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Why You Should Go to the Louvre in Paris

louvre-pyramid.jpgDon’t take my word for it. The Smithsonian will tell you. It lists the Louvre Museum as one of the top 28 places in the world you need to go before you die (Smithsonian Magazine, January 2008).

Would people still go to the Louvre Museum – if the Mona Lisa, the Winged Victory of Samathrace and the Venus de Milo did not reside there? It would still be a great museum, but not quite as great.

Movie stars, singers, and a myriad of celebrities come and go. Our concept of talent and beauty tend to be as fickle as lap dancers, but Mona stays. So, this is why you must go to see Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa – at least once, in person. You may be disappointed. You may find her to be unattractive, but the old gal has staying power. She’s been around since the 1500s and that’s a hell of a track record. Of all his paintings, Leonardo chose to lug Mona along with him from Italy to King Francois I’s French court. Francois obviously liked the painting and kept it as the centerpiece of his collection. She’s been here ever since (except for one brief interlude of liberation when she was stolen not for money, but for love).

So, if you ever need any convincing about the importance of going to the Louvre, I hope this settles the issue. But there’s more, about 35,000 more reasons to visit the Louvre. This is the approximate number of works of art and artifacts that can be seen at the Louvre (the entire collection holds over 300,000 individual pieces) and its treasures are not limited to Western civilizations alone. You’ll find towering legacies to kingdoms long forgotten by Hollywood – the sculptures and freizework of ancient Assyria, Ninevah, Sargon and Khorsabah. Here is where you’ll find Hammarabi’s code (1792-1750 B.C.), and from Egypt, the Grand Sphinx.

Parisgirl’s Louvre Tips

If you haven’t yet read Rick Steve’s section on the Louvre in his Paris 2007 guidebook, I would definitely recommend it for a very informative and highly readable introduction to the Louvre. Even though I’ve visited the Louvre a number of times, I’ve learned a great deal from his descriptions (particularly regarding the museum’s sculpture department). ‘Experts’ may scoff, but I’m not an art expert so I appreciate Rick’s simple but amusing descriptions and illustrations.

Tip #1 Remember the closed day is Tuesday.

Tip #2 Buy your ticket online through FNAC or Ticketnet or buy your ticket from any of the automated ticket machines in the main lobby under the pyramid.

Tip #3 Go for free on the first Sunday of the month and on July 14th, Bastille Day. Or go for a reduced evening rate on Wednesday and Friday nights.

Tip #4 Make sure that the department you plan to visit will be open because some departments such as the French paintings collection is closed on certain days of the week.

Tip #5 Check out the various entrances to the museum to find the quickest access. (The main entrance through the glass pyramid is the most spectacular, but also the most crowded. You can gain access from beneath the Carrousel arch (at the entrance to the Tuileries gardens), underground from the Metro stop: Palais Royal, from the Lion’s entrance (in the wing which borders the Seine River

Tip #6 Visit the museum during evening hours (Wednesday and Friday nights) thus saving your days for outdoor activities (make sure that the wings you want to visit are open during evening hours).

Planning your visit

Tip #1 Pace yourself. The path to three ‘biggies’ Venus de Milo, the Mona Lisa, and Victory at Samathrace is well indicated. Nevertheless the Louvre is huge. The Grand Gallery (where you’ll find Mona Lisa) is almost equal in length to three football fields lined up end to end. If you stop at every painting before you get to the Mona Lisa – well – you get the picture. Grab the ball and run.

Tip #2 Take some time to visit the Louvre website and get familiar with the layout of the museum. Do you have a favorite painting or favorite artist? Check to see if his or her work is included in the vast collection. You’ll want to note the name of the wing i.e. Denon is the ‘Mona Lisa’ wing, Richelieu, etc. and the Floor.

Even after you’ve carefully, noted all this information, you may still get lost – or sometimes the work of art gets temporarily lost. In June, 2007, the Venus de Milo had been moved to the the Sully wing, room 7 ground floor. Those of us who saw Venus languishing in her temporary quarters – we shared her pain. Hopefully, at this writing, she is sitting pretty again.

Tip #3 Take a flashlight (or torch). You’ll need this for the Egyptian wing. I’m not kidding. And I’m not kidding that there’s pickpockets lurking in dimly lit corners.

Tip #5 Make your way to the upper level dining area of the Richelieu wing for a snack or lunch break.

Tip #6 DO NOT TRY TO SEE IT ALL. This is impossible. You will never see it all. Better to spend your morning or afternoon in the company of one or two works of art. You don’t make a work of art your own by acquiring it. No one really can own art. Spend enough time with one painting and it will be yours forever.

So, please, do this for me if you go to the Louvre. Find one painting, one sculpture, one art object – and make it yours. Better yet, share your choice and comments with other Parislogue readers.

>> For more information, see this article about how to visit the Louvre – including open hours, admission prices, how to get there, what’s on display, a little history, and valuable visitor’s tips.

Photo at the top by Chris Card Fuller ©2007