29 July 2011

The Louvre*

* Petit disclaimer - This post does not contain photos of the artwork for which the Louvre is famous, with the exception of its architecture.


Like the château of Versailles, visiting the Louvre museum in Paris is a first-rate cultural experience.

In high season, it also happens to be a very collective one, with tourists from all over the world buzzing this way and that, speaking every language imaginable...

and indiscriminately clicking photos of everything from the La Joconde (Mona Lisa) if they can get close enough, to the most insignificant wall decorations, which by themselves can be very aesthetic.

If I have any advice for first-time visitors, it would be this: (1) wear comfortable shoes because you'll be walking. A lot. And (2) if possible, buy your ticket in advance. The line for ticket holders, though intimidatingly long at first, does move quickly. Before you know it, you've entered Napoleon Hall and are standing underneath the giant glass pyramid.

What to see
There are three main wings to the Louvre: the Denon wing (European paintings and sculptures, Greek and Roman antiquities and Egyptian, African and Asian art), the Richelieu wing (more European paintings, French sculptures, the personal apartments of Napoleon III and Iranian and Islamic art), and the Sully wing (more French paintings, Pharaonic Egypt and the history of the Louvre/Medieval Louvre).


Main entrance under the pyramid
It's ambitious to try and visit it all in one day. But it can be done, depending on the traffic flow and how much time you want to spend in each exhibit.

After glimpsing daVinci's Mona Lisa from behind a thick, bunched up crowd of visitors 50 feet deep, we decided to go where there were less people.


The Medieval Louvre
We eventually found ourselves underneath the museum, wandering — for the most part alone — next to the the original, massive ramparts and donjon of the château built by Philippe Auguste between 1190 and 1202, before surfacing once again to visit the apartments of Napoleon III.


The curved wall of the castle's original tower.



The castle's foundation.


Sketch of the original castle.


There's a bench at the bottom of this stairway
where you can sit for a good rest.



Diamond and emerald tiara, displayed near the apartments of Napoleon III.



One of my favorite places in the Louvre - an airy, glass-covered courtyard in the Richelieu wing.


Practical Information
If you're coming by metro, get off at 'Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre (lines 1 and 7) and follow the crowd to the big pyramid.

Full admission costs 10€, 11€ to see the exhibitions in the Napoleon Hall.

You can rent a multimedia guide (available in eight languages) that can help you navigate around the museum. There's also a choice of cafés, restaurants and take-out stands for refreshments throughout the day.

Of course there's the bookstore and boutiques where you can purchase guidebooks and reproductions of your favorite artwork.

The Louvre is open everyday except Tuesdays and certain holidays from 9am to 10pm. If you happen to be there on the first Sunday of the month, admission is free.

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