With its 380,000 works and ancient objects, the Louvre Museum is one of the largest museums in the world and certainly one of the must-see attractions in Paris.
In this magnificent complex of Renaissance buildings you will find a summary of the entire history of European art from the Assyrian, Etruscan, Greek and Roman civilisations up to the mid-19th century.
The most famous works, which attract 9 million every year, are surely Leonardo da Vinci‘s Mona Lisa, the Nike of Samothrace, the Venus de Milo and Michelangelo’s Dying Slave.
You won’t need a day to visit all the sections of the Louvre but you will experience a real journey into the world of art.
The history of the building that houses the Louvre Museum is very old and has its origins in a fortification built by Philip Augustus when he left for the Crusade in 1190. The vestiges of this original structure are still visible today and can be visited in the central part of the museum.
The building underwent several changes and improvements throughout history: embellished by Charles V who turned it into a secondary residence, by François I who declared it the principal residence of the sovereigns of France and finally by Catherine de’ Medici who initiated the building of a new palace in the area in front of it where the tile factories(tuiles) once stood, from which the palace took its name Tuileries. The sovereign’s ambitious project to extend the palace and connect it by galleries to the new residence was only realised by Henry IV.
It was at the time of Louis XIV that the Louvre lost its function as a royal residence, when it was transferred to the new palace at Versailles. It was not until 1793 that the Muséum Central des Arts was built.
The main entrance to the Louvre Museum is inside the magnificent 122-metre high glass pyramid, a true masterpiece of modern architecture set in an ancient context.
Commissioned by the former President of the French Republic François Mitterand in 1981, the pyramid was designed by the Sino-American architect Ieoh Ming Pei and was immediately showered with criticism: the pyramid’s glacial geometry would have ruined the historical and architectural context of Napoleonic Paris, with a forced juxtaposition lacking elegance.
After twenty years of work and an investment of one billion euros, the Louvre Pyramid proved to be a winning choice, which in time won over even its detractors, as had already happened in the case of the Eiffel Tower. Criticism eventually gave way to more far-fetched theories about the monument’s significance and its hypothetical relationship with the Masonic and esoteric world.
The Louvre is the largest museum in the world in terms of surface area and number of works on display, over 35,000: it is a must-see during a trip to Paris.
Its vastness makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to see everything. Unless you plan to visit it over several days, we advise you to plan your visit very carefully, identifying in advance the most important works you wish to admire by marking them on the map, so as not to run the risk of wandering, and getting lost, through the labyrinth of rooms, floors and corridors that stretch for almost 14 km.
It is impossible not to know Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, also known as the Mona Lisa, one of the most famous works of art in the world. Exhibited on the first floor of the Denon Wing, it has always been a mysterious and fascinating work, the subject of which is still unknown. Painted by Leonardo da Vinci between 1503 and 1506, it is said to be the portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo.
Today it is certainly one of the most loved and admired works in the entire museum and its vibrant, yet evanescent aura enchants millions of tourists, despite its small size.
Equally mystical and fascinating is another work by Leonardo da Vinci, also on display on the first floor of the Denon Wing, the Virgin of the Rocks, dated 1483-1486.
Of great visual impact and with a religious theme, the work celebrates the mystery of the Incarnation through the figures of Mary, Jesus Christ and St John the Baptist. Its uniqueness lies in the anomalous fantasy landscape, which hides behind the protagonists, a shaded, half-light background composed of caves and protruding rocks.
A second version of this painting exists and is in the National Gallery in London, with some pictorial variations.
Found in 1820 on the island of Milos in the Aegean, the Venus de Milo, representing the Goddess Aphrodite, is the symbol of female beauty in classical times.
This marble sculpture without arms is one of the most famous sculptures of Greek civilisation, probably the work of Alexander of Antioch, and is exhibited on the ground floor of the Sully wing.
Imposing and mysterious, the famous Nike of Samothrace is a sculpture from the Hellenistic period, now missing its head and arms. Carved in white Paros marble and grey marble from the island of Rhodes, it was found in 1863 by French archaeologist Charles Champoiseau on the island of Samothrace.
The statue is the personification of triumphant victory, represented in Greek mythology by a young winged goddess, Nike in Greek, immortalised as she perches on the prow of a warship. It is located on the ground floor of the Denon Wing.
Love and Psyche is unmissable, one of the most intense statues in all of art history. Sculpted between 1787 and 1793 by the sculptor Antonio Canova, the white marble group depicts the myth from Apuleius’ Metamorphoses, in which the god Cupid restores life to his beloved, through the emphasis and ecstasy of a kiss.
The greatest exponent of Neoclassicism, a European cultural movement that brought the classical model of Greco-Roman art up to date, Canova achieves expressive perfection with this work, thanks to an incredible balance of forms, the harmony of proportions and the intensity of the emotions that faces and gestures manage to express.
Designed for the tomb of Pope Julius II, the statues depicting the Dying Slave and the Rebel Slave are the only two brought to completion by Michelangelo: in fact, the sculptural group was intended to consist of six statues: the other four remained unfinished and are preserved in the Accademia Gallery in Florence.
Veronese, also known as Paolo Caliari, depicted an episode from the Gospel According to John in this painting dated 1563: it is the famous Wedding at Cana, in which Jesus performs the miracle of the transformation of water into wine.
What strikes visitors is the almost photographic precision of the depiction of faces and the impressive size of the canvas, 10 metres long and about 7 metres high.
The pride of French painting, Liberty Leading the People is one of the most famous paintings by Eugène Delacroix, the leading exponent of French Romantic culture, also nicknamed the Prince of the Romantics .
As a kind of political manifesto, the painting depicts the day of 28 July 1830, when the French people rose up in Paris and dethroned the Bourbon King Charles X. The bare-breasted young woman leading the frenzied crowd is none other than the symbol of the French Republic: with the tricolour in her hand she embodies the allegory of liberty and is said to have inspired the French writer Victor Hugo for his greatest masterpiece, Les Miserables.
Another great French work not to be missed is The Coronation of Napoleon, painted between 1805 and 1807 by Jacques-Louis David, one of the greatest representatives of Neoclassicism, who often narrated the events of the French Revolution and Napoleon Bonaparte’s political career.
Exhibited on the first floor of the Denon Wing, the painting captures the historic moment of the coronation of Napoleon and his wife Josephine de Beauharnais, which took place on 2 December 1804 in Notre-Dame Cathedral.
You will be left speechless in front of this canvas of immense dimensions, conceived to emphasise the figure of Napoleon and characterised by maniacal attention to detail, combined with great compositional balance.
This large basalt stele over two metres high is entirely covered with cuneiform characters: it is the famous code of laws drawn up by Hammurabi, king of Babylon in the 18th century BC. The code is a valuable source of information on the political, social and economic structure of the Mesopotamian civilisation: to date, it is one of the oldest collections of laws that has ever come down to us.
It was discovered in Susa in Elam in the early 1900s by the French archaeologist Jacques de Morgan and is now on display in the Oriental Antiquities section on the ground floor of the Richelieu Wing.
It is by far one of the largest sphinxes to be admired outside Egypt. Found in 1825 in the ruins of the Temple of Amun-Ra in Tanis, the capital of Egypt during the 21st and 22nd dynasties, its dating is still uncertain today, as all the inscriptions on its surface were affixed by later pharaohs.
On display in the basement of the Sully Wing, it is about six feet high, almost five metres long and carved in pink Aswan granite.
Admission is free for all EU citizens up to the age of 25. In addition, from October to March, admission to the permanent collections is free for everyone on the first Sunday of each month. However, you must allow up to two hours in line to enter.
The entrance ticket to the museum is valid for the whole day and to break up the long and exhausting visit, you can leave for breaks and return at your leisure. It is recommended to buy tickets online, avoiding queues and saving valuable time.
The following tickets include admission only, with or without an audio guide, for those who prefer to visit the Louvre museum on their own.
Skip the queues at the entrance and admire the most famous works of art through a carefully planned itinerary illustrated by an expert guide.
If, in addition to the Louvre, you intend to climb the Eiffel Tower or take a cruise on the Seine, combination tickets save you money on the final cost.
The Louvre Museum is included in the City Card Paris Museum Pass.
The Louvre Museum holds about 380,000 works and objects, of which about 35,000 are on display. It is an immense collection. The 7 sections within the museum are designed according to a thematic orientation, following historical chronology, from antiquity to the modern period.
A true labyrinth of corridors and sections awaits you, spread over 3 wings, Richelieu, Sully and Denon, and 4 floors: an immense area, which can be visited in at least one day.
The section covers a 10,000-year period, from antiquity to the birth of Islam. It is a long collection of works and objects belonging to the Assyrian and Babylonian cultures.
You can take a real journey to the places along the Tigris and Euphrates, straddling the Mediterranean and the Fertile Crescent, where agriculture, writing and astronomy were born, admiring sacred icons, objects of daily life and working tools.
Lovers of ancient history will be amazed by the largest collection in the world after the Cairo Museum.
Objects from the daily life of the Egyptian people have been collected: writing instruments, household objects, jewellery and ornaments from the tombs of the great pharaohs as well as mysterious fragments of the Book of the Dead. The rooms dedicated to mummies, sarcophagi and papyri are astounding, not to mention the imposing statues of Ramses II and the statue of the God Osiris, almost 3 metres high.
The section devoted to the Greek, Etruscan and Roman worlds is also extremely rich, housing some of the most important works of ancient art history: the Venus of Milo and the Winged Victory of Samothrace, some frescoes from the villas of Pompeii, the famous sarcophagi of the Etruscan bride and groom, to name but a few.
This section contains works of European sculpture from the Middle Ages to the mid-19th century. The largest part is represented by French artists to which are added Italian, Spanish and Northern European exponents.
The collections in this department are exceptional and span different epochs, from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to the decorative arts up to the 19th century: ceramics, bronzes, jewellery, tapestries and furniture from all cultures and all historical periods.
This is the section eagerly awaited by almost all visitors: the best of European painting divided into three large groups: the French school, with most of the works, the Italian and Spanish schools, and finally the northern European school.
Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is the absolute star of the collection, but you can also admire many masterpieces by painters who marked the history of art from 1200 to 1848: Cimabue, Giotto, Piero della Francesca, Beato Angelico, Mantegna, Raphael and Caravaggio.
It continues with the Spanish Goya, Velazquez, Ribera, El Greco, Murillo, without forgetting the French painters such as Delacroix and Jacques-Louis David or the Flemish painters of Brueghel, Van Dick, Rubens, Rembrant and Veermer.
The rooms are divided by geographical area and mainly collect sculptures belonging to these distant peoples. This is the most recent section of the entire museum and holds important traces of the world’s most remote cultures.
The museum is open daily from 09.00 to 18.00 (the rooms start closing around 17.30) but the best time to visit some of the always crowded sections such as the Denon wing (which houses the Mona Lisa) is on Wednesday and Friday evenings when the museum closes at 21.45. On these days you might also consider entering in the late afternoon, especially if you only plan to visit some sections: you will find fewer people than in the middle of the day.
In general, to make the most of the day, we recommend that you come to the Louvre Museum when it opens, i.e. at 9.00 am.
Days to avoid, due to likely crowding are:
The Louvre Museum is huge: a visit, if not carefully planned, can turn into a nightmare, with the risk of walking around for hours without seeing the most important works. For this reason, we have put together a series of useful tips for organising your day.
The pyramid is the most scenic and monumental entrance to the museum, but long queues often form here. To avoid kilometre-long queues, we advise you to opt for skip-the-line tickets bought in advance and for the secondary, lesser-known entrances.
It is not possible to see everything at the Louvre Museum: it would take several days. For those with limited time or who simply prefer to orientate their visit according to their tastes and interests, we recommend planning your stay at the museum, identifying in advance the sections and works you wish to admire.
You will then be able to construct your own visit itinerary that will easily and without getting lost in the labyrinth of rooms and sections of the museum. In this case, the use of maps, paper or digital, is fundamental: you can pick up the maps free of charge at the information point in the Hall Napoléon, but the best strategy is to download them from the official website and mark in advance the rooms you should not miss. You can also use the free wifi inside the museum to view the maps online.
For a little extra, you can pick up your own audio guide: this will put the museum visit into context and help you understand the history and significance of the most famous works: long hours inside the museum will be punctuated by useful explanations.
Visiting the Louvre Museum requires a full day. This is why it is important to dress in layers and with comfortable shoes, to cope with the long hours on your feet, walking non-stop through the endless corridors of the museum.
The museum and its gardens are equipped with numerous restaurants, bars and cafés for a rejuvenating break.
To cope with the long hours inside the museum, we recommend that you leave your personal belongings, especially heavy backpacks, jackets and possibly umbrellas in the luggage room, a convenient and free service.
Simply show your ticket and your luggage will be stored until the museum’s closing time.
The Louvre Museum is located in the heart of the Rive Gauche and is very well served by public transport.
Below is a selection of recommended hotels near the Louvre museum.
City Card allow you to save on public transport and / or on the entrances to the main tourist attractions.