After a casual stroll through Jardin des Tuileries past people enjoying the lazy afternoon sun, and children playing with boats, we were welcomed by the grand sight of the Musee du Louvre, or simply, the Louvre. We had a few obligatory photos in the gardens, by the arch and with the pyramid in the background. I’d read in the Lonely Planet Paris city guide that there were several entrances, and to try one of the other entrances if we wanted to skip the queues. However we made our way over to the main entrance so we could get a few artsy pics of us with our finger on the point of the pyramid. They obviously know this is a popular pose as there are boxes dotted around for people to stand on.
My boyfriend isn’t the best photographer bless him, so I’ve got quite a few pictures where I look like I’m stroking the pyramid, or like I’m leaning on it for support lol. After we’d taken a few pictures we spotted the queue. It was only our second day in Paris, but we’d already pretty much sussed out the queues in this city. This one really wasn’t long in comparison to the others we’d seen, and we were both really keen to visit the Louvre so we decided to grit our teeth and join the queue. To our surprise, the queue was really fast. It was more of a slow shuffle than a stop….move an inch stop….move an inch etc.
As we stepped through the door into the pyramid we were greeted by a huge, very modern lobby. We made our way down the stairs and found a ticket office. There are 3 wings of the museum (Sully, Denon and Richelieu) which all come off the main lobby, but which can also be accessed via the other wings. We didn’t realise to start with that you don’t have to pick which wing you want to visit, one ticket covers the whole museum. A nice little bonus for us was that EU citizens between 18-25 get in for free. Saved ourselves about €30 euros there…sweeeet!! All we needed was a passport or drivers licence, which we both luckily had on us. I’m also doubly glad I didn’t buy the Paris Museum Pass which would have allowed us to queue jump and have free entry to many museums. We only queued for about 5 minutes and already had free entry, so the fifty odd quid each would have been an unnecessary payout.
In order to make the most of the museum we decided to get ourselves an audio guide each. I’d like to say €10 well spent, but we couldn’t really work out how to use them properly. They were pretty cool though – Nintendo 3ds’! They tracked where you were walking and when there was something they wanted to tell you you’d see a little icon in the room you were in on the map…just click it and you hear about a certain piece in that room.
We started off in the Sully wing, where we began by learning about the history of the Louvre. This, more than anything, surprised me because I’d forgotten that it is actually a museum and not an art gallery. The Louvre used to be a defence base, and a palace. Not at the same time obviously, but the excellent position on the river meant they were able to well defend the city against any attacks that came along the Seine. The building was gradually extended, and wasn’t originally horseshoe shaped, but a square with a huge courtyard. Then a huge fire claimed one end, which opened up the access to Jarden des Tuileries. We carried on through the Sully wing, and saw some of the foundations of the original building, including the moat that used to surround it. Minus the water…
The map that I highly recommend you pick up in the lobby (for free – yay!) has a 6 things on each floor you should keep an eye out for. We followed the flow of people and came across a sphinx, and after a couple of tries I got a photo with no one photo bombing me.
This last one might be one you recognise. There were loads of things we saw that we recognised but didn’t know the name of. Luckily our little guides gave us a thorough knowledge, and even pointed out things you wouldn’t have known otherwise. For example, with Venus de Milo (bottom left above) we found out a bit of history, how it was probably made and how it was probably intended to be displayed. The back of the sculpture doesn’t have quite the same detail, finish and attention as the front, which implies that it was meant to be placed against a wall. This might seem like an obvious choice, but some were made to be seen from all angles.
Next big one we saw was The Winged Victory of Samothrace. Although parts of this sculpture are missing, experts have been able to work out that this was of a god landing on a boat, as can be seen by the still outstretched wings and feet not flat on the ground. This was apparently a popular sculpture back in the day, and this one was probably done to celebrate winning a battle. It’s not thought possible to identify which one in particular as it seems the Greeks liked a bit of a fight and there were so many they can’t identify a specific battle.
Our next destination was…drum roll please…the Mona Lisa! We got a tiny bit lost trying to find it, even with the maps, and ended up in a very long room checking out some of the paintings in there. One thing I would note is that all the descriptive signs are in French. Now I know we were in France, but in one of the biggest and most famous museums in the world, I’d have thought there would have been some English. The main pieces had a little paragraph in English by it so we didn’t miss out too much. After a bit of searching we found the infamous Mona Lisa, surrounded by loads of people.
They’ve finally worked out who they think the painting is – spoiler alert – a 24 year old lady who had it painted to celebrate the birth of her second child. Before I knew this though, I loved that there was speculation as to whether it was a man or woman, and that people tried to work out why she was smiling.
By this point we’d been here a good couple of hours, and following our already hectic day, my camera was running low on juice. I decided to keep it turned off and only take pics of really cool stuff. Unfortunately, I find everything cool, and a room full of statues was a real battery draining moment.
The plan for the evening was to climb the Eiffel Tower, so we decided to head straight for any pieces we really wanted to see to save time. I once read that if you stop to look at everything in the Louvre for 30 seconds you’ll be there for 9 months. Yup, lots to see! My boyfriend led the way to the mummies, and after 15 minutes and many wrong turns, I took charge and we arrived 5 minutes later. There are a lot of steps throughout the whole museum, so you’ll get a good ol’ bum toning workout!
In the mummy section we saw old style sarcophagus’, which used to be rectangular. There were also more modern examples that are more like what you imagine when you think of a sarcophagus. There was also a real mummy there. So interesting, and you can see the organ jars and how it was wrapped. That sort of thing baffles me and I totally love it!
As our feet started to rebel and swell up we had to make a move. We stopped by the wooden statue of Mary Magdalene on the way out, took the last few pictures my camera could manage and then switched to the backup phone camera.
After 5 1/2 hours here, we felt like we’d only scratched the surface of what there was to see here. We had a quick stop in the souvenir shop for the obligatory postcard, then headed out through the shopping centre attached (kind of) to the Louvre. Here we found the 2 touching pyramids that I’d been looking for our whole time here. Anyone who has read Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code will know the story behind these 2 pyramids, but as the rumours go, apparently Mary Magdalene’s body was buried in a chamber underneath the stone pyramid. Had to get a picture there!
And thus our time at the Louvre was done. We’d missed a fair amount of things we wanted to see, and decided if we had time we’d return. However, when we came back it was the first Sunday of the month, which is free entry to everyone. The queues were beyond ridiculous, at every entrance! We therefore didn’t get a chance to go back in, but I’m sure we’ll be going back to Paris soon so we’ll go then.
This wasn’t the end of our trip to Paris however – we also enjoyed a night time trip up the Eiffel Tower, trip to the lock bridge, Musee D’Orsay, Musee Rodin and Sacre Coer…as well as other sights! Also check out my first Paris post to find out what we got up to our first couple of days.
- Do some research before you go to prioritise what you’d like to see – you’ll never see everything in one visit.
- There are 3 entrances, so check around if the queues are huge.
- €15 entrance fee, but free entry on the first Sunday of the month October – March (be prepared to queue..)
- Free entry for 18-25 year olds from the EU.
- Free entry for 18-25 year olds from any country on Fridays 6pm-9.45pm
- Don’t venture out without a map!