Louvre Museum

If any museum needs no introduction, it’s the Louvre. Located in a former royal palace along the right bank of the Seine, the Louvre is one of the most important museums found anywhere in the world. The Louvre’s permanent collection numbers approximately 500,000 distinctive objects, with significant holdings in Egyptian antiquities, Greek and Roman art, sculptures, and paintings, just to name a few of its impressive departments. The Louvre is home to such masterpieces as Venus de MiloWinged Victory of SamothraceMona LisaLiberty Leading the PeopleThe Astronomer, two of Michelangelo’s Slaves, and many, many more.

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History of the Louvre Museum

The Musée du Louvre (the Louvre Museum—or, as befits an institution of its stature, simply the Louvre) is located on the right bank of the Seine, in a palatial royal residence facing the Tuileries Garden, just a pleasant walk from Sainte-Chapelle, Musée d’Orsay, Musée de l’Orangerie, Hôtel de la Marine, and of course, Notre-Dame. This palace has a long history. A castle was built on the spot in the late twelfth, but the oldest surviving structures that make up the Louvre complex today date to the middle of the sixteenth century; that’s when King Francis I began the process of transforming this castle into a luxurious palace.

Work on the structure continued for over a century, until King Louis XIV moved the royal court to Versailles in the early 1680s and the Louvre Palace was converted into a residence for artists in possession of royal patronage. During the course of the next century, much of the royal family’s art collection would come to be stored here; this would lead some to call for the Louvre to be opened to the public. Eventually, it was: during the French Revolution, the National Constituent Assembly declared the Louvre a public museum. Much has changed in the ensuing 230 years—renovations, remodels, acquisitions galore—but on the whole the Louvre has remained throughout these years a leading light of the art world.

Louvre Museum Highlights

Where to begin when discussing the many highlights of a trip to the Louvre? Where you spend the majority of your time here will depend largely on what styles and time periods of art or history you personally prefer, but there are a number of works, of course, that almost all visitors make a priority. Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic Mona Lisa hangs in the museum’s single largest gallery space (the Salle des États) near several landmark works of Venetian paintings by Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto, and always draws a huge crowd of tourists flocking to gaze at the enigmatic portrait in person.

Many visitors also prioritize the Louvre’s Michelangelo Gallery. Designed by the architect Hector Lefuel—likewise responsible for the elegant Daru staircase crowned at its top by the presence of the Winged Victory of Samothrace—this gallery is a treasure trove of Italian sculpture from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries. The headliners here are Michelangelo’s Rebellious Slave and Dying Slave (two of the sculptures originally intended for the tomb of Pope Julius II in Rome), but the space contains magnificent pieces by Canova, Bartolini, and Giambologna, too.

The Louvre’s extensive collection of Egyptian artifacts typically proves quite popular with visitors as well. Roughly 5,000 years of Egyptian art can be surveyed within the Louvre’s two floors of Egyptian antiquities: visitors will find the lower floor full of displays devoted to daily life arranged thematically; the upper floor moves chronologically. Throughout this remarkable exhibit, objects of particular note include the Great Sphinx of Tanis, the outer coffin of Tamutnefret, the Gebel el-Arak knife, and a bright-blue statuette of a hippopotamus.

More to See and Do at the Louvre Museum

For most Paris visitors, the Louvre is a can’t-miss destination. Here are a few more things to keep in mind as you plan your dream visit.

•On the site of what was once a set of royal apartments, today you’ll find the Louvre’s 

Galerie des Antiques. These galleries contain the museum’s tremendous collection of ancient Greek statues, which is headlined by the Venus de Milo.

•The Louvre’s Grand Galerie is one of the museum’s oldest galleries and remains a popular destination for art lovers on account of its stylish layout and walls lined with legendary painting after legendary painting. As you move through this famous gallery, keep an eye out for work by such artists as Raphael, da Vinci, Ghirlandaio, Arcimboldo, and Caravaggio.

•The Galerie d’Apollon is a lavish space built and designed according to the whims of King Louis XIV that is breathtaking in its ornamental splendor. The decorative elements of the gallery were overseen by the painter Charles Le Brun, and the project’s centerpiece is Eugène Delacroix’s Apollo Slaying the Serpent Python, a 40-foot-wide painting on the room’s ceiling. Today the French crown jewels are on display here alongside the royal collection of hardstone vessels.

•Les Salles Rouges—the Red Rooms, so named for the striking color of their walls—is where many of the Louvre’s largest paintings hang. These monumental canvases skew heavily toward work by nineteenth-century French artists, and include Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, Théodore Géricault, The Raft of the Medusa, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’ The Grande Odalisque, and Jacques-Louis David The Intervention of the Sabine Women.

•Cour Marly and Cour Puget are courtyards enclosed by the architects I. M. Pei and Michel Macary where you can find a lovely assortment of sculptures from across a wide range of time in an inspiring, light-filled setting.

Why the Louvre Museum Should Be on Your Must-See List

If you find yourself in Paris, you must visit the Louvre: it’s really that simple. The Louvre ranks high on the shortlist of greatest museums in the world; it’s the sort of place where a single visit really only allows you to scratch the surface of the many wonders in its possession. Iconic paintings, fabled sculptures, ancient artifacts, historic objects recovered from all over the planet: the Louvre has everything and more on display. Whether you’ve got a single hour to spare or you’ve set aside three entire days of your trip to visit and visit and visit again, the Louvre absolutely must be on your Paris must-see list.