They say that Disneyland is the happiest place on earth. For me, the happiest places are the ones steeped in history, intrigue and death. Perhaps it’s the dark tourist in me, or maybe it’s the historian, that makes me yearn to learn more about the past. I’ve been to many such places, and the Louvre Museum is one of the most wonderful places that offer all of those things.
The Louvre is one of many astonishing museums in Paris, and it definitely tops my list. It is one of the world’s largest and most diverse museums, and according to my Lonely Planet guidebook, “it would take nine months to glance at every piece” inside. Talk about goals. It is home to priceless antiquities, works of the masters and stunning architecture, including the inverted glass pyramid. Here you can find Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, crown jewels and the Napoleon III Apartments.
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History of the Louvre Museum
At first glance, the Louvre Museum looks more like a fancy European castle than a museum. That’s because it originated as a medieval fortress and was the home of French royalty for centuries.
King Philippe Auguste’s finest engineers were set to work around 1190 as he was set to head off to fight in the Crusades. They created a square structure with a moat and circular defensive towers. It was a garrison fortress on the outskirts of the city.
Although the French kings lived mainly in Loire Valley, that changed sometime during the 16th century when the Louvre became a royal residence of choice. Significant upgrades and renovations transformed the fortress into a luxurious abode to make it suitable for the royals. It was Francis I who brought the French Renaissance style to the Louvre and many of the items in the collection, including the famous Mona Lisa.
The Louvre also became a residence for the various artist of the day that flourished under the patronage of the kings. Quite fitting when you think about it today. The Louvre itself officially became a museum in the 18th century after the French Revolution and is now one of the most visited museums in the world.
Facts about the Louvre Museum
- There are approximately 38,000 objects housed at the Louvre
- Artifacts range from prehistoric times to the 21st century
- The exhibition area spreads over 652,300 square feet (60,600 square meters)
- The Louvre received over 10 million visitors in 2018
The architecture of the Louvre Museum
I don’t think it’s possible to see all of the Louvre Museum in one day. To fully appreciate and take in all the priceless art housed here would take longer than that. I’ve been here twice now and still feel that I haven’t seen it all. Of course, if you’re an art lover, you will want to come back again and again.
The building itself is stunning, and you can’t help but admire it as you stroll inside and outside. Spanning over four floors, three wings – Sully, Denon and Richelieu – and several courtyards, this is a massive and impressive place. You can easily imagine the royal court members going on about their daily lives in the hallways and on the grounds.
The Louvre Museum has an impressive castle-like vibe. Long, wide hallways, narrow windows and impressive chandeliers are just some of the special touches that remind you of that fact. High, vaulted ceilings often adorned with exquisite details are often just as worthy of admiration as the art displayed here.
I’ve always been a museum junkie, and the Louvre speaks to every part of me. In me, the historian, the adventurer, and the photographer all come alive, each drawn to a different element.
The Louvre Museum collections
Over 35,000 works of art from the Louvre Museum’s extensive collection are displayed among eight curatorial departments. These include paintings by famous Italian masters, sculptures and various objects d’art from all over the world. The departments include:
Egyptian antiquities: Covering artifacts from 4,000 BC to the 4th century AD, the collection covers 20 rooms and is one of the largest Egyptian collections in the world. Covering items from the Middle Kingdom, the New Kingdom and Coptic art, as well as the Roman, Ptolemaic and Byzantine periods.
Near Eastern antiquities: This collection spans 9,000 years, from prehistoric to the early Islamic Period. Geographically, it covers the area from North Africa to the Indus Valley and Central Asia and from the Black Sea to the Arabian Peninsula.
Greek, Etruscan and Roman art: This collection is pretty much what the name says. Greek, Roman and Etruscan artworks spanning from Neolithic times to the 6th century AD make their home here.
Decorative arts: Home to a wide range of items from the early Middle Ages to the mid-19th century, here you’ll find everything from jewellery, ceramics, glass, furniture, rugs and anything else that was used for decoration by our ancestors.
This section is where you’ll find the Napoleon III Apartments. The stunning rooms, decorated in the Second Empire style, are a glimpse of what the luxury at the Louvre looked like. One of my favourite parts of the museum.
Islamic art: Louvre’s newest collection spans 1,300 years and three continents. Objects from Spain to Southeast Asia include ceramics, ivory, textiles and many other pieces.
Paintings: 12 curators oversee this extensive collection of paintings by European masters from the 13th century to 1848.
Prints and drawings: This collection covers works on paper. Books, drawings, manuscripts, woodcuts, copperplate and lithographic stones of the past are displayed here.
Sculptures: Dedicated to sculptures from the Medieval, Renaissance and Modern times, the collection covers artworks done before the mid-19th century.
What you need to know before visiting the Louvre museum
Tickets were 15 Euros per person, and the admission gives you access to the Delacroix Museum. You can get tickets online to gain quicker access inside and avoid the lines. Tickets are also valid all day, and it seems you can re-enter the building during that time if you decide to leave.
There are three cafes inside, and like any other museum, there are audio guides available for your visit. The largest lineup is through the Grande Pyramide, however, you can also enter the museum under the Arc du Carrousel (Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre metro stop.) You should plan at least half a day to visit, which probably won’t be enough.
Louvre Museum opening hours
Monday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Wednesday: 9 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.
Thursday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Friday: 9 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
On the first Saturday of each month, the museum is also open from 6 p.m. to 9:45 p.m., and admission is free for all visitors. Rooms begin closing at 5:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on night openings. Make sure to check the official site for admission hours.
Discover your own magic at the Louvre Museum
The first time I came to the Louvre Museum, I spent half a day there. The second time it was for a few hours. We arrived later in the day, and since it was already September, the crowds had thinned out to the point where we just walked up and bought a ticket without waiting in line.
As someone who loves museums, I absolutely adore the Louvre. It is a beautiful place architecturally and worth exploring for that alone. In this stunning building, you will find paintings larger than life that make you wonder how they managed to paint them. Not to mention how long it took to paint them.
The museum has numerous benches where you can sit down and admire the art around you. The whole place can be overwhelming, so an opportunity to pause and absorb it all is a welcome one. After all, you are in the company of priceless works of art painted by the masters centuries ago. It doesn’t get better than that.