louvre pyramid

Discover the iconic Louvre Pyramid

Established on August 10, 1793, Louvre Museum opened with an exhibition of 537 paintings, with most of the works being royal or confiscated church property. After being closed for renovation from 1796 to 1901, the museum reopened with an increased collection under Napoleon, which further expanded during the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X. By then, the museum had gained around 20,000 pieces, and this number continued to grow. 

The Louvre Museum today has approximately 38,000 objects from the prehistoric era to the 21st century, which are displayed in an area of 72,735 sq meters. The collection as a whole is divided into eight categories: Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Arts; Paintings; and Prints and Drawings. The Louvre is the central landmark of Paris city center and the world’s largest art museum.

History of the Louvre Pyramid

The Pyramid was commissioned in 1984 by then-President François Mitterand.  The main aim was to provide a better access experience for its increasing number of visitors and create a unique landmark that could be easily spotted by the tourists flocking in. Chinese-American architect Ieoh Ming Pei was put in charge of this project, which was completed within 2 years.

I. M. Pei created a grand entrance to accommodate the increasing number of visitors and revamped the layout of the museum, adding shops, cafes, and other facilities. The Pyramid built was inspired by the Great Pyramid of Giza. It was inaugurated on March 29, 1989, and opened to the public on April 1, 1989.  

With this, the Louvre Museum gained huge popularity nationally and internationally, winning the hearts and minds of many for its innovation, which was a tour de force of art. However, despite its worldwide acceptance, the Pyramid also was criticized by a few, as they felt the modern structure would not complement its neighboring ancient walls.

The Louvre Pyramid brought in a contemporary spin to its surroundings. The design became successful enough to inspire similar works across the world, which can be found at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry and the Dolphin Centre in London today. The main pyramid, named after I.M. Pei, is the main entry point. It is a landmark that drives in a lot of attention to the monument and stands as a symbol of Paris for generations to see. 

Records state that the main pyramid consists of 673 glass planes that were manufactured by glassmakers at Saint-Gobain. The structure is made entirely of glass segments, and metal poles integrating 95 tons of steel and 105 tons of aluminum were used to lay a strong foundation for this masterpiece. It reaches a height of 21.6 meters, covering a base surface area of 1,000 square meters with 603 rhombus-shapes and 70 triangular glass elements.

Today, the Pyramid is loved by both visitors and Parisians and is one of the most visited monuments on the planet.

louvre pyramid
The 5 Pyramids of the Louvre

The Pyramid is the primary entrance to the Louvre, located in its courtyard. The structure serves as a constant reminder of the Egyptian Antiquities collections and its significance within the museum. The main Pyramid is accompanied by the three small ones which are placed to create light shafts for the museum’s collections.

The fifth and the final one is the inverted pyramid which can be viewed when using the Carrousel du Louvre entrance underground. This, too, was designed by I. M. Pei, and was completed in 1993.

Louvre Pyramid Facts

Constructed as a fortress in the 12th century, the Louvre Museum served as a royal residence before becoming a public museum in 1793, post the French Revolution. Today it stands as the center of attraction in Paris, being the world’s most visited museum, alongside its majestic neighbors, Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe. Here are our top 5 facts about the Pyramid that you need to know before visiting the museum:

1. Built with a purpose

Though the Pyramid brought in worldwide popularity, it was primarily built for a functional purpose. The Grand Louvre project was announced in 1981 by the French President, François Mitterrand, to renovate the museum as a whole and to add additional facilities as well. The revamp would include the Richelieu Wing of the palace, which housed the Ministry of Finance at that time. The Grand Louvre project, as a result, increased the exhibition space, enabling increased access for visitors.

2. The Louvre is too small for the crowd

The Pyramid was built to expand its spacing to welcome more visitors. I. M. Pei did make this possible by increasing the area to double by adding 650,000 square feet of space underground, which welcomed 3.5 million visitors in 1989. However, by 2018, the venue had become too small as the average number of tourists increased to 10.2 million. The Pyramid project had improved visitor flow by arranging entrances and reception areas. Today, timed tickets have also been introduced for advance bookings, in addition to the installment of two information desks, better signage systems, and easily recognizable soundproof pillars.

3. The I. M. Pei pyramid is not the only entrance at the Louvre

Though the louver museum shot to fame with the Pyramid entrance, it is not the only way to access the museum. Sometimes, it might be ideal to choose other routes to avoid the massive crowd as well. With the increased demand today, it is highly recommended to book your tickets in advance before heading to the venue, which will give you an average waiting time of under 30 minutes. Most of the time, even guests with pre-booked tickets will join the line in front of the pyramid. However, visitors with single or group tickets can enter from Passage Richelieu. You can also make your way in from the Carrousel du Louvre, which is the underground shopping and dining area opened in 1993. From here, you gain direct access to the museum and can witness the inverted pyramid suspended from the top.

4. The glass was built from scratch

It was I.M. Pei’s vision to have total transparency in the pyramid glass. Considering the faint bluish or greenish tint that glass holds, the mission to create a crystal clear glass was a big challenge. After months of exhaustive research and planning, his dream became a reality with the help of Saint Gobain, who produced a new glass from scratch specifically for this project. Within two years, the team together developed this 21.5-millimeter extra-clear laminated glass. Although no changes have been made in the last 30 years, Saint-Gobin had created enough glass to build two additional pyramids just in case any glass piece ever fell apart.

5. The Pyramid did not create a great first impression

When the design of the pyramid was first presented to the public it was seen as an “architectural joke”, bringing in a lot of criticism about its modern structure. It sparked a huge media controversy and those who went against the plan stated it was sacrilegious to meddle with the Louvre's aesthetic French buildings. Many also called it an anachronistic intrusion that symbolizes Egyptian death right in the middle of Paris. However, despite these accusations, today the Pyramid continues to stand as an iconic representation of the Louvre museum and France as a whole, welcoming millions each year.

Here are more facts about the Louvre Museum.

Louvre Pyramid: Frequently Asked Questions

Is it mandatory to wear face masks at the venue?

Yes, it is compulsory to wear masks for visitors above the age of 11 both inside the museum and throughout the Louvre and Tuileries grounds. Visitors must bring their own masks as it will not be provided at the venue.

When is the best time to visit the Louvre Museum?

The Louvre is busiest between June to September; you can expect fewer visitors between January and April. It is highly recommended to book your tickets in advance to avoid overcrowding at the museum.

Is the entrance into the Pyramid wheelchair accessible?

Yes, the Louvre Museum as a whole is disabled-friendly. Wheelchairs are made available at the museum for guests to borrow during their visit.

Apart from the Pyramid, are there alternative routes to access the museum?

Yes, are there other ways to access the museum apart from the Pyramid. In fact, due to its popularity, you can expect a huge queue most of the days, which is why it is advised to use the Porte de Richelieu and Carrousel du Louvre entrances as they are comparatively less crowded.

Where can I get a snack or have lunch?

While eating inside the museum is strictly prohibited, numerous cafes are available throughout the venue, in the Carrousel du Louvre, and the shopping center, where you can grab some quick snacks during your visit.