Musee d’Orsay Guide (Tickets, Skip the Line, Artwork) [2018]

Are you planning a visit to the Musee d’Orsay (Orsay Museum) or thinking about visiting?

This article will tell you everything you need to know about the Musee d’Orsay, including how to get tickets, beat the lines, and some interesting facts about its history and the artwork you’ll find within the museum.

If you’re just looking for tickets, then feel free to click here to go straight to tickets.

Musee d’Orsay History

The Musee d’Orsay’s building was originally a railway station, known as Gare d’Orsay. It was constructed for the Chemin de Fer de Paris à Orléans and finished in time for the 1900 Exposition Universelle.

The Exposition Universelle was the world’s fair created to celebrate society’s achievements and it’s where many pople were introduced to things like the Ferris wheel, Russian nesting dolls, diesel engines, talking films, and escalators.

The Musee d’Orsay was designed by three architects:

  • Lucien Magne
  • Émile Bénard
  • Victor Laloux

The building was the terminus for the railways of southwestern France until 1939. By 1939, the station’s platforms were no longer suitable for the larger trains that were routing through the area.

So the building was used for suburban services and it became a mailing centre during World War II.

The Musee d’Orsay.

Almost destroyed

In 1970, the building was almost destroyed when permission was granted to demolish the station.

However, Jacques Duhamel, Minister for Cultural Affairs, ruled against plans to build a new hotel over the building. The station was then eventually added to a list of Historic Monuments in 1978.

When was the building turned into a museum?

The Directorate of the Museums of France suggested that the station be turned into a museum. They wanted to build a musueum that would act as a bridge between the  the Louvre and the National Museum of Modern Art at

The plan was then later accepted by Georges Pompidou and a study was commissioned in 1974.

In 1978, they held a competition for the new museum’s design. ACT Architecture, consisting of a team of three young architects, were awarded the contract which involved the creation of 220,000 square feet of new floorspace across four floors.

In 1981, the Italian architect Gae Aulenti was chosen to design the interior of the building, which included the internal arrangement, decoration, furniture and fittings of the museum.

Then, in July 1986, the museum was ready to receive its exhibits. After about six months of installing around 2,000 paintings and 600 sculptures, the museum officially opened in December 1986.

Beautiful clock in the The Musee d’Orsay.

What is the Musee d’Orsay?

It is one of the premier museums in Europe and houses primarily French art dating from 1848 to 1914. You’ll find various works of art including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography.

It houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world, by painters including:

  • Monet
  • Manet 
  • Degas
  • Renoir
  • Cézanne
  • Seurat
  • Sisley
  • Gauguin
  • Van Gogh

Where is the Musee d’Orsay?

The Musee d’Orsay is a museum located in Paris, France, right along the Seine River, near the Louvre.

Here is the estimated walking time to nearby attractions:

  • Louvre Museum: 15 minutes
  • Palais Garnier – Opera National de Paris: 22 minutes
  • Cathédrale Notre-Dame: 25 minutes
  • Luxembourg Gardens: 25 minutes
  • Eiffel Tower: 30 minutes
  • Centre Pompidou: 30 minutes
  • L’Arc de Triomphe: 40 minutes

Musee d’Orsay Artwork

The artwork arguably begins before you even enter inside the museum.

Statues outside of the Musee d’Orsay

When you first approach the Musee d’Orsay you’ll notice six statues outside the building. These were built for the 1900 Exposition Universelle and symbolize six of the seven continents.

  • South America by Aimé Millet
  • Asia by Alexandre Falguière
  • Oceania by Mathurin Moreau
  • Europe by Alexandre Schoenewerk
  • North America by Ernest-Eugène Hiolle
  • Africa by Eugène Delaplanche

Van Gogh

Starry Night Over the Rhone

Starry Night Over the Rhone was was painted at a spot on the bank of the Rhône that was only a one or two-minute walk from the Yellow House.

Van Gogh was a master of capturing the light of the night’s sky as well as the light reflecting from gas lamps, and this painting is almost a precursor to his more famous work that came a little later, The Starry Night.

Starry Night Over the Rhone.

Bedroom in Arles

Van Gogh painted three of his famous bedroom works which depict his famous house in Arles, Bouches-du-Rhône, France, known as the Yellow House. The door to the right opened on to the upper floor and the staircase and the door to the left led to the guest room Van Gogh prepared for Gauguin.

The Bedroom painting at the Musee d’Orsay, painted in September 1889, is the third and final of the bedroom series. The first one painted in October of 1888 can be seen at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the second Bedroom painted in September 1889 can be found at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Bedroom in Arles.


Many times,  Van Gogh painted self-portraits because he lacked the funding to pay for a model. Van Gogh produced over forty-three self-portraits, paintings or drawings in ten years. The self-portrait at the Musee de’Orsay is special because some art historians think that it might have been the final self-portrait painted by Van Gogh.

It’s easy to forget about the depth that went into painting these self-portraits for artists like Vincent Van Gogh.

He was once wrote to his sister:

“I am looking for a deeper likeness than that obtained by a photographer.”

And later to his brother:

“People say, and I am willing to believe it, that it is hard to know yourself. But it is not easy to paint yourself, either. The portraits painted by Rembrandt are more than a view of nature, they are more like a revelation”.


Claude Monet

Clause Monet was a French painter, and is perhaps best known as the founder of French Impressionist painting and the most prolific practitioner of the movement.

Something interesting about Monet is that he began experiencing cataracts in the 1920s and had surgeries to remove them. But some of his paintings during this time have have a general reddish tone, which is characteristic of the vision of cataract victims.

It’s possible that after his surgery he was able to see some ultraviolet wavelengths of light normally excluded by the lens of the human eye; and this could have had an effect on colors he saw and painted.

After his surgeries, Monet actually repainted some his water lilies to make them bluer than before.

The museum has 86 of his paintings including:

  • The Saint-Lazare Station
  • The Rue Montorgueil in Paris. Celebration of 30 June 1878
  • Wind Effect
  • Series of The Poplars
  • Rouen Cathedral
  • Blue Water Lilies
Rouen Cathedral (one of several).

Gustave Courbet

Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet was a French painter who led the Realism movement in 19th-century French painting. The museum features 48 of his paintings including: The Artist’s StudioA Burial at OrnansYoung Man SittingL’Origine du monde.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, also known as Auguste Renoir, was a French artist who was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style, alongside Claude Monet, in the late 1860s.Renoir is known for adding a human element to his work, often working in scenes with families and well-dressed Parisians

The museum has 81 of his paintings including Bal au moulin de la Galette, Montmartre.

Paul Gauguin

Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin was a French post-Impressionist artist who is recognized for his experimental use of color and Synthetist style that were distinctly different from Impressionism.  You can find 24 of his paintings including Tahitian Women on the Beach.

Musee d’Orsay Tickets

Standard admission

Tickets currently cost €12 which will get you into the the permanent collections, and for temporary exhibitions, subject to availability.

Skip the line

I recommend getting tickets to skip the line at a dedicated entrance. You can easily order your tickets and save them to your smartphone so that you don’t have to worry about printing anything out if you go with the tickets below:

Audio Guides

You can hire audio guides for €5 per audioguide.

These audio tours are available in French, English and Italian.


The museum offers discounted tickets at the rate of €9 for the following:

  • For 18-25 year olds who are not citizens or long-term residents of an EU member state
  • For everyone from 4.30pm (except Thursdays)
  • For everyone on Thursday evenings, from 6pm

Here’s the proof that you’ll need.

Free admission

Also, the following can get free entry:

Musee d’Orsay Hours

  • The museum is open from 9.30am to 6pm daily, except Mondays
  • It stays openlate night on Thursdays until 9.45pm
  • The last tickets are sold at 5pm (9pm Thursdays)
  • The museum is cleared at 5.15pm (9.15pm Thursdays)
  • The museum is closed on Mondays, on 1 May and 25 December

Musee d’Orsay Map

There’s a floorplan map that you can pull up online if you want to get an idea of the layout of the museum. It’s not very difficult to get around if you pick up a map when you enter so I don’t think this is a museum like the Louvre where you need to have a game plan as to where you’re going to go.

But the floor plan can still come in handy when you’re trying to find specific pieces of art.

Musee d’Orsay clock

One of the coolest features of the Musee d’Orsay is located on the 5th floor and it’s an area where you can lookout to Paris and the Seine River through the face of a massive clock.

If you visit the museum, you definitely need to check out the clock.

Musee d’Orsay clock.

Musee d’Orsay Restaurants

There are a few different places to eat in the Musee d’Orsay and you can read about these places here.

But here’s a quick breakdown:

Café de l’ours

  • Tuesday – Sunday, 9.30am to 4.45pm, Thursdays 9.30am to 19.45pm
  • Menu here

The Café Campana

  • Tuesday – Sunday, 10am to 5pm, Thursdays till 9pm
  • Menu here


  • Tuesday – Sunday, 9.30am to 5.45pm (groups to arrive at 11.45am), Thursdays till 9.30pm
    Tea room 2.45pm to 5.45pm
  • Menu here
The Musee d’Orsay Restaurant.

Musée d’Orsay Gift shop

The main gift shop is located at the entrance to the museum and accessible with the museum admission ticket.

The Musée d’Orsay’s bookshop-gift shop is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9:30am to 6:30pm, with late night opening on Thursdays until 9:30pm

Hotels near the Musee d’Orsay

During our stay we stayed at the Park Hyatt-Vendome. It’s one of the premier hotels in the area but I wasn’t completely thrilled with the stay, to say the least.

Musee d’Orsay FAQ

Here are some commonly asked questions about the Orsay Museum.

How long do I need to visit the Musee d’Orsay?

The answer depends on your museum preferences. We spent about two and a half hours at the museum and that was fine for us. Some people might want to spend much more time in the museum, though.

Is the Musee d’Orsay a must-see?

I personally think that the Musee d’Orsay is a must-see in Paris. I would prioritize visiting the Louvre Museum first because there are more iconic works there and there’s just more to see but I would try to make my way to the Musee d’Orsay.

If you’re visiting the Louvre make sure you read my tips on visiting.

When was the Musee d’Orsay built?

The original railway station was built in built in 1900 but the museum officially opened in December 1986.

How to get to the Musee d’Orsay by Metro?

  • Bus: Line 24, 63, 68, 69, 73, 83, 84 or 94
  • Metro: Line 1, Concorde or Tuileries; line 12, Assemblée Nationale or Solférino
  • RER: Line C to Musée d’Orsay

Are there free days offered?

Free admission to the Museum for all on the first Sunday of the month.

Final word

What I really like about the Musee d’Orsay is that it’s not too huge of a museum like the Louvre. I never felt like we even came close to getting lost which has happened to us in Museums more times than I’d like to admit. There’s also just a high concentration of really cool, iconic artworks. If you’re interested in impressionist and post-Impressionist you’ll absolutely love this museum.

The Rijksmuseum Guide: (Tickets, Skip the line, Artwork) [2018]

The Rijksmuseum, meaning “state museum” in English, is the most visited museum in the Netherlands and for good reason. There’s a lot to see and admire. This article will take you through some of the highlights of the Rijksmuseum’s artwork and show you how you can book tickets and skip the line!

If you’d like to go straight to finding Rijksmuseum tickets click here. 

Intro: Rijksmuseum

The museum, which was originally built in 1885 and recently underwent a €375 million renovation, hosts Rembrandt’s most famous works along with the works of  several other famous artists, such as Johannes Vermeer and Van Gogh.

The thousands of art pieces are brilliantly displayed throughout this immaculate museum and visitors will often find the rooms and corridors housing these timeless art pieces to be equally as impressive as the pieces themselves.

Rijksmuseum entrance
The entrance to the Rijksmuseum.

The Museum’s exterior

The first thing that will impress you upon arriving is the exterior of the museum.

On the outside you’ll find a combination of Gothic and Renaissance architecture along with an artful mix of bricks and sculptures which pay homage to the greats.

Once you’re inside, the decor gets a little bit modern with state of the art lighting and beautiful glass ceilings that cast natural white lighting throughout the lobby area.

While the recent renovations that were completed in 2013 took a whopping 5 years longer (10 years total) than expected to complete, suffice to say, those renovations were quite worth the effort and the wait.


Rijksmuseum Lobby

Go early… and bring your camera!

We arrived about 5 minutes before 9am, the time that the museum opens.

I highly recommend you arriving at opening time because there will only be a couple of handfuls of people in the museum for the first 30 minutes.

Also, after we had been in the museum for a couple of hours (around 11am), the crowds were picking up pretty heavily and I was told that it only gets worse until about 3-4pm. So again, if you want to experience the museum without battling the crowds do your best to line up at opening time.

If you plan on visiting you should probably book your tickets online.

You won’t save any dinero but it will allow you to bypass the cashier desk line and so you’ll be able to save a few minutes. One adult ticket is €17.50. And don’t forget to bring your camera, as the the Rjkmuseum is one of the few museums that allows cameras!

The amazing presentation of the Night Watch

I always take advantage of arriving early and head straight to the premiere exhibits to see them before the crowds begin to gather. In this case, it was clear that it would be Rembrandt’s Night Watch.

The quickest route to the Night Watch is through the doors on the right side of the entrance area (if you are facing the “Iamsterdam” sign).

From that entrance you head through a couple of galleries towards the stairs and you pop out right next to the painting. (The museum is arranged by centuries on different levels and the maps are great so you should be able to find your way around relatively easy).

Rijksmuseum Rembrandt's Night Watch.
Rembrandt’s Night Watch.

The entire presentation of the Night Watch was brilliant.

I thought they did a superb job of centering the painting in a huge room with other large works and completed it with a beautiful Rembrandt Moniker across the top.

My one complaint with the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris was that the presentation was a bit mediocore, and I think the Rijksmuseum did a more-than-sufficient job of paying tribute to this famous artist.

Rijksmuseum Rembrandt's Night Watch.
The Night Watch

The real name of the Night Watch?

For any reader not aware, “Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijnis” is the most famous Dutch painter of all time and one of the greatest painters (and printmakers) to ever walk the face of the earth.

The Night Watch is Rembrandt’s most famous work of art and is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 most famous paintings in the world. It depicts a captain (in black) telling his lieutenant to get the troops moving as they move into formation.

For the purists out there, the real name of the painting is Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq or The Shooting Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch. 

The name “Night Watch” was erroneously attributed to the painting because it looked as though Rembrandt was depicting a night scene due to his heavy use of shadows and the presence of a dark varnish on the painting (that varnish has since been removed).

Because it’s a shorter name and it is how everyone refers to it, I’ll just stick with: Night Watch.

The Night Watch Rembrandt
Rijksmuseum Rembrandt’s Night Watch.

Why is the Night Watch famous?

The painting is famous because it’s huge, it showcases Rembrandt’s profound skill for using light and shadows, and also because it was one of the first paintings of its kind to portray an “action scene” with multiple subjects essentially caught in a snapshot.

It’s interesting that a portion of this large work was in effect cropped when it originally appeared at the Amsterdam Town Hall.

Luckily, there’s a small re-creation of the painting to the right so you can see what aspect was cut off the canvas.

The painting has also endured some other “croppings” as a few individuals had the audacity to slash the painting with knives and one individual even threw out acid on the painting. Clearly, these were some very disturbed humans but the good news is that you really can’t even tell that the painting has undergone such damage.

Replica of the Night Watch with the full original scene depicted

After Rembrandt finished this painting, his popularity began to dip significantly (most art historians attribute this to a change in artistic taste by the masses).

In fact, Rembrandt’s later life was actually pretty sad as he went bankrupt and lost pretty much everyone he cared about including his wife, later mistress, and his only son.

While the National Gallery has several of his works, there are many other Rembrandt pieces of art to admire at the Rijksmuseum. In an effort to not spoil everything for readers, I’ve only included a small fraction of the photos I took at the museum.

Below are a couple of my other favorite Rembrandt pieces I came across.

Portrait of Johannes Wtenbogaert, Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, 1633
Self-portrait, Rembrandt
Self-portrait, Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, c. 1628

After taking a close look at several of these paintings, I really was able to finally comprehend the level of mastery that Rembrandt had of manipulating light and shadows.

I later learned that this technique of using light and shade to produce such stunning effects is called “chiaroscuro” and was pioneered by Leonardo da Vinci and later perfected by Rembrandt. It’s pretty phenomenal and is something that is hard to appreciate by just looking at photos of his works.

I tried to capture this element of Rembrandt’s paintings in my photos but it’s just not the same.

I think you actually need to be there standing only a few feet away from these paintings to actually comprehend how legendary of an artist Rembrandt was. And once you finally do get so close, it’s almost impossible to deny Rembrandt’s legacy.

The “Gallery of Honour”

The Gallery of Honour
Stained glass window in the Gallery of Honour
Stained glass window in the Gallery of Honour

After viewing the Night Watch and other Rembrandt works we wandered through the “Gallery of Honour.”

This is a grand corridor where many of the other famous paintings from renowned artists of the 17th century are hung in the alcoves. Apart from Rembrandt’s work, Johannes Vermeer’s work is the most renown that you’ll find.

Vermeer’s work was largely unknown and even attributed to other artists up until sometime in the late 1800s.

His work focuses on everyday scenes with women usually serving as the subject. Personally, I’m not sure the biggest fan of his work but his painting The Milkmaid, is one of the most famous paintings in the world and that’s intriguing in its own right and worth your time.

The Milkmaid, Johannes Vermeer, c. 1660

Apart from the two stars of the museum, there are of course a number of other exceptional paintings to check out. Again, as tempting as it is for me to go on a posting spree of these paintings, I’m just adding a couple of them here to give you a taste of you’ll come across at the museum.

A Ship on the High Seas Caught by a Squall, Known as ‘The Gust’, Willem van de Velde (II), c. 1680

At the Rijksmuseum you’ll also find a lot of Biblical scene paintings.

Rembrandt painted many himself, though the ones that caught my eye were not by Rembrandt. The painting below depicts Adam and Eve and what was fascinating to me was noticing some of the background details.

For example, the animals at the bottom and the white cloud man in the bottom left who is actually supposed to be God warning Adam and Eve about the fruits in the Garden of Eden.

The Fall of Man, Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem, 1592

Another painting that grabbed my attention was Lot and his Daughters by Hendrick Goltzius, 1616, a painting relating to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. What I thought was most interesting was that this particular artist was a skilled painter despite having a deformed drawing hand. It’s amazing to me what humans are capable of despite what others would view as great hindrances.

Some of the other paintings that struck me were the still life paintings.

You don’t typically think of looking at painting of cheese and grapes to be engaging but the detail and realism in many of the still-life paintings was pretty phenomenal.

The other thing that was interesting was finding out what the messages were behind these paintings. I was pretty amazed (and usually completely wrong) at what some of these paintings were meant to depict, but hey that’s art, right?

Banquet Still Life, Adriaen van Utrecht, 1644

As a side note, I recommend that you download the free Rjkmusuem app from the app store.

I put it on my iPhone and actually listened to it on the train the morning I left for Amsterdam so I had a pretty good idea about what was going on in some of the paintings and other works of art. The app is a great tool not only for the audio commentary but also for helping you get around the museum and search for specific works.

Dutch culture on display in miniature form

In addition to the paintings, there are several exhibits worth noting that give great insight into what Dutch culture was like over the past few centuries. I think my favorite thing to see was the model of the Dutch ship William Rex. 

It’s an intricate work and gives you a great look at how Dutch war ships looked in the 17th Century. You can see the extreme attention to detail that went into building this model ship that interestingly enough was actually built at a shipyard where other war ships were being built.

There are also a number of other war-time objects like a canon, some giant clunky firearms and many others.

Model of the William Rex, Cornelis Moesman, Adriaen de Vriend, 1698
Cannon of the Amsterdam Admiralty, Gerrit Koster I, 1615

The museum also has a large display of Dutch furniture throughout the galleries.

Many of these desks and cabinets are pretty exceptional with intricate carvings but what I found most interesting were the doll houses.

This one called the Dolls’ House of Petronella Oortman exhibits what an affluent house back in the 17th century looked like. The rooms and all of the furniture inside of the houses are exactly proportional and if you just looked quickly at some of the photos of the rooms you’d think you were seeing a life-size display. Definitely check that out.

Room from one of the doll houses


The famed delftware was interesting and some of the objects, such as the violin and the flower pyramids were pretty cool.

Before coming to Amsterdam I knew of delftware ceramics but never realized how rooted it was in Dutch culture. There’s a variety of ceramics, glass, and other decor inside the museum and if you are interested in such things you’ll have plenty to see.

Violin, Anonymous, c. 1705 – c. 1710

The bibliotheek (library)

The library in the museum is pretty stunning and I felt as if I was in a movie when I walked in.

And it’s not just there for show; it’s an actual art history library with the biggest collection in The Netherlands. You’re not allowed to talk in the library so make sure you’re aware of that upon entering because it’s pretty much a vacuum of silence in there.

We first entered the library from the third floor.

I didn’t see any “no photography” signs and several others were taking photos as well so I went ahead and got a few shots. Later, we entered the library on the first floor and there was a no photography sign.

Perhaps they just don’t allow photography on the first floor where others would be distracted at the reading desks?

Nonetheless, here’s a shot of it.

The bibliotheek (library)
The bibliotheek (library).

Van Gogh

There’s only one work of Van Gogh at the museum but you can’t really expect there to be much considering that the Van Gogh museum is literally next door.

Van Gogh painted a lot of self-portraits and I’m not sure if there was anything special in particular about this one, though I do think it’s a great painting.

Self-portrait, Vincent van Gogh, 1887

It was actually my first time to see a Van Gogh painting in real life so I got pretty excited even to only see a small taste of his work.

I originally had intended on visiting the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam as well but they were wrapping up some renovations and I decided that I’d rather wait for those renovations to conclude so that there wouldn’t be any missing pieces of art when I finally visited.

Rijksmuseum Tickets

I highly recommend that you purchase your Rijksmuseum tickets online to make your life easier. Also, you might want to consider skip the line tickets if you really want to make your visit as smooth as possible.

Skip the line tickets

You can purchase skip-the-line tickets here

Standard tickets

  • Adults: € 17.50
  • Children aged 18 and under, Museumkaart holders, I Amsterdam City Card, members of ICOM, ICOMOS, the Rembrandt Association (Vereniging Rembrandt), KOG, Stadspas, Vrienden van de Aziatische Kunst, Vrienden van het Rijksmuseum, BankGiro Lottery VIP-KAART: free admission
  • Holders of CJP or EYCA: 50% reduction on regular ticket price

Package tours and tickets

Consider lumping in your museum tickets with other attractions in Amsterdam.

Canal cruise tours

Hop-on Hop-off Bus & Rijksmuseum

Rijksmuseum Hours

  • The museum is open : 9:00 to 17:00 daily, all days of the year: so the museum is also open on Christmas day, Boxing day and New Year’s day
  • The Rijksmuseum’s ticket desk closes at 16:30
  • The Rijksmuseum Gardens, Rijks Shop and Café are also open to visitors without a ticket from 9:00 to 18:00.

Hotels near the Rijksmuseum

Here’s a list of hotels near the Rijksmuseum you might be interested in checking out.

  • Van der Valk Hotel Sassenheim-Leiden
  • Van der Valk Hotel Hoorn
  • Bilderberg Hotel Jan Luyken
  • Max Brown Hotel Museum Square
  • Amsterdam Marriott Hotel

You can search for hotels near the Rijksmuseum here. 

A perfect size 

I think that the size of the museum is great. It’s just large enough that there is plenty to see but not too big so that you’re overwhelmed with options. I stuck with my approach of focusing my time on about half of the museum so as to see that half more in depth.

Because of that I was not able to see much of the different exhibits in the museum, such as the Asian Pavilion and some of the special collections. If I could go back I would have designated a full three hours instead of two so that I could have seen more.

Overall impressions

Overall, I have to say that this was one of my favorite museums that I’ve visited.

Recently I’ve been on a bit of a museum kick and while I had highly anticipated my visit to see this one, I had no idea how impressive it was going to be. If you’re a fan of some of the greats, such as Rembrandt and other Dutch artists and if you’re interested in Dutch history then this is a must-see destination in Amsterdam.

The Louvre Museum: (Tickets, Tips, Artwork) [2018]

Musée du Louvre, or “The Louvre,” is an absolute beast of a museum. It’s so vast and contains so many thousands of pieces of art and relics that there’s simply no way to see it all in a day. If you’re like most first-time visitors you’re probably there to see some of the most famous items on exhibition, especially the most famous painting in the world: “Portait de Monna Lisa.”

That’s all fine and dandy, the only problem is that there are about 15,000 other people that will be visiting on any given day with the same mindset as you. This means that you need to formulate yourself a good plan to ensure that you beat the lines, get your Louvre tickets, and enjoy the exhibits you’ve likely anticipated seeing for months or perhaps even years.

Here are a few simple tips and bits of information for you take into consideration to ensure that you have a great visit to the Louvre Museum.


Louvre Tickets, Prices, and Tours 

Louvre Museum Tickets

Basic admission for the permanent collections for adults is €17 when purchased online and €17 when purchased at the museum.

Skip the line Louvre tickets

I highly suggest that you consider skip-the-line tickets because the lines for the Louvre can get flat out crazy.

You can book tickets to skip the line at the Louvre here!

All visitors under the age of 18 and 18-25 year-old residents of the European Economic Area (EU, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein) enjoy free admission to the museum year round.

Free admission

From October to March, admission is free on the first Sunday of every month.

Louvre Museum hours

Monday: 9 a.m.–6 p.m.
Tuesday: Closed.
Wednesday: 9 a.m.–9:45 p.m.
Thursday: 9 a.m.–6 p.m.
Friday: 9 a.m.–9:45 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m.–6 p.m.
Sunday: 9 a.m.–6 p.m.

Rooms begin closing at 5:30 p.m., and at 9:30 p.m. on night openings.

Here’s the schedule of the hours for the Louvre.

The “secret side entrance”

Update: This entrance is now for groups only!!! Consider booking tickets though the link above if you want to skip the line. 

This is my number 1 tip for anybody visiting the Louvre. 

There are some pretty crazy lines that develop on the outside of the front entrance, especially on weekends. Lines that’ll force you to burn up valuable travelling time. For that reason, you want to plan on entering through the lesser-known “Porte des Lions” door. That entrance is located on the map below.

Louvre Map
(c) The Louvre

For whatever reason, this entrance isn’t known by many and the queue is never long at all. In fact, when I left around midday the line was completely non-existent while the line out of the main front pyramid seemed to go on for forever! 

The best part is that this is the closest entrance to the Mona Lisa. If you arrive about 15 minutes before the museum opens and enter through this entrance, you will be guaranteed a front row position at the Mona Lisa before it gets packed in there and trust me, that room becomes somewhat of a madhouse during peak times. And be aware that the signs are in French and they call the Mona Lisa “La Joconde.”

The good news is that the Louvre knows not everyone knows French and they have photos with arrows pointing toward the main attractions posted throughout the museum.

mona lisa
The Mona Lisa room just after opening on “Free Sunday”
Crowded mona lisa (1)
The Mona Lisa room about 1 1/2 hours after opening.

Just make sure that the entrance you are attempting to go through actually says “Porte des Lions” on it because there is another entrance that I believe many others waiting outside the museum thought was the Lions entrance. If the doors don’t open right at opening time then you might be at the wrong place but do know that from time to time this entrance is not open for some reason.

If you are concerned about whether or not Porte des Lions will be open then the museum recommends that you call them ahead of time just to be sure. Here is that number: +33 (0)1 40 20 53 17.

Grab a map

This goes without saying.

Unless you are the Rain Man or his equivalent, you will need a map to get you around efficiently in this magnificent place.

Luckily, they give out free maps of the museum as soon as you walk in and get past security. They have every language imaginable so you should be able to find whatever your native tongue is. Also, the maps are well-done and I thought they made it very easy to get around this giant museum.

Venus de Milo
Venus de Milo
Me standing next the Michelangelo’s Dying Slave.

Learn French… or invest in an audio guidebook

While I enjoyed the exhibits my ethnocentrism had kicked in before hand and I assumed that there would be English panels for me to read at all of the exhibits. Instead, it was all in French.

If you really want to have to have a true museum experience then consider investing in an audio guidebook. There are two ways to do this. One option is to rent a Gameboy DS. And I’m not joking. They provide visitors with audiobooks loaded into a Nintendo 3DS.

It’s pretty nifty and only costs €5. In addition to the audio commentary, it will also provide you with all the information you need for getting around the museum and you can use the guidebook at your own pace.

The second option is to buy the Louvre app. It’s available for both Android and iPhones. It only costs €1.79 and looks like a good alternative to the Nintendo DS. Like I said, I didn’t invest in either of these and wish that I had so perhaps you should give them a try upon your visit.

The Mona Lisa is quite small

I did a lot of research on the Louvre beforehand so this didn’t catch me by surprise but a lot of visitors seemed surprised (and almost a bit disappointed) at how small the Mona Lisa painting is in real life. While it is a bit small, I kind of thought that made it that much more interesting.

The fact that one of the most timeless pieces of art and probably the most famous painting in the world is so small makes it that much more fascinating to admire in person.


If there was one thing I think receives somewhat of valid criticism, it’s the overall presentation of the Mona Lisa. There was something about that room and the overall scene where the Mona Lisa hangs behind bullet proof glass that just didn’t draw me into the world of Da Vinci like I was hoping.

Everything in Paris is so grand and so immaculate and yet the Mona Lisa is kind of “just there.” My partner disagreed with me on this and thought the presentation, with Mona Lisa featured by itself on a the huge wall, actually did this larger-than-life painting justice.

Regardless of what you think of the presentation though, I think everyone will agree that just seeing this painting in person is a worthwhile experience.

Rush to the major attractions first

I recommend you doing this if one of you’re a passionate photographer and one of your primary concerns is getting great photographs of some of the exhibits without tons of people popping up in your photos.

One could easily rush to the Mona Lisa and then to Venus de Milo and Winged Victory before the crowds develop and get some great photos.

The Winged Victory offers an especially great photo opportunity as it is mounted atop a beautiful staircase area. If you get there early enough, you can capture that scene without flocks of tourists in it.

The Winged Victory of Samothrace
winged victory at the Louvre
A typical crowd you will find at the Winged Victory. Try to visit it as soon as the museum opens to beat the crowds and get better photos.

Now I realize that rushing from exhibit to exhibit is no way to enjoy a museum. That’s why I suggest returning to the exhibits you rushed through to get your photos. Obviously, if getting these type of photographs isn’t a primary concern then you’ll want to just go ahead and get your stroll on from the get-go.

Enjoy the less famous (and less crowded) attractions

I really enjoyed all of the less famous attractions mostly because there were hardly any tourists at them. It was nice to get a break from the crowds and be able to breathe a little bit.

And these less famous attractions are special in their own right. I really enjoyed the Egyptian, Roman, and Greek exhibits. In my opinion all of these exhibits are exceptionally well-done and offer a superb museum experience.



Cupid and Psyche

Prepare your legs and feet

This is mostly for those visitors who aren’t accustomed to tons of walking on a daily basis.

Paris is definitely one city where wandering the streets and sidewalks by foot is worth your time and energy. So far out of all the places I’ve visited I think I walked the most in Paris. Part of that walking experience included the hours spend wandering throughout the Louvre. So my word of advice is just to be prepared for a lot of walking at the Louvre and in just in general when you visit Paris.

Other attractions

There are a number of nearby attractions to the Louvre.

I really enjoyed exploring the Musee d’Orsay (Orsay Museum) and also the Towers of Notre Dame.

That’s all for the Louvre. I hope you found these tips helpful for your visit to the Louvre Museum and you enjoy your visit to Paris!

Visiting the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway

The Vikings have a reputation for being ruthless plunderers but the image of the savage viking obscures the fact that the Vikings maintained a thriving society and made monumental advancements in maritime engineering, exploration, and trade. Luckily, at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway, you can witness some of the achievements of this culture.

The Viking Ship Museum

The Viking Ship Museum is small and admittedly won’t take you very long to explore. It consists of four large corridors which house three viking ships on display (although one is not much more than a collection of scraps) along with a range of artifacts to check out. While there’s not a lot of depth to the exhibits here in terms of quantity, I still think it’s well worth a visit given how exceptional these few exhibits are.

Viking Ship Museum
Viking Ship Museum, Oslo, Norway.

In my opinion, the major draw to the museum are the two viking ships: The Oseberg and the Gokstad. Both of these are exceptionally preserved ships from the Viking era.

The Viking Era extended from around 800 to 1050 AD and during this time the Vikings perfected building ships known as “long ships.” These were long wooden ships that utilized both oars and cloth sails. They were light ships built for speed and designed with a wide and shallow hull that was ideal for navigating shallow rivers but could also navigate the high seas. This gave the Vikings great flexibility when exploring or raiding villages, allowing them to quickly make their way inland even through shallow waters.

The ships were unrivaled for centuries and allowed the Vikings to flourish in both battle and trade until the arrival of the “cog vessel” which were taller and more robust boats that eventually outlasted the long ship.

The first viking ship that you’ll encounter when you enter the museum is the beautiful Oseberg ship. On 8 August 1903, a farmer named Oskar Rom discovered ship remains and notified archaeologist Gabriel Gustafson. Gustafson quickly realized these were the remains from the Viking era and excavation of the ship remains began as soon as practically possible.

Professor Gabriel Gustafson and the crew.  Photo: Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo/ Olaf Væring.

The excavation became a bit of spectacle and although the excavation work took only three months, it took 21 years to restore the ship. Today over 90 per cent of the reconstructed Oseberg ship consists of the original timber.

If you’re like me, when you first enter the museum, you’ll be struck by the size of the ship. It’s quite an imposing sight.

Viking Ship Museum
Viking Ship Museum — Oseberg ship.

Each ship is set in the middle of each corridor, so yo can get a full 360º view of the ship as you walk around the exhibit.

Viking Ship Museum
Viking Ship Museum — Oseberg ship.

The ship was much larger than I’d envisioned. To better appreciate the scale of the ships, step into the viewing balconies and take a view from a higher perspective, where you’ll also be able to look inside the deck.

Viking Ship Museum
Viking Ship Museum — Oseberg ship.

You’ll be able to clearly see the planks that make up the deck. In many ships, these were removable which made it easy to store food and cargo beneath them.

Viking Ship Museum
Viking Ship Museum — Oseberg ship.

In addition to the size of the ship, the carvings made on the ship are beautiful. Both the prow and stern are carved with intricate animal ornamentation, which ends in a spiraling “serpent’s head.” The Museum states that “such an ornately decorated ship has undoubtedly been reserved for special members of the aristocracy.”

Viking Ship Museum
Detailed carvings on the Oseberg ship.

It’s really hard to get over the level of detail found on these ships.

Viking Ship Museum
Detailed carvings on the Oseberg ship.

The closer you inspect the ship, the more you realize that this was just as much a work of art as it was an exceptional vessel.

Viking Ship Museum
Detailed carvings on the Oseberg ship.

Although these ships are beautiful, they’re also a bit eerie to me. I can only imagine the horror that so many people felt as they saw these giant serpent heads appearing over the horizon and heading right towards their village.

Viking Ship Museum
Detailed carvings on the Oseberg ship.

There are 15 oar holes on each side so the ship could have had 30 oarsmen in addition to a helmsman and a lookout. The oars on display were made of pine and even showed traces of painted decorations. Since they don’t show any signs of wear, it’s thought that the oars were specifically placed there for burial purposes.

While the oars are made of pine, the ship was made with oak, around the year 820.  Each of the 12 wooden planks (or “strakes”) on either side overlaps the one below and they are fixed into place with iron rivets.

Viking Ship Museum
Viking Ship Museum — Oseberg ship.

Two women were buried with the Oseberg. Although there’ still a lot of mystery surrounding who they were, it’s clear they held high importance in society. Not only were they buried with this intricately decorated ship, their graves also were filled with other items including:

  • Clothes, shoes and combs
  • Ship’s equipment
  • Kitchen utensils
  • Farm tools
  • Three ornate sleighs and a working sleigh
  • A cart
  • Five carved animal heads
  • Five beds
  • Two tents.
  • Fifteen horses
  • Six dogs
  • Two small cows

Some of these artifacts are found in the museum. Most notably, is the Oseberg cart.

Viking Ship Museum
Viking Ship Museum — The Oseberg cart.

Even before it was buried, the cart was already old and it’s thought that it was possibly built before 800. The back of the cart is decorated with cats, which some believe was inspired by the cats that drew the cart of Frøya, the goddess of fertility. The front of the cart depicts a man being attacked by serpent, which could be an reference to the tale of Gunnar in the snake pit, another familiar story for the Vikings.

Viking Ship Museum
Viking Ship Museum — The Oseberg cart.

Other interesting artifacts include the carvings and tools which are on display. The animal heads on display show incredible detail that must have only been done by some of the most skilled carvers at the time. It’s not 100% clear what they were used for, but they clearly evince the artistry that we typically don’t associate with the Vikings.

Viking Ship Museum
Viking Ship Museum animal head wood carving.
Viking Ship Museum
Viking Ship Museum artifacts.

The other major attraction at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo is the Gokstad. This ship was also discovered on a farm. In the fall of 1879 two teenage sons were apparently trying to pass time on a farm and decided to just start digging into a mound known as the “King’s Mound” to see if they could find anything exciting and… well, they discovered a viking ship.

Viking Ship Museum
The Gokstad Ship.

The Gokstad ship  — known as the world’s best preserved viking ship — was built around 890 AD, at the height of the Viking period. This was a fast and maneuverable ship that could sail at over 12 knots and suited for voyages taken out on the high seas.The ship is made of oak, and is 5.18 m wide and 23.22 m long and even larger that the Oseberg.

For me, it’s amazing to look closely at these ships. There something about seeing the fine details in everyday ancient objects like iron rivets that fascinates me. To know that you’re looking at piece of metal work that some unnamed viking pounded out over 1,000 years ago is pretty cool. It’s also just mind-blowing to see the state of preservation of these ships close up.

Close up of the Oseberg ship at the Viking Ship Museum.
Viking Ship Museum
Close up of the Oseberg ship at the Viking Ship Museum.

There are also some of the smaller boats on display, too. I believe that these were also found at the burial mounds along with the larger ships.

Viking Ship Museum Oslo Norway
The Viking Ship Museum.
Viking Ship Museum
The Viking Ship Museum.

There’a s number of other artifacts to check out but in an effort to not spoil everything for readers, I don’t like to include everything.

Once you’re finally through with all of the amazing historical stuff, head back up to the front where you’ll find a small gift shop.

Viking Ship Museum
Viking Ship Museum gift shop.

Getting to the Viking Ship Museum in Norway

Although the Viking Ship Museum is not in the heart of Oslo, it’s relatively easy to get to. We took the bus to the museum and it was only a few stops out of the way. From the city center you’ll take a bus (number 30) to the Vikingskipene Station, which is just like a minute away from the museum. You can read more about directions on how to get there here.

The Museum operated with the following hours:

  • 1 May – 30 September 09:00 – 18:00
  • 1 October – 30 April 10:00 – 16:00

Tickets for adults are 100NOK, which is about $12 USD, which is easily worth it if you ask me.

Also, consider getting an Oslo city pass here that covers entry into many museums and also covers public transportation. Olso is packed with fantastic museums like the National Gallery, the Norwegian Folk Museum, the Nobel Peace Center, and many more.

Final word

The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway, is a bit small and it doesn’t offer you floors upon floors of exhibits like you might find at a larger museum. But the main exhibits found here are as fascinating as can be. Getting up close to these viking ships was one of the coolest things I did while in Oslo, and I definitely think this museum is worth a visit.

Tips for Visiting Museums (and Enjoying Them)

Museums are really the perfect attractions. Visiting them is a way to gain a more insightful understanding of an area’s culture and history, and do so in an engaging way that leaves a lasting impression. You can usually find a little something for everyone and museums are the perfect destination for days when inclement weather might force you to abandon your plans. But there are certain tips you can follow to make the most out of your museum experience so here are several tips to improve your museum experience.

Is it open? Check the calendar

This might seem like a no-brainer but museums have some of the oddest calendars compared to other attractions. For example, the Louvre is closed every Tuesday and many other museums are closed on other days of the week, such as Monday. You also need to check your calendar for local holidays. Many countries may have holidays you’ve probably never heard of, so you always need to be sure that you’re not visiting on a national holiday when doors will be closed.

Make sure the “prized possessions” are present

Sometimes museums lend out even their most precious works, so always call ahead of time to make sure that a piece you’re interested in seeing will be there. You can pretty much always count on certain pieces to stay put like the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, but many other classic works make their way around the globe for special exhibitions. For example, right now the American Gothic is away from the Art Institute of Chicago.

American Gothic is currently located outside of the U.S.

Museum days, weeks, and months

It’s not uncommon for there to be designated museum months, weeks, and days that offer special rates for admission or special events. For example, I was in Amsterdam in 2014 for “museum night” where around 50 museums stay open until 2 am and tickets only cost around €20.

Amsterdam Damrak
Amsterdam on “museum night” in 2014.

Major cities, like Chicago, offer free days throughout the year. Sometimes these might be limited to residents of a state but other times they will be open to the entire public. During these weeks and months, there are also often many special events and exhibits taking place at the museums, so you can get more out of your museum experience.

And finally, many museums regularly offer free nights or days each month or week. For example, the MOMA in New York offers free evenings every Friday from 4pm to 8pm. The Louvre offers free admission to the museum for all visitors on the first Sunday of each month from October to March. The drawback to visiting during these free times is that the museums can become much more crowded, so always consider if you’d rather pay for a potentially less crowded experience.

Bank of America Card

If you have a Bank of America, you can get into many museums for free. It only allows free entry per cardholder so your entire family won’t be able to get in for free but it’s a nice little perk.

Buy tickets online/research into a CityPass

I always recommend to buy museum tickets online. Sometimes the tickets will be cheaper online but other times they will be the same price. But even when they’re not cheaper, you can save a lot of time purchasing them online. If you buy them online, I recommend that you also print out a paper copy of your ticket in addition to the PDF or other file you have on your electronic device just in case.

Also, if you’re going to be hopping around different museums within a city then I suggest looking into getting a “City Pass.” Yes, they seem very touristy but who cares about that when you can save a good amount of money by just getting a pass. They are often linked to other things like public transportation, so it often makes getting around a city much more efficient.

The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway. Oslo is a great place to take advantage of a City Pass.

Research exhibits prior to visiting

When you’re visiting science and technology museums, or museums of natural history, many of those can be experiential, interactive, and or self-explanatory, so the need to research those exhibits may not be great. But when it comes to art pieces, chances are you won’t be able to fully appreciate the works you’re admiring without knowing some background on the pieces.

The Rosetta Stone

I suggest watching YouTube videos on those exhibits and reading articles about them. Sometimes you’ll discover the rich story behind a painting that you would’ve never uncovered and other times you’ll discover things like hidden images in paintings. Learning the stories behind different works has completely changed my interest levels and appreciation for what I come across in art museums.

Hidden images exist in Picasso’s Guitarist.

Interpretive panels and headsets can help you gain some understanding about certain pieces and artists, but I highly recommend you doing your own pre-visit research to delve a bit deeper into the pieces. It helps to build some anticipation for your visit, too.

Get there first

When it comes to museums, the early bird definitely gets the worm. And by the worm, I mean an enjoyable, peaceful experience for the first hour or so. This won’t be the case in every museum, but generally getting to a museum when it opens is an ideal way to experience it, especially when it comes to admiring the most popular exhibits.

Mona Lisa Painting at The Louvre
A very crowded Mona Lisa room.

I’ve been able to enjoy some of the most famous art pieces like the Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night, Edvard Munch’s The Scream, Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, and many others all by myself (along with Brad). Those viewings involved zero jockeying for position and allowed me to take my time getting photographs with no people sticking their head in the frame.

Starry Night
Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night.

We like to locate a cafe near a museum and arrive there about 30 minutes prior to the museum opening. That way we enjoy a nice coffee and then make our way to the entrance when we see others beginning to line up. Also, if you get to the museums when they first open it also usually makes it unnecessary to buy a “fast pass” to circumvent the line, so you can save time and money.

If you can’t get to a museum when it opens, consider getting there about 2 hours prior to closing. The last opening hour or two of a museum can be very quiet, too. Just make sure that you know for sure what the opening hours are because museums often have changing hours based on different seasons and months. Some close for major holidays while others stay open with limited hours. If you’re visiting on or near a major holiday like Christmas, call up the museum a day or two before your visit to verify hours.

Media personnel?

This will only apply to a minority of people, but some museums offer pre-opening access to members of the press or people like myself who like to photograph and review museums. If you could pass for some type of media personnel, request early access. This is very hit and miss but there’s nothing quite like having an entire museum to yourself for about an hour.

Rembrandt’s Night Watch at the Rijksmuseum.

Learn the layout of the museum 

Another key is to learn the basic layout of the museum. I’m not saying you need to tattoo the blueprints to yourself but it really helps if you know the floor and gallery of where the most popular exhibits are and have a general idea of how to get there. That way, as soon as the doors open, you can rush to those places and get to experience those works before the crowds hit. Then after you have your experience in peace, and get your desired photos, you can leisurely explore the museum, taking your time to enjoy the other masterpieces.

See what’s on

Always check to see what special exhibits are showing at the time that you visit. Sometimes these can be the highlight of your visit. When we visited the British Library in 2015, they had drafts of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights on display, which as an American, I found just as intriguing as some of their fascinating exhibits like the Magna Carta. Sometimes you have to pay extra for special exhibits, however, so always check on the admission policy. 

Thomas Jefferson. Draft of Declaration of Independence, 1776. Library of Congress.

Grab a map

Not all museums provide maps and not all museums provide good maps. But be sure that if it’s available, you grab a map in your desired language to help you navigate. In some museums like the Louvre, it’s like exploring a city and without a map, you’re going to have a hard time getting around.

App, headsets, etc.

Headsets can be a great way to appreciate the works you’re admiring, especially if you’re going into the exhibits with little to no knowledge about what’s in there. Although you might not want to deal with listening to them, I recommend at least giving them a try. And now many museums offers these guided sessions via a phone app, so always check if you can just download an app to help you make your way through a museum.

Have good etiquette

Good museum etiquette mostly consists of just being aware of your surroundings and using common sense but there are some general guidelines that apply to many museums: 

  • Pay attention to whether or not a gallery says no photography or no flash photography. Flash can be harmful to certain exhibits and ruin the experience and photos of other visitors. Many museums will force you to delete your photos if you get caught sneaking photos, so avoid the embarrassment and just abide by the rules.
  • Generally, food and drinks (sometimes even water bottles) are not allowed in museums, so keep your snacks and drinks packed away or at least hidden.
  • Try to store your large backpacks or bags in lockers if available.
  • Leave the selfie sticks at home (many museums are now banning them, anyway)
  • Try not be loud, although busy museums often can become loud.
  • Don’t touch anything unless you see signage asking you to interact or touch.
  • Pay attention to the line markers and wires and don’t encroach too close to exhibits.
  • Don’t hog an exhibit if there’s a line to view something.

Rest during your museum visit

If you’re visiting a fairly large museum then try to break up your visit with a visit to the cafe or if you’re allowed re-entry try grabbing a meal nearby. Most museums have cafes or restaurants and while they are often pricey, they can provide you with a nice little rest to allow you to recharge so that you can enjoy your visit.


Exploring Famous Paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the premier art museums in the world and to some, it’s arguably the top art museum in the United States. The museum boasts several famous art pieces from some of the most legendary artists, such as Vincent van Gogh and Pablo Picasso. It’s definitely a top destination to see while in Chicago and so here’s a look at some of my favorite works I saw on my recent trip to the Art Institute of Chicago.

American Gothic – Grant Wood (1930)


In 1930, Grant Wood was inspired by the “structural absurdity” of a Gothic-style window in such a “flimsy frame house” in Eldon, Iowa. He decided to paint people in front of the house who would be the “kind of people I fancied should live in that house.” So he turned to his sister and dentist to model as the subjects for the painting. There’s debate as to whether it’s a wife and husband depicted or father and daughter, but many believe that due to the age difference, it was meant to be the latter.


Wood entered his painting into a competition at the Art Institute of Chicago and earned the bronze medal and $300 cash prize. The painting then appeared in newspapers around the country, steadily gaining in popularity. Many midwesterners despised their depiction as “pinched, grim-faced, puritanical Bible-thumpers” but Wood stated this was not his intention at all. In fact, by living in Europe, Wood supposedly grew fonder of the Midwest and its simpler ways and was even quoted as saying “All the good ideas I’ve ever had came to me while I was milking a cow.”

Today, the painting still evokes an often-parodied, satirical interpretation of the rural ways of life but also signifies the American spirit to persevere through the tough times of the Great Depression. If you’re ever road tripping through Iowa, you can actually visit the house made famous by this painting. 

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte – Georges Seurat (1884)

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte – Georges Seurat (1884)
Seurat used a technique known as “pointillism” to complete this renown masterpiece. Inspired by scientific research at the time, Seurat believed that by painting small dots of contrasting colors, he could produce the “boldest and purest” forms of colors that the human eye could perceive. This approach allowed Seurat to lead the neo-impressionism movement, where artists refined concepts of light and color in their works and implemented a new calculated approach to art that abandoned the spontaneity of the impressionists and consequently resulted in harsh criticism. The scientific theories with respect to luminosity and color on which the neo-impressionists relied were likely off-base, but their works nevertheless sparked a movement that caught on quickly.
Close-up of strokes evidence of pointillism.


It took Seurat two years to complete this painting, which he finished at just the young age of 26. During those two years, he completed over 30 preliminary drawings and oil paintings, focusing meticulously on crafting the detailed landscape portrayed in the final work. There’s much debate over the interpretation of work but one of the most poignant interpretations comes from from Ernst Bloch:
“This picture is one single mosaic of boredom, a masterful rendering of the disappointed longing and the incongruities of a dolce far niente [idleness],” Bloch wrote. “The painting depicts a middle-class Sunday morning on an island in the Seine near Paris…despite the recreation going on there, seems to belong more to Hades than to a Sunday…The result is endless boredom, the little man’s hellish utopia of skirting the Sabbath and holding onto it too; his Sunday succeeds only as a bothersome must, not as a brief taste of the Promised Land.”

Paris Street; Rainy Day – Gustave Caillebotte (1877)

Paris Street; Rainy Day – Gustave Caillebotte (1877)

This is Gustave Caillebotte’s most famous piece and it depicts urban life in Paris at a newly built boulevard near an intersection called Place de Dublin. The painting is said to be inspired by photography and you can see this in many of the painting’s elements. There’s a shift in the sharpness of the figures and structures, which is meant to mimic the effect of a camera’s focus. Also, the center of the image appears to bulge and the man on the right is half-cropped out, much like you might find in a photograph. Finally, the image is composed almost like a snapshot of a street scene, although Gustave is said to have spent months crafting this scene.

The Old Guitarist – Pablo Picasso (1903-1904)

The Old Guitarist – Pablo Picasso (1903-1904)

The Old Guitarist came near the end of Pablo Picasso’s “blue period.” Affected by the suicide of a close friend, this was a period where Picasso focused on the downtrodden and the misery of the impoverished. This particular painting captures the sorrowful theme with its monochromatic color scheme and slumped guitarist figure who appears sickly and perhaps blind and close to death. The sole contrast in color is the guitar, which is said to symbolize the life and meaning brought to the impoverished by art, or conversely, the solitude that is often the life of an artist. 

Many people aren’t aware, but there are several hidden images within The Old Guitarist. Most prominently, there’s a woman hidden hauntingly behind the neck area of the guitarist. You can faintly make out some of her facial features with the naked eye, such as her jaw line and eyes but it took x-ray and infrared technology to uncover her full details.

Infrared scan of The Old Guitarist – Image by AIC


In addition to the woman, they discovered a bull and a calf and a small child in the background — the same scene described to a friend by Picasso in a 1903 letter. Some experts believe that there could even be another scene depicted, meaning that two different paintings may lie beneath The Old Guitarist.

A few other works of Picasso are below.

The Red Armchair (1931)
Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1910)

Bedroom at Arles – Vincent van Gogh (1889)

Bedroom at Arles – Vincent van Gogh (1889)

From 1888 to 1889, Vincent van Gogh created three versions of one of his most renown paintings. He completed the first version just after moving into his “Yellow House” in 1888. However, after water damage threatened the preservation of his first work, he decided to paint another version, although this time he would be painting from the confines of the asylum in Saint-Rémy. Van Gogh’s smaller third version (housed in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris), was given as a gift to his mother and sister only a few weeks after creating the second version.

Van Gogh lived in 37 places in his 37 years, often living with friends, his parents, or in small rooms above cafes but never had a place to call his own.  To many, this painting of his bedroom signifies the importance and yearning van Gogh had for home. The colors are bright, evoking tranquil emotions and the details in the room, the paintings (van Gogh’s own work), furniture, and nightstand were meant to create a sense of welcoming for other artists. Interestingly, many of the original colors have gone through discoloration, making the originally purple walls and doors now appear blue.

The Drinkers (1890)

The Drinkers – Vincent van Gogh (1890)

Van Gogh took inspiration from a prior work of art when created The Drinkers. At a time when he lived in the asylum, van Gogh focused more on interpretation rather than creating his own works. He remade Honoré Daumier’s version (seen below) into his own. The “four stages of man” depict the cyclical nature of alcoholism and it’s thought that the green used by van Gogh is an allusion to absinthe, a drink that was well known at the time.  Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 3.27.51 PM

Self-portait (1887)


Van Gogh created many self-portraits but this one came early on, only a year after his first known published self-portrait in 1886. When van Gogh began painting self-portraits he adopted a style similar to Rembrandt but in as little time as a year, he’d shifted his direction to the Parisian avant-garde in favor of bright contrasting of complementary colors. Below, you can see how different the style is that Vincent van Gogh first adopted with one of his first ever known self-portraits.

Wikipedia – Creative Commons

These famous paintings are of course only the tip of the iceberg for what you can admire at the Art Institute of Chicago, but I try to limit my photography when I go into such renown museums to avoid disturbing others and to give myself time to relax and enjoy the art while I’m there. Even if you’re not a major fan of art, if you’re heading to Chicago, you should mark this down as a must-visit attraction, as not many museums offer you the chance to see so many renown works in one visit.