Let’s face it: a trip to Paris without the Louvre isn’t a trip to Paris at all. The Louvre is on everyone’s bucket list—or at least it should be! If you’re lucky enough to be taking a trip to the epicenter of the world’s historic art, you’ll have to prioritize which things you want to see the most. After all, it’s a huge museum! Here are the top 13 things to see at the Louvre.
1 Napoleon III’s Apartments
Step into a lavish room full of gilded furniture and luxe draperies. This beautiful room once housed the third Napoleon, who relaxed on the soft sofas from 1852 to 1857. Can you imagine what it must have been like to live here? There are actually seven rooms that belonged to Napoleon—be sure to tour them all!
2 Venus de Milo
This lovely lady is one of the oldest in the world. She’s 2,100 years old, and you have to admit that she looks pretty good for her age, despite missing her arms. This is one of the ancient world’s most famous statues, and it’s even better in the flesh. Or, rather, the marble.
3 The Mona Lisa
It’s her! The word’s most famous painting is not to be missed when you visit the Louvre. Although you might be surprised at the small dimensions of this iconic image, you’ll be delighted to find that the urban legends are true: her eyes really do follow you around the room. If you want to get a good look at the lady, be sure to get to the museum early. Not only is the painting protected by bulletproof glass, it’s also generally surrounded by a swarm of art students, tourists, and Parisians.
4 Treasures from the Tomb of Akhethetep
Find yourself in the days of Ancient Egypt, when the pharaohs were the most powerful men in the world. The Louvre exhibit on Akhethetep’s tomb is one of the most fascinating Egyptian displays you’ll find anywhere. Wander through the 4,000-year-old carvings, statues, and burial vessels at your leisure.
5 Winged Bulls
Dated to 700 BC, the huge Winged Bulls statues once stood at the entrance of a Mesopotamian king’s palace. They are no less imposing today, with their regal beards and heavy hooves.
6 The Astronomer
Johannes Vermeer’s painting of an astronomer at work is something that may be vaguely familiar to anyone who has ever taken art history. This painting is like a candid snapshot from a time long past, and it’s a glimpse into a life as it was in the 17th Century.
7 The Great Sphinx of Tanis
If a trip to Cairo isn’t on your to-do list for the year, you can still see a classic sphinx at the Louvre. This statue, which is dated to 2600 BC, is the one of the largest sphinxes outside of Egypt.
8 The Law Code of Hammurabi
This legal document is the most significant one in human history, since it is believed to be the foundation of civilized, organized legal systems. Many of today’s standard laws, such as interest rates and fines, probably began with the Code of Hammurabi. The inscribed stone in the Louvre dates to around 1800 BC.
9 The Moneylender and His Wife
This is another painting you may have seen before but may not know much about. This painting was done in 1514 by a Flemish painter, Quentin Metsys. Although a greedy couple are the center of the painting, be sure to take a look at the unorganized shelves in the background. An apple, a dish, a few books, and a candle bring disordered casualness that makes the painting come alive.
10 Portrait of an Old Man and a Young Boy
This 1840 painting by Domenico Ghirlandio is perfectly stunning. The rosiness of the boy’s cheeks, the weathered texture of the old man’s skin, and the picturesque view outside the window will make it hard for you to move on with just a glance. So linger a while and enjoy reflecting on the painting’s poignant meaning: life is brief.
11 Liberty Leading the People
This iconic French painting is a representation of the spirit of the French Revolution. It was created to reflect the July Revolution of 1830, although it represents the entirety of the bloody French Revolution. In this painting, French Liberty is personified in a beautiful warrior woman holding a tattered French flag.
12 I.M. Pei’s Pyramid
The ultra-modern structure that serves as the entrance to the Louvre was controversial at first, but today it is an iconic image of the great museum. Although it doesn’t match the historic setting of the rest of the museum, it’s a cool place to stop, take some photos, and regard appreciatively.
13 The Dying Slave
The Dying Slave and its twin brother, the Rebellious Slave, are a pair of statues that Michelangelo was commissioned to create for the tomb of Pope Julius II. Although it’s a mystery why a theme so unpleasant would be chosen as the art for a pope’s final resting place, you can’t argue that these statues are magnificent. All the emotion that could be wrought out of marble was sketched into the faces of these two unfortunate men.
The Louvre is one of those iconic destinations that travelers dream of visiting at least once in their lifetimes. With so many renowned masterpieces to see and limited time to see them, it’s important that visitors have a plan. These are 13 of the things you simply must see when you find yourself in Paris‘ (and maybe the world’s) best known museum. You don’t want to miss these!