The Louvre Museum Express Tour

Navigating Paris’ most famous museum may be a bit overwhelming, even for the most avid museum enthusiast.

The Louvre houses over 35,000 pieces of art, displayed across an area that covers 60,600 square meters. Add to the fact that the museum receives around 10 million visitors each year, it’s easy to understand why navigating the Louvre’s treasures can be more than a little daunting.

Louvre Express Tour Paris

(Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Blieusong)

Whether you’re looking for a basic introduction to the museum, or stopping by on a whirlwind tour of the city, an ‘Express Tour’ might be just what you’re looking for, especially if time and interest may not allow for a full-fledged visit.

For my friends and family who come to visit in Paris, I often take them on a short tour of the museum incorporating the Louvre’s three famous ladies: Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the Greek statue of Venus de Milo, and the winged Nike of Samothrace.

Mona Lisa:

The eyebrow-less, enigmatic subject of Italian master Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous and recognizable works of art is often the beeline towards which most visitors to the Louvre will dash. Perhaps the first and most obvious cry form their lips will be “It’s so small!”

Mona Lisa Louvre Express Tour ParisThe Mona Lisa can be found in the Denon wing of the Louvre’s first floor.

Venus de Milo:

Also known as the Aphrodite of Milos, as it is said to be a depiction of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. No one really knows when or how here arms were amputated but this just leads to the enigma of the statue.

Venus de Milo Louvre Express Tour ParisLocated on the ground floor of the Denon wing, along with two of my favorite pieces: Michelangelo’s Dying Slave and Canova’s depiction of Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss.

Nike of Samothrace:

Another famous Greek goddess graces the halls of the Louvre, this time Nike, the goddess of victory. It is apt then, that this beautiful statue is referred to as the ‘Winged Victory of Samothrace’.

Victory Nike of Samothrace Louvre Express Tour Paris

Occupying its prime spot on the landing of the central Daru staircase in the Louvre, it is quite hard to miss this masterpiece, even on the shortest of visits.

Victory Nike of Samothrace Louvre Express Tour Paris

 

Whilst many tour operators can offer you this short guided visit, the Louvre map (handed to you when your purchase your ticket) will suffice for a self-guided tour, as these three important works of art are well signed.

Hopefully your visit to Paris will allow the opportunity to visit this wonderful museum in detail, but if not, catching a glimpse of these beauties should leave you feeling culturally satisfied.

PS: Tour not complete without prerequisite tourist picture: ‘touching’ the point of the Louvre pyramid 😉

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24 Hours in Paris

Whether you’re just popping in for a business trip with a sightseeing day to spare, or a very short sejour as part of a whirlwind European tour; if you’re hoping to catch the sights and sounds of Paris in just a day, don’t fret: Paris is very doable in 24 hours.

Of course the travel connoisseurs out there will laugh off the idea that a city as complex and mysterious as Paris would reveal herself to anyone in just a day…and I would be the first to agree! Paris, like many European cities, has a rich and extensive history. The best parts of the city are usually found away from the tourist crowds, and I highly advocate getting lost, on foot, to truly unearth her essence.  But if all you have, for one reason or the other, is a mere 24 hours, then well, you’re damn well going to want to make those hours count!

Louvre pyramid

The majestic Louvre Pyramid

The idea of this post came up when a friend of mine wrote me asking for tips on what to see in Paris, noting that she only had a very limited time to spend in the city.

Here’s what I came up with:

If you’ve skipped your hotel breakfast, or if you’ve just got in on an early Eurostar train, the first thing you’d want to do is locate your nearest boulangerie (bakery) to buy some croissant or pain au chocolat, still warm from the morning’s baking. Whilst it quite rare to find a badly baked croissant in Paris, there is still that possibility, so look for boulangeries with a line of locals – always a good sign!

A belly full of authentic (and delicious) French patisserie is the French way to start your day. Seriously, just ask the locals!

With only a little time in this incredible city, you’d probably want to try to see Paris’ most famous sites.

If you’re a museum buff, head for the Louvre museum (metro line 1, 7; Palais Royal Musée de Louvre). While I would personally advocate for a visit to the Musée d’Orsay instead of the Louvre, if it’s your first time in Paris, you should definitely do a short tour of the Louvre that allows you to see the museum’s three famous ladies: Leonardo da Vinci’s “La Jaconde” (Mona Lisa), the Greek statue of Venus de Milo, and the winged Victory of Samothrace. Several Louvre ‘express tours’ are available to ensure you see these three important works of art, but really, the standard Louvre map provided with your ticket will suffice for a quick, self-guided tour.

Louvre three famous ladies

The Louvre’s Famous Ladies

After the Louvre, you’d want to hop back on the line 1, and head all the way to metro stop ‘Franklin Roosevelt’. As you ascend from the depths of the metro, you will be greeted by the swarming crowds on the Champs-Élysées. Stroll up this street, for a little taste of Parisian shopping. The huge chain stores and luxury brands will certainly be tempting, but avoid eating along this street, as the food is a tourist trap. (read more on the 7 best shopping streets in Paris here).

Up ahead you will find the magnificent Arc de Triomphe. To actually wind up under the Arc itself, or to climb to the top for great views of the Champs-Élysées all the way to the Concorde, make your way back underground, to access the entry passage – do not even think about crossing the traffic circle!

Arc de triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

Once you’ve snapped sufficient photos, I’d recommend getting back into the metro at ‘Charles de Gaulle Etoile’, and riding the line 2 until you reach ‘Place de Clichy’. A few streets away you will find a restaurant called ‘Le Bouclard’. With the cozy interior and the hearty French dishes on the menu, you’re bound to find the makings for a satisfying lunch. (Le Bouclard, 1 rue Cavallotti, 75018, Paris)

If you prefer something lighter get off at the metro stop ‘Pigalle’ instead, and head for Le Miroir. You will be welcomed into a friendly bistro-type setting where you can enjoy a salad and a delicious cappuccino. (Le Miroir, 94 Rue des Martyrs, 75018 Paris)

Right around the corner, you’ll find the famous Moulin Rouge, and if you follow the throngs of people heading upward, you’ll be on your way to the impressive Basilica of Sacre Cœur, found at the very summit of butte Montmarte. The views over Paris from the courtyard of the church are to die for, and a visit inside the basilica to gaze at the impressive organ and stained glass windows, is a must.

Basilica of Sacré Cœur

Basilica of Sacré Cœur

Afterwards, you could always take the funicular to reach the bottom again – a different experience from climbing back down all those stairs! For a view of a neighborhood that doesn’t conform to picturesque Paris, head for the ‘Barbès-Rochechouart’ metro stop a short walk away where you can take the line 4 all the way to ‘Saint Michel’stop. There are plenty of souvenir shops dotting the streets around St Michel, so if you really need to buy a T-shirt that reads: ‘J’adore Paris’ or a hundred Eiffel Tower key chains, this would be the place. Although I implore you, please don’t buy tacky Eiffel Tower key chains! Local cheese and wine make much better souvenirs, guaranteed to be loved by friends and family alike. There are also some nice clothing shops in the St Michel area, particularly along Boulevard St. Germain; and the Luxembourg Garden a short stroll away gives a welcome break from the pavement pounding.

Saint Michel

Saint Michel

The must-see monument near St Michel is of course the incredible gothic cathedral of Notre Dame. Just cross the Seine on Ile Saint Louis – the impressive spires of the cathedral along with the spooky gargoyles staring incessantly down at you. A visit inside the cathedral is worthwhile if the queues aren’t overwhelming.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

I’d recommend heading back to your hotel at this point, for a little relaxation or a shower before heading down to the docks for an afternoon cruise along the Seine. There are numerous companies that offer Seine river cruises, and these can range from a simple one hour cruise with a guide, to a full 3-course dinner cruise. It’s important to note however that different companies begin their tours at different points along the Seine. While the Bateau Mouches is probably the most famous, I’d rather head over to Pont Neuf (literally translated – New Bridge, but contrary to the name, is one of the oldest bridges in Paris), for a cruise with Vedettes de Point Neuf. There are usually discount tickets available for purchase online beforehand, and these cruises are typically smaller and less crowded that those of Bateau Mouches. I’d also aim to take the cruise as late as possible, to ensure that the most famous attractions of Paris are lit up. It’s not called the City of Lights for nothing!

Bateaux Mouches

Fly Boat? Bateaux Mouches

In a little over an hour you’ll be treated to the amazing sights of Paris’ most iconic attractions, from the Eiffel Tower to the Alexander Bridge, from Musée d’Orsay to the Notre Dame cathedral, which looks even spookier as darkness falls.

For dinner, if you’re looking  for bragging rights, and you’re in a position to splurge, you could always go to the restaurant where King Henri IV supposedly dined quite frequently – the Tour d’Argent, along the left bank of the Seine just near Notre Dame itself. (La Tour d’Argent15 Quai de la Tournelle, 75005 Paris)

la tour d argent

The incredible view from la Tour d’Argent (source: latourdargent.com)

If you’d rather experience authentic Paris with a smaller price tag, head for Place Dauphine as soon as you disembark your cruise. This typical neighborhood with a host of café’s, bars and creperies will leave you feeling immersed in Parisian culture.

My preference though, would be to head for the Marais – Paris’ famous Jewish Quarter, where there are additional dining choices.  The falafels are a must try, and the area makes for ideal people-watching as the city’s trendy population whizzes by. (Metro Line 1, Saint Paul)

Depending on your remaining energy and enthusiasm, you could then put on your dancing shoes and head out to one of Paris’ trendy nightclubs. For my part, I would rather head over to the Trocadero square, bottle of wine in hand, where I’d bid au revoir to the City of Lights as the Eiffel Tower puts on her very best sparkle show.

Eiffel Tower

All that Glitters…