If you’re not an art lover, the Louvre in Paris may not be high on your list of travel destinations. The Louvre is full of paintings and sculptures and history and old stuff. These things are not interesting to a sports fan. Or most business people.
But, if your friends/wife/girlfriend should try to talk you into visiting the Louvre, you really should consider it. Here’s ten little known reasons to check it out:
- Maps: Underneath the glass pyramid is the central receiving area for the Louvre. That’s where you’ll buy tickets and get a map of the place. And you’ll need a map, because the Louvre is huge. Disneyland seems smaller. Luckily, the Louvre has a huge collection of visitor maps, in just about every language you can think of. The maps themselves are learning tools, and they make great souvenirs. And they’re free!
- Real Live Painters: Sometimes you’ll see artists set up insides the Louvre with their own easel and paints. These guys and gals, known as “copyists”, wait up to a year for the privilege of painting inside the Louvre. Less than 200 people are allowed to paint each year, during which they borrow the Louvre’s easels and supplies. You’ll find these artists to be friendly folks, even offering a paintbrush to children that ask. Make sure the kids don’t start painting right then and there, though.
- Postcard Store: On the reception floor, you’ll find one of the biggest postcard stores you will ever see. This store has a giant wall of cards, with each one depicting a different work of art from the Louvre. Picking up a postcard is an inexpensive way to commemorate your visit. As luck would have it, right next door to the postcard store is a Post Office (La Poste). There you can get stamps, and find out how much postage is needed to get a postcard back to Pittsburgh.
- Steps of Heaven: After you pick up your ticket and gain admission, head up the steps towards the first floor of the Denon wing. At the top, you’ll find centuries-old golden-framed paintings, featuring scenes and figures from the Bible. The history contained in the frames is stunning. This area actually looks like steps leading to heaven, or at least the lobby of the pearly gates.
- Huge Paintings: Further down the hall in the Denon wing, you’ll start to wonder how they got some of the paintings in the building. They’re like the broad side of a barn, but more colorful. One of them – “The Wedding at Cana” – is over 30 feet long and 20 feet high. This painting came from Italy over 200 years ago, which is even more impressive than moving it around today. You can spend hours just enjoying the details in these massive paintings. The guests at the Wedding of Cana are having dessert, for example.
- Napoleon’s Apartment: There used to be a show on U.S. cable TV called “MTV Cribs”. It showcased luxury homes of rock stars and pro athletes, showing off home theaters, master bedrooms, and excess in general. If Napoleon were still alive, he would be on that show with his Louvre vacation home. Napoleon borrowed an entire wing of the Louvre to build an apartment to host VIP parties. The place is smothered in velvet and gold, and is lit by chandeliers that will make you again wonder how they were lifted into place.
- Cheap Tickets: Admission to the Louvre is free on the first Sunday of the month. Other than that, it will be 16€ ($20 U.S.) to gain access to the whole place. Considering the size and contents, $20 is a bargain. Admission hours are 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM every day except Tuesday. The place is closed on Tuesdays.
- It’s Huge: The Louvre is a great place to get lost in, clear your mind, and get some exercise without even noticing. The collection of art seems never-ending, and new pieces every five feet makes the place seem even bigger. For a good sense of size, check this out: the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History is known as the biggest museum in the United States. The Louvre is about a third again bigger than that place. Wear your Nikes.
- Nike of Samothrace: Your Nikes may have been named after a sculpture in the Louvre. The sculpture “Winged Victory of Samothrace”, also known as “Nike of Samothrace”, grabs prime real estate inside the Louvre. It sits alone at the top of a grand staircase, and is impossible to miss. Nike, by the way, translates to “Victory” in Greek, and was also a goddess in Greek mythology.
- Location, Location, Location: If the Louvre ends up not being your cup of tea, you can get out of the deal. Three different Metro stations serve the Louvre, making for a quick getaway no matter which wing you may get bored in. If the Metro doesn’t work out, there are four bus stops around the Louvre, and three bicycle rental locations. Be careful where you pedal, though: the Musee d’Orsay is just across the river from the Louvre.