The Musée du Louvre is a landmark building in the centre of Paris, it is located at one end of of the Champs-Elysées, adjacent to the Tuileries Gardens and the Place de la Concorde, it lies in line with the Arch de Triomphe at the other end of the Champs-Elysées and the Arche de la Défense further away again. Together they make up the Axe historique – a line of monuments extending from the centre of Paris to the west.
The Louvre is the largest national museum in France and houses a truly astonishing collection of artworks and artifacts that have been collected over centuries. It is the most visited museum in the world, and the building itself is also a historic monument. The building which houses the collections is the Louvre Palace, it was originally built in the 12th century as a fortress. Parts of this original construction are still visible in the crypt however the building has been added to many times over the centuries to the current palace today. The history of the Louvre is almost as interesting as the collection it houses – Charles V used it as a residence, as did Napolean. It became a public museum during the French Revolution after Louis XVI was imprisoned and the royal collections became national property. The museum was opened on 10 August 1793.
The museum has evolved continuously since these times, the large glass pyramid that sits in the centre of the courtyard formed by the three wings of the building was completed in 1989 and this structure sits above a large underground lobby which now serves as the entrance to the museum allowing the it to cope with the enormous number of visitors that it attracts.
The entire collection in the museum numbers about 380,000 pieces of which approximately 35,000 are on display at any one time. There are eight separate sections which cover Egyptian artifacts, Greek, Etruscan and Roman collections, Near Eastern (pre-islam Levant, Mesopotamia and Iran), Sculpture, Islamic art, Decorative Arts, Painting and finally Prints and Drawings. The collections include seminal works from some of the best know artists in history; Rapheal, Rubens, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci to name just a few.
A visit to the Louvre is a very special treat for almost anyone. It would take a great many days to fully explore the museum and it’s collections. If history and art is your thing then you would be well advised to allow at least a full day at the Louvre or plan to do repeated shorter visits to stay fresh and keep the mind boggling array of treasures in some perspective.