Simply put, the Louvre is the world’s greatest art museum—and the largest, with 675,000 square feet of works from almost every civilization on earth. The Mona Lisa is, of course, a top draw, along with the Venus de Milo and Winged Victory. These and many more of the globe’s most coveted treasures are displayed in three wings—the Richelieu, the Sully, and the Denon—which are arranged like a horseshoe. Nestled in the middle is I.M. Pei’s Pyramide, the giant glass pyramid surrounded by a trio of smaller ones that opened in 1989 over the new entrance in the Cour Napoléon. To plot your course through the complex, grab a color-coded map at the information desk. For an excellent overview, book a 90-minute English-language tour (€12, daily at 11 and 2); slick Nintendo 3DS multimedia guides (€5; pay for it when you buy your ticket), available at the entrance to each wing, offer a self-guided alternative.
Having been first a fortress and later a royal residence, the
Louvre represents a saga that spans nine centuries. Its medieval roots are on display below ground in the Sully wing, where vestiges of the foundation and moat remain. Elsewhere in this wing you can ogle the largest display of Egyptian antiques outside of Cairo, most notably the magnificent statue of Ramses II (salle 12). Upstairs is the armless Venus de Milo, a 2nd-century representation of Aphrodite (salle 7). Highlights of the wing’s collection of French paintings from the 17th century onward include the Turkish Bath by Jean-August-Dominique Ingres (salle 60).