There is SO much to see at the Louvre in Paris, but after purchasing their entry ticket most visitors head straight to the Denon Wing and the Mona Lisa. (Read this post to find out why the Mona Lisa is such a big deal.)
The galleries in this wing, housing the Decorative Arts and the Italian, Spanish, and French paintings (also made famous from the movie The Da Vinci Code), are packed with tourists waiting their turn to stand in front Mona.
They are loud, bustling, and give the impression that the museum is packed with people. But, the reality is that there are hundreds of rooms and galleries that are actually more-or-less deserted, full of incredible works of art, many of which are located on the other side of the iconic central pyramid.
Planning your visit to the Louvre
Before we dive into what to see at the Louvre, here's what you need to know when planning your visit:
- The museum is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm (closed Tuesdays) and until 9:45 pm on Wednesdays and Fridays.
- Admission is 15 Euros per person if purchased at the museum (double check the website for up-to-date pricing).
- If you only have one day to visit the entire museum, I recommend going on a Wednesday or Friday so that you have the maximum amount of time to explore. You can leave and come back throughout the day, so it gives you a chance to take a break, get some food, or enjoy the surrounding gardens.
- Check out Tips for Visiting The Louvre: How to Avoid The Crowds and Make The Most of Your Visit for more information.
Sculptures in the Marly and Puget Courtyards
These stunning courtyards (photo above) are located in the Richelieu Wing on Levels -1 and 0. They are vast, covered in glass, and filled with outdoor statues dating from the 17th to 19th centuries. It is quiet and, while wandering, it is easy to imagine what it would have been like for the past Kings and Queens of France to stroll through the space.
The surrounding rooms are drenched in light and give amazing views of the street and the main square of the museum (photos above). They are also filled with beautiful sculptures, arranged by period, from the Middle Ages to the Romantic Era.
If you were wondering how French Royalty really lived, a visit to Napoleon's Apartments will give you some insight. The pictures don't do the over-the-top opulence justice — this is definitely a place that needs to be visited in person.
Set up exactly the way Napoleon lived in them, the rooms are gilded in gold, velvet, and crystal. They are definitely a must-see on any visit to the Louvre, and are located on the first floor of the Richelieu Wing.
The ceiling and walls of the Egyptian Antiquities & Greek and Roman Antiquities displays
Located on the first floor of the Sully Wing, the Egyptian display is one of my favourites. I love the sculptures, mummies, and tomb walls that are on display as well as cabinet after cabinet of artifacts that have been found in tombs.
The Greek and Roman antiquity displays are full of much the same — stunning stone and marble sculptures, figures, jewellery, and more that have been found in digs located in various locations over the two countries.
The REAL draw for me in this part of the museum, however, are the gorgeous painted ceilings, intricate wood floors, and marble walls and doorways (see photo below). The surroundings that house these artifacts are absolutely stunning, and well worth seeing whether you are interested in these types of artifacts or not.
Also on this floor is a huge ballroom (see below) that contains paintings related to astrological signs, gilded decorations, and display cabinets filled with priceless royal jewels. It is awe-inspiring, and is often missed by visitors, as it is located just before the entrance to the gallery where the Mona Lisa is located.
The other Da Vinci paintings
Of course, you are still going to visit Mona! You can't visit the Louvre and not see this famous painting. But, did you know that there are actually more paintings by Da Vinci located in the hallway leading up to the Mona Lisa?
There are! And they are stunning and some of his most famous. Not too many visitors seem to be aware of them, however, as there is rarely more than one or two people checking them out (unless you happen to be traveling the same path through the museum as a school or tour group), so you can get up close to see the brush strokes and details of the work.
These paintings are located in the gallery outside of the Mona Lisa room on the first floor of the Denon Wing.
The red galleries
Overlooking the pyramid, these galleries on the first floor of the Denon Wing are behind the Mona Lisa room and are my absolute favourite because of the sheer size of the works located in them.
Despite being a popular spot for artists and tour groups, these vast galleries are never too busy and are definitely a must-see. The height of the ceilings and the unbelievable size of the paintings will have you utilizing the many leather benches located in the centre of the galleries so you can take it all in. If you have studied Art History, you will recognize many famous pieces by French Artists including La Grande Odalisque by Ingres pictured above.
The second floor of the Sully Wing
Another area that is a must-see are the galleries on the second floor of the Sully Wing. They are filled with French paintings, many of which you will recognize, but they are lovely mostly because it is so quiet and people-free.
There is also a fantastic view of the inner courtyard on one side (see image below), and of the main Louvre pyramid from the other. If you are looking for a respite from the crowds, or really enjoy getting up close to paintings in order to examine the artist's process, I would definitely pay a visit to this spot.
On level 0 of Richelieu and Sully Wings, the Near-Eastern Antiquities are really impressive. The collection of mosaics and artifacts are huge in scale and I would even go so far as to say that the collection is more impressive than the Egyptian collection.
There is a lot to see in a relatively small space, and of all the galleries on this floor, this tends to be the area that is overlooked for the flashier Roman, Greek and Italian sculpture galleries.
The Angelina Tea Room
Overlooking the central courtyard, this tea room is a charming spot to rest your legs, enjoy a view, and indulge in a coffee, tea, pastry, or light lunch. The coffee is amazing, the view lovely, and the atmosphere slightly royal (who doesn't like feeling pampered?!).
There is also a terrace that is open when weather permits for dining al fresco. The tea room is located on the first floor of the Richelieu Wing and so doesn't get as crowded as some of the other dining or grab-and-go spots as it is in a lower-trafficked part of the museum.
- Tips For Visiting The Louvre: How to Avoid The Crowds and Make The Most of Your Trip
- What's So Special About The Mona Lisa?
- My Favourite Parisian Art Gallery: Exploring The Musee De L'Orangerie in Paris
- Unconventional Things to See and Do in Paris, France
- What's The Difference Between The Roman Pantheon and The Paris Pantheon?
- 15 Photos That Will Make You Want to Visit The Centre Pompidou in Paris