Though the Eiffel Tower represents the very spirit of Paris, the Louvre Museum is all about the story of France. After all, it began as a fortress (by Philip the II in the 12th century ), was converted to a palace (by Francis the I), and became a storage place for the crown’s treasures when Louis XIV moved the Royal household to Versailles after Paris got too built-up and, as European cities were in those days, disease-ridden. Versailles became a symbol of all that had to change during the French Revolution in 1789. It was liberated by the people, the Royals were guillotined, and the Louvre opened just 4 years later as a museum to display what the French people now owned. It closed again because it was unsafe structurally, and in the meantime, Napoleon came to power, repaired it, and named it after himself. (Well and he moved to Versailles, too.)
See how the Louvre is the story of France?
The Louvre is the biggest and most visited museum in the world, at close to 800,000 square feet and with 10 million visitors a year. Since the French crown had amassed literally priceless Roman and Greek relics over centuries, that is a core collection that is absolutely a must to visit. Oh and a gentleman named Leonard Da Vinci spent many years in France working on castle designs in the Loire Valley. The French king thought owning one of his paintings, the Mona Lisa, was a good purchase. And he proved correct. It's just off the main hall, encased in plexiglass and always surrounded by rows of tourists.
The 100 years the Louvre spent as the site of the French Academy of Painting and Sculpture, means the works of French artists such as David are also housed in staggering numbers. When Napoleon conquered Egypt, voila, a wonderful collection of Egyptian art was now at the Louvre. And of course when the Louvre bought Baron Rothschild's storehouse of prints, drawings and books, you instantly have quite a collection for the public to see.
In the collection of decorative arts and Islamic artifacts you have not just French, but the world's history. It's a must to visit as well. So far we have recommended a couple of days worth of sights. Feel free to go more than once.
Quick tip: you can enter off Metro Line 1, on which the Louvre has its own very elegant metro stop. But that means you miss lining up to pass through security in the famed glass Pyramide, erected by French President Mitterrand in 1989. It created shock and hatred. Now it is embraced.
Much like the art you will see in the Louvre.