The Louvre: Mothership of Museums

The Mothership

I felt giddy standing before the Louvre even though I’m usually not one to get excited about museum visits. The Louvre has a very dominating presence and a deserved air of importance; it’s the mothership of museums, and the former palace for the Kings of France before Versailles. I was dwarfed by the building, immersed into a treasure trove of historical art collections, and I saw enough nipples for a lifetime.

Arrive Early!

This is the most cliched travel advice I could possibly give, but arriving early to the Louvre is so worth it. (The museum opens at 9, and I arrived there at 8:15.) The Louvre in the early morning light, with hardly anyone around, is completely captivating. It’s a great time to take those noteworthy pictures and admire the building without the distraction of tourists. Skipping out on the notorious line is another obvious advantage of arriving so early. 

 Prepare to be Overwhelmed

I visited several smaller museums first, thinking that I could get into my museum groove before hitting the Louvre… no. The size of the Louvre triple trumps all other museums. It’s immensity is overwhelming; endless connecting rooms are spread out over 4 floors.

The Louvre is one of the most visited places on Earth, yet here’s the paradox I wasn’t prepared for: there were times when the stillness swallowed me. It’s vast enough that, at times, I had rooms all to myself, and I tiptoed through empty hallways to avoid waking wake the sleeping guards.

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Make a List Ahead of Time

Do your research before going; find out if there’s any specific pieces you want to see.  Having specific pieces to look for gives you more of a mission inside the museum (which can help you feel less aimless and overwhelmed). Once inside, I grabbed a map, pinpointed the areas I wanted to see, and created a route to hit all my top spots. You’ll also leave feeling much more accomplished if there were pieces that you were able to cross off your list.

The museum map highlights some important pieces on each floor, which can be a handy list as well. Here are some of the pieces on my list (not that I’m an expert at art… AT ALL).

Mona Lisa- Leonardo da Vinci

Of course. This was the first stop on my route, as it is for most people. I practically ran to see her- chubby hands, devious smile. Even in the early morning, she had 2 guards by her side and a soirée of tourists with selfie sticks. I bet she’s dying to roll her eyes. 

Madonna on the Rocks -Leonardo da Vinci

Poor neglected Madonna and her babies. Everyone races past this da Vinci piece, in order to see Mona Lisa, but I found this piece to be just as charming.

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Winged Victory of Samothrace

Liberty Leading the People- Delacroix

The Dying Slave- Michelangelo

Cupid and Psyche- Antonio Canova

Colossal Statue of Ramesses II

I have always been intrigued by ancient Egyptian culture, so I was in heaven in the ‘Pharaonic Egypt’ section. The Louvre has an amazing collection of Egyptian antiquities.

The Seated Scribe

This was my favorite piece in the whole museum. There is something so powerful about this “seated scribe.”

Gabrielle d’Esrées and Her Sister

How could you miss out on the evil, nipple-pinching sister?

Venus de Milo

Raft of the Medusa- Théodore Géricault

La Grande Odalisque- Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

The Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon- Jacques-Louis David

The Wedding Feast at Cana- Paolo Véronese

The Cheat with the Ace of Diamonds- Georges de La Tour

My visit to the Louvre was exhilarating and inspiring. Although my feet and back hurt after so much walking, I was completely satisfied knowing I had roamed one of the most potent art sites in the world. I spend 3 hours immersed in the different collections, but saw only a tiny sliver of what the Louvre has to offer. Maybe that’s part of its magic- knowing you can stay as long as you want and there will always be more to discover.

Other Museums I Visited:

Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature

While strolling along rue de Archives, dessert in hand, I passed this museum and inferred from the title that it must have something to do with nature (Museum of Hunting and Nature as I learned later). It’s dark and quirky and houses stuffed baby bunnies, abstract feather art, gold dog chains, and rooms full of guns.

Musée de l’Orangerie

This museum is a beautiful little building right off the Tuileries. I appreciate it’s manageability. It’s a good first museum because it’s not overwhelming. I loved the amazing and simple oval rooms, which house Monet’s Les Nymphéas (Water Lilies).

Espace Dali

This space prides itself by being the only permanent exhibition in France devoted to Dali. It’s another another small, yet thought-provoking museum. It houses sculptures and a few painting by Dali and, confusingly enough, other Dali-esque pieces by different artists.

Musée d’Orsay

The inside of this former train station is gorgeous. I was most taken with the impressionist pieces and the work of Van Gogh, and I was extremely impressed with the Orientalisme section, which had large, rich pictures of elephants, mosques, and Islamic culture.

Fondation Louis Vuitton

I was lucky enough have my sister land us tickets for the grand opening of Fondation Louis Vuitton, a project that has finally been completely 10+ years. The architecture is incredibly interesting, and the inside is spacious with exhibits being interactive and visually stimulating. Some exhibits consisted of video and sound, which I hadn’t seen in other museums.

Although the Louvre was my favorite museum experience, I also enjoyed the smaller museums for their manageability, unconventional nature, and quirkiness. If you’re in Paris, you must go introspective and take advantage of the art!

Do you have a favorite piece of art and/or museum in Paris?