Planning in advance
The Louvre museum is vast and has so many art pieces, sculptures, antiques and archaeological objects. It’s simply impossible to see and admire all of them in one visit. If you have only one day to visit the Louvre (like we had) you need a bit of planning and preparation to ensure you enjoy the visit and view all the ‘must sees’ in there.
First time we visited Paris we didn’t even try to fit Louvre into the visit. There were so many other sights we wanted to see and we really didn’t want to rush things, but rather enjoy and savour this beautiful city. So, we planned another visit to Paris dedicate to seeing Louvre and Versailles. Read all about that it in our post Paris, Versailles and Louvre in one weekend.
First of all, we would strongly recommend buying tickets in advance. We booked ours on the official Louvre website (buy tickets at Louvre website) and chosen 9am entry time. The time-slot ticket doesn’t mean you can skip the queue at the entrance but there is a special queue for visitors with tickets. They guarantee entrance to the museum within half an hour of the time shown on the ticket.
Another thing you would need to do in advance is doing your homework and shortlisting what you want to see in the Louvre. Write down the locations – floor, wing, room numbers. Print (or have it handy on your mobile) the list and the map in advance so you can familiarize yourself with the layout. The map is available online at the official Louvre website – download pdf map. This way you won’t spend time in the museum running from one floor to another searching for a masterpiece you want to view and trying to understand the layout of the rooms.
Here is our (subjective) list of 20 things to see in the Louvre in one day. Not in any particular order but grouped by floors:
List of ‘must see’ items in the Louvre
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss – (Floor 0, Room 4, Richelieu Wing) – such a tender but at the same time intense marble sculpture (Floor 0, Room 4, Richelieu Wing):
The Venus de Milo (also known as Aphrodite) – (Floor 0, Room 345 or 346) – one of the most famous statues representing female beauty:
Sleeping Hermaphroditus – (Floor 0, Room 348, Sully Wing) – a sculpture of Hermaphroditos sleeping on a very realistic marble mattress:
Hammurabi’s Code statue – (Floor 0, Room 3) – one of the oldest written laws in the world ever:
The Lamassu – (Floor 0, Near Eastern Antiquities) – protective spirits that guarded entrances in ancient Assyria / Mesopotamia as far back as 3000 B.C. (Tip: if visiting with children, ask them to count legs of the statue – at a first glance it looks like it has 4 legs, but when viewing from the side and front you can see that it actually has 5 legs):
The Dying Slave and the Rebellious Slave – (Floor 0, Room 403) – two sculptures made by Michelangelo Buonarotti:
Great Sphinx of Tanis – (Floor 0, Room 338) – and whole Egyptian Antiquities section of Floor 0 – many interesting pieces from ancient Egypt to see. I’d assume this part would be one of the favorites if visiting with children:
Mona Lisa (Floor 1, Room 711). I don’t need to tell you anything about the painting itself – it’s one of the most famous paintings in the world. There is a line to get close (but still not too close) to the masterpiece and to take a photo if you wish. We spent about 10-15 minutes in the line and had about 30 seconds to view the famous Da Vinci’s painting. Then we got asked to move along so that other people could get their turn:
Les Noces de Cana – (Room 711, right in front of Mona Lisa) – one of the biggest painting displayed in the Louvre, by Paolo Veronese. We had enough time to view it while standing in line to Mona Lisa:
Winged Victory of Samothrace statue – (Floor 1, Room 703 – which is actually a staircase, not a room) – 2200 years old statue, also known as Nike (the Greek goddess of victory). Perhaps, my favorite art piece in the Louvre:
The Intervention of the Sabine Women – (Floor 1, Room 702, Denon Wing) – 1799 painting by Jacques-Louis David:
Liberty Leading the People – (Floor 1, Room 700) – famous French painting of Liberty leading the fighters during the revolution of 1830:
The Coronation of Napoleon – (Floor 1, Room 702) – huge painting of the coronation of Napoleon I at Notre-Dame de Paris:
Napoleon III Apartments – (Floor 1, Room 705) – clear demonstration of excessive wealth of French kings:
Virgin of the Rocks – (Room 5, Denon wing) – another painting by Leonardo da Vinci.
French Crown Jewels, The crown of Louis XV – (Department of Decorative Arts) – crowns of french kings, decorated with diamonds and other gemstones.
Apollo Galerie and 140-carat Regent Diamond – (Room 705 of the Denon Wing) – unfortunately, the rooms were closed when we were there. So we didn’t have a chance to see the famous diamond.
Empress Eugénie’s Crown – (Room 550 of the Richelieu Wing) – another piece of imperial jewelry with 2490 diamonds and 56 emeralds:
Louis XIV – (Sully Wing, Room 916) – painting by Hyacinthe Rigaud.
La Dentellière (The Lacemaker) – (Richelieu Wing, Room 837) – painting by Jan Vermeer (I almost missed it when in the room – it’s quite small).
The Cheat with the Ace of Diamonds – (Sully Wing, Room 912) – painting by by Georges de la Tour.
Portrait of the Artist Holding a Thistle – (Richelieu Wing, Room 809) – this painting by Albrecht Dürer we didn’t see unfortunately as it was not on display during our visit.
Better less, but better
In total we have spent about 6 hours in the Louvre, including short break for a coffee with snack in one of the museum’s cafes. We were really happy with our visit, and glad that we had a day dedicated to the museum. Any less time than that and would we either rush through it all, or miss some of the best art pieces we wanted to see.
Of course we saw many more things than what’s on that ’20 things to see in the Louvre in one day’ list. But having it prepared and knowing our way around we were able to see everything we wanted to see. Plus we had time to admire anything that caught our eye outside of our planned ‘must see’s.
We haven’t been to all rooms and haven’t seen all expositions the Louvre has to offer. But for me it was more important to take our time to admire the art pieces rather than quickly reviewing them and rushing on to the next one.
Read next – our post on how to see Versailles, Louvre and major sights of Paris in one weekend.