Living in a city like Paris means access to some of the world’s most famed artworks and landmarks. The Louvre and its vast collections make it place to experience an overload in both European culture and history.
There are thousands of blog posts on the Louvre. Therefore, I’ll focus on the museum itself, some tips and my experience on that day in this post. For me personally, the most captivating part of the Louvre for me is undoubtedly the building itself.
My First Day at the Louvre
The Louvre was actually the second touristy place I visited after I arrived in Paris. Along with 2 classmates from uni, we went on a First Sunday of the month. First Sundays mean free entry and no queues.
The Louvre went on to become one of my fave spots to relax and visit in Paris, especially as it’s right by the famous Tuileries Gardens. Over time, I would return here again and again with my camera or just sit and enjoy the beauty of the architecture and gardens.
Origins of the Louvre
The Louvre was originally the main royal palace where the sovereign who were housed in France over the centuries. The Louvre was originally a fortress built in the 12th and 13th centuries, and you can see their original outlay in the basement. King Francis I decided to build and expand the fortress into the main Palace for the French Kings and their courts. The famous Sun King, Louis XIV eventually left the Louvre Palace to live in his new elaborate and decadent home South of Paris, known as the Château de Versailles (that’s another post to come).
The Louvre was eventually taken over by The French Royal Academy where they opened up some of the rooms to display the Royal art collections to the public. During the French revolution, the Louvre was declared public property and officially made a museum open to the public.
The Louvre Pyramids
The Louvre Pyramids were built in the 1980s, by the architect I.M Pei. The three glass pyramids were built in the same layout as the original Pyramids of Giza, but on a much smaller scale.
I personally enjoyed walking through the Louvre’s courtyards after class on nice days. I’d get a bus home afterwards, but I mainly went this way because I enjoyed the amazing architecture of the space. One perfect spring afternoon after class, I was lucky enough to walk through the Louvre courtyards and a woman was singing in a beautiful operatic voice. That was an experience I’ll never forget.
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The beautiful classic styled rooms of the old courts can be seen on the second floor. Little rooms all displaying the royal art collections from paintings, sculpture and collectables. The rooms were decorated from floor to ceiling. I personally loved the little living rooms as they conveyed the more living side to all the decadent ornamentation.
When Napoleon Bonaparte took over and brought about the French Revolution, he moved into the Louvre. He felt that a residence fit enough for the kings, was good enough for him. He had rooms in the South wing renovated for his new home. Can you imagine the guests who sat in these rooms and the conversations they had?
The Egyptian Antiquities Collection
Many of these amazing works were collected on Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt, with future Louvre director, Dominique Vivant. The Louvre houses the largest Egyptian antiquities collections outside of Egypt.
These pieces and artefacts are extraordinary. There are pieces from as old as 4000 BC. I personally enjoyed these displays, but felt that these pieces were most likely functioning parts of a culture long gone. I had read numerous folklore and stories on ancient Egypt so I knew an overview of the gods, goddesses and symbolism of the pieces. For me, seeing these ancient pieces was pretty surreal given their history, mythology and context.
Winged Victory of Samonthrace
Once belonging to a temple honouring the Goddess Nike, this statue is believed to have been made at around 250 BC. Its discovery in 1863 by archaeologists has led to its origins coming under hot debate as to why the sculpture was made. One factor they can agree upon was that it was celebrate victory over war and was made to celebrate the naval state of Rhodes. Then again, when were they not at war back in those days?
What makes this sculpture a wonder lies not only its origins, but also its beautiful attention detail. Its head and arms were never found, but it shows the goddess Nike facing most likely the strong maritime winds with her garments flowing.
Tips and what to know at the Louvre
The works and rooms in here are vast and overwhelming and realistically, you cannot visit all in one day.
Please take into account, that the Louvre is ALWAYS full. There has never been a day living in Paris when this place is NOT full.
Wear comfortable shoes and back pack type bag. You’ll be in this place for at least half a day.
To enjoy the actual art, I suggest you do research of what genres or key pieces you would like to visit in this vast labyrinth of a museum. Get a map before you come.
Enjoy the amazing architecture of the actual Louvre inside and out. If you know which rooms or collections you want to see, you can def have time to appreciate the finer details.
The Mona Lisa is ALWAYS full. There are actually more amazing works to appreciate, like the Titian down the hall!
During June-Aug in the summer there are no free first Sundays.
To avoid the lines, you can go very early before 9 am or better yet to just pre-book online and skip the queue from hell.
Bring a small snack. You’ll get hungry wandering those epic halls. Don’t be a knob and eat inside the place. There aren’t any amazing surrounding restaurants either. To find these you’ll either have to venture to Opera or go down Rue Rivoli which is on the same road as the Louvre. You can take the metro, but they all in walking distance.
Remember this is more than an over commercialised museum. These halls and rooms are filled with rich history and untold stories that have come to define France and Europe. This includes the works in here. It’s just an amazing space to be in.