The Louvre is one of the most popular museums in the world. Those who don’t know it by name are sure at least to recognize the iconic and controversial glass pyramid that sits in the middle of the courtyard and houses the main entry point for the museum. In 2015 alone, the Louvre attracted nearly 9 million annual visitors, more than any other museum in the world.
Dan and I visited the museum for the first time in late May 2016, bypassing the line outside thanks to the Paris Museum Pass and stepping into the bright, airy space beneath the Pyramid.
An excited hum filled the room, and despite the humid air and the mass of visitors already pulsing through the lobby, we couldn’t help but be excited ourselves. We picked up a detailed fold-out map from the service desk and set out to explore as much as we possibly could on our last day in Paris.
This might be a good time to emphasize that I don’t really consider myself to be a museum person. I love art and history, but given the chance, I prefer to spend my time hitting the streets (or hiking trails) and exploring new places on foot. That being said, I was cautiously optimistic about the day ahead. After all, the Louvre must be famous for a reason. If the collections didn’t hold my interest, I was bound to enjoy the building itself.
The former royal residence did not disappoint. Our game plan was to see the Mona Lisa first and have the rest of the day free to wander wherever we pleased. Our route to the Louvre’s most famous painting took us through so many gorgeous rooms, it was difficult not to stop and stare.
So what was it like, seeing the Mona Lisa?
Apologies for the terrible, shaky video quality. I decided to include it anyway to show the crowd on the other side of the camera.
The painting itself occupied a small wall in a much larger room of Italian paintings. It was roped off and protected by a thick wall of bulletproof glass, with alert security guards on either side to ensure that the painting stayed safely in place. The room was busy but not jam-packed with people, so it was easy to step right up to the Mona Lisa. The rope barrier allowed a great unobstructed view, without standing on tiptoes to see over the heads of everyone else in the room.
Looking at the painting was odd. Unlike the Van Gogh paintings at the Musee D’Orsay, the Mona Lisa did not elicit any emotion. It’s been so widely reproduced, in textbooks and in postcards, that seeing it in person had no real effect on me. Like everyone else, I simply snapped a few photos, stood for a moment, and moved on to the next thing.
The next thing happened to be a gift shop. If that’s not mass tourism at its most cynical, I don’t know what is. With the Mona Lisa checked off the single-item to do list, Dan and I were free to wander for the rest of the day. Every room we’d passed through had been uncomfortably warm and sticky, so we returned to the lobby to grab a snack, and more importantly, a drink. Then it was back to business!
It turns out, the Louvre was much more than a museum! Some of the rooms we visited rivaled those seen at Versailles, and the collection of world-famous paintings, sculptures and more was almost overwhelming. Keep on scrolling to take a peek at some of our favorite parts of our museum visit. Whenever possible, I will link each photo to the Louvre web page dedicated to each piece shown, so click away if you want to learn more about a given piece!
After our visit with the Greek and Roman gods of old, we transitioned into the Egyptian Antiquities wing, a seriously cool collection of housewares, jewelry, tools, sarcophagi, and even an actual mummy!
Venturing upstairs, we found dozens of sarcophagi.
And here is the mummy!
Pretty cool, right? The museum definitely came to life in this room, where we could see the remnants of real, actual people rather than their works alone. It was humbling to think of what this “mummy man’s” life might have been like. Tired and hungry at this point, we decided to make our way back toward the center of the museum.
We had a bit of a hard time finding our way back, however, and found ourselves ascending a set of stairs into the Department of the Decorative Arts. Here we saw incredible collections of all kinds of pretty trinket…jewelry, weapons and fine dishes, to name a few! I do regret that we weren’t able to appreciate them better. I was eager just to find a bathroom and escape from the hot, humid rooms and back into the streets of the city. We passed through some really cool exhibits, including the former apartments of Marie Antoinette as well as Emperor Napoleon. We couldn’t help but stop in the grand salons of Napoleon’s personal quarters and gape at the lavish details and furniture.
Having finally navigated our way back to the reception area beneath the grand pyramid and feeling sleepy from the afternoon’s explorations, we decided to grab a quick espresso and hopefully wake ourselves up before continuing on with the day. After all, it was our last full day in the city, and we didn’t want to waste it by napping in the apartment for the rest of the afternoon! There was just one more thing to be seen at the Louvre before heading out…the Inverted Pyramid, or La Pyramide Inversée.
Made famous by the novel and subsequent film The Da Vinvi Code, the inverted pyramid is in fact a skylight into the Carrousel du Louvre shopping mall just outside the museum exit. After that, it was on with the show! To see what we did before and after our trip to the Louvre, be sure to check out my day four trip recap!
And for my readers who have been to the Louvre…what else would you recommend to visitors? We spent hours in the museum and probably didn’t even see 5% of the items on display, so I’d love to know what else is worth seeking out!