Housing thousands of famous pieces, including the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, the Musée du Louvre, in Paris, has long been one of the most important and popular art museums in the world.
With more than 8 million visitors every year, the museum is one of the must-see attractions when visiting France's capital city.
Now, for the first time since it was established in 1793, the Louvre has opened a new branch in a secondary location, just 45 minutes outside Calais.
Opened in December 2012, the Louvre-Lens aims to give visitors a fresh perspective on some of the most celebrated artworks in the world.
Lens, in the Pas-de-Calais department of northern France, is an industrial coal mining city, which suffered various set-backs during the 20th Century. Many districts were razed to the ground during World War One, including several surrounding the new museum site, and following the closure of many pits during the 1960s large areas were left as industrial wastelands.
The Louvre-Lens is just a 45 minute drive along the A26 from the Eurotunnel le Shuttle terminal at Calais. From the city visitors can to continue to either Lille or Paris, by taking the A1, allowing them to further explore France.
The Louvre-Lens creators have said that they do not want the complex to be seen as simply an annex of the Parisian museum, but to be a Louvre in its own right.
The modern design of its buildings means that it will not be constrained by the formal layout of its companion, which divides its exhibits strictly by departments.
In the Louvre-Lens, exhibits from various artistic disciplines and periods are free to occupy the same space, allowing more experimental layouts for visitors to explore and understand.
The museum is also designed to be fully open, with even the back-rooms on display to the public. Visitors can watch experts at work restoring pieces from the collection, an activity which traditionally goes on behind closed doors. The site has been a centre for important scientific and cultural projects in northern France.
One of the main stated aims of the Louvre-Lens is not just to display, but to simultaneously educate in a manner that the appeals to the general public. With this in mind, the museum includes many modern ways to interact with the artwork, including a performance space where many pieces can be interpreted and presented in a new light.
The modern design and layout is aimed at not only providing an exhibition space, but also a space for residents of the city to commune.
Designed by Japanese architecture agency SANAA, the Louvre-Lens is built to be open and airy; a modern structure featuring many glass roofs and walls that open out onto the surrounding parkland.
The museum's entrance foyer is entirely glass, reflecting the glass entrance pyramid at the Paris Louvre, and is intended to double as a communal space for Lens residents to gather.
The first gallery visitors encounter is the Galerie du Temps, housing more than 300 works. It runs for over 120 metres to the east of the reception hall and has a spectacular area of 3000 m2 all in one piece. It features a mixture of pieces from a cross-section of the Louvre's collection, allowing different styles and media to be explored and compared.
The Pavillon de Verre, or 'Glass Pavilion', houses the museum's annual themed exhibition. This can also include contemporary artworks, showing the genesis and development of various art movements or ideas.
Also in the complex is La Scène, a 300-seat auditorium which is used for live performance, lectures and other methods of bringing the Louvre's collection to life.
The site of the museum was formerly the yard for a mineshaft which closed in 1960, leaving it an overgrown industrial wasteland. The grounds have been redeveloped by French landscape designer Catherine Mosbach, who created a pleasant sculpted parkland which retains indications of the area's mining heritage.
Getting there and around
Just a 45-minute drive on the motorway from Eurotunnel Le Shuttle Calais Terminal.
Entrance to museum is via rue Paul Bert or via rue Georges Bernanos
Telephone: +33 (0)3 21 18 62 62
The museum is open every day except Tuesday from
10 am to 6 pm (last admission 5.15 pm)
The museum is closed Tuesdays and 1 May
Open until 10 pm on the first Friday of every month, from September to June
Free admission until the end of 2014