The Louvre Museum in Paris is not only one of the largest in the world, but also the most visited. More than 15000 people visit the Louvre every day. Louvre Mona Lisa, the most famous painting in history, is its most prized exhibit. Housing nearly 400000 objects from prehistory to modern times, the Louvre can be an incredible experience over a couple of days or even a week, depending on how much time you have in Paris.
The Louvre Museum is located on the right bank of River Siene in the 1st arrondissement of Paris. The best way to reach Louvre Museum is to take a Metro to Palais-Royal or Musée du Louvre.
The best way to visit Louvre and other museums in Paris is by taking the Paris Museum Pass. The Paris Museum Pass gets you entry into 60 museums in Paris without standing in queues. The pass is for unlimited visits and can be bought for 2, 4 or 6 consecutive days and is priced Euro 42, 56 and 69. You can buy the pass online at Paris Museum Pass.
The best way to use the Paris Museum Pass is to write the date of the first visit on the back of the pass after you are sure about it. Whatever date is mentioned is considered for the validity of the pass. Activate the Paris museum pass in the morning of the first day to ensure you get the maximum about it. Make a note of opening days and holidays before planning your trip around Paris museums.
Opening hours of Louvre are 9am to 6pm on Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Louvre museum is closed on Tuesdays. Louvre opening hours on Wednesday and Friday is 9am to 945pm.
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With over 15000 tourists visiting the Louvre on an average day, it is important to choose the day and time of your visit. To avoid getting swamped over, avoid weekends and holidays. Plan your visit in the morning on week days. Tuesdays are closed.
With nearly 400000 objects and 650000 square feet of area, you would do well to choose what you want to see. Take a map of the museum and plan each day of your visit before buying the tickets. It is always better to stick to the map and your decided itinerary for the day to avoid getting lost!
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Louvre was originally a fortress built by Philip II in the 12th century AD. Louvre served as a Palace for the French Kings all the way till 1682, when Louis XIV moved into the Palace of Versailles. During the French Revolution, Louvre became a Public Museum. Louvre Museum officially opened on 10 August 1793 with 500 paintings. The collection of items multiplied significantly during Napoleon’s Reign courtesy his military conquests. The exhibits are spread over 8 sections -Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities, Islamic Art, Sculpture, Decorative Arts, Paintings, Prints and Drawings.
Carosel deLouvre is the heart of the Louvre Museum featuring The Glass Pyramid made famous by Tom Hanks and “Da Vinci Code” movie. The Glass Pyramid was commissioned by the President of France François Mitterrand in 1984 and designed by Im Pei, an American Architect. It was made entirely with Glass and reaches a height of 70 feet. It looks distinct due to 603 rhombus-shaped and 70 triangular glass segments. Interestingly, the Glass Pyramid was not built for Cosmetic reasons. It serves an importance purpose of handling the heavy traffic and directing it. The Glass Pyramid acts as an efficient Traffic Cop and directs tourists to different destinations within the Louvre Museum through its subterranean network.
As per the brochure, there are 666 panes in the Glass Pyramid, Satan’s number! Some say that the Pyramid is dedicated to a power described as the Beast in the Book of Revelation. While the finished Pyramid actually has 673 panes, the myth of 666 panes was further perpetuated by the “Da Vinci Code” movie.
This section is dedicated to the civilizations of Levant, Mesopotamia, and Persia before the arrival of Islam. Artifacts from city states of Sumer and Akkad like the Prince of Lagash's ‘Stele of the Vultures’ from 2,450 BC, make this a fascinating experience.
The most impressive exhibit I found was Hammurabi’s Code from Babylonia. Discovered in 1901, Hammurabi’s Code is more than 7 feet tall and describes the laws of Babylonia.
The Persian section too has many interesting objects like “Funerary Head” and the “Persian Archers of Darius I” to name a few.
I was spellbound at the Egyptian Section. With more than 50000 objects, an essence of the entire Egyptian Civilization has been vividly captured. The Egyptian Section was championed by Charles X after Jean-François Champollion translated the Rosetta Stone demystifying the Egyptian hieroglyphs. Guarded by a large Sphinx, the collections of art, papyrus scrolls, mummies, tools, clothing, jewelry, games, musical instruments, and weapons are spread over 20 rooms. One of the oldest objects is “Gebel el-Arak Knife” dating back to 3400 BC. It’s a magnificent specimen where ripple-flaked flintstone was used for the blade and ivory of a hippopotamuscanine tooth for the handle.
The section on Islamic Art comprises ceramics, glass, metal ware, wood, ivory, carpet, textiles, and miniatures spanning over a thousand years and 3 continents. My favorite in this section was the 3 pages from ‘Shahnama’, the famous poem from Persian Poet Firdauzi. Shahnama consists of more than 50000 couplets and describes the entire ancient history of Iran and gives a good account of the rise and fall of Zoroastrianism. ‘Pyxide d'al-Mughira’ is the most beautiful artifact here. Found in city Caliphate of Madinat al-Zahra, it is a 10th century ivory box carved from a single elephant tusk.
A dozen curators are in charge of the 6000 paintings in display in this section.
Mona Lisa is obviously the most popular exhibit at Louvre. This 16th century oil painting by Leonardo da Vinci with the enigmatic gaze of the Lady has charmed art connoisseurs as well as the common man for centuries. The Lady in question is Lisa Gherardini, wife of a wealthy businessman of Florence. Some art critics dispute this claim and say Mona Lisa is actually Da Vinci himself in female form.
Leonardo started this painting in 1503 and completed it by 1507. King Francois bought it from Da Vinci in 1516. It is also a fact that Napolean had hung it in his bedroom for a while!
I wanted to check if the legend regarding the painting was true and so I moved away from Panting. The eyes of the Lady did seem to follow me. I don’t know if Leonardo intended this or it was my imagination like that of so many others before me.
Mona Lisa was actually stolen from Louvre Museum on August 21, 1911. The theft panned out like a Hollywood movie and shook the nations of France and Italy. The Police could not make any breakthrough for 2 years until the Robber made contact on his own. Alfredo Geri, a well-known antique dealer placed an ad in Italian Newspapers in 1913 soliciting art objects. He got a response from a Leonardo offering the Mona Lisa for half a million Lire! Vincenzo Peruggia, the real name of Leonardo was arrested shortly. Upon interrogating he revealed that his motive was purely to return the masterpiece to Italy where it belonged! He was an ex-employee of Louvre and had taken off the Painting without much fuss as he was wearing his painters smock.
The painting was finally restored back to Louvre on December 30, 1913, not before a countrywide display in Italy.
For a travelogue on the French Riviera, visit Cannes, Beyond Film Festivals.