Everybody knows the Louvre. It’s the unequivocally gigantic art museum of nearly 782,000 square feet that used to be the home of the late French high nobility. Built first as a fortress in the 12th century, by the 16th century it was a sprawling palatial complex that served as the king’s primary residence, but for Louis XIV, the most pompous of a pompous line of kings, the palace wasn’t enough and he had it moved out to Versailles. It was then used to house the king’s private art collection, and various salons of the Parisian intelligentsia. Since the Revolution, it’s served as the museum it currently is, with collections of various sizes depending on the power and range of the French Empire/Republic of the time.
The most famous piece in the Louvre is DaVinci’s “Mona Lisa”, a fairly boring piece that doesn’t even range among the artist’s best, but you know, the artist painted in a "mysterious smile" on his homely subject that's somehow dazzled millions ever since. There’s also a very broad range of his student’s studying how to draw people pointing, and more interestingly for me, David’s portraits of Napoleon and the various French Revolutions. There are hordes of people that are clearly there for only that painting though, so obviously, you just have to see it for yourself. Don’t expect being able to get close, as more people are crowding in to see it than if Leonardo Dicaprio were spotted eating gelato at the Eiffel Tower.
The Mona Lisa and her throngs of admirers
To really grasp most of the museum, you’ll need a full day or two. But it is possible to do a lightning tour of the most interesting stuff. Most of the museum isn’t art, but rather recreations of Napoleon III’s apartments, with all the glory and circumstance of his position, then there’s also a massive collection of stolen Greek and Roman statues. So if you’ve seen examples of those things elsewhere, like say the much superior collection of stolen goods at the British Museum, then you’ve no reason to attend to the Louvre’s.
First thing you should do is to go straight up to the top to the Northern Europe collection (read: Dutch). The Dutch collection houses a pretty impressive amount of Rembrandts and van Eyck (including the one where the woman is wearing that blue headpiece thing). Among the Rembrandt’s is a naked woman lounging around while an old lady is washing her feet, which must have been a common thing back during the Golden Age of the Dutch Republic.<