Visiting the Louvre museum might sound a bit tiring for those who don’t really like museums since this is the biggest museum in the world. But if you are going to Paris, please don’t miss this opportunity.
Although the main attraction of Louvre for most people might be the dearest Mona Lisa, Louvre houses other amazing artworks, among them paintings and sculptures, with a heavy historical value that must be seen by any human being who gets a chance to visit the museum.
Paris has more than 130 museums, but Louvre is definitely the most famous one, of course, if you are able to, I do recommend you to visit museums fully, as maybe there is one piece that is not listed as one of the main pieces, but they end up catching your attention, or sometimes they are more interesting for you than other more famous masterpieces.
But if you don’t have much patience or time to visit piece by piece, room by room, don’t worry, I just broke down a list of what to see in the Louvre museum in a short time.
It covers the highlights of Louvre, the most important paintings, sculptures, and other artworks that you shouldn’t miss.
Louvre Museum: 20 Must-See Masterpieces
History of the Louvre Museum
The building that now houses the Louvre Museum was originally built as a fortress in the late 12th century under Philip II. In the 16th century, it was reconstructed to serve as a royal palace. The royal family used to live there until 1682 when Louis XIV decided to move to the Palace of Versailles.
During the time it was used as a royal palace, the Louvre Palace was extended much time before assuming the form we have today. It covers a total area of 652,300 square feet.
When Louis XIV finally moved the royal residence to the Palace of Versailles in 1682, Louvre became the house of many art academies.
When Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were imprisoned during the French Revolution, they were moved to the Tuilleries Palace, a palace adjacent to the Louvre.
The building was turned into a museum in 1793 and now divided into eight curatorial departments. There are five floors to visit, so be prepared!
Visiting the Louvre Museum
The Louvre Museum is the biggest museum in the world. It houses more than 380,000 objects and displays 35,000 works of art. Now imagine visiting Louvre museum completely, you would probably need two days to see it all!
You definitely won’t be able to visit it fully if you have just 3 days in Paris, and I do not recommend doing so as you will do it in a rush and won’t be able to appreciate the artworks in Louvre.
But if you don’t have much time or patience to visit museums, you better check this list of the must-see masterpieces in Louvre, to make sure you won’t forget any of them and will be able to plan your days to make the most of your time there.
How to get to the Louvre Museum
Louvre Museum is located in the 1st arrondissement, a very central area of Paris and can be easily accessed by bus or metro. The closest metro stations are Louvre Rivoli and Palais Royal Musée du Louvre, both are on Line 1 (yellow line).
You can take a look at the metro map of Paris here.
If you prefer the bus, there are many lines that pass nearby, but if you get the Hop On Hop Off bus ticket here, it stops just in front of the Louvre Museum
Louvre Museum Admission and Hours
The main entrance is located in the Pyramid and the line to get in can be pretty long especially in high seasons, so try to arrive the earliest you can. The best to do is to arrive before the museum opens, so you are one of the first ones to get inside.
The museum is opened from 9h to 18h, on Wednesday and Friday it is opened until 21:45h, during Tuesdays it is closed.
It is necessary to buy a ticket to visit the museum, but visiting the gardens are completely free, so if you don’t have time to visit it inside, you can still admire Louvre from the outside.
Louvre Museum Tickets
You can buy the ticket at the Ticket Office inside the Louvre Museum, however, you will have to face a long line to get inside. That’s why I suggest you buying the Louvre Museum ticket online here, as it gives you skip-the-line access, and you won’t have to lose time waiting to get inside the Louvre.
If you have more time to appreciate the artworks of Louvre and to learn more about the history of each piece, I suggest you buy the guided tour ticket for the Louvre Museum here, you will get a more immersive visit this way.
Both tickets are skip-the-line, so don’t worry about losing time waiting to get inside the museum.
Must See at the Louvre Museum
Law Code of Hammurabi (Room 3 – Richelieu wing)
A Babylonian law code carved in stone dated back to 1754 BC. The Law Code of Hammurabi is the longest Babylonian text to have survived and one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world. It is also considered the first written economic formula.
It is made up of 282 laws and includes its punishments as well. The laws were based in the Law of Talion, and includes the phrase that made this historical piece famous: “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”.
Many of the laws written here are still in use nowadays such as fines for monetary wrongdoing, inheritance laws concerning how private property is taxed or divided.
Winged Human-Headed Bulls(Room 4 – Richelieu wing)
Ok, not so mainstream, but this is one of my favourite pieces in the museum. These huge bulls represent Lamassus an Assyrian god, they used to guard the entrance of temples and palaces in ancient Assyria as far back as 3000 B.C.
The pair displayed her in Louvre guarded each gate to Sargon II’s Mesopotamian capital (today Khorsabad).
Salle Philippe Pot Tomb (Room 10 -Richelieu wing)
This tomb is so full of details! Take your time to look at the faces of the mourners. The realism in this statue is impressive and, the position of the mourners gives a sense of movement, looking like they are walking in the slow pace of a funeral procession.
At Phillippe Pot’s feet lays an animal, that accordingly to Louvre is supposed to be a lion, but accordingly, to me, it is a dog, you choose who you trust better.
Venus de Milo (Room 7 – Sully wing)
Possibly representing Aphrodite, Venus the Milo is one of the biggest representations of classical female beauty and considered one of the most important artworks in Louvre.
It was discovered in the Island of Melos, hence the name, and her arms were already missing, various positions were already suggested but, especially the right hand is still a mystery. Some believe that initially, the statue was adorned with metal jewelry.
Dying Slave e Rebellious Slave – Michelangelo (Room 4 – Denon wing)
It wouldn’t be fair if we didn’t put Michelangelo in this list! Michelangelo was famous for his fantastic realism in sculpting the human form and depicting emotions, and these two statues are good examples of it.
The two slaves were originally sculpted to be part of the tomb of Pope Julius II, who also requested Michelangelo to paint the frescoes in Sistine Chapel.
The tomb of Pope Julius II was supposed to be the greatest monument built after the Egyptian pyramids, however, after many delays and cost cuts, the tomb ended up way smaller than planned, and most of the artworks of Michelangelo were placed in other private collections instead.
Winged Victory (Staircase – Denon wing)
Considered one of the oldest and most influent marble statues in the world, The Winged Victory was discovered in 1863 in the island of Samothrace and is now considered as one of Louvre’s top three most important pieces.
The meaning behind this statue is still a mystery and the author is unknown, however, some believe it was erected by a Macedonian general after a naval victory and represents the Goddess Nike.
The sense of motion in this statue is what impresses anyone, you don’t need any imagination to see, almost feel, the wind blowing her thin cloth while she stood in a strong forward motion.
Virgin of the Rocks – Leonardo da Vinci (Room 5 – Denon wing)
Those who read the Da Vinci Code will recognize this painting. There are two versions of it, this one in an exhibition in the Louvre, the other is in the National Gallery in London.
The Louvre version as the first one made by Leonardo, but it was not accepted by his client as the scene seemed a bit threatening. So the second one was made.
It is located close to the Monalisa, and next to others of his paintings but it is way less crowded so you can appreciate his art better.
Monalisa – By Leonardo da Vinci (Room 6 -Denon wing)
We can pretty much say that this is the most famous painting in the world. Monalisa is located in Room 6. The whole mystery behind that eyebrowless face makes it worth a visit, but be prepared, her room is always crowded and the painting isn’t any big, so you will need to sneak between the Chinese to get a nice pic.
Mona Lisa caught everybody’s attention after being stolen from the Louvre in 1911 and went missing for two years. During this time even the French poet Apollinaire and Picasso were suspects before Vincenzo Peruggia was finally caught.
It is reported that Da Vinci liked this painting so much that he used to carry it with him during his travels, bringing it even to Château d’Amboise after being hired by François I in 1516, where he died three years later.
Although this may not be the most beautiful painting in Louvre, it impresses by a rare combination of technical mastery, and for being one of the few Da Vinci’s paintings that have survived.
Les Noces de Cana – By Paolo Veronese (Room 6- Denon wing)
This is the biggest painting displayed in the Louvre museum. The painting was stolen by Napoleon and brought to Paris. Represents a nuptial banquet described in the Gospel of John.
The Coronation of Napoleon -Jacques-Louis David (Room 75 – Denon wing)
Painted in 1807, as the name says, the painting represents the moment of the coronation of Napoleon. Its size, as well as the details, are very impressive, it has 10 metros wide and 6 height, this is one of the biggest paintings in Louvre.
The painting was commissioned by Napoleon himself, so maybe it explains the extravagant size.
What calls attention is that it is so well done that you can almost feel the different fabrics the people in the painting were supposed to be wearing.
La Grande Odalisque – Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (Room 75 – Denon wing)
Made for Napoleon’s sister, Queen Caroline Murat, this is probably the most criticized naked woman you will ever find in any museum, this criticism is given by the distortion of anatomical proportions present in this painting.
During the Romantic Era, when the Orientalism was a trend, young ladies, often naked, dancing or laying in Sultans’s beds were often painted as a symbol of exotism and erotism.
Painting women looking over their shoulders also seemed to be a trend back then and this same pose can be seen in different paintings and statues of that time.
In this painting, however, the author decided to elongate the back of the lady, adding an extra vertebra, as he thought it would increase her sensuality.
The Intervention of the Sabine Women – Jacques-Louis David (Room 75 – Denon wing)
The painting represents a legendary episode of Roman mythology with the Sabine women interposing themselves to separate the Romans and Sabines soldiers.
The question is: why are the guards naked in the middle of a battle? We will never know.
The Young Martyr – Paul Delaroche (Room 76 -Denon Wing)
One of my favourite painting in the Louvre, it pictures a martyred woman in the Tiber river.
It is a very dramatic painting, yet all the movement of the body in the water (clothes and hair) makes it looks so peaceful
Liberty Leading the People – Eugène Delacroix (Room 77 – Denon wing)
The painting is a commemoration for the July Revolution of 1830.
The woman in the picture, known as Marianne (the personification of Liberty) is a national figure and represents the triumph of the French Republic over the monarchy. In this painting, Marianne champions the Tri-colored French flag(symbolizing Liberty, Equality & Fraternity).
Here you can read more about the French Revolution.
The Seated Scribe (room 22 – Sully wing)
We all know that Egyptians had a really remarkable art style, paintings of a human being in a side position are easy to find, but 3D sculptures are not, they are few and this is one chance to see one.
The sculpture is very well done, its eyes are made of a kind of glass which, gives a sense of depth, very impressive for the period of time the statue was made. Unfortunately, nobody knows who the man pictured in this statue was.
Gabrielle d’ Estrées and one of Her Sisters – Unknown Author (Room 10 – Richelieu wing)
Aaah the painting of a woman grabbing the nipple of her sister, pure art.
Actually, this awkward position is supposed to symbolize the fact that Gabrielle d’Estrées, who had an affair with the king, was pregnant, On her left hand, she is discreetly holding a ring that was a present from the king to her.
The Lacemaker – Johannes Vermeer (Room 36 – Richelieu wing)
That’s what I call a hard worker, she is sitting there doing her job for over 300 years. What calls attention here is the intimacy of this painting, the woman pictured looks so concentrated in her work that she doesn’t seem to notice the spectators. It is not a big painting so you need to come close to be able to appreciate the details.
Of course, there are many other impressive art pieces that are worth seeing in the museum, however, in this post, we only mentioned the main attractions and the highlights in Louvre, to help those in a rush to see at least a glimpse of what Louvre is all about. Again, if you are able to, do visit the Louvre with time, you will for sure see other artworks and details that will be unique for you!
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