Is The Mona Lisa Worth The Hype? A Traveler’s Perspective

January 1, 2024
by
5 mins read

Mona Lisa is an icon. She’s literally everywhere. On stickers, pins, tote bags and in all of our cultural memories. If you look her up on Wikipedia the first description of her is:

“the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, [and] the most parodied work of art in the world”

Can’t argue with that.

Today, you can find her in the Louvre, a famous art museum in the heart of Paris. And when I say find her, I mean first you need to go on a scavenger hunt to get to her, literally, you’ll even have a map. But more about that later.

So the real question is, is it worth it?

Who Is Lisa

Lisa del Giocondo, a noblewoman, born in 1479, and lived a very simple life in Florence, Italy. She had five children and her husband was a fabric merchant. 

That’s for the dry details.

Her husband appreciated art and asked Leonardo De Vinci to paint his wife for him. At that time De Vinci didn’t have an income and so he agreed to do this private painting. While working on the portrait, he got an offer to work on another painting that paid much better and he decided to take it.

And so, the unfinished painting of the wife was never paid for and stayed with De Vinci. He carried it with him everywhere he went until finally finishing it years later, in France.

Mona Lisa – my lisa, a painting that originally was supposed to be a portrait, for a man, of his wife.

mona lisa painting

The Women In The Painting 

Now that we know who Lisa is, let’s talk about the woman in the painting.

 De vinci painted her with her right hand laying over the left, hinting on a faithful wife. She was a fashionable woman with her dark clothes and veil, not necessarily truthful to Lisa’s character and lifestyle.

The waves in her hair and clothes compliments the hilled background and the river in it, creating a perfect harmony.

Her ¾ turn toward the viewer became a thing since this painting was created, and of course that piercing look that follows you everywhere you go.

De Vinci’s Mona Lisa was a great piece of art but everything written above is not the reason why the painting became so famous.

So Why Is It So Famous

In 1911, an Italian employee in the Louvre stole the painting to, as he claimed, return it where it belonged, in Italy.

It was such a big story, it made Mona Lisa a sensation. Movies and songs were created inspired by it, and the painting became the icon that it is today.

Everyone wants to visit the painting and see it with their own eyes and so we go back to the question: is it worth it?

The Louvre

One of the most famous attractions in Paris is the Louvre, a museum with a name no one can pronounce, unless you speak French of course. 

Either named after the wolves that resided in this area years ago or a tower to represent the fortification that it once was, the Louvre with its big collections of notable masterpieces and cultural artifacts, is a must see.

It holds art from different times of history, cultures, and genres.

The Greek Venus De Milo is a beautiful statue of a woman with no arms created 2,000 years ago; The famous French painting Liberty Leading The People, created in 1830, of the French Revolution; Hammurabi’s Code, an engraving on stone of a set of laws created 1,700 years before we even started counting; And so many more, are examples of what you can find in that museum.

And for that, it’s worth visiting.

When We Visited The Louvre 

Our experience from visiting the Louvre was of course amazing. For hours we walked around the different floors and wings of what used to be a palace once upon a time, and we loved it.

When we visit a museum, we know there’s no way we’ll be able to see it all and so before we start we like to go over the museum map and figure out where are the important pieces we want to see and create a route for us to go on.

Both of us have already seen Mona in previous visits so we didn’t feel the need to go again but our recommendation is, if it’s your first time definitely visit.

But be prepared.

What To Expect When Visiting The Mona Lisa

The painting is not centrally located so search for it in advance on the map so you wouldn’t accidentally miss it.

It’s located in a side room in one of the wards and it’s not marked very well, when we ran into it on our latest visit the only reason we knew that was the place was because of the line.

When you enter the room all you’ll see is people, or at least that’s what I saw from my lower to ground point of view (I’m short). There is a line full of twists and curls going all around the room to see Lisa.

And she’s tiny. Fine, not that small but small enough to make you wonder “is that it?”.

So, do we think you should wait in line? Not necessarily. You can admire her from afar, give your respects and move on to the other pieces of art in the room.

One amazingly huge, and hugely amazing is the Wedding Feast. A massive painting with tons of details that one can admire for hours and we absolutely encourage it. It’s located right on the other side of the room from the Mona Lisa and many times people miss it because of it.

In Conclusion

The Mona Lisa is a famous and beautiful piece of art and it’s so fun to learn about it. When you go to the Louvre, mark her spot down on the map and give her a visit. But consider it before joining the line, looking at her from up close is not necessarily needed and maybe admiring it from afar is just enough. Don’t forget to check out the other pieces of art in the room, you might find them even more exciting.

The Louvre on the other hand is  a must. It’s one of the most famous attractions in Paris for a good reason so don’t miss it.

Our Recommendation:

  • Come early.
  • Make a list of the art pieces you want to see, grab a map at the entrance and mark those down (mentally or with a pen). 
  • Create a route for yourself between those masterpieces and have a clear plan of where you’re going. Give or take.
  • Grab the audio guide if you can, or do what we like to do and create an information bundle for the different pieces you’re going to see. A combination is also a great option.
  • Don’t rush, give yourself the time to admire the art in front of you. Look at the little details and read or listen to the information about it. There’s so many cool things we don’t see immediately, and can learn about.
  • This one little piece of advice is very important – come fresh and ready for a lot of steps, have some food before and water and get ready for a slow but vicious workout for your feet. 
  • Have fun, take pictures, collect memorabilia and share your experiences with us, friends and family! Not necessarily in that order.

If you want to learn more about traveling in Paris, here’s our Paris weekend itinerary with everything to do and see.

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