I remember hearing that the Louvre only has 10% of it’s collection on display in Paris. If you haven’t been before it is a massive museum and would take you over a month to explore every room and see every piece. That’s a daunting thought for a first timer hoping to visit the museum but don’t get overwhelmed! There are ways to narrow down your visit without overdoing it. But first you have to surrender to the fact that you won’t see everything you had imagined. On the other hand, you can see the pieces that have tickled your imagination in the first place. Here’s how…
In order to avoid the ridiculous lines and over populated rooms get a Paris Museum Pass. It was the first thing I bought in France after disembarking my Air Canada plane. Find them at FNAC stores all around Paris and Tourist Informational desks at the Charles de Gaulle airport. Here you can purchase museum passes, RER tickets to Paris, show tickets and much more. The ladies were extremely helpful and spoke some English to make up for my years of lost French.
With the Paris Museum Pass you can skip the long lines but beware, sometimes the Paris Museum Pass line can get longer than the regular line! How do you avoid this conundrum? Go after hours, your pass will get you in when the museum is closed to the general public.
You can go with a guide. I was able to score a couple of VIP tickets to visit the Louvre for an after hours visit with a City Wonders guide and receive a wine tasting at a nearby wine bar.
My relaxing evening began at Café Marly which overlooks the iconic glass pyramid entrance of the Louvre. At 5:30 pm I and my boyfriend sat observing the surrounding architecture over a beer and kir royal. By 5:55 we headed to the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel where various ticket holders were grouped looking for their guide for the evening. Some group tours were larger than others but we were lucky to have a small group of 4 including ourselves. Our guide for the evening, another fellow Canadian, Adam would engage us in playful yet educational historic information about the exterior architecture including the carrousel we stood beneath.
“Napoleon had a bit of a control problem. When his troops marched back to Paris from Rome he made sure that they would walk in a straight line through the Arc de Triomphe, past the Place de la Concord then through this very Arc du Carrousel and on through the Louvre palace. All these monuments perfectly line up in the direction of Rome. See what I mean? Control freak.” This was Adam’s funny style of historical explanations. Even when we were surrounded by the hoards of men pandering their jingling miniature Eiffel towers made in China he would cooly respond in French, “We already have some at home, thanks.”
On we went through the pyramid entrance of the Louvre with no wait whatsoever. Standing in the massive “lobby” (if you can call it that) I had no idea which direction to turn. Where do we go to see art? I saw plenty of shopping areas, the post office, a café or two, the ticket desk and even a place to purchase the Paris Museum Pass but basically I was lost before we even began.
Luckily, Adam lead us up the stairs and into an area of the Louvre I didn’t know existed…the moat. During the 1980s when the digging began to make room for the pyramid and shopping area beneath the Louvre they had found what was the ancient moat that surrounded the original palace from 1190.
Exploring the moat area you’ll be able to experience art exhibitions that change yearly and feature artists from Lady Gaga to today’s current artist Joseph Kosuth exhibit surrounding the moat (as seen in video below with the neon lights).
The most impressive part of this area are the artifacts on display – amazingly they were all found during the archeological excavations of the 1980s. This includes a thin gold helmet that belonged to the fragile King Charles VI who had various mental problems including the fact that he thought he was made of glass. The gold helmet was made so that he would have a kingly helmet yet light enough so that it wouldn’t crush his fragile skull. Today this is known as the “glass delusion”.
On we went observing the more famous works of art from the Mona Lisa to the Great Sphinx of Tanis to Eugene DeLacroix’s 1832 painting, Liberty Leading the People and many others. What I appreciated about this tour was that Adam took the time to show us his own favourites and even go as far as talking about unexpected works of art that caught our eye along the way.
After our personal two hour tour highlighting the Louvre works I’ve studied as an art history student it was time for some wine. We exited the Louvre and walked through the courtyard where in 1572 Protestants were slaughtered by Roman Catholics during what is known as the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. It was an eerie feeling as I looked up towards the Louvre windows knowing that Charles IX watched from one of those balconies.
More than ever I needed a glass of wine to help process all that I learned and the time travel I experienced with the help of Adam that evening. He brought us to O Chateau, a wine bar whose building’s previous owners include Mme Pompadour, the woman who’s breasts are supposedly the inspiration for coupe glasses for Champagne and more famously chief mistress of Louis VX.
We arrived for us to find a hearty charcuterie plate and empty wine glasses awaiting a top up. With three French wines available for us to taste that evening our guide bided adieu and left us in good hands. Each wine was demonstrated on a map narrowing it down to the valley and uniqueness of the maker. If you’re ever in the Louvre neighbourhood in the mood for a local wine bar with delicious food I much approve of O Chateau and their various wine tours as well.
In as little as three and a half hours we were transported throughout the history of Paris as well as France, Italy and even Egypt all without lining up, scrambling for tickets, rushing to beat the crowds nor did we have to lose our way in the process. City Wonders provided a first timer like me with a relaxing visit to the Louvre- relaxing and Louvre do not normally appear in the same sentence together – enabling me to see everything I wanted to and more. And at the end of the day reminiscing over everything with a glass of French wine surrounded by locals was the absolute cherry on top.
Book your own VIP experience with City Wonders at CityWonders.com
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City Wonders sponsored my visit to the Louvre, however, I was not in any way influenced during the reviewing process. All opinions expressed are based on my own experience.
Thank you to GowithOh for supporting my #GwOGourmands Venice to Paris accommodation.