The Louvre houses some of the most prominent artwork from all around the world and from all different ages of human existence. It is a major tourist hub, and for good reason. Everyone, from avid art enthusiasts to history buffs to casual patrons can find something there that inspires them. Not just because of the incredible quality of work on display, but also because of the sheer quantity. This place is massive. But what if you only have time for one day in the Louvre?
The first time I visited Paris, I only made it to the outside of the Louvre, which was a huge regret of mine. So last summer when I found myself once again in Paris, the Louvre was a must. I was travelling with one other girl, and we had a very limited timeframe to see the city. So we knew our time in the Louvre would be short. But we were determined to milk the experience for all it was worth.
People say you can spend weeks in the Louvre. We did it in a day. Now, I’m going to share with you (what I believe) were the highlights, so if you ever find yourself sprinting through the Louvre, you know what to look for!
The Mona Lisa
Be sure to get to the museum a little before it opens. The entrance line gets very long, very quickly. Also, the inside of the museum is packed by around 10 am. Your very first stop should be at the customer service desk, where they provide you with free maps of the museum. This is key. Remember, this place is huge. They are also very helpful and will show you where certain things are if you have a particular piece of artwork that you really want to see.
Once you’ve acquired your handy-dandy map, it is time to head over to floor 1 of the Denon wing. You will pass a lot of beautiful art. Ignore it. For now, you are on a mission. Follow the arrows and signs until you reach a large wall in the middle of a room with one single painting on it. This is, of course, the Mona Lisa.
The reason we rushed over here is that people flock to this lady! You will be fighting huge crowds if you don’t get here right as the museum opens. She’s the main event and she knows it. So do the museum security guards. Not only does she have her own wall, she is also covered by bulletproof glass, and you have to stand behind a rope 15 feet away to look at her. Many people say that the Mona Lisa is overrated and you shouldn’t bother with her. I completely disagree. Pictures do not do her justice (perhaps because all photos of her are taken from at least 15 feet away, over the heads of a crowd of spectators, and have bulletproof glass reflections on them… maybe). But in person, she really was something to see.
Winged Victory of Samothrace
For this next one, we head further into the Denon wing towards the Sully wing. Now is an excellent time to check out all the lovely Italian paintings we rushed past earlier. Connecting the Denon and Sully wings is a large staircase, which brings us to our next featured piece.
I am a sucker for a cool statue, so this one really took my breath away. Winged Victory looms over the marble staircase and demands attention- a sharp contrast from the demure Mona Lisa. The statue depicting the Greek Goddess of victory, Nike, gives off a truly powerful presence. To get a picture of this one, you will have to navigate around other museum patrons on the grand staircase. So please be careful.
Venus de Milo
Take those stairs that you just successfully didn’t trip on down to floor zero of the Sully wing. We now find ourselves in Greek Antiquities. This part of the museum has a lot of great statues but despite my pre-established weakness for a nice statue we have to focus if we are going to make it through our checklist today. It is in this room that we find another well-known name in Greek art, the Venus de Milo.
For whatever reason, the Venus de Milo is not as busy as some of the other famous artwork in the Louvre, but that just means you can spend a bit more time enjoying it without blocking anyone. Take advantage of that, because this sculpture is lovely, and you should look at it from all angles because its beauty is not two dimensional.
The Great Sphinx of Tanis
Just down the hall from the Venus de Milo, we find Egyptian Antiquities. This area contains many amazing artifacts from ancient Egypt, like sarcophagi, mummies, and funerary masks, but we are here for one very specific piece. At the entrance of the Egyptian Antiquities section is the Crypt of the Sphinx. Within the Crypt, you will see one of the largest Sphinx outside of Egypt, the Great Sphinx of Tanis.
This big guy, with the body of a lion and the head of a king, guards the rest of the Egyptian collect.
The Code of Hammurabi
To get to this next one, we are going to walk through the Egyptian section. Take in all the mummies and such. The Louvres collection of artifacts from that time is extensive and very impressive. After we make it through there, we end up in the Near Eastern Antiquities section. What we are looking for is at the far end of this section, so as we go, feel free to enjoy the other artifacts from 7500BC-AD500. Once we make our way to the end, we find the Code of Hammurabi.
Full disclosure, I am really poorly educated in the world of art and I didn’t actually know anything about this piece before this trip. Fortunately, my travel companion was something of an Art History wiz, and she was happy to school me. Apparently, the Code of Hammurabi is significant because it is the oldest know, translatable piece of writing of substantial length. Sadly, the actual content of the Code is less than desirable. It outlines some pretty harsh and unfair laws, but it’s still worth the visit because it’s such an important historical fixture.
For those of you interested in seeing what the writing looks like, here is a close-up:
An End to Our One Day in the Louvre
At this point, we have travelled pretty far and have gotten in our steps for the day. Still only a very small portion of the Louvre was included here. Though these are my favourite pieces from the museum, there is so much more available in this palatial building that others might have a very different list of must-sees for when we only have one day in the Louvre.
If you do, please let me know so that next time I am in Paris I can check out your favourites! If you have only a very short time to spend in the Louvre, these are my recommendations. But if you are able to, really carve out time to take it in in all its glory. Spend a full day or a full week! Regardless of how much or how little time you have, don’t go to Paris without making this one of your stops.