8 Things to See at The Louvre That Aren't The Mona Lisa

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , ,

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).

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. 

Napoleon's Apartments

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. 

Near-Eastern Antiquities

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. 

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What to see at the Louvre
What to see at the Louvre

15 Photos That Will Make You Want To Visit The Centre Pompidou in Paris

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , ,

There are A LOT of museums in Paris, and it is impossible to see them all on your first, second, or even third visit to the city.

In fact, I didn't make it to the Centre Pompidou until my third time to the city — and was that ever a mistake! Not only is the exterior of the building a must-see, the museum is home to over 100,000 works created in the 20th and 21st centuries, and an INCREDIBLE view. 

A brief history of the museum

In 1969, the French president, Georges Pompidou, decided that there needed to be a new building to host the national modern art museum, a public reading library, and new music concerts.

The site for the new museum was chosen, and a worldwide architectural competition was announced attracting 681 competitors from 49 different countries!

Architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers won the competition for their “evolving spatial diagram” design allowing the whole of each 7,500 m2 floor to be used to display art and be organized however the curators see fit. According to the museum website, “[i]ts innovative, even revolutionary character has made the Centre Pompidou one of the most emblematic buildings of the 20th century.”

The museum opened on February 2, 1977, and since then has been one of the most visited monuments in France.  

What you are going to see 

Considered to be Europe’s leading collection of modern and contemporary art (from 1905 until the present day), there are some seriously big names housed in this museum — Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard, Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, and Yves Klein to name just a few.

You’ll see all forms of media: paintings, drawing, photography, new media, experimental film, architecture, design, industrial work, and more! (Check out the photos below for some seriously cool pieces.)

Getting there and getting in

Location: The museum is located in the 4th arrondissement of Paris, in the Beaubourg area. It is within walking distance to the river, Les Halles, rue Montorgueil, and the Marais. 
You can get there easily by metro, RER, bus, car, bicycle, foot, and however else you like to move!

Opening Hours: The museum is open every day (except Tuesdays when it is closed all day) from 11 am to 10 pm, but the exhibitions close at 9 pm.

Admission: A single ticket for admission to all galleries and the "View of Paris" is €14; a ticket just to see the "View of Paris" (no access to the galleries) is €5.
Admission is FREE to all areas of the museum on the first Sunday of every month. 

It's impossible to miss the building that houses the Centre Pompidou. Covered in colorful pipes on one side (in blue, red, green, and yellow), and the zig-zag of elevators on the other there is no mistaking it. 

This is the view (above) of the building from Rue Beaubourg, where you can enter the public reading library. The public entrance to the museum is located on the other side of the building. 

You don't have to actually buy a ticket to enter the main floor of the building, which gives you access to the cafe, fantastic museum shops, public washrooms (for those of you who just need a bathroom break), and some fun art installations, like the sculpture pictured above. 

There is always at least one visiting exhibition at the gallery, like the works of André Derain, who was a French artist, painter, sculptor and co-founder of the Fauvism movement with Henri Matisse. 

The work pictured above by Derain seemed to glow from inside the canvas (and no, it wasn't just because of the light shining on it). 

Called the Tete blanche et rose, this work by Henri Matisse looks deceptively like a Picasso. 

And then there is the Femmes deviant la mer, a gorgeous piece by Picasso.

The Centre Pompidou actually has an incredible collection of works by Picasso, even more impressive than the Picasso Museum located only a few blocks away! 

This piece by Frantisek Kupka, Plans par couleurs, was located in one of my favourite sub-rooms in the gallery that was filled with portraits of women from the most abstract to the most detailed. 

I am so in love with any black and white piece that looks like the artist moved his hand back and forth in one big flourish and then called it a day.

I'm not kidding.

This is seriously one of my favorites. 

There is just something about this work.

It is like a mix between Girl With A Pearl Earring and Grand Odalisque, which is probably why artist Martial Raysse called it Made In Japan - la grande odalisque.  

No contemporary art collection would be complete without a work by Andy Warhol. This black and white version of Elizabeth Taylor is so long that it covered an entire wall! 

The floor filled with sculptural art installations like the one above is an Instagram dream! 

See-through cubes against a black and white wall — yup.

I love modern art. 

So, from this side, this sculpture looks like an emotional, heartfelt embrace. On the other side, however, the woman is making out with another man. 


Modern art. 

I had to stop myself from taking too many photos on this floor, as ever piece had a huge impact, including this work of colorful subway-tile-style squares. 

The one thing that I did not expect to see at this world-renowned museum was the incredible view!

As a visitor, you travel from floor-to-floor through a series of exterior escalators and corridors that are surrounded by clear plastic tubes — kind of like hamster tubes but human-sized. 

The higher you go, the more incredible the view — the Notre Dame towers, the Eiffel Tower, and the Sacre Coeur all come into your line of sight, not to mention the beautiful Parisian buildings that surround the museum. 

If you are hoping to get some really amazing photos, wait until you get to the very top and you can check out the view unobstructed by the plastic tube.

No photo that I took does it justice, but the one above comes close! 

NOTE: I learned after the fact that you can buy a ticket just to access the view for 5 Euros if you like! 

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photos that will make you want to visit the Centre Pompidou museum in Paris
photos that will make you want to visit the Centre Pompidou museum in Paris

Visiting Monet's Water Lilies At The Musee De L'Orangerie In Paris

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , ,

One of my favourite gallery or museum spaces in the world, the Musee De L'Orangerie is located in Paris on the southwest corner of the Jardin Des Tuileries.

The last time I was in Paris, I was determined to visit smaller museums and locations in the city that had little-to-no mention in tourists books.

That is how I came across this incredible place. 

While it has an impressive collection of Impressionist works, the most incredible part about this gallery is the two, huge white oval rooms that were built in 1927, to Monet's specifications, to display his eight-panel series, Decorations des Nympheas, or Water Lilies

I had no idea what to expect when I walked into the museum, but what I was met with is one of the most unique, peaceful, and inspiring displays of art that I have ever seen.

The shape of the room gives an unending view, allowing people to stand in the middle and be surrounded by Monet's beautiful work.

The lighting is perfect, the crowd quiet, and I ended up spending well over an hour moving back and forth between the two rooms, taking in Monet's brushstrokes, and observing other's enjoy the work

This museum should be on any art lovers must-visit list in Paris — I can't wait to go back! 

Here's what you need to know to plan your visit: 

Musee De L'Orangerie: Jardin des Tuileries, Place de la Concorde, 75001
Open: Wed – Mon 9 am – 6 pm
Admission: 9 Euros (free on the first Sunday of each month)