Musée du Louvre
99 rue de Rivoli, 1st
M° Palais-Royal-Musée-du-Louvre or Louvre-Rivoli
Tel 01 40 20 53 17
The Louvre is the largest museum in the world, with collections that span history and geography including Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Roman antiquities, French paintings and sculptures up to the 19th century, European paintings, Decorative Arts, and a huge collection of drawings. With a total area of almost 100 acres, including 650,000ft² of exhibition rooms, a bit of preparation is in order before tackling this behemoth.
Opening Hours: Daily except Tuesday 9am-6pm; Wednesday, Friday and the first Saturday of the month until 9:45pm. Closed January 1, May 1, July 14 and December 25.
Warning: Some collections are only open on certain days of the week. If you’re planning on seeing something specific, call or check the website to make sure it’s open.
Tickets: €17 for full-day access to the permanent collections, the temporary collections and the Musée Eugène Delacroix . Museum Pass accepted. Annual student passes are available for visitors 18-25. Have cash handy if you want to use the ticket machines (instead of standing in line…they often don’t take American credit cards without the microchip, but they take euro bills).
Free Admission: Free to kids under 18, disabled visitors and their guests, art teachers (with teacher ID), andjournalists (with press card). The Louvre is free for everyone on the first Sunday of the month (October through March only), and the first Saturday of the month from 6pm until 9:45pm.
Entrances: There are several entrances. The main one is through the Pyramide (in the Cour Napoléon), which is outdoors. It leads to the underground Carrousel du Louvre commercial center, which you can enter directly without waiting outside in line at: 99 Rue de Rivoli; via stairs in the Jardins du Carrousel next to the arch; or directly from the Métro Palais-Royal from the Line 1 platform. The ticket windows are here. Visitors with pre-purchased tickets or museum passes can enter at the Passage Richelieu (between the Cour Napoléon and the Place du Palais-Royal), from 9am-6pm, and the Porte des Lions (on the Quai des Tuileries near the Batobus stop), open 9am-5:30pm except on Fridays.
Note: Even if you have a pass, you’ll have to go through the security line and metal detector.
Info and Services: A free museum map in English can be found at the Information Desk under the Pyramide. More detailed guidebooks can be purchased in the museum’s book shop. Audio guides (with commentary on 1000 artworks in English) are available at the entrance to each wing for €6, cash or traveler’s check only. There is free coat check (sometimes it’s full), stroller rental, and even a post office. There are various cafés and restaurants within the museum and a decent food court in the Carrousel du Louvre commercial center.
Vocabulary Tip: The Louvre’s most famous work of art, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, is called La Joconde in France.
Free Mini-Itinerary: For those who want to see the Louvre, but not necessarily the art collections, enter the Cour Carré from the Rue de l’Amiral Coligny, where you can peek through the windows at the statues in the Sully Wing. Continue into the Cour Napoléon and admire IM Pei’s glass Pyramid (with a coffee on the terrace of the Café Marly, time permitting). From the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel you can see the Tuileries Gardens, the Obélisque at the Place de la Concorde, the Arc de Triomphe, and — on a clear day — the Grande Arche de la Défense. Just to the left of the arch are stairsgoing down to the Carrousel du Louvre entrance, where you can see the excavated medieval foundations lining the passageway to the museum and commercial center.
Countless books have been written on the many aspects of the Louvre’s complex and fascinating history (a number of good ones written in English can be found in the museum’s bookshop). For casual sightseeing purposes, it’s helpful to keep in mind a few essential historical points:
Philippe August first built the Louvre as a fortress just outside the city walls in the 12th-century to protect Paris from Viking raids. This original structure fit inside the Cour Carré. The oldest foundations and moat walls, discovered during construction in the 1980s, have been restored and can be seen throughout the lower ground floor of the museum.
It didn’t become a royal palace until the 16th century under François I, who razed the tower and added two new wings. Later that century, Catherine de Médicis had her own palace built in the Tuileries, which Henri IV joined to the Louvre to form a monumental double palace. Louis XIV was the last king to put his mark on the Louvre before virtually abandoning it in 1678 when he moved the royal seat of power to Versailles.
The Louvre began its first step towards becoming a museum in the 18th century, when the abandoned palace developed as an artist residence and academy with public exhibitions of the royal collections. After the Revolution, it was officially declared a museum under the First Republic in 1793.
In the 19th century, Napoléon I evicted the artists and academics living in the Louvre, and renamed it the Musée Napoléon, stocking it full of “souvenir” artworks pilfered during his various conquests (which the Allies made him return after his defeat at Waterloo in 1815). Improvements to the museum were continued under the Restoration and Napoléon III’s Second Empire.
An extensive renovation project spanning the last two decades of the 20th century transformed the museum into the Grand Louvre. Significant changes included the addition of the Pei Pyramid entrance and the Carrousel du Louvre commercial center, the excavation of the medieval foundations, and the opening of the Richelieu Wing (formerly occupied by the Ministry of Finance).
Heather’s Favorites: The interior architecture of the Louvre – it was a palace, after all – is as interesting as the art itself. I love the all of the painting galleries on the first floor of the Denon wing, especially the Spanish paintings at the far end of the Grand Gallery, and the Large Format French paintings (I’m not a huge fan of the renovated Salle des Etats, which houses the Mona Lisa, among other paintings, in a bright yellow room, many paintings hung with long metal rods…very ugly, very crowded, hard to appreciate the art). The Apollo Gallery and Napoléon IIIs Apartments are all about opulence, almost like Versailles. I also love the sculptures on the Ground Floor of the Denon wing (room A “Salle du Manège” for ancient Roman statues, and room 4’s Italian sculptures). My favorite place for a snack is the Café Denon (in the Lower Ground Floor of the Denon wing, in the back of the Roman Egypt room); in summer they open the terrace that overlooks a quiet inner courtyard.