The Louvre Museum in Paris is one of the biggest and most visited museums in the world. It is located in a former Royal Palace of French kings and is a historical landmark in Paris. This cultural institution is home to some of the most famous artworks in the world, like the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. However, being one of the world’s largest museums, it could take weeks to see everything on display there. To help you plan your visit to the Louvre Museum, here is the Culture Tourist’s guide to what to see at the Louvre Museum with the Louvre Museum highlights.
What to see at the Louvre Museum
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The Louvre museum is a must-see cultural site in Paris for anyone interested in art. Its numerous halls are filled with fantastic artworks, many of which you know very well from books and movies. But, before getting to what to see in the Louvre Museum, let me tell you a bit about its history.
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The Louvre Museum History
The building where the Louvre Museum is situated used to be the French Kings’ Royal Palace. The first fortress was built on that spot in 1190. The remains of its medieval walls could still be seen in the museum’s basement. It became the Royal residence in 1364, and the castle was rebuilt several times after that. Each king would add something to the building or rebuild it in a new fashionable architectural style.
French kings started to collect artworks, as well. So, slowly, the Louvre Palace and their other residences became home to some of the most beautiful art collections in Europe. King Louis XIV decided to move out and relocate his court outside the city at the nearby Versailles Palace in 1682.
Some hundred years later, in 1791, during the French Revolution, a decision was made the royal palace would become an art museum. Two years later, in August 1793, the Louvre Museum in Paris was opened.
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The Louvre Museum highlights
The Louvre Museum is home to some of the most famous artworks in the world. It could take you days, if not even weeks, to see all of them. However, if you have only a few hours to spend in this fantastic museum, here are some of the Louvre Museum highlights you shouldn’t miss.
I. M. Pei’s Pyramid
The Louvre Pyramid, designed by the famous Chinese-American architect I. M. Pei serves as the main entrance to the building. It’s been located in the main palace’s courtyard since 1988. Its modern architecture made of glass and metal stands in huge contrast with the three classical wings of the Louvre palace surrounding it. However, the recognisable pyramid isn’t only the Louvre Museum highlight, but also one of the symbols of Paris today.
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Leonardo da Vinci’s artworks
The Louvre Museum in Paris is home to several artworks made by one of the most famous Italian Renaissance artists, Leonardo da Vinci. The most well-known is Mona Lisa, probably the most renowned painting in the world. You’ll recognise it by a bunch of people in front of it. However, if you’d like to enjoy da Vinci’s work in peace and quiet, check out the nearby The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, Saint John the Baptist, or, my favourite, Madonna of the Rocks.
⤷ TIP: Watch my 3 Minutes of Art History video about the Mona Lisa:
Near Eastern Antiquities
Near Eastern Antiquities collection is geographically covering the modern-day Middle East. Among the artefacts in this Louvre Museum collection, the most important is the Code of Hammurabi. It dates back to the 18th century BC and is a monument belonging to the Babylonian dynasty. Its inscription is the code of laws regulating every aspect of everyday life. Besides it, the Frieze of Archers, Gudea With a Flowing Vase and the Winged Bull With Human Head, are among some exhibits you shouldn’t miss in the Louvre Museum.
The Louvre is home to one of the world’s most extensive collections of Egyptian art. It has more than 50,000 artworks and provides a great introduction to that ancient civilisation. Among the highlights of the Louvre Museum are the Great Sphinx, one of the largest outside Egypt. Well known is also the Seated Scribe, probably one of the most famous Egyptian statues globally.
Venus de Milo
Made around 100 BC, this statue is one of the most iconic Greek sculptures. With its swaying drapery, it’s one of the masterpieces of the Hellenistic periods in Greek art. The statue was bought by the Louvre Museum in 1821, shortly after it was discovered in Greece. And it soon became an art masterpiece recognised all over the world.
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Winged Victory of Samothrace
The Louvre Museum is also home to another famous Greek statue – the Winged Victory of Samothrace. The sculpture is more than 5,5 metres (18 feet) tall. And although its head and arms are missing, the way it captures the life-like movement makes it one of the most famous statues in the world. And, undoubtedly, one of the most iconic Louvre Museum highlights.
Barberini Ivory is one of the best late-Antiquity reliefs. It was made in the 6th century in the Imperial workshop at Constantinople. The central image is the emperor, whose importance is even more stressed by his size. It probably depicts the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. Barberini Ivory is a great example of political art showing the power of the Byzantine ruler.
Michelangelo Buonarroti: Slaves
The Louvre Museum is home to two statues of slaves made by the famous Italian Renaissance artists Michelangelo Buonarroti. Although one of the Louvre Museum highlights and some of the most famous artworks in art history, the statues aren’t finished. Michelangelo started working on them for the tomb of Pope Julius II. However, they weren’t included in the final design, so he left them unfinished.
Jan van Eyck: The Madonna of Chancellor Rolin
Jan van Eyck is a painter who revolutionised the technique of oil painting in the first half of the 15th century. He made it one of the most popular painting techniques ever since. The Louvre Museum is where you can see one of his most famous paintings, The Madonna of Chancellor Rolin. The painting is filled with details, from Rolin’s clothes and interior architecture to the fantastic landscape in the background.
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Paolo Veronese: The Marriage at Cana
Paolo Veronese’s painting The Marriage at Cana is the largest painting at the Louvre Museum. Painted between 1562 and 1563, this monumental artwork is an excellent example of the Mannerist style. In his masterpiece, Veronese depicted the Bible story in which Christ performed his first miracle – he converted water into wine. This fantastic painting is worth exploring during your visit to the Louvre Museum.
Dutch masters at the Louvre Museum
Some highlights in the Louvre Museum in Paris include the Dutch Masters of the 17th century. The most famous paintings among them are Johannes Vermeer‘s The Lacemaker and The Astronomer, and several Rembrandt‘s paintings such as The Supper at Emmaus, Bathsheba at Her Bath and a few of his self-portraits. In this Louvre Museum collection, you’ll also find artworks of other Dutch masters like Frans Hals or Pieter de Hooch.
⤷ Read more: Meet the artist – Johannes Vermeer
Hyacinthe Rigaud: Louis XIV
Created in 1701, Hyacinthe Rigaud’s painting is one of the most famous royal portraits of all time. French King Louis XIV commissioned it as a present for his grandson Philip V. However, in the end, he liked the portrait so much that he kept it for himself. The painter showed the symbols of the royal power here. We can recognise them quite well in the crown, the Charlemagne’s sword and the blue mantle decorated with the fleur-de-lis.
Jacques-Louis David: The Oath of the Horatii & The Coronation of Emperor Napoleon I
It comes as no surprise the Louvre Museum has a significant collection of French paintings. Among them, artworks made by Jacques-Louis David are some of the most famous ones. The Oath of the Horatii is a masterpiece of the Neoclassical style. On the other hand, with his The Coronation of Emperor Napoleon I, David made a historical portrait of a new era in French history.
Eugene Delacroix: Liberty Leading the People
This iconic painting is one of the Louvre Museum highlights that shouldn’t be missed. The central female figure in the image is the allegory of Liberty leading the people in the 1830 Revolution. On the one hand, she holds a bayonetted musket, on the other, the French flag, which started to be used again as a national flag soon after these events.
Statues at the Tuileries Gardens
Statues at the Tuileries Gardens are also part of the Louvre Museum collections. After spending a few hours in a busy museum, it could be pretty relaxing to just sit on some of the portable chairs in the garden and enjoy the view of some of those beautiful statues. It’s without any doubt one of my favourite art experiences in Paris.
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Tips for visiting the Louvre Museum
Louvre Museum opening hours: The Louvre Museum is open Wednesday to Monday (it’s closed on Tuesdays) from 9 am to 6 pm. The last admission is at 5 pm. On Fridays, the museum is open until 9:45 pm.
Louvre Museum online tickets: My top tip for visiting the Louvre Museum is to always buy your online ticket in advance. You’ll save yourself hours of queueing in front of the museum. Here is the link to the online Louvre Museum tickets. If you’re visiting with kids, you don’t need to pay for their tickets – the museum is free for anyone under 18.
Louvre Museum guided tours: Another tip I always give to people visiting these large museums is to join some guided tours. I do that whenever I’m in a new museum or seeing a temporary exhibition. The experience is so much better. And I say that as an art historian! Here is a link to an excellent guided tour around the Louvre Museum.
Louvre Museum online collection: In 2021, the Louvre Museum made a large part of its collection available online. You can explore it on a link here.
Fun facts about the Louvre Museum
The museum has more than 2,100 employees, including 52 firemen on duty in any moment.
A famous Da Vinci’s Code movie was actually filmed inside the Louvre Museum. The museum earned quite some money with it.
The Louvre Museum organises around ten temporary exhibitions each year.
Out of around 7,500 paintings the museum is home to, some two-thirds were made by the French artists.
In 2019, the Louvre Museum had 9,6 million visitors making it the most visited museum in the world.
Located in such a beautiful building and being home to so many fantastic artworks, the Louvre Museum in Paris is a must-see place for any art lover. And I’m sure, once you visit it, you’ll keep coming back. At least that’s what I’m doing. Hopefully, with the help of this guide to the Louvre Museum highlights, you’ll enjoy your visit to that fantastic place even more.
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Cover photo by Mathias Reding on Unsplash