One of the biggest problems people tend to encounter when visiting the gargantuan and tremendously rich Musée du Louvre in Paris? There's simply too much to see. Your mind can't possibly take it all in, so we've done some of the hard work for you, selecting some of the treasures in the collection and giving you a chance to get familiar with these ahead of your visit. Browse our gallery for inspiration, and remember, once there you shouldn't try to do and see everything!
This view of the dramatic, sweeping plaza on which the Louvre's facade stands shows a strong juxtaposition between classical and modern architecture. The existing Renaissance-era palace, completed in the 17th century by Louis XV, served as the seat of French royalty until Louis XVI built Versailles.
The glass pyramid that now serves as the Louvre's entrance was designed by Chinese architect Ieoh Ming Pei and inaugurated in 1989. The 22 meter/72 ft glass structure is composed of 800 separate pieces of glass, assembled over an aluminum structure weighing 95 tons.
A Closer Look at the Glass Pyramid
This detail of the glass pyramid at the Louvre shows the intricate overlaying of individual triangles of glass over a heavy aluminum structure. The pyramid may have a lot of detractors, but you can't deny that it frames the 17th-century former palace in a surprising way.
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Da Vinci's La Gioconda (Mona Lisa)
In the early 15th century, Italian painter Leonardo da Vinci revolutionized the art of portraiture and helped usher in the Italian Renaissance with "La Gioconda", a work far better known today as the "Mona Lisa" and now one of the Louvre's most-coveted holdings. Countless tourists come to the vast museum simply to feast their eyes on it.
However, the painting, which is actually quite small and protected behind heavy glass, can be hard to get close to on account of the large crowds. Try getting to the Louvre on a weekday or early in the morning for a better chance at getting a close look at the lady with the mysterious half-smile.
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Venus de Milo (Aphrodite)
In 1820, a sculpture of the Grecian goddess Aphrodite was excavated on the island of Milo in Greece. Dating to around 100 BC and more commonly known as the Venus de Milo (in reference to the Roman name for the goddess of love), the statue is now carefully preserved at the Louvre Museum in Paris, where millions of visitors flock to see its harmonious forms.
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The Winged Victory of Samothrace (Ancient Greece)
Dating to around 190-220 BC, the Winged Victory of Samothrace shows a female figure-- the Greek goddess of Victory (Nike)-- standing on a base resembling a ship. The massive sculpture, shown permanently at the Louvre in Paris, stands over 18 ft high. It is made from a heavy block of Parian marble and was excavated in 1863. Interestingly enough, the head was never found.
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Liberty Leading the People by Eugene Delacroix
One of the major works of French romanticism in painting is Eugene Delacroix's La Liberté Guidant le Peuple (Liberty Leading the People), which was painted during the French Revolution of 1830 as a political poster. Housed at the Louvre in Paris, it's subsequently been referred to as the first major political artwork of the modern era. Delacroix, who was himself part of military efforts, portrayed himself in the upper-left (easily identifiable as the man with a top-hat).
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The Apollo Gallery: A Newly Renovated Treasure at the Louvre
After undergoing a major restoration, the sumptuous Apollo Gallery re-opened at the Louvre in 2004. Dedicated to the Sun King (Louis XVI), the gallery features lavishly painted ceilings and treasures including the French crown jewels. Much like the Gallery of Mirrors at the Chateau de Versailles, the Apollo Gallery took years to complete and is the work of over 20 artists, including Eugene Delacroix and Charles Le Brun.
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The Hammurabi Code Room at the Louvre
The Hammurabi Code is a series of tablets dating to the 12th century B.C. and inscribed with laws established under the reign of the Babylonian king Hammurabi. The prologue to the codes, inscribed on a clay tablet, is housed at the Louvre, and provides a fascinating glimpse into daily life in the ancient Babylonian kingdom. This wing of the Louvre is generally notable for its impressive collection of ancient artworks and artifacts from the Middle East.