10 Things You Must See in the Louvre

   142384    11
10 Things You Must See in the Louvre

The big question the Louvre Museum inspires in most tourists is: When to go and how to avoid the lines? Why not try an afternoon visit on Wednesday or Friday (when the Louvre’s open till 9:45 PM) for a short, focused visit? Leave for a meal (their cafés are overpriced and of poor quality) and return with recharged batteries for a night stroll to another concentrated area. Tip: Your ticket allows you to enter the express lane.

If you stretched out all three wings into a straight line, the Louvre would run a whopping eight miles (14 kilometers). But 80% of visitors just come to take a photo of the Mona Lisa and then leave. There is so much more to see! Dating to 1190, the former palace is ginormous, but glorious — embrace its size, don’t let it intimidate you. And if you want to have an interactive visit dusting off the grandfather of museums, sign up for a themed Treasure Hunt at the Louvre (what THATLou stands for). Below, our pick for 10 works of art that you must see on a trip to the Louvre.

Closed Tuesdays, open till 9:45 pm Wed & Fridays, all other days 9-6 pm; admission 15€

Louvre Pavillon Turgot/ Daisy de Plume

Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (1503-1506) Seeing La Joconde is a thoroughly unpleasant experience because of the crowds. It’s arguably the most famous painting in the world, due in large part to the hullabaloo that went on in 1911 when she was stolen. Missing for two years, both French poet Apollinaire and Picasso were suspects, before Peruggia (the Italian thief and former Louvre guard) was caught. When hired by François I in 1516, Leonardo brought his treasured painting with him to Château d’Amboise (where he died three years later).

Winged Victory of Samothrace

Winged Victory of Samothrace, Public Domain

Winged Victory of Samothrace (190 BC, Ancient Greece) The Winged Goddess of Nike presides over the Louvre’s Daru stairs much as she’s perched on the prow of a ship (the grey marble implies the ship’s from Rhodes). Her Hellenistic form merits her place as one of the Louvre’s top three most important pieces. No imagination is necessary to see the wind blowing her cling-wrap thin material or to feel the power of her forward motion and sure-footedness. Meant to be viewed from one angle, note how the sculpture’s roughly hewn on the left. During WWII she was evacuated with the Mona Lisa, Michelangelo’s Slaves & Venus de Milo to Château de Valençay.

Michelangelo's Dying Slave

Michelangelo’s Dying Slave, public domain

Michelangelo’s Dying Slave (1513-1516) Michelangelo’s Dying Slave was meant for Pope Julius II’s tomb, initially commissioned in 1505 and completed on a much-reduced scale in 1545. The writhing, twisting Slave is clearly in agony, standing here in Contrapposto (the figure standing on one leg which holds his weight, the other leg remains lax. This stance prompts the hips and shoulders to rest at opposite angles). This classical pose inevitably gives a curve to the entire torso as seen here. Can you stand in Contrapposto?

Venus de Milo

Venus de Milo, public domain

Venus de Milo (100 BC, Cyclades, Greece) Aren’t all beauties mysteries? This lady who we all know as the Venus de Milo could have well been an Amphitrite, who the island of Melos (now Milos) worshipped. Art Historians believe she’s a 100 BC replica, however she does have typical 5th Century BC details such as the harmony of her face, her aloofness and impassivity. But many details place her in the Hellenistic period (3rd–1st C BC), such as her spiral composition (You still standing in Contrapposto as you read this?), the fact that she’s 3D, her small breasts and elongated body and most importantly the thin veneer of material draped from her hips.


Lamassus, public domain

Lamassus (713 BC), Mesopotamia These protective genies have five legs which from the side appear only as four walking, from the front they’re still and standing “at attention” where pairs of these “Lamassus” guarded each gate to Sargon II’s Mesopotamian capital (at present-day Khorsabad). The city had 24-meter thick walls (the height of a redwood tree!). In the 19th C when the French council was sending these Lamassus back to the Louvre two heart-breaking shipping “incidents” caused much of the excavations to go missing: one through a boat sinking, another lost to pirates… a case for the next Indiana Jones…

Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People

Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People/ Public Domaine

Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, 1830 Here Lady Liberté (Marianne) champions the Tri-colored French flag (the red, white and blue symbolize Liberty, Equalityand& Fraternity). In fact this painting embodies France to such an extent that it was the face of the 100 Franc (before the € went into circulation in 2002 the currency of France was called the “Franc”.) Marianne is the national figure representing triumph of the French Republic over the monarchy, and as such she appears everywhere from small stamps and euro coins to an oversized statue presiding over Place de la Republique.

Great Sphinx of Tanis

Great Sphinx of Tanis, Public Domain

Great Sphinx of Tanis (Old Kingdom, 2600 BC, Old Kingdom) The Egyptian appellation for a sphinx was Shesep-Ankh, or “Living Image”, a symbolic representation of the close relationship between sun god (lion’s body) and king (human head). This one was inscribed with the names of the pharaohs Ammenemes II, Merneptah & Shoshenq. Excavated in 1825 among the ruins of the Temple of Amun at Tanis, it’s one of the largest sphinxes outside of Egypt.

Botticelli’s Venus with Three Graces

Botticelli’s Venus with Three Graces/ Public Domain

Botticelli’s Venus with Three Graces (1483-1486) Fresco painting is a method of painting water-based pigments on freshly applied plaster so that the colors dry within the wall (when the plaster dries), thus becoming permanent. Botticelli painted this fresco on the walls of the Tuscan Villa Lemmi (along with the other pieces in this room – don’t miss Luini’s Adoration of the Magis nearby). Avoid getting trampled by the masses who are coming from Nike of Samothrace and nestle yourself in the corner to really inspect this treasure.

Law Code of Hammurabi

Law Code of Hammurabi by Mbzt/ Wikipedia

Law Code of Hammurabi (1792–1750 BC, Mesopotamia) Hammurabi’s Law Code is the longest surviving text from Old Babylon and is often considered the first written economic formula. Many laws are still in use, such as interest rates, fines for monetary wrongdoing, inheritance laws concerning how private property is taxed or divided. It’s also one of the earliest examples of the idea of presumption of innocence, requesting that both the accused and accuser provide evidence to make their cases. It’s most famous for its scaled punishments, adjusting an “eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” as graded depending on social status (of slave versus free man).

Gabrielle d'Entrées and one of her sisters

Gabrielle d’Entrées and her sister

Gabrielle d’Estrées and Her Sister, The Duchess of Villars (1594) An anonymous painting from the School of Fontainebleau, these famous ladies are Gabrielle d’Éstrées (a favorite lover of Henri IV) and her sister, the Duchess of Villars. The fact that her sister is pinching Gabrielle’s nipple has often been taken as symbolizing the latter’s pregnancy with the illegitimate child of Henri IV (Cesar de Vendome). This interpretation is confirmed by the background scene of the young woman sewing – perhaps preparing a layette for the coming child. There are both Italian and Flemish influences, such as the intimacy of the background.

Louvre plumbing/ Daisy de Plume

Louvre plumbing/ Daisy de Plume

Lead photo credit : Mona Lisa, public domain

Previous Article Passage 53
Next Article Grand Hôtel du Palais Royal

In 2012 Daisy de Plume started THATMuse, a company running themed Treasure Hunts at the Museum (what it stands for), which now has 25 themes across the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Streets of Paris, British Museum and Victoria & Albert in London. 2018 will see two new Street Hunts and a new Museum launch in both Paris and London. A native New Yorker who moved to Paris in 2004, she and her Argentine husband have two culturally-confused, trilingual sons, Storsh and Balthazar.


  • Rebecca Zdepski
    2020-04-03 17:40:27
    Rebecca Zdepski
    I have been to Paris in January more times than I can count. It's a little more difficult as I get older, but we catch the end of the Fall exhibitions and they are fabulous. Just this year, we made plans for da Vinci (reserved months ahead, thank goodness), Degas and the Opera, English Paintings. Missed Lautrec because of a long line on a cold day. YSL is always a favorite. So, yes, January is not weather wonderful, but it sure is short of tourists (after Jan.6). Imagine standing in a room at d'Orsay all by yourself. It happens. And it's heaven.


  • Mary Lou Moore
    2020-02-07 12:52:58
    Mary Lou Moore
    I love Cupid and Psyche. Just breath taking. I purchase a picture of it in the gift shop. A must see!


  • John ODonnell
    2019-08-16 11:44:41
    John ODonnell
    I was at the Louvre last week, B4 8/16, and was not admitted on a Museum pass, was told a time reservation was needed. Same at Tour D'Eiffel. However, we did have lunch at Café Marly, always a delight.


  • Katie Haig
    2019-08-15 17:11:05
    Katie Haig
    I love everything about Paris, and hope to return again soon! I visited with my daughter Iin 2012. When we entered the Musee de L'orangine and saw Monet's wall-sized paintings of his Waterlillies, I cried. Not sure I spelled that correctly! Thank you for your wonderful articles on the many, many exquisite offerings in Paris!


  • Jeanne
    2019-01-31 19:31:42
    This is the one work that I want to see after looking through a book on the Louvre!! Just gorgeous!! Did you see it in person?


  • Maria
    2018-12-04 01:02:38
    My top two in Paris are: La Sainte Chapelle, not far from Notre Dame, and the exquisite tapestries called La Dame à la Licorne, at Musée de Cluny, in the Quartier Latin (Rive Gauche).


  • Amanda
    2018-11-23 23:38:00
    Don’t forget Antonio Canova’s Cupid and Psyche- I know I never have.


  • Jacques
    2018-10-09 14:36:02
    You are right Victoria, but January can be a little cold and not always people can go in holiday at that time of the year. There are some skip the line tours of Louvre that are not too expensive for the high season. https://theparisguy.com/tours/Paris/Louvre-Tour-Paris-No-Line I'm planning to go to visit Paris and the Louvre on March. Hopefully there will not be a lot of people that time of the year.


  • zahra
    2018-07-02 14:04:03
    I hope to see paris and its great musum in future Zahra from Iran


  • Victoria Henderson
    2017-06-22 10:22:48
    Victoria Henderson
    The only time I have been to Paris was in a January. No lines at the Louvre, and the weather was fine enough to walk about with just a light jacket. And the coffee...thank you, Paris, for the delicious coffee.


  • Stephan
    2015-09-18 01:04:01
    Edna Walker - The one thing that I recommend to anyone going to Paris is to take a tour of the Opera Garnier. It is probably the grandest building that I have ever seen and when you are in the theatre, be sure to take a photo of private box #5. Hidden within the walls of that box was the phantom of the opera!


  • Edna Walker
    2015-09-17 19:17:22
    Edna Walker
    I am planning a trip to Paris in March 2016. What sights should we be sure to see? Will there be anything special (Holidays) at this time? Merci beau coup


  • Parisbreakfast
    2015-09-17 18:06:17
    The Louvre Pavillon Turgot could easily be No. 11 must-see in my book. Lovely.