Louvre Palace History with Tips and Pics

When I approach the Louvre my heart races. Before I set eyes on one painting or sculpture, I feast on the biggest work of all—the building itself. The renowned Paris Louvre has a palatial history far pre-dating its current iteration as an art museum. The building has experienced many architectural transformations from its earliest days in 1190 when Philippe Auguste ordered construction of a fortress on the banks of the Seine. As the city grew, the Louvre no longer stood prominently in a defensive position. Under Charles V then, the Louvre became a royal residence and his architect, Raymond du Temple, constructed grand staircases and elaborate windows (1364-1369). In 1527, François I inaugurated a new phase of building (remnants of the medieval structure can be seen today). The creation of the Tuileries (Catherine de Medici) once again caused a rethinking of the Louvre and the two palaces were eventually connected. Throughout the years, famed artists such as Bernini had their hands in its design and the Louvre continued to grow in size and elegance. Under the “Sun King” Louis XIV, the Louvre saw magnificent embellishments including the Galerie d’Apollon (reminds me of Versailles). By the 18th century, the Louvre became less of a royal palace and more of a place exalting the arts and sciences. When Louis XVI was king, the Louvre started exhibiting royal paintings to the public. During the French Revolution, it became a formal museum and opened its doors on August 10, 1793. Its collections grew as the new republic seized the estates of French nobles. The campaigns, especially Egyptian, of Napoleon I further enhanced the museum’s holdings. Today, the frescoed ceilings, paneled walls, gilded moldings, and marbled interiors of this 403-room (according to pocket guide, I didn’t count) palace are a perfect place to contemplate the treasures within. I encourage you to travel there yourself and embrace the Louvre’s palace history, as well as its fabulous holdings.

Louvre Tips and  Tricks:

  • There are long lines at this famed Paris art gallery, but Paris Museum Pass holders can avoid those lines for Louvre tickets and still enter through the famed pyramid. Alternatively, the entrance at the Porte des Lions has less traffic, but is not always open so check before you go. Also, I avoid days when admission is waived, since the museum has larger crowds.
  • Taking a tour, like one offered by The Paris Guy, saves time wasted standing in line and with my code, ROAMING, you can save 5% of the price of this small-group tour.
  • Pick a few pieces that you must see and view those. The Louvre can be overwhelming and you might hit a point of diminishing return where the more you see, the less you are able to appreciate it. Make a plan to come back. I follow this little piece of advice with every art museum—I’m able to have my fill without feeling like I overindulged.

Going to France? Roaming Historian readers can save money on The Paris Guy tours. Enjoy their small-group Paris tours and skip-the-line access at the Louvre, the Catacombs, & Versailles.  Just use the code “ROAMING” when booking to save 5% off. Bon voyage!