In my novella, Paris in Clichés, the characters “race from the Winged Victory to Venus de Milo to the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, with barely half a glance at everything in between.” This is the only glimpse they have of the famous Louvre Museum, and it’s very similar to what many tourists see when they visit Paris, especially if they’re in a rush. But do I recommend experiencing the Louvre this way? No, no I do not.
Some guide books recommend caution when visiting the Louvre, describing it as overwhelming. They recommend you ease into it–decide ahead of time what you must see, and planning out your steps. They sometimes recommend just a few hours, rather than a day, in order to feel less deluged by all there is to see.
But I’d recommend you treat it the way I recommend you treat Paris itself–just wander. Have a vague idea of what there is to see and what broad categories are contained within it, but otherwise just treat it as an adventure. Who knows what you’ll stumble across? If you treat it as an enormous background to the Mona Lisa, you will likely find it a bit of a letdown. If you run through its halls just to see her and get out of there, you might not quite catch its atmosphere.
Yes, I spent quite a bit of time staring at hallways of broken Grecian pottery before I realized I did not have enough context about Grecian pottery or the significance of any of the types to get much out of it. So yes, it can be overwhelming. It does contain more than you can likely see in one day. But are any wanderings down an unplanned corridor a waste of time? Or are they part of the experience? Well–how often to you come face-to-face with tableware that someone related to Plato or Aristotle might’ve used?
Aside from the Greek pots, I stumbled across hallways of Egyptian antiquities, standing before the steady stone gazes of people who lived thousands and thousands of years ago–or, at least before their representations in stone. It’s rather startling, to think you might have met someone who looked somewhat like this stone face, if you had lived back then.
I also stumbled across the stone foundations of the original Louvre, which was first a castle and then a palace, and only eventually a famous museum. The building itself could be a museum to its own history, and in some respects it is, even without any other art inside it. The ceilings in many of the rooms are awe-inspiring too–nothing like the stark blank walls of some modern museums. Crumbling marble statues plucked from ancient temples vie for your attention with the ornate decoration of the building itself.
And lastly, yes, the often-mentioned treasures are in these halls as well: the Mona Lisa, the Winged Victory, and Venus de Milo. Most famous of all is the Mona Lisa, and you might as well take a look at her while you’re here. Across from her is a gigantic canvas called The Wedding Feast at Cana, and it is worth looking at while you’re waiting in line to see the Mona Lisa a bit closer (there’s always a line). Apparently there’s an hourglass somewhere in this enormous painting, so you can hunt for that while you wait.
There’s also Winged Victory, which has an ideal location over a grand staircase. The drapes of her robe look more like fabric than marble, and the wings rise up over the tourists below. Another treasure is Venus de Milo, and this armless white figure is the graceful centerpiece of a tour through Greek and Roman statues.
The one thing that you should plan, however, when you go is getting in. As with many other famous museums, the lineup to get in can be loooooooooooong. Look into the best way of getting in before you go–when I went last, the lineup was much shorter at one of the alternate entrances rather than in the main entrance under the glass pyramid. But it’s been a few years, and things always change, so look into what’s recommended before you go! Otherwise your day at the Louvre might be spent more in standing in line in the atrium than in the museum itself.
After that–go ahead, get lost in there!
- If you’re interested in the story of the glass pyramid in the Louvre courtyard, this is a fun article: https://www.architectmagazine.com/awards/aia-honor-awards/louvre-pyramid-the-folly-that-became-a-triumph_o
- My novella set in Paris, Paris in Clichés, can be found here: https://books.harmamaesmit.com/collections/print-books/products/paris-in-cliches
Want more from me? Enter your email to get my author newsletter–it takes a monthly deep dive into different topics of Christian faith. Or check out a sample issue here.
Posts in this series: