on September 30, 2011
The Louvre is one of, if not the most prestigious art museum in the world and it houses a simply fantastic collection of paintings, sculptures and other precious objects. It is an absolute must for the first time visitor to Paris.The museum is located at the bottom of the Champs Elysees in the very centre of Paris. Even if you don’t fancy going into the Louvre, you should absolutely visit because the buildings in which it is housed are worthy of a look themselves. The building was originally a palace, built in the twelfth century, which was home to the Royal Family until Louis XIV chose to move to the Palace of Versailles just outside Paris. After that it was used to display the Royal collection until it opened as a museum during the French Revolution in 1793. The buildings are opulent and certainly befitting a Royal Family and you are free to wander around them without charge. Right at the centre of the museum in the courtyard is the most recent addition to the buildings. IM Pei’s glass pyramid was installed in 1989 and just like the Eiffel Tower before it, it caused a lot of controversy. Many Parisians thought it was ugly and not in keeping with the rest of the old buildings that surround it. I can see what they are saying, but I personally think it is a wonderful addition that blends old with new in a striking way.The museum has various opening hours throughout the week. It opens each day at 9am. On Mondays and Wednesdays it closes at 9.45 in the evening, whilst on Thursdays to Sundays it closes at 6pm. It is closed on Tuesdays. Entry is free on the first Sunday of each month, otherwise it is eight Euros per person to get it and it is slightly cheaper if you go just before closing. Unless you are only visiting for something specific, I’d strongly recommend that you leave at least a full morning or afternoon to visit. There are so many pieces (over thirty five thousand in fact) in the Louvre that you could spend a whole week in here and still miss a lot of it, but we found that the best way to do it was to pick the four or five main things we wanted to see and then plan a route, admiring everything else on the way. If you don’t do something similar you will simply be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of art work on display. You’ll also get very, very lost!You enter the museum through the glass pyramid and descend down into the basement, which is surprisingly light and airy space. Here you will have to queue for your ticket if you have not already pre booked one. You also get a floor plan, available in many different languages. Once you have decided where you are going you need to go up one of the small escalators to the museum proper, where your ticket is checked. Understandably, due to the many priceless items in the museum, security is tight and you can expect to have your bag checked several times.When we went, like most other visitors, we made a beeline for the Mona Lisa. It’s actually not a bad idea because it is so far from the entrance that you will in fact see a lot of other things on the way naturally. I particularly enjoyed the corridor that was lined with busts as I thought it had a slightly macabre feel to it and it felt like the heads were following me along the corridor – almost like an interactive display if you will. Throughout the museum the walls everywhere are lined with paintings of all sizes, many of them are religious paintings that stretch from floor to ceiling, some are better than others and undoubtedly you find one you love right next to one you hate. Getting to the Mona Lisa is a trek, but it is a trek that is well signposted throughout the museum. It is housed in a room by itself and the queue to get in is understandably long – to avoid this you are better visiting first thing in the morning or last thing at night. To be honest, I was completely underwhelmed by the Mona Lisa. The first thing you notice is how small it is. After walking through the corridors and seeing the giant paintings everywhere I thought it would be much bigger and more impressive. Certainly the famous enigmatic smile is eye catching, but behind the super thick bullet proof glass and surrounded by hundreds of people it just looks a little small and oddly insignificant. Perhaps I am demonstrating a certain ignorance by saying that, but that is predominantly how it made me feel. You can’t take any pictures of the Mona Lisa and to be honest you’d be lucky to get close enough to try.The second thing we really wanted to see was the Venus Di Milo statue that is located at the other end of the museum. Once again, being one of the most popular exhibits, it is well sign posted throughout the museum. This time the statue is in open display with only a red velvet rope separating you from her. Again there are always many people around but it is much easier to get a good look. The statue is very impressive and surprisingly well intact considering that it dates back to the second century BC.One of the other parts of the museum that I really enjoyed was the Egyptian antiquities section. Located down in the cellar, the collection is very atmospheric. Whilst all of the crowds are upstairs looking at the more famous works, this impressive section is a lot quieter and sedate, adding to the eeriness of it. My favourite piece here was the crypt of the Sphinx, although I also enjoyed the comprehensive collections of mummified cats and sarcophagi. On the whole, the museum is well presented and well maintained and there are so many things to see that you can spend hours there. No doubt you will, like I did, make a beeline for the most famous pieces, but I strongly recommend that you slow your pace down and soak up the atmosphere and grandeur of the world’s most visited museum.
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