I haven't been very nice to the Musée du Louvre on this blog. I've labeled it "dark and cavernous," called some of its famous artwork "overrated," and even suggested that a visit to Leonardo da Vinci's grave was more enjoyable than a visit to the Louvre. Well, I'm here today to make up for all my museum bad-mouthing. Truth be told, The Louvre is impressive in many ways, including its scale, scope, and history. A Sunday visit to France's most famous museum has re-opened my eyes to just how amazing and worthy of our attention it truly is.
The Louvre was not built with the original intention of being used as a museum. At one time, the enormous structure served as a royal palace, housing many of France's kings and queens until Louis XIV decided to move to Versailles in 1672. The oldest parts of the structure date back to the 12th century, when a fortress was built to protect the city. Remnants of that original building are still visible and open to the public. When the palace officially opened its doors as a museum in 1973, admission was free and priority entrance was given to artists. Today, the Louvre is home to approximately 35,000 pieces and boasts 60,000 square meters of exhibition space. It would take a lifetime to see all that the Louvre has to offer, but even with one visit you can see some of its more famous works. Be sure to check out the Venus de Milo sculpture, Code of Hammurabi tablet, Eugene Delacroix's enormous painting, Liberty Leading the People, and if you can manage to squeeze through the crowds, da Vinci's Mona Lisa.
With 8.3 million visitors passing through its doors in 2007, I know that I am not the only one who would sing the Louvre's praises. And while the museum received a ridiculous amount of visitors on any given day, once you step out of the entrance area it does not feel crowded execpt, of course, by the Mona Lisa. The museum is so enormous, that even the busiest days (such as the first Sunday of the month, when admission is free) you cannot pack all of its rooms with people. Oh, and that whole "dark and cavernous" jab I took? I think this photo of the entrance hall shows how unfair that comment really was. Some of the galleries might be a bit closed in, but on the whole the museum is a bright and stunning piece of work. The Louvre is a must-see for those who are passing through Paris, and it would be a worthy addition to anyone's must-do travel list. There, I said it.