The 1st district of Paris extends west to east from the Tuileries Gardens to the Place du Châtelet. It is rich with museums, including the most famous of all: the Louvre. But the area also contains some of the city’s earliest religious monuments and gives us the airy and relaxing Tuileries Gardens.
Musée du Louvre
Musée du Louvre
99 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
Metro station: Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre. Main entrance at the Pyramid
Website - tel : 01 40 20 53 17
Price : €15. Free for EU citizens under 26 years old (free for non-EU citizens under 18 years old).
This pass allows access to the permanent collections and to the temporary exhibitions at the Louvre and the Eugène-Delacroix Museum.
Opening times : Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday : 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ; Wednesday and Friday : 9 a.m. to 9 :45 p.m. ; Closed on Tuesdays
Shopping : Book store, museum boutique, shops, cafés and restaurants
The Louvre museum is one of the oldest, largest and richest museums in the world. Operating as a museum since 1793, the Louvre brings together works of Western art from the Middle Ages to 1848, of oriental ancient civilizations, of Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman graphic arts and of Islamic arts.
The Louvre is above all the crown gem of the kings of France, its emperors and its presidents. From the dark fortress of the late 12th century to the glass pyramid of I. M. Pei, opened in 1989, many have ruled Paris and almost all have left their mark. Since the construction of the Tuileries Palace a few hundred meters away until its demolition in 1871, a series of extensions were made to connect the two royal residences.
History of the Louvre
In the 12th century, at the current location of the museum, sat a powerful fortified castle marking the boundaries of the medieval city. At the time it was used as a military arsenal.
The "Low Room" is the only remnant of the medieval Louvre interior (13th century), but its original function remains unknown. Over the following centuries, mainly because of the Hundred Years War, fortifications were pursued and developed. Gradually the Louvre lost its protective role and was absorbed by the new surrounding neighborhoods. From the 16th century onward, important developments to this dark fortress transformed it into a sumptuous royal residence. Gardens were created and its interiors were decorated with sculptures, tapestries and woodwork. But the history of the Louvre took a final turn when François I decided to move to Paris in 1527. The Middle Ages then gave way to the Louvre Renaissance.
From the Louvre to the Tuileries
Construction near the Tuileries Palace (1572) accelerated the grand destiny of this exceptional architectural complex and gave the succession of kings a common goal over the years : link the two palaces. In 1664, under Louis XV, the center of the monument already looked as it does today.
1793 : Opening of the Central Museum of Arts
The Central Museum of Arts opened its doors on August 10, 1793 and has since operated as a museum. The acquisition of collections made it necessary to expand into the numerous rooms and different floors of the building.
At first, the museum served to enrich the conquests of Napoleon (paintings and ancient sculptures from Italy) and then in the 19th century the following were opened in succession: the gallery of modern sculptures, the Maritime Museum, the Spanish Louis-Philippe gallery, the Assyrian museum, the Mexican museum, the Algerian and ethnological museum, museum of the sovereign, the Napoleon Museum (Campana collection), the rooms devoted to Susa (Iran), and finally the completion of the connection with the Tuileries Palace. But during the events of the town in 1871, the Tuileries Palace, symbol of royalty, was burned by the Communards. It was finally demolished in 1883.
In the 20th century, museum collections occupied the entire building, though during World War II the collections were evacuated and the museum was temporarily closed. Some collections were moved into other more thematic museums of the capital, such as the Maritime Museum to the Palais de Chaillot and the Asian collections to the Guimet Museum. The Glass Pyramid, built by I. M. Pei, was inaugurated on March 30, 1989. Built in the center of the Napoleon Court, it became the main entrance of the museum. The Richelieu wing, the largest expansion since the museum’s establishment two centuries earlier, opened in 1993.
The former palace of the kings of France holds collections of the West and of Islam (up to the mid-19th century), and a selection of African, Asian, Oceanic and American arts. A universal museum, it houses 35,000 works divided into eight departments: Oriental antiquities; Egyptian antiquities; Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities; Islamic art; sculptures; works of art; paintings and graphic arts. In addition to these collections, there is a section on the history of the Louvre including the base of the tower and the medieval moat built by Philippe Auguste in 1190.
Visit the Louvre : the (many) options
Guided tours of the Louvre (time : 1 hour, 30 minutes) are presented by speakers of the National Museums. You can discover the museum's collections through a selection of works from a specific period, or an artistic movement or theme (there are 43!). The different options would be impossible to detail here. But if you are preparing your first visit to the Louvre, the "Masterpieces of the Louvre" tour allows you to discover the most famous works of art. The architectural promenade allows visitors to understand the various facets of the Louvre. As for the musical tour, it leads visitors to the works of art that represent a dialogue between painting and music. In addition to these options, the Louvre organizes more specific tours. These lecture visits focus on a particular theme in the history of art, a period, a genre or an artist.
Discovering the Louvre with the family
Though it may seem tedious for children, every effort is made to ensure that the discovery of the museum is fascinating for all. The museum offers activities for children and families, introductions to artistic techniques, an auditorium for special presentations, a multimedia guide ... But above all, on Sundays and during school holidays, a facilitator offers 30 minutes of tips for discovering the works while having fun before attacking the museum’s many rooms and hallways. This is a good introduction to art for children 6 years old and up, as well as adults, and is a free service. Other free services for families include : strollers, baby carriers, wheelchairs and folding chairs, all available at the central information desk.
Workshops and tours for children
For children from 4 to 13 years old, the museum offers painting, modeling and photography workshops to demonstrate artistic techniques and learn more about different civilizations. Workshops for the whole family are available (6 years old and up), allowing adults and their children to discover and better understand the museum's collections.
Children can visit the museum using a toolkit along with a guided thematic course on sculptures and techniques, the role of light in a picture, etc.
Thematic Tour Example
The "Masterpieces of the Museum" tour invites you to discover 12 major works of the Louvre:
Remains of the Louvre’s moat, from Philip Augustus and Charles V
Around 1200, fearing an English invasion, Philippe Auguste built a fortified castle on the outskirts of the city (see "History of the Louvre"). When Francis I decided to build a palace in the Renaissance style, the fortress was razed. Perfectly preserved in the Carrée Court, the remains of the moat were uncovered during excavations in the 1980s and presented to the public in 1989.
"The Great Sphinx of Tanis" (Department of Egypitian antiquities).
It was under the leadership of Champollion (who deciphered hieroglyphics) that the statue was acquired in 1826. Carved more than 4,000 years ago, mixing images of a lion and a king, this monumental work is a major technical and artistic masterpiece.
Aphrodite, known as the Venus de Milo
This sculpture is a representation of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty dating from about 100 BC. An impassive and emotionless facial expression and ideal physical proportions represent the beauty of the gods, the feminine ideal, and the pursuit of absolute beauty. Commonly called "Venus de Milo", its name comes from the name of the Greek island where it was unearthed in 1822. A truly timeless masterpiece.
The Winged Victory of Samothrace
Discovered broken in 1863 on the island of Samothrace, this statue depicts the Greek goddess of victory, Nike. It was made around the 2nd century BC. The statue was visible from afar by ships and brought them the protection of the gods. Its proportions, gestures, staging, and flapping drapes express a search for a sincere artistic realism.
The Oath of the Horatii (1785)
This painting may be the masterpiece of neoclassical painting. By Jacques Louis David, the painting recounts an episode in the life of the Horatii sons more than 2,000 years ago. Light, staging, decor, intensity and rendering are so realistic that the painter seems to have been a spectator at the scene.
Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon and Coronation of the Empress Josephine
Napoleon Bonaparte commissioned this painting by Jacques Louis David to immortalize his coronation in Notre Dame on December 2, 1804. It took three years for the artist to finish his work. The scene takes place in the choir of the cathedral in a grandiose setting.
The return to reality was not Napoleon’s goal for the depiction, and indeed the scene seems fictional: his mother is present in the painting when in reality she was absent that day as she was angry with her son. The physical beauty of Napoleon and Josephine is greatly exaggerated and probably does not reflect reality. The artist, a diplomat as ever, clearly glossed over some harsh truths to serve the political purposes of the Emperor. The lighting in the scene is striking and the attention to detail is pushed to its climax.
An Odalisque (concubine), called La Grande Odalisque (1814)
With this female nude, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres recounts his passion for the Orient, here enhanced by a harem woman. A recurring theme in his overall work, he does not hesitate to gloss over realistic details, and you will notice that the proportions of the woman do not reflect the real, anatomical proportions of a body. But what matters most to Ingres are the sensual curves he recreates in his painting. Too avant-garde for its time, it nonetheless inspired many painters and modern artists like Picasso.
The Wedding at Cana
We owe this monumental canvas to Veronese, brilliant painter of 16th-century Venice. It recounts the first miracle of Christ at the wedding at Cana. Relocated to a Venetian décor, this painting amazes in its use of color, contrast and perspective. In the right foreground there is a character pouring water into wine, and two characters behind him look on at the miracle. The painting depicts a rich pageantry and dishes, however this episode of the Bible is supposed to have happened in a much more modest setting.
The Mona Lisa
With this painting Leonardo de Vinci created one of his most remarkable works. Its exceptional pictorial technique, light setting, contours and aerial perspective are mastered to perfection. However, the aging canvas tarnished the bright colors originally used by the artist. The woman pictured represents the perfect woman, a platonic beauty. This is probably a portrait of Monna ("Lady") Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, begun in Florence between 1503 and 1507.
The Raft of the Medusa
Theodore Gericault is a precursor of critical thinking applied to art. Creating a scandal upon its introduction in 1819, The Raft of the Medusa, with its captain adrift, is a metaphor for the unstable and unsure leadership at the time, a critique of royal power. In the image a huge wave prepares to engulf the survivors of the unstable raft, and in contrast to this destruction, the shape of Argus (a giant) looms in the background, ready to help, though from the images there is no way to know the final fate of the characters …
Liberty Leading the People (July 28, 1830)
In this painting, Eugène Delacroix recounts an episode of French history: the revolutionary riots of July 1830. The symbol of the Republic in her Phrygian cap, waving a tricolor flag, leads the people to power, expressing the will of freedom. This painting was scandalous at its introduction, not for his political stance, but by the physical representation of the Republic. This naked woman who guides the men is far from the allegorical representations of the perfect woman and the ideal of feminine beauty advocated by the painters of the time. In the background, behind the barricades, sit the towers of the Notre Dame Cathedral.
The Captives (1513)
These sculptures belong to a group otherwise housed at the museum of the Academy of Florence. From Michelangelo, they were meant to compose a monumental fresco to adorn the tomb of Pope Julius II. In the end, this project was not completed. One can see their incompleteness in the many tool marks on the sculptures, or in the hand of the rebellious slave still trapped in the unsculpted marble.
Musée de l’Orangerie
Jardin des Tuileries, 75001 Paris
Website - tel : 01 44 50 43 00
Metro station: Concorde
Full price/ reduced price : €9/ €6.50. Free for EU citizens under 26 years old (free for non-EU citizens under 18 years old).
Open daily except on Tuesdays : 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Composed of two major collections, Waterlilies by Claude Monet and the Walter-Guillaume collection, the museum also has several masterpieces of modern art, from artists such as Renoir and Picasso.
The Waterlilies collection is the expression of artistic thought by Claude Monet, the ambitious project of a painter who wanted to explore all the different variations of light in his garden at Giverny (Normandy).
This collection is a unique ensemble of classic-modern creations and impressionist paintings from the early 20th century.
Musée des Arts Décoratifs
107 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
Website - tel : 01 44 55 57 50
Metro station : Tuileries
Collectively called the 107 Museums, the Museum of Decorative Arts, the Museum of Fashion and Textiles and the Museum of Advertising are housed in the same locale.
Full price/Reduced price : €11/ €8.50. Free for EU citizens under 26 years old (free for non-EU citizens under 18 years old), permanent collection only).
Open daily except on Mondays: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. ; Thursday until 9 p.m.
An audio guide is included in the entry price. Wheelchair accessible. Tactile tours for the visually impaired. Multimedia library.
The Museum of Decorative Arts presents a comprehensive overview of the trends in decorative arts from the Middle Ages to the present day. It brings together productions from the greatest artists and craftsmen, whether carpenters, goldsmiths, potters, glassmakers or designers.
Church of Saint Germain l’Auxerrois
2 Place du Louvre, 75001 Paris
Website - tel : 01 42 60 13 96
Open from Tuesday to Sunday : 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The first Church of Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois was destroyed during the great siege of Paris by the Normans in 885 and 886. Rebuilt in the 11th century and later restyled, it was finally completed in 1580.
The façade of the church is decorated with statues, restored or replaced in the 19th century. In the center sits the Virgin and Child. To their left are Solomon, the Queen of Saba and Saint Vincent. To the right, Saint Germain, Saint Genevieve (the patron saint of the city) and an angel. The center of the façade is illuminated by a rose, and the truss is topped by a statue of the Archangel Michael. The church’s tower dates back to the 12th century.
Though rebuilt many times, the church has a large number of remarkable works of art and furniture dating back to the period between the 13th and 17th centuries.
Part of the stained glass dates back to the 16th century, and is found in both arms of the transept. To the north are illustrated scenes from the life of Christ. On the other side are scenes depicting the Incredulity of Saint Thomas and the Assumption of the Virgin. The statuary is particularly noticeable in the Chapel of the Virgin. One is Saint Germain, bishop of Auxerre (13th century), another, Saint Mary of Egypt (16th century). Above the altar stands a Madonna and Child from the 14th century and over the door of the tower, the Virgin called the Bird of the 15th century. At the entrance of the choir, two statues represent the patron saints of the building: Saint Germain and Saint Vincent (15th century). Two altarpieces dating from the 16th century are devoted to one of the episodes of the life of the Virgin, and the other to the Passion. In the 19th century the wall and the windows of the choir and the chapel paintings were added.
Regarding the furniture, of note in particular are the pulpit, the pew (17th century), and the organ from the Sainte-Chapelle (Holy Chapel)
Oratoire ( protestant temple)
145 Rue Saint-Honoré, 75001 Paris
Metro station: Louvre - Rivoli
Open on Sundays only
This temple was formerly a Catholic church. Representative of the 17th century churches in Paris, it showcases a Neo-classical organ from the 1930s.
S quares and Gardens
Le Jardin des Tuileries (The Tuileries garden)
Place de la Concorde, 75001 Paris
Metro station : Tuileries Concorde
April through September : 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.;
October through March : 7 :30 a.m. to 7 :30 p.m.
Free visits (in French) of the garden are organized on Sundays at 3 :30 p.m. from March to December, meeting point in front of the l’Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel du Louvre. Time : 1 hour, 15 minutes.
A beautiful park with many ancient and modern statues, French gardens, ponds and a maze. With its landscape art, its prospects and its sculptures, the garden offers the perfect setting for a break during your visit to the Louvre.
It is at this location that Catherine de Medici built the Tuileries Palace in 1564. At that time the palace already had a beautiful garden. A century later, landscape architect Le Nôtre redrew the park in a French style and opened a viewpoint toward the west, which later became the Champs-Elysees. In the 19th century, following the destruction of the palace, the Carrousel garden was created. The creation of these gardens significantly altered the urban organization of the city, marking the view of the Great Axis, which today extends from the Louvre to the Grande Arche de la Defense. The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, completed in 1808, was created on the model of the Roman arch of Emperor Septimius Severus. Its bas-reliefs recount the victories of Napoleon in the campaigns of 1805.
The Tuileries Garden offers a number of games and activities for children: small boats, trampolines, pony rides and a fun fair from June to August.
Place du Châtelet (Châtelet Square)
This square was created at the site of the Grand Châtelet, ancient fortress used as a prison and court under the old regime. In the center of the square stands the Fontaine du Palmier adorned with sphinxes and statues (1858). It is surmounted by a column erected in 1808 in honor of Napoleon's victories.
Théâtre du Châtelet (1862)
2 Rue Edouard Colonne, 75001 Paris
Website - tel : 01 40 28 28 40
Metro station: Châtelet, Cité or Hôtel de Ville
The Imperial Châtelet Theater was built at the request of Baron Haussmann during the same period as the current City Theater; the two face each other on opposite sides of the square. Initially dedicated to the theater program, it now hosts opera and classical music concerts. Currently closed for renovation but the cultural program continues in other places.
In the Surrounding area
Domaine National du Palais Royal (outside the perimeters of the Word Heritage site)
Jardin du Palais Royal, 8 Rue de Montpensier, 75001 Paris
- tel : 01 47 03 92 16
October through March : 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. ;
April through eptember : 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Free tour of the garden and courtyard. Guided tours available
Built for Cardinal Richelieu, the main body facing the Louvre was a royal residence during the 17th century. The work was completed and revised during the 18th and 19th centuries. The three wings that close the sides of the garden date back to the late 18th century.