Unequivocally, The Louvre is Paris’s most famous and most visited museum. Since it opened in 1793, the museum, which is housed in a former palace built and gradually transformed by the French monarchy, has continuously expanded. Today, it covers more than 645,000 square feet; it is home to 38,000 works of art; and, in 2016, it attracted 7.4 million visitors.
Like the top three factors for buying and selling real estate—location, location, location—the top three factors for visiting The Louvre are timing, timing, timing. From October to March, admission is free on the first Sunday of every month, but that open access also means that on those days the museum is at its busiest . . . and most crowded. Instead—and if your travel schedule allows—consider visiting on Wednesdays or Fridays, which offer extended hours from 9:00 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. (The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays.) Also, invest in one of the museum’s audio guides (or download the “My Visit to the Louvre” app), since most signs and artwork descriptions throughout the museum are written only in French.
As for famous works of art, The Louvre is home to many, including Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa; the ancient Greek statue Aphrodite, better known as Venus de Milo; Paolo Veronese’s 16th-century painting The Wedding at Cana; and the Winged Victory of Samothrace, an ancient Greek statue that was discovered in hundreds of pieces back in 1863 and today is a blend of the original stone and contemporary plaster recreation. Visitors hoping to get up-close views of these works of art (and other masterpieces on display throughout the Louvre), should make them their first priorities upon entering the museum. They should also plan to arrive early, since large crowds will quickly form around these pieces. Compounding the matter, some of these masterpieces—the Mona Lisa in particular—are quite small, so staying ahead of the crowd is paramount.
With 38,000 objects, artifacts, and works of art on display, the Louvre is teeming with remarkable, albeit lesser-known, items that are just as worthy of your time. On the second floor of the Richelieu wing, for example, hangs a 14th-century portrait of Jean II le Bon. The in-profile style painting is not only the oldest French portrait of a single individual, but some believe it could be the oldest painting of its style in all of Western Europe. Elsewhere, visitors can view Charles V’s gold coronation scepter, which escaped the cauldron during the country’s religious wars and later the French Revolution, a period when most of the French monarchy’s golden artifacts were melted.
In the Denon wing on the first floor hangs Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, a painting that depicts the Paris uprising of late July 1830, which the artist witnessed. It is arguably Delacroix’s most recognizable painting, yet visitors to the Louvre can learn much more about the artist—and see considerably more of his work—by visiting the attached Musée national Eugène Delacroix, a museum that is set in the apartment and working studio that Delacroix used during the final six years of his life.