I said it. I’m not harping on the Mona Lisa, she’s cool and all. Actually, I could spend a lot of time examining her from different angles and pondering how her eyes can follow me wherever I go. But she’s by far not my favorite thing to see in the Louvre. And I want to open your mind to what else is out there because there’s SO MUCH!
If I could have ten seconds of your time, I’d love to convert you to someone who goes to the Louvre not JUST to because it has the Mona Lisa, and everyone goes there, but because you will enjoy seeing a few other things during your visit.
So, here are ten awesome things to see in the Louvre that you can tell your friends about and will make you feel artsy (even if you have zero knowledge about art) – and I promise you’ll enjoy. 🙂
1. Winged Victory of Samothrace
This statue is impressive, ancient (2nd century BC), and a little bit magical (it represents the goddess Nike,, which means Victory). The instructions are to admire it from a particular angle, standing in a corner a little ways off. When you view it like the original artist intended you to see it, you feel the weight of the joy such a momentous occasion, victory in war, would have brought to your country. Even if you don’t spend a long time pondering the history, the magnitude of the statue (it’s 9 feet tall) and its position at the top of the dignified Daru staircase help communicate the awe factor. Plus, it’s like, really pretty. (Bonus points for being ancient Greek – I’m a sucker for anything ancient Greek.) This is first on the list because everyone likes it, and it’s easy to find. Location: Denon wing, Level 1.
2. Venus of Milo
Second on my list is another Greek statue (see above re: being ancient Greek and really pretty). Picturing another Greek goddess (Venus, aka Aphrodite), this statue carries a certain air of mystery related to its discovery on the island of Milos in the early 19th century. Location: Sully wing, Level 0 (ground floor) in Greek Antiquities. I could spend a good hour drifting through the ancient Greek and Roman statues section.
3. Liberty Leading the People
Next on the list is Liberty Leading the People, if for no other reason than it catches your attention. It is not only large in size but quite dramatic and emotional in mood. It’s quite French, being that it’s a painting celebrating the Revolution of 1830, and thus you shouldn’t miss it during your trip to the capital city. There’s much to learn about this painting and what it represents, but if you take away anything, remember the fun fact that the artist who painted it was Eugene Delacroix. Surely that will help you in a trivia game in a bar one day, n’est-ce pas? Have fun looking at all the other giant revolutionary-era paintings in this room. (One of them we estimated was without question larger than our apartment in square footage.) It’s also super easy to find. Location: Denon wing, Level 1.
4. The Feast of Cana
Speaking of oversized paintings, this one will take your breath away. In fact, it’s the largest painting in the Louvre at 6 meters high by 10 meters wide (or 2+ tiny Parisian apartments!). Depicting, as you may have guessed, the Biblical wedding feast where Jesus turned water into wine, the artistry in this piece is beautiful, with bright reds and blues popping, and plenty of human facial expressions to examine. (Hint: This is featured opposite our lady the Mona Lisa.) Location: Denon wing, Level 1.
5. Napoleon’s Apartments
Moving on… this is where it gets interesting! This wing is my secret Paris tip for those of you who don’t have enough days or time to fit in a visit to Versailles. Dying to see rooms dripping in gilded furniture and velvet walls? Sneak over to Napoleon III’s apartments to see where the emperor lived, and pretend you’re attending a marvelous fête in colored ballgowns underneath crystal chandeliers! Location: Richelieu wing, Level 1.
6. The Underground Moat beneath the museum
I’ll share another one of the best kept secrets in the Louvre – but first, did you know the Louvre used to be a palace? And before that, it was a fortress? When Paris was newly forming in the first few centuries AD, it occupied a much smaller footprint compared to the metropolis it is today, and it had trouble holding onto its territory against the Vikings and invaders of the Middle Ages. The fortified Louvre protected the city and kept enemies out – like any good castle – with the protection of a moat. You can traverse the underbelly of the castle and see the layers it was built upon with a little history lesson to boot. This is my recommendation for kids – the halls are less crowded so they can stretch their legs, and a chance to pretend like you live in a castle is a win for anyone under the age of 10 (or 30?). Location: Sully wing, Level -1 (Basement level).
7. Crown Jewels
Here’s another one kids – and anyone fascinated with castles, royalty, and diamonds – will love: the crown jewels. The Galerie d’Apollon hall will whet your appetite for the days of the French royalty and empire. If you liked Napoleon’s apartment, you’ll love this room draped in gold and sparkling with emeralds and diamonds. (If you’re wearing a dress or skirt here, give it a twirl!) Location: Denon wing, Left 1.
8. Mosaic tiles and swords in the Islamic art section
This blog is called Bohemian Bright, so where are my other eclectic, bohemian, pattern-loving friends? I’ve never had a chance to visit North Africa or the Middle East, but I can assure I would be drooling the entire time over the turquoise and magenta tiled doorways, walls, and flooring. On the other hand, maybe you (or your male partner) are more drawn to Aladdin-style sword fighting. You can find all the above plus pottery and other arts in the Islamic section. This section is easily overlooked, but it’s actually an updated, airy space with videos and other modern museum features. Location: Denon wing, Left -1.
9. French Sculpture Garden
Did NOTHING I say thus far interest you? Maybe all you’re looking for in your trip to Paris is to wander around a beautiful space. I get that! My favorite place to do that is the Puget and Marly Courtyards, which feature statues made for royal gardens in places like the Chateau de Versailles. These rooms are sunny and bright, even on a cloudy Paris day, and you can hop from statue to statue, reserving your deeper thoughts for a conversation about whatever else is on your mind (likely where to eat next), or maybe a solo journaling session. Nothing is wrong. Except maybe a yoga session, although wouldn’t that be delightful? Location: Richelieu wing, Level 0.
10. All the Architecture… and Other Hidden Treasures!
Just get lost. In conversation, in thought, in direction. Throw away your map. Wander around, in whatever direction is opposite from where the crowds are streaming. Then wander a bit more. Now, look around. Are you halfway up a marble staircase? In front of an open window overlooking majestic Paris? Shuffling your feet across a parquet floor fit for a ballerina? Maybe you’ve found yourself parked in front of some piece of artwork that I haven’t mentioned here… and you haven’t heard of anywhere else before either. This is the reason the Louvre will forever be the most grand and worthy museum to visit in the world. See what treasures you can dig up on accident – that’s the French way, after all.
Finalement… Just to let you know – I am not above a Mona Lisa selfie. 😉
Have you been to the Louvre? What did you see and love?