Underwhelmed in the City of Light

December 19, 2014

I stared at the painting, which was a lot smaller than I had expected. I tried to appreciate it, really tried, it’s famous, right? So I should be filled with euphoria as I stand against this crowd of tourists, each one pushing me to try and get a better view of the painting with eyes that move, I thought, eager to get out.

I stared for another twenty seconds, snapped a selfie with it for my parents, and turned around.

mona lisa


We came here to see that?” I said to Sarvar, who was doing the same thing I was: staring, with a look of complete boredom.

Let’s go,” he said.

The Mona Lisa. Have you ever seen the Mona Lisa? I’ve heard about it hundreds of times. At school we learned about Leonardo da Vinci, I’ve seen plenty of movies where people steal the Mona Lisa, and I’ve seen dozens of comical drawings with the Mona Lisa “theme.”

So why wasn’t it that great in real life?

First, we paid 16 euros to get into the Louvre (I got in for free because of my Danish Residency Card- yay, more beer money!). Then, we opened up the map that was folded over itself three times, and there were just so many rooms. You need to spend an entire day in there in order to see everything, and even then I don’t think it’s possible (I wonder if anyone’s ever tried to set up camp before). 

We chose a few sections that we wanted to visit, and were off. Our first stop was the Mona Lisa, well, because, we “had to see it.”

We saw it and were on to the next thing in under two minutes. It was underwhelming. I felt like the world had made it seem like this life-altering, soul-clenching, epiphany-getting painting that you would look at and stop dead in your tracks and faint. Nope, it’s a picture behind a piece of glass with a guard standing next to it.

Don’t get me wrong- the Louvre is beautiful, and is one of the most amazing museums I have ever been to. However, I am more of a nature lover, I love being outside, hiking, getting lost, and doing non-touristy things. There were so many tourists there (I contributed, obviously) that it wasn’t even enjoyable. And it was expensive. I had expected something different, and was disappointed when I saw it. I hope that other travelers have had a different experience than mine, but, in my opinion, it wasn’t worth it.

mona lisa 2


One of my favorite parts of the Louvre, though, was the remains of the moat. Because the Louvre was originally a fortress to try and protect Paris from attacks via the Seine, there used to be a moat and a drawbridge. It’s quite dim and eerie, with hidden crevices along the way that create shadows that seem to come to life along the walls (picture is a bit blurry).



There are quite a few ways to get into the Louvre for free. If you fall into any of these categories, then why not stop by?


  1. Comment by Timothy Price

    Timothy Price December 20, 2014 at 12:30 am

    We went to the Louvre almost every day for the 2 weeks we spent in Paris in June, 2013. I love the Louvre and I would need to spend 6 months in Paris to really get through it. The only disappointing thing I found about the Mona Lisa is the glass and barrier — you can’t get close enough to really study her. But the painting is a masterpiece and I could see it once we stayed until closing and the guards had run everyone out, but had pity on me and let me check her out up close, without a room full of people. One thing I did on our daily visits to the Louvre, was to find the male equivalent to the Mona Lisa — I wrote about him in my blog “France Day 25 Of Men and Modernity” (http://photoofthedayetc.com/2013/06/06/france-day-25-of-men-and-modernity/). During the time we were in Paris, the Louvre had art installations by Michelangelo Pistoletto, and they had installed some really nice interactive pieces by Pistoletto in the moat.

    • Comment by monvar117@gmail.com

      monvar117@gmail.com December 20, 2014 at 12:09 pm

      I agree, I feel as though in order to appreciate everything, you cannot be rushed- which is hard in the Louvre, with closing times, short stays in Paris, etc. That is amazing that you got to study her up close, with no one else around you! I think that is the reason I wasn’t as awe-struck as I could have been. There were a lot of people around, pushing to get to the front. I’m surprised I managed to, for just a second. Maybe I would have had a different experience if it were just me. I will definitely check out your post!

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