When contemplating Paris' numerous museums, the best place to start is with the biggest and oldest: The Louvre. Built in the early 12th century as a fortress, it was transformed and used periodically as a royal residence over the subsequent few centuries. It wasn't until the French Revolution, in the late 1700s, that the residence was converted into its present day use: a museum, home to 35,000 objects and some of the world's most revered artistic treasures.
It's estimated that it would take nine months to look at every single piece in the museum, but don't be overwhelmed. There are numerous interesting self-guided tours offered, from a greatest hits of the museum's masterpieces tour to one built around the Da Vinci Code. For many, the most exciting pieces can be categorized as the three women of the Louvre: "Venus de Milo," "The Winged Victory of Samothrace" and Leonardo da Vinci's "Portrait of Lisa Gherardini"—The Mona Lisa.
Main ticket windows are located outside the Louvre's famous glass pyramid, designed by architect I.M. Pei, but you can avoid the long lines there by entering via the underground shopping center, Carrousel du Louvre, located at 99 rue de Rivoli. Tickets can also be purchased in advance, allowing you to walk right in without waiting in line. And tickets are good for the entire day, so if you're hit with the notorious Louvre fatigue, you can leave, grab a bite at a French bistro and return re-energized.
Musée du Louvre: Rue de Rivoli & Quai des Tuileries; +33 (0)1 40 20 53 17.
- Hours: 9 a.m.—6 p.m. Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. 9 a.m.—9:45 p.m. Wednesday and Friday. Closed Tuesdays.
- Tickets: €12 ($17) for the permanent collection, €13 ($18) for the Hall Napoléon, €16 ($22) combined ticket. Free admission for visitors under the age of 18.