Search for Air Tickets

Search Deals

Destination Details

Paris, France
The Louvre, in Paris, France, is one of the world's greatest museums – you could easily spend a month there and still not see all of its treasures. It's also one of the largest and most visited museums in the world, attracting around 8 million visitors every year.
 
The building's statistics are staggering – the Louvre contains an estimated 380,000 works of art, sculptures and paintings, of which only around 30,000 are on display at any one time. There are almost 60,000 square meters of exhibition space and the exhibits on display encompass eleven centuries of art and design.
 
The history of the Louvre dates back to the 12th century, when King Philippe-Auguste constructed a fortress to protect Paris from Viking raids. The site was chosen partly due to its strategic position by the Seine. Parts of the medieval wall and moats are still visible today in the courtyard known as the Cour Carree.
 
Francois I had the building demolished and rebuilt as a royal residence and during the French Revolution, it was decided it would make a good place to display the king's collection of art. Since then, it has been added on to and modified, the result being the building we see today. It's also had other uses occasionally – Napoleon used the Louvre as the site of his wedding.
 
The Louvre still has an enviable location right in the center of Paris, in the prestigious 1st Arrondisement. Within a few minutes walk of the museum are some of the most stylish shops in Paris on the Rue de Rivoli, the Palais Royal, the Place de la Concorde and the eastern end of the Champs-Elysées.
 
At the front of the Louvre are the beautiful Tuileries Gardens – which have been used over the years as hunting grounds, an aviary, a home for tile makers and a meeting place for the society of Paris. Today, the gardens make a wonderful place for a picnic lunch overlooking the river Seine.
 
So where does one begin with a visit to the Louvre? Most first time visitors make their way to see the world's most famous painting, La Gioconda – better known as the Mona Lisa. The painting was made by Leonardo Da Vinci and acquired by Francois I to hang over his bathtub. Today, the painting is protected by a guard and bullet proof glass, but in 1911, it was actually stolen by a former employee who hid it under his coat.
 
Many visitors also head straight for one of the world's most instantly recognizable sculptures - the armless Venus de Milo. The proper name of the sculpture is actually the Aphrodite of Milos, and nobody knows for sure who the sculptor was; although the piece has been dated to around 140 B.C.
 
Other highlights of the museum include several of the world's most instantly recognizable paintings, including the Madonna of the Rocks, by Leonardo da Vinci, and the Coronation of Napoleon, by David. There are also two complete frescoes by Botticelli on display and Mantegna's Crucifixion and the Coronation of the Virgin, by Angelico.
 
Apart from the world famous exhibits, one way to visit the Louvre is to choose a section that interests you and concentrate on that. The vast collection is conveniently divided into seven main sections – Oriental, Egyptian, painting, sculpture, graphic arts and decorative arts. Greek, Etruscan and Roman are all grouped together in their own section.
 
The largest collection is paintings which contains masterpieces from the 13th century to the middle of the 19th century. The collection is overseen by a dozen curators, and is added to constantly. Among the famous names represented are Delacroix, Rubens, Titian and Rembrandt. And it's difficult to miss Veronese's huge painting titled Wedding Feast at Cana, which occupies an entire wall.
 
One of the most fascinating collections is the Department of Decorative Arts. Objects on display include everything from ceramics to jewelry and tapestries to furniture. Much of the decorative arts are housed in one of the Louvre's newest additions – the Richelieu wing, which opened in 1993 after being empty for years.
 
Apart from the seven main sections, there are smaller sections. One room is entirely dedicated to the collection that once belonged to Baron Edmond de Rothschild. The collection was donated to the museum after his death in 1934 and includes over 40,000 engravings, almost 3,000 drawings and 500 illustrated books.
 
The Louvre has grown and changed with the times over the centuries. One of the most controversial additions was the glass pyramid, designed by I.M. Pei in 1989 and placed in front of the main building. The pyramid not only provides a dramatic contrast, it provides a much needed larger entrance to the museum and helps to reduce congestion. Parisians and visitors have come to accept it for the architectural masterpiece it is. This glass pyramid was also made famous through Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code novel and movie adaptation.
 
Don't try to do the Louvre in a day – as many tourists armed with guidebooks seem to be doing. Take your time to enjoy the treasures of the world's greatest art museum – remember if you don't see everything the first time, it gives you an excuse to return to Paris.

Check out more destinations