo. The subject has an enigmatic smile and a captivating gaze, giving viewers the impression that the Mona Lisa is watching them wherever they are in the room.
Venus the Milo, located on the Sully Wing in room 346, is one of the stars of the antiques section because it captures ideal Greek beauty so well. The balanced composition and the way the drapery falls over the hips of the goddess reflect the stylization of the late Hellenistic period.
the Winged Victory of Samothrace is located on the Denon wing in room 703. It is up a grand staircase and has its own well-deserved space. This masterpiece of Hellenistic art would have been a religious offering in commemoration of a naval victory. It’s so breathtakingly detailed – the way it captures the effect of movement, the draped clothing appearing to be soaked in water and also billowing in the wind – you’d never think it’s over 2,000 years old.
When is the best time to visit the Louvre?
The Louvre is open every day except Tuesday. As most museums in Paris are closed on Mondays, it’s usually a busy time at the Louvre. It also tends to get very crowded during the summers and during the Christmas season – whenever the kids are on holiday.
We recommend visiting on Wednesdays and Fridays when the museum stays open until the evening at 9:45 p.m. It usually closes at 6 p.m. It’s usually less crowded on those two days, and there’s something special about visiting in the evening.
From October to March, every first Sunday of the month, you can access the museum regardless of your age. Normally it is free only for under 18 and EU citizens under 26. Keep in mind that this also means there will be more people on those days.
Whenever you choose to go, it’s best to book your tickets online. It’s only a bit more expensive, but you don’t have to queue to buy them at the entrance. You can also choose a time slot, so that you arrive within 30 minutes of your “meeting”, no matter how long the queues are.