Explore the history behind the world’s most famous museum with us.
One of the few drawbacks of leading tours at the Louvre is that you sometimes miss the forest for the trees. Don’t get me wrong. The Louvre boasts some of the world’s finest trees, like the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory, and they are well worth your time. But what a forest they live in, and what a shame it would be to miss it! There’s no danger of that with our new tour, The History of the Louvre.
Preparing this tour gave me the chance to explore questions visitors are often too busy to stop and think about: How did a royal residence survive the tumult of the French Revolution? Where did the French kings and queens actually live? Why was I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid so controversial when it was unveiled in 1989?
Instead of rushing inside, I wanted to give visitors a chance to drink in all the stony elegance of the Louvre’s exterior. One of my favorite outdoor spots is the Louvre’s Cour Carrée, an enclosed courtyard, just behind Pei’s show-stopping entrance. When you enter it, the hustle and bustle of the city suddenly ceases. Here, we take our time to talk about the many cooks in the kitchen when the Louvre was built, and notice Henry’s Hs, Louis’ Ls and Charles’ Ks (for Karolus in Latin) that occasionally pop up on the facades like letters in an alphabet soup. I can’t help but wonder, were the kings of France driven by the same impulse that compels modern-day graffiti artists to scrawl “I was here” on buildings today?
Inside, we visit the foundations of the original 12th-century fortress, the kings’ and queens’ rooms, Louis XIV’s sumptuous Apollo Gallery — the prototype for his Versailles Palace, in all its bombastic Baroque glory — and finally the Napoleon III apartments, preserved with Second Empire furnishings and chandeliers. My favorite stop is Anne of Austria’s summer apartments, where the mother of Louis XIV could sit on a balcony overlooking the Seine and contemplate the weight of the charge that fell to her when her son ascended the throne at the tender age of five… or simply sip champagne, according to her mood!
This tour is a wonderful compliment to our Introduction to the Treasures of the Louvre, but also works well on its own.