Destination: Paris
Top Ten
1 Centre Georges Pompidou
2 Les Champs-Elysées
3 La Grande Arche de la Défense
4 Les Invalides
5 Le Louvre
6 Notre-Dame
7 Orsay, Musée d'
8 Les Quais
9 La Tour Eiffel
10 La Villette
5 Le Louvre

This former royal palace, which celebrated its bicentenary in 1993, is today one of the largest museums in the world.

The Palace

Excavations carried out in 1977 under the Cour Carrée, the courtyard surrounded by the oldest part of the palace, led to the discovery of the original castle built around 1200 by King Philippe-Auguste, which remained a fortress until it was razed to the ground to make way for a Renaissance palace. The tour of the foundations of this medieval Louvre, including the base of the keep, the moat and the outer wall, starts from the main entrance hall under the glass pyramid.

The first palace, built by Pierre Lescot in the style of the Italian Renaissance, was enlarged round the Cour Carrée and along the Seine during the following 200 years.

It is said that Molière performed in front of the court in the splendid Salle des Cariatides where Greek and Roman antiquities are now displayed. Louis XIV enclosed the Cour Carrée with the stately colonnade which faces the Church of St-Germain-l'Auxerrois. Soon afterwards, however, the king left for Versailles and the palace was neglected by the royal family and the court.

Building was resumed by Napoleon, who built part of the north wing and erected the exquisite Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. During the second half of the 19th century, Napoleon III completed the Louvre along its rue de Rivoli side.

The Museum

The museum was founded in 1793 to house the royal art collections, which were subsequently enriched to the point that a large part of its vast stock could not be displayed. This prompted President Mitterrand to launch a complete renovation of the buildings and to extend the museum over the whole of the Louvre; the project became known as the 'Grand Louvre'. A huge entrance hall was created under a stunning glass pyramid, designed by Ieoh Ming Peï placed in the centre of the Cour Napoleon. This gives access to three main areas known as Sully, Denon and Richelieu, corresponding to the Cour Carrée and each of the two wings.

The collections are divided into seven departments:

Egyptian Antiquities include a pink granite Sphinx from Tanis, a huge head of Amenophis IV-Akhenaten and the famous Scribe.

The most remarkable exhibits in the Oriental Antiquities Department must be the Assyrian winged bulls.

The department of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities contains numerous masterpieces: do not miss the Vénus de Milo, the Winged Victory and the Graeco-Roman sculpture in the Salle des Cariatides.

The painting collections comprise a fine selection from the Italian school (works by Giotto, Fra Angelico, Leonardo da Vinci, Veronese, Titian and Raphael), from the French school (Poussin, Watteau, Georges de la Tour), from the Dutch school (Rembrandt, Rubens and Vermeer) and works by Spanish masters (Murillo, Goya and El Greco).

French sculpture is particularly well represented and includes fine works by Jean Goujon, Pierre Puget, Houdon and Pradier.

Objets d'art are now displayed to full advantage in the Richelieu wing; among them are beautiful tapestries and historic items such as Charlemagne's sword.

The last department is that of Graphic Art, housing drawings, prints and watercolours.

The Carrousel du Louvre is a luxury underground shopping precinct with a lovely inverted pyramid in its centre.

Address: Musée du Louvre, 75058 Paris Cedex 01. Main entrance via the pyramid
Phone: 01 40 20 50 50; recorded information: 01 40 20 51 51; reception desk: 01 40 20 53 17; disabled travellers: 01 40 20 59 90
Open: Wed-Mon, Museum: 9-6, late night Mon (Richelieu wing) and Wed (whole museum) 9:45; Pyramid: 9-8:30; till 10pm Mon and Wed. Closed Tue and some bank hols
Restaurant: Several restaurants (Inexpensive and Moderately priced) and cafés below the pyramid and in the Carrousel du Louvre
Bus: 21, 27, 39, 48, 68, 69, 72, 76, 95
Metro: Palais-Royal/Musée du Louvre
Accessible: Excellent
Admission: Expensive until 3pm, moderate after 3 and Sun, free on 1st Sun of the month. To avoid queuing, buy your ticket in advance:
Practical: Guided tours, lectures, concerts, film shows, shops
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