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Dec052009

Simple Guide to the Louvre Museum

The Louvre can be an overwhelming place, but once you understand how it's organized it's not that hard to find your way around.  From a simple perspective, there are three major wings organized into what is essentially a U-shaped structure.  If you lose track of where you are, looking out the window for the pyramid is a good way to figure out where you are.

The three major wings are called the Richelieu, Sully and Denon and each reflects a bit of the history of the museum and its collection. 

When Henri IV took the throne in 1589, the country was nearly bankrupt.  There had been a succession of wars that left the royal coffers empty.  As Minister of Finance, the Duc de Sully was responsible for the dramatic improvements to the country's financial condition which allowed later Kings to create the stunning collections of art and palaces that are the basis of the sumptious patrimony of France.

Richelieu was a Catholic Cardinal who ran the country while Louis XIII was too young to govern and then worked with the king to rule France after Louis XIII ascended to the throne.  Once King, Louis XIII was more interested in hunting than art so one of the contributions made by Richelieu was to collect art for the King.  During this time, the Royal art collection grew from 200 works to 2,000.

Jean-Dominique Denon was the first director of the Louvre, then called Musée Napoleon.  Following the French revolution, the palaces and art belonging to the Royal family became property of the French government.  The musuem opened its doors in 1793.  In its infancy, there were only two rooms open to the public:  the Salon Carré and the Grand Galerie.  Today, with the exception of the Salle d'Etats which houses the Mona Lisa, these are two of the most visited rooms in the museum.

Practical tips for visiting the Louvre Museum

1. If possible, avoid the main entrance.  The little-known "Porte de Lions" entrance is rarely crowded.  At this entrance you can buy your ticket and enter immediately.  Note - this entrance is not always open so check the hours before going.  Once inside, you can make your way towards the Pyramid by following the Pyramid symbols posted at gallery doors.

2. Plan ahead and spend some time thinking about what you'd like to see.  If you plan your route before arriving, you can avoid wasting time lost or looking for things.

3. The Louvre maps provided free of charge have indications to the most visited works.  If you want to find something in particular, the multi-lingual staff at the information desk can access their database to tell you the room number of a specific work.  Its helpful to have the name of the work and artist for them.

4. Wheelchairs are available free of charge at the Information desk.  You will need to leave some form of identification as security.  While they may ask for your passport, you can also leave a US drivers license or another form of government issued photo-id. 

5. Wheelchair maps are available on request.  These are helpful even if you're not in a wheelchair but someone in your group would prefer to avoid the stairs when possible.

Louvre Museum - Practical Information

The museum is open every day except Tuesdays and the following French holidays: December 25, January 1, May 1, and August 15.

Entrance fee: 9.50€ for full-day admission to the permanent collection. Wednesday and Friday evenings the museum is open til 10:00 pm and a 6.5€ admission ticket is available from 6:00 to 9:45 pm.

Opening hours
- Monday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday: from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Wednesday, Friday: from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

- December 24 and 31: from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Note: Rooms begin closing 30 minutes before museum closing time.

Entrances to the museum (open every day except Tuesday)
- Pyramid and Galerie du Carrousel entrances: from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Passage Richelieu entrance: from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Porte des Lions entrance: from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except Friday.

Admission to the permanent collection is free on the first Sunday of every month and on July 14.

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