The Louvre – A few tips on how to visit the museum

Louvre Pyramid

It’s Bastille Day in France and the entrance to the Louvre is exceptionally free to celebrate. Today also marks the reopening of the Islamic Art gallery after this spring’s floods. The Louvre is the subject of popular posts on my blog: the Napoleon III rooms and the Ancient Egypt mummies still figure among my most-read posts years after I wrote them. So I thought I’d round up a few pieces of advice for your next visit.

Louvre Victoire de Samothrace

Is the Louvre the right museum for you? Make sure the kind of art you want to see can indeed be viewed at the Louvre. Its collections cover art until 1848. If your thing is Impressionism, head to Musée d’Orsay (which I much prefer, by the way). Likewise, if you like Modern art only, you will need to explore other options.

Watch out for free entrance days. If you can, visit on one of the 1st Sundays of the month when the entrance is free (October to March). Otherwise, tickets are at 15€.

Arrive early in the morning. I waited about 30 minutes before entering, which is reasonable. When I glimpsed outside later in the day, I saw the lines had extended far beyond what I had expected.

Louvre Baigneuse Valpincon IngresLouvre Lady in BlueLouvre Girl in pink

Prepare your itinerary and target only a few galleries to visit. The Louvre is HUGE and you won’t be able to see it all within 1 day. (You probably gathered from the pictures above that I am a 19th-century fangirl.)

Wear comfortable shoes. See above: the Louvre is huge and you will be walking for hours.

Louvre Joconde Mona Lisa

Be prepared to fight your way to see Mona Lisa. Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is no doubt a masterpiece, but do not expect a life-changing experience when viewing it. The painting is kept under a glass case. Visitors are kept at a distance with a cord. Dozens of people try to catch a decent glimpse, picture or selfie while security guards loudly chat about what they did the night before. In short, there is no way you can truly appreciate the painting in these conditions.

 

Louvre AngelinaLouvre Angelina cakes

Lunch! I enjoyed lunch at Angelina. Their restaurant is within the museum, a short walk from Napoléon III’s apartments. Yes, it is a bit pricey but it has a view on the Pyramid. And if your entrance to the Louvre was free, well, I believe that you can treat yourself to balance things out. Otherwise, there are lunch options underneath the Pyramid but they were less attractive. The choice was limited to a windowless cafeteria or a Paul with very few seats.

View from Louvre on Pyramid

Look out for stunning views of Paris. Don’t just look at the art.

Louvre Objets d'art 1Louvre Objets d'art 2

If you do not have the time to visit Versailles, visit the Department of Decorative Arts. The rooms hold collections similar to what you would see in the palace outside Paris. While beautiful, it does not have the same emotional dimension as if you where really in Versailles though.

Louvre Pavillon de l'Horloge

Check out the history of the Louvre. While you may not choose to visit the newly-organized Pavillon de l’Horloge, where you can learn all about the history of the palace, it would be a shame not to look it up. The Louvre was the home of the Kings of France up until Louis XIV lived in Versailles. You can still see the medieval part of the building, which is quite impressive.

Louvre Flamands

Enjoy your visit! If you have other advice on how to best visit the Louvre, I would love to hear about it.

Opera night in Venice – La Fenice

La Fenice Venice room

La Fenice was the first place I visited in Venice. It happened to be close to my amazing hotel and since I love going to the opera in Paris, it seemed fitting that I start my tour of the city there.

La Fenice a été ma première visite à Venise. Il était proche de mon merveilleux hôtel et j’adore aller à l’opéra à Paris donc ce choix s’est vite imposé.

Venice La Fenice lobby

La Fenice lobby

After finding my way through a maze of bridges and canals, I arrived at the legendary opera house. I paid an additional fee to have the authorization to take pictures during my visit and had to put a sticker on my camera. (Though there was security in the room, I am not sure this rule is really respected.) Visits are done with audioguides with interesting comments on the history of the building.

Après avoir suivi un dédale de ponts et canaux, je suis arrivée au légendaire opéra. En plus de mon billet pour la visite, j’ai dû payer pour avoir l’autorisation de prendre des photos à l’intérieur, signalée par un autocollant sur mon iPhone. (Je ne suis pas sure que cette règle soit réellement respectée, même s’il y avait des gardes dans la salle.) Les visites se font avec un audioguide qui donne des commentaires intéressants sur l’histoire du lieu.

La Fenice room large

La Fenice Venice boxes

Though I found the lobby quite subdued in style, the auditorium literally took my breath away. It made me think of a jewel box with its relatively small size and the ravishing details of the baby blue and gold decorations. I sat in one of the pink velvet seats for a good while to take it all in and admire the ceiling. It was hard to believe that La Fenice (meaning “the phoenix” in Italian) had been rebuilt several times since 1792 due to a history of fires. The last one happened in 1996 and destroyed the theatre completely. It was only in 2003 that La Fenice reopened and truly the interior does not look so recent.

Si l’entrée m’a parue étonnamment sobre, j’ai eu le souffle coupé en entrant dans la salle de spectacle. J’avais l’impression de me trouver dans une boîte à bijoux avec sa taille relativement petite et la richesse des ornements or et bleu clair. Je me suis assise pendant de longues minutes dans l’un des fauteuils de velours rose pour admirer la décoration et le plafond. Toute cette beauté cache une histoire mouvementée : La Fenice (« le phoenix » en italien) a été endommagé plusieurs fois par de graves incendies depuis sa construction en 1792. Le dernier date de 1996 et c’est seulement en 2003 que La Fenice a rouvert ses portes. Il est difficile de croire que la décoration soit si récente quand on y est.

La Fenice ceiling

La Fenice clock

La Fenice Venice seats stage

The set for the performance of La Traviata, the first opera staged at La Fenice when it reopened in 2003 – Les décors de La Traviata, le premier opéra donné à La Fenice lors de sa réouverture en 2003

The Imperial Loggia facing the stage is said to have the best view. It was built for Napoleon when Venice was under French domination. Again, I sat there for a while to observe the rich decoration.

On dit que la loge impériale a la meilleure vue sur la scène. Elle a été construite pour Napoléon alors que Venise était sous domination française. Là aussi, je me suis assise pendant de longues minutes pour observer la richesse de la décoration, comme ces miroirs qui se reflètent à l’infini.

La Fenice Imperial loggia 1

La Fenice Imperial loggia 2

I did not plan on seeing a show at La Fenice. When I prepared my trip, remaining tickets for La Traviata were above 150€ on Internet and then the show appeared to be sold out anyway. I tried my luck at the box office after my visit and it turned out they still had affordable tickets for the opera that very night. I managed to get a 2nd row seat in a side box for 45€ with a pretty good view.

I enjoyed Robert Carsen’s creative and modern staging of La Traviata on top of the beautiful music and singing. A scene that struck me for instance was the 2nd act when Violetta and Alfredo are in the countryside. The curtain opens on a forest with leaves covering the ground and falling from the ceiling; you quickly realize the leaves are actually dollar bills to show how money and appearances corrupt feelings in the plot. In the end, seeing this masterpiece in such a beautiful opera made my trip extra special.

Je n’avais pas prévu de voir un spectacle à La Fenice. Lorsque je préparais mon voyage, il n’y avait plus que des places à 150€ minimum pour La Traviata, puis c’est vite devenu complet de toute façon. Après ma visite, j’ai tenté ma chance au guichet et il se trouve qu’il restait des places aux tarifs abordables pour le soir même. Je me suis offerte une place de 2ème rang dans une loge de côté pour 45€ avec une vue plutôt bonne.

La Traviata mise en scène par Robert Carsen m’a beaucoup plu par sa modernité et sa créativité, en plus de la musique et des performances vocales. Le début de l’acte II m’a frappée par exemple : le rideau s’ouvre sur une forêt avec des feuilles recouvrant le sol et tombant du plafond. On se rend vite compte que les feuilles sont en fait des billets de banque symbolisant la domination de l’argent et des apparences dans l’histoire. Voir cet opéra dans un lieu aussi beau a vraiment contribué à rendre mon séjour spécial, d’autant plus que c’était inattendu.

La Fenice side box 2

La Fenice side box 1

For classical music lovers, Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons are performed regularly in the very church where the composer worked, Santa Maria della Pieta. It is located within walking distance of the Piazza San Marco and tickets cost 25€ (details here). I went to the concert on my 2nd night in Venice and though the acoustics were not perfect, it was still a nice way to end my day in the city.

Si vous aimez la musique classique, les 4 Saisons de Vivaldi sont données en concert dans l’église Santa Maria della Pieta où le compositeur travaillait. Elle est proche de la place Saint-Marc et les billets sont à 25€ (détails ici). J’ai trouvé que l’acoustique n’était pas parfaite mais c’était néanmoins une façon très agréable de terminer ma deuxième journée à Venise.