The Louvre is the world’s largest museum and houses one of the most impressive art collections in history. The magnificent, baroque-style palace and museum — LeMusée du Louvre in French — sits along the banks of the Seine River in Paris. It is one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions.

History of the Louvre
The Louvre was originally built as a fortress in 1190, but was reconstructed in the 16th century to serve as a royal palace. It continued to be expanded over the years. It currently covers a total area of 652,300 square feet (60,600 square meters). In 1793, Louis XIV moved the royal residence to Versailles, and the Louvre became an art museum, exhibiting the royal collection and artifacts. Under Napoleon’s reign, acquisitions came from conquered lands and the museum was known as Musée Napoleon. After his defeat at Waterloo, the museum returned to its original name.

Louvre paintings & other works
The Louvre’s collection includes Egyptian antiques, ancient Greek and Roman sculptures, paintings by the Old Masters, and crown jewels and other artifacts from French nobles. Its works span the sixth century B.C. to the 19th century A.D. More than 35,000 works are on display at any given time. The displays are divided into eight departments:Near Eastern Antiquities, Egyptian Antiquities, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, Islamic Art, Sculptures, Decorative Arts, Paintings, and Prints and Drawings.

Without question, The Louvre’s most famous work is Leonardo da Vinci’s "Mona Lisa," who enchants hordes of visitors with her enigmatic smile. This small, iconic painting — it is only 21 by 30 inches (53 by 77 centimeters) is covered with bullet-proof glass and flanked by guards; this is the result of it being stolen in 1911. (It was recovered in 1913.)

Crowds also flock to see the armless beauty of the "Venus de Milo," and "Winged Victory," the ancient Greek sculpture also known as "Nike of Samothrace." Other popular works include the Code of Hammurabi, da Vinci’s tragic sculpture "The Dying Slave" and Antonio Canova’s 18th-century sculpture "Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss." Eugene Delacroix’s "Liberty Leading the People," which depicts the bare-breasted Liberty goddess leading a charge in the French Revolution, and is thought to have inspired Victor Hugo’s "Les Miserables," andJacques-Louis David’s "The Coronation of Napoleon" was commissioned by Napoleon himself and is a good reminder of the Louvre’s history.

The Louvre pyramid
In 1983, the Louvre underwent a renovation plan known as the Grand Louvre. Part of the plan called for a new design for the main entrance. Architect I.M. Pei was awarded the project, and he designed an underground lobby and modern glass pyramid structure in the courtyard. Inaugurated in 1988, the pyramid would become a celebrated element of the landmark museum’s design. It appears strikingly modern and sophisticated against the baroque façade, and allows light into the lobby, which also houses gift shops and cafes. In 1993, the Inverted Pyramid, a skylight dipping into the underground lobby, was unveiled.

Louvre tickets & hours
Because of its size and the scale of its collection, it is impossible to see the entirety of the Louvre in one visit. The museum reported about 8.8 million visitors in 2011 — so prepare for crowds, especially around the most popular works.

The museum offers a variety of tools to help visitors plan their days, including the “Masterpieces Visitor Trail,” timed at about 90 minutes and covering the 10 most famous works, maps of floor plans and advanced ticket options.

The Louvre is open every day but Tuesday and the following holidays: Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and International Workers’ Day (May 1). The hours are: Monday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.

There are three entrances to the Louvre. Though the most famous is the Pyramid and Galerie du Carrousel entrances, lines may be shorter at the Passage Richelieu or Porte des Lions entrances.

As of 2013, admission to the entire museum costs 15 euros. Admission is free for those under 18, as well as other individuals with proper documentation.