Getting Lost At the Musée du Louvre

Getting Lost At the Musée du Louvre

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.

The pyramids have been a part of the museum for as long as I can remember, so I was surprised to find out that they were not officially established until April 1989, just six months after I was born! The pyramids were created to address the need for more space at the entrance to the museum, and were initially met with disdain for yet another modern structure in the heart of this beautiful and historic city.

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!

A series of large paintings in the Italian Painter’s section of the museum.
“The Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon and the Coronation of Empress Josephine,” a seriously massive painting by Jacques-Louis David.

Click here for a 360 degree tour of the room that holds the above painting.

An impressive ceiling in the Italian painters section. This is located just after the room containing the Mona Lisa.
“The Intervention of the Sabine Women,” also by Jacques-Louis David. This was another enormous painting, and I found it quiet striking. It made me want to know more about what was being depicted. If you’re curious as well, just click the photo above to find out more.
Winged Victory of Samothrace, artist unknown. I had never heard of this piece before visiting the Louvre, but it is one of the museum’s most famous!
Winged Victory of Samothrace, the Most Powerful Statue at the Louvre
It may be my favorite piece in the entire museum. I love the strength and forward motion of this statue. It depicts the Goddess of Victory, standing proud on the prow of a ship.
Another gorgeous ceiling fresco. This one is located just before the entrance to the Apollo Gallery, seen below.
The Apollo Gallery. Of all the rooms we visited, this was my favorite. The detailing was absolutely incredible, and I loved the representation of the zodiac signs along the ceiling.
A little more on the history of the gallery and its various design elements. I loved reading the story behind the room.
Louis XIV, the “Sun King.”
The representation of my zodiac sign…
…as well as Dan’s!
The Gallery also houses the crown jewels of the French monarchy.
I am still obsessed with these beautifully detailed doors!
More gorgeous detailing
Look at this ceiling! I am completely in awe.

At this point we’d already been inside the Louvre for an hour or two, and barely scratched the surface of its treasured contents. In fact, we hadn’t even left the Denon wing!

This is one of the first rooms we passed through on our way to see the Mona Lisa, and we made sure to double back and see it properly the second time around.
Tile detail in a light, airy courtyard. Little things like this made the Louvre an attraction even without the collection of paintings, sculptures and more.
If statues aren’t your thing, check out these gorgeous carved columns and gorgeous ceiling.
Love this view out into the courtyard! I love natural light, and thought this was an awesome way to illuminate certain parts of the museum.
Did you know that the Louvre was originally built as a fortress? You can still visit the medieval base fortifications on your museum tour, and see where the moat would have been.
The Great Sphinx of Tanis

We really enjoyed the Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities section, which featured classical figures such as the well-known Venus de Milo.

This sculpture stands guard over the entrance to the section.

Statues of Athena and Aphrodite
The signs at the Louvre provided some interesting background information on many of the pieces on display. This one shows how the figure might have looked in its original form, before age took its toll.
Venus d’Arles, also known as Aphrodite
The famed Venus de Milo.
I wondered as we looked at it, what elevates some artwork above others? What makes the Venus de Milo more renowned than any other piece in the section?
I love this shot of the statue from behind. She looks almost embarrassed to be on display, like she might be covering herself if she had arms.
Bust of Alexander the Great. This guy just hangs out on the wall behind the Venus de Milo, a spectator to the crowds gathered around her.
I’m not sure who created these incredible ceilings or what exactly is being represented, but that doesn’t make them any less beautiful!
The Plaque of the Ergastines, part of the relief that once decorated the Parthenon in the Greek city of Athens.
An incredible sight leading into yet another room of sculptures, highly decorated sarcophagi and more.
The Empress Livia represented as Ceres, the motherly Greek goddess of harvest and fertility.
I cannot get enough of these golden ceilings!
Cool tiling detail.
Doesn’t this guy look like Lord Voldermort from the side?
Double points for gorgeous ceiling detail and the delightfully creepy grimace in the center.

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!

A statue of Horus. I love the shadow on this photo!
A collection of housewares and other artifacts. Other cool displays included jewelry and tools.
I love this tile work, which almost reads like a puzzle with all the pieces scattered next to the slab.
A worn down sphinx
Processional Way of Sphinxes, just six of the hundreds of sphinxes that once lined the entrance to the Serapis Temple in Alexandria.
Look at this wall of hieroglyphs! The wall is in such incredible shape.
I’m not sure what purpose these black half lion, half woman statues served, but they look awesome, don’t they?
The Zodiac of Dendera. I definitely recommend clicking this image to read more over at the Louvre’s website.
The enormous and impressive box that once held the sarcophagus of King Ramesses III.

Venturing upstairs, we found dozens of sarcophagi.

And here is the mummy!

Yep, that’s a real, actual mummy! We spent a good deal of time circling this particular display and reading about the process of mummification, while I whispered in horror, “Is it real!?” Yes, it is.

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 took a breather and tried to regain our bearings next to this cool modern staircase.

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.

If only you knew how many pictures I took of chandeliers while on this trip. Not only are the chandeliers and the ceilings around them gorgeous, but it was one of the only ways I could take pictures of a space without including the heads of at least a dozen strangers.
A very pretty door in Napoleon’s personal apartments. I love the robin egg’s blue against all that cream and gold.
Imagine seeing this outside your apartment window every morning!
A lush, textured hall lined with chandeliers leads to the grand salon.
I mean. Imagine actually attending an event here…or living here and taking it all for granted!
Insert heart eyes emoji here. I wouldn’t mind having these gorgeous doors at my house!
Another chandelier shot! Ceilings this sumptuous just need to be shown off.
Dan being a good sport as I lifted my camera and said “Lookie here!” for the hundredth time that week.
View of “The Big Wheel” and the Grand Palais from one of the windows.

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!



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