“Tout ce qui est visible quelque chose se cache ce qui est invisible.” – Rene Magritte
Three and a half hours. That’s how much time we had to check out The Louvre in our very brief time in Paris. For someone who has been dreaming of exploring this fantastic, wonderful haven of art, it was, as the French would say, “la douleur exquise“.
I’ve always made museums a big priority every time i explore a new city or town, so The Louvre (or Musée du Louvre ) was definitely on the top of my list. Hailed as the world’s most visited museum, The Louvre was once the home of the French royalty before they moved to Palace de Versailles. After the revolution, it was transformed into a museum, housing hundreds of artworks and fine pieces amassed through the years by the French. My mission? To check off a majority of artworks in my list, starting with , of course, The Mona Lisa.
Armed with our map, a book of France that contained our precious “map of Louvre” (thank you Mary for the awesome gift!) and sheer determination, we walked from our drop-off point, The Opera House, to Rue de Rivoli, alongside the Carousel de Louvre entrance. In spite of the time constraint, we braved on and managed arrive at the Carousel de Louvre entrance in good time and thereby avoiding the long line by the main entrance (that would be by the glass pyramid).
My heart was definitely beating faster than i expected once we saw the Inverted Pyramid, and we hurriedly bought our tickets (Insider tip: get your ticket through the Virgin music store to avoid the queue, a few euros more but worth it when you’re pressed for time).
While they give you a map of the place along with your ticket, it’s still best to read up ahead of time so you can map out your path and get a head start. Split into 3 wings (more popularly known as the Denon Wing, the Sully Wing and the Richelieu Wing), The Louvre is massive, filled to the rafters with sculptures, paintings and intricate artworks that you can NOT finish viewing within just a week, let alone 3 hours (our tour guide said it could be an average of 3-6 months before you can truly say you have explored every crevice).
What hits you first once you step past the entrance of each wing is the enormity of the place. The long steps up, the massive hallways, the elaborate walls and columns that flank your path continually reminds you of the richness of the culture and history that you are viewing, it’s almost rude to talk as you take it all in.
Amidst the jostle of the rest of the crowd milling about, taking pictures and admiring the pieces, i found myself almost in a trance-like state as we hurried through the steps and finally walk through the halls of the Italian Renaissance paintings. Since a majority of the artworks that i wanted to check out was in the Denon wing (that’s where the Mona Lisa is, btw), we explored as much of it as we could. After that, we went off to look into the Sully and Richelieu Wings with the little time we had left.
It’s hard to prioritize, let alone truly take the time for each piece of artwork — hence the need to prioritize which ones that matter to you. I was really happy to have made a short list! We were able to view 7 of the pieces from my list. Another viewing tip: The crowds can really delay your movement, so it’s best to get the most popular ones out of the way so you can continue on without stressing out about the queue. From the much-admired Mona Lisa to the Christianity-themed paintings i have only seen in books, it was exhilarating to finally see the actual work up close and admire it. (Got more than a few hours? Invest in the guided audio tour that happens every 30 mins.— costs you to shell out a few extra euros but you’ll definitely be enjoying the artworks more when you get to know the history behind each one!)
Yes, we did get lost a few times. Still, what’s great about the Louvre is that no matter where you end up, even if you are lost in its many wings and sections, you find something that captures your attention and pretty much blows you away— even if it’s as simple as a view from the window.
There is something so magical about the experience that i can’t put into words. Perhaps it’s just the romantic in me that is still overwhelmed by all the beauty and history this place holds. The detail of each area, from the ceiling panels to the palatial doors, even the walls display a form of art movement or genre that you are instantly transported to another time.
Perhaps the reality of finally coming to this place which i’ve dreamed since college is still hitting me. The dream of going to Paris, of visiting the Louvre specifically, has been with me for so long that actually being there seemed so surreal, i felt like i was having an out of body experience during the time that we were walking around.
Perhaps it’s all of that, and more, of which i can’t put into words. Honestly, it was all very moving. I felt tears pricking my eyes once i saw the paintings and sculptures i only saw in books and learned about in school — it really does feel magical. Art lover or not, you just get into a state of awe when you’re finally seeing the real thing.