The mighty Musée du Louvre is the world's greatest art museum—and its largest, with 675,000 square feet of works from almost every civilization on earth. The Mona Lisa is, of course, a top draw, along with the Venus de Milo and Winged Victory. These and many more of the globe’s most coveted treasures are displayed in three wings—the Richelieu, the Sully, and the Denon—which are arranged like a horseshoe. Nestled in the middle is I.M. Pei's Pyramide, the giant glass pyramid surrounded by a trio of smaller ones that opened in 1989 over the new entrance in the Cour Napoléon. To plot your course through the complex, grab a color-coded map at the information desk. For an excellent overview, book a 90-minute English-language tour (€12, daily at 11:30 and 2); slick Nintendo 3DS multimedia guides (€5), available at the entrance to each wing, offer a self-guided alternative. Having been first a fortress and later a royal residence, the Louvre
represents a saga that spans nine centuries. Its medieval roots are on display below ground in the Sully wing, where vestiges of the foundation and moat remain. Elsewhere in this wing you can ogle the largest display of Egyptian antiques outside of Cairo, most notably the magnificent statue of Ramses II (salle 12). Upstairs is the armless Venus de Milo, a 2nd-century representation of Aphrodite (salle 16). Highlights of the wing’s collection of French paintings from the 17th century onward include the Turkish Bath by Jean-August-Dominique Ingres (salle 60). American Cy Twombly’s contemporary ceiling in salle 32 adds a 21st-century twist. In the Denon wing, climb the sweeping marble staircase (Escalier Daru) to see the sublime Winged Victory of Samothrace, carved in 305 BC. This wing is also home to the iconic, enigmatic Mona Lisa (salle 6); two other da Vinci masterpieces hang in the adjacent Grand Galerie. The museum’s latest architectural wonder is here as well—the 30,000-square-foot Arts of Islam exhibition space, which debuted in 2012. Topped with an undulating golden roof evoking a flowing veil, its two-level galleries contain one of the largest collections of art from the Islamic world. After admiring it, be sure to visit the Richelieu wing and the Cour Marly, with its quartet of horses carved for Louis XIV and Louis XV. On the ground floor, the centerpiece of the Near East Antiquities Collection is the Lamassu, carved 8th-century winged beasts (salle 4). The elaborately decorated Royal Apartments of Napoléon III are on the first floor. On the second floor, French and Northern School paintings include Vermeer's The Lacemaker (salle 38). Note that crowds are thinner on Wednesday and Friday nights, when the museum is open late. Save queue time by purchasing online tickets; the €15 fee includes temporary exhibitions and same-day entry to the charming Musée Eugène-Delacroix. If you arrive without a ticket, use the automatic machines below the Pyramide entrance or head for the entrance at the end of the underground mall, Carrousel du Louvre.