Louvre opens satellite museum in surprising location

Louvre opens satellite museum in surprising location

The new Louvre-Lens Museum is expected to revitalize a former mining town in northern France
Opening night at the new Louvre-Lens Museum.

France just added another amazing museum to its list of must-see attractions … in an unexpected location.

The Louvre museum opened a satellite branch -- the Louvre-Lens Museum -- in the former mining town of Lens in northern France on Tuesday.

French president Francois Hollande presided over the inauguration ceremony. The new museum, which cost €150 million (US$196 million) to build, is expected to be a boost to the local economy, which has been suffering from 16 percent unemployment following the closure of the region's mines two decades ago.

Like its counterpart in Paris, the Louvre-Lens hopes to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors, though instead of to Paris, the museum will bring visitors to a decidedly more gritty city.

With a record 8.8 million visitors, the Paris Louvre was the most-visited museum in the world last year, beating out the Met, British Museum and Musée d’Orsay.

Eugène Delacroix’s "La Liberté Guidant le Peuple" is one of the new museum's main attractions. The biggest headliner at the new branch is arguably Eugène Delacroix’s "La Liberté Guidant le Peuple" ("Liberty Guiding the People"). The museum will display some 200 works.

The building itself is meant to be a visual marvel.

Imagine the collective headaches that must have plagued all the project’s would-be architects.

The task was to design a building that would represent the Paris museum without replicating it and also fit in with the location and setting of an old mine yard.

Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning Japanese agency Sanaa beat out 120 competitors for the project for their design of five buildings that have been “positioned on the site like boats on a river that have delicately floated into a huddle,” according to the Louvre's official website.

The agency also paid particular attention to landscape architecture. The grounds at the new museum include a beautiful formal garden that leads into clearings, walks, forest groves and more gardens.

The Louvre-Lens seems to be embracing a more fun, upbeat vibe than its Paris counterpart -- in honor of the inauguration, the museum served free French fries out of tented stalls. 

Louvre-Lens Museum, Rue du Louvre, 62880 Annay, France; www.louvrelens.fr

More on CNN: Every boyfriend's nightmare: Inside Seoul's new handbag museum

Just don't ask for ketchup. Free French fries kicked off the Louvre-Lens inauguration on Tuesday.


Frances Cha is a Digital Producer at CNN Travel. 


Read more about Frances Cha