One of the world’s biggest and best art collections is housed in one of Paris’s most beautiful buildings.
With three vast wings and one of the largest collections in the world, it’s hard to know where to start in this magnificent museum of fine art and antiquities. Its official title is Musée du Louvre, or Louvre Museum, but most people just call it the Louvre. The home of the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and Winged Victory of Samothrace is spread across six hectares on the Right Bank in the fashionable 1st arrondissement and is one of the must-see sights of Paris.
There are many treasures to admire, so it pays to do your homework. Read the website to plan your visit before you set out; this comprehensive resource has an online catalogue of works, a detailed floor plan and information about temporary exhibitions and other special events. With over eight million visitors every year, there are often queues to see the most famous masterpieces, especially at peak times, but don’t let that deter you – the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa is unforgettable.
Three wings, Denon, Sully and Richelieu, are dedicated to paintings, sculptures, decorative arts and antiquities from the ancient world and the Orient, ranging from 5000 BC to the 21st century. For a good general introduction to the collections, take a 90-minute guided tour, rent an audio guide or buy the smartphone app. You won’t see everything, but you can get a flavour and maybe come back another day to spend more time in your favourite sections or check out what you missed the first time.
The futuristic entrance foyer, known as the Louvre Pyramid, was a controversial addition when it opened in 1989. The steel and glass structure rising from the main courtyard was architect I. M. Pei’s solution to the problem of accommodating ever-increasing numbers of visitors. Nowadays many people prefer to avoid the queues by buying tickets in advance online or from other tourism outlets, but even if you already have your ticket, it’s worth taking a look at this stunning building, which has become a favourite spot for photographs.
There are three entrances to the Louvre: the main entrance through the pyramid, through the Carrousel du Louvre underground shopping centre and at the Porte des Lions near the Denon wing. There are plenty of public transport options, including river boat, and there is parking available, although road access can be congested in this central part of the city.