A visit to Paris isn’t complete without a visit to the Louvre. However, even the biggest art fans can find it a bit overwhelming. An artist recently told me that he really can’t stay there for more than 3 hours because it gets a bit boring. The problem is that the place is huge, and if you don’t know where things are you can end up wandering aimlessly. So in order to maximize your time, I’ve put together a guide to see the best of the Louvre in under three hours.
Time of entry is key
From October to March, entry to the Louvre is free on Sundays. This means that the place is even more crowded than usual. I suggest going on a weekday at 9am, but remember that the whole museum is closed on Tuesdays. We went on a Friday morning and used the Paris Museum Pass so that we didn’t have to buy tickets when we arrived. I also noticed that the crowds got bigger by the minute, so the later you enter the more time you’ll have to spend standing in lines or waiting for people to move to get the photo you want. To maximise the time you have to enjoy the artworks, I suggest you take a look at Photo Spheres in Google Street View to help you get your bearings.
The Denon Wing
Go in through the Pyramid Entrance, head down the spiral staircase inside, and go to the escalator on your right. This will take you to the Denon Wing, which is home to many masterpieces including the Mona Lisa. When you get to the ground floor, look for the marble stairs to your left and go up to the first floor. You’ll see the Winged Victory of Samothrace, but don’t stop. Why? If you Google images of the Mona Lisa you will come across pictures of the huge crowds pushing to take a selfie with the portrait. To be able to see the Mona Lisa without the stress (photo below), I suggest that you go to see it first. Go to the corridor that is on the Seine side of the Denon Wing and walk along to Room 7. That’s where you’ll see the very tiny and somewhat underwhelming La Joconde (Mona Lisa).
After you’ve seen the Mona Lisa you can enjoy the Louvre. Turn around and take in the huge Wedding Feast at Cana before you go back out into the corridor (Room 5) and walk to the opposite wall to see Raphael’s La Belle Jardinière and Leonardo da Vinci’s The Virgin and Child with St Anne (photo below) & Virgin of the Rocks.
Walk back past the entrance to Room 7 and look at Guiseppe Archimboldo's 4 seasons portraits with male faces made from fruits and flowers. After you’ve had your fill of Room 5, go to the Pyramid side of the floor (Room 77) to see Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa (photo below) and Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People. Further down (Room 75) you’ll also find The Coronation of Napoleon.
This is when you’ll come back to the Winged Victory of Samothrace. If you’re interested in Fra Angelico and Botticelli, there are a few paintings to the right. At this point, we walked past the Winged Victory in search of Room 66 – the Apollo Gallery, which has intricate ceilings and houses the Regent Diamond, but sadly it was closed. So we went back down the stairs to the Ground Floor of the Denon Wing. This is where you’ll find an amazing collection of sculptures. Room 4 (Michaelangelo Room) is where you’ll find Michaelangelo’s Dying Slave & Rebellious Slave (photo below).
There are heaps of great sculptures in Room 4 – Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss is one noteworthy piece, so take some time to enjoy.
The Sully Wing
Turn your back to the Dying Slave and walk through to the Ground Floor of the Sully Wing. As the hallway opens up into a bigger room, you’ll see a familiar armless statue on your right – Aphrodite of Milos (Venus de Milo) (photo below). By this time the crowds were getting worse and we had to wait for a couple of Chinese tour groups to go before we could get in and admire Aphrodite.
Continuing through the Sully Wing you can see more great sculptures like the Three Graces or the Sleeping Hermaphroditus in the Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities section. Then you’ll make your way in to the Egyptian Antiquities section. Among all of the sarcophagi and various statues you’ll see the huge pink granite Sarcophagus Box of Ramesses III. Almost directly above the Sarcophagus Box on the 1st Floor is the Seated Scribe (photo below), so locate the stairs, go up one level and then make your way to the centre of Room 22. He’s not very tall, but is regarded as being one of the best examples of early Egyptian art at well over 4000 years old.
The Richelieu Wing
It was at this point that we got a little lost on our way to the 2nd floor of the Richelieu Wing as sections of the Sully Wing on the 1st and 2nd Floors are closed. I suggest going back down to the Ground Floor and then walking over to the Richelieu Wing and taking the elevator up to the 2nd Floor and go to your right. This section of the Louvre isn’t as busy. There’s also a really nice collection of Rubens paintings on the 2nd Floor if you’re interested. However, we were there to see Vermeer’s The Lacemaker (photo below). The painting is tiny and very easy to miss among all the others in Room 38, so you’ll have to look carefully or ask for some help to find her.
We were really getting tired by this point as we’d spent over 2 hours walking around. The experience of being in the presence of so many masterpieces was starting to wane and I was more interested in what I would be having for lunch than seeing more art. Thankfully, there was only one thing left on my list. We took the elevator down to the Ground Floor, turned left, and made our way to the Near Eastern Antiquities section. This is where the Code of Hammurabi (photo below) can be found – look for the Winged Human Headed Bulls if you’re a bit lost.
There you have it! Of course these are just the highlights of the collection and different people have different tastes and interests. However, if you follow this path through the Louvre you’ll also come across lots of other great pieces which may or may not catch your eye. To get better acquainted with the floorplan of the Louvre I suggest visiting the Louvre’s website before you go.