In Paris I needed a little more culture, especially since my trip to Brussels was more about trying every Belgium beer, chocolate … and man. Luckily Paris is the most cultured city in the world, home to many of the globe’s best museums.
While everyone knows of the Louvre and the fact that it’s home to Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, few realize how gigantic the museum is prior to stepping foot inside. You’d need at least a week to really see everything, and that’s no exaggeration.
The Louvre is the largest museum in the world, as well as the most visited. Last year it received 8.1 million visitors. So be prepared for it to be packed. And prepare for a serious wait if you go during the weekend. (Definitely buy tickets online, but still, there will likely be a wait.)
While I enjoyed the Louvre, I did it all wrong. It’s a labyrinth in there, and the map they give you isn’t much help. I found myself stuck in a section with ancient Greek vases and headless busts for a solid 45 minutes. I also somehow ended up in the fortress section, all about the history of the Louvre over the past 800 years. While both were interesting, they weren’t exactly what I was trying to see at the Louvre, and it tired me out.
I felt like I went to an all-you-can-eat buffet and accidentally filled up on bread.
Still, there were more than a few pieces art appreciators will recognize. Venus de Milo was proudly displayed, along with, of course, Mona Lisa.
If you’re looking to be disappointed, look no further. Lisa is tiny. Also, there will be swarms of tourists surrounding her, all snapping pictures. The whole thing felt very Black Mirror to me.
Here’s my artistic, post-apocalyptic photo I took of everyone taking photos of the Mona Lisa.
Okay, so final notes on the Louvre: Yes, it’s a must-see, but (1) don’t fill up on bread, (2) have a game plan before heading in so you see what you’d like to see, and (3) don’t expect much from Mona Lisa.
Also, this was me at the end.
But onto Musée d’Orsay. I had never heard of the museum prior to arriving, but in my humble opinion it was far better than the Louvre.
The structure itself is beautiful, housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a railway station built at the turn of the century. The museum contains the largest collection of impressionism, post-impressionism and neo-impressionism in the world. Also, one of the largest clocks in the world, which I took an artsy photo in front of (at top).
Impressionism to me screams French, which is partly why I enjoyed the museum so much. Musée d’Orsay has multiple paintings by Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec and Van Gogh. All the greats.
Many of the pieces you will without a doubt recognize, but unlike Mona Lisa, they won’t feel lackluster. There’s a difference when observing these paintings in the flesh.
Like the Louvre, though, you should definitely buy your Musée d’Orsay ticket beforehand, and if you go on the weekend, be prepared to wait. I went to the Louvre on a Friday and there was no wait. On Saturday, when I went to Musée d’Orsay, I bought tickets beforehand and still waited an hour to get inside.
Also, I wouldn’t recommend doing both of these museums in one day, unless you’re only in Paris for 24 hours. Even for an art lover, it’s a lot of art and a lot of walking and waiting in lines.
Zachary Zane is traveling through Europe for the month of March for Hornet, documenting gay nightlife, sex, and LGBT culture in each of the cities he visits. Find the entire travel series here.
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