Listen up, culture vultures. Here’s my guide to the best museums in Paris.
I’ve been to many Paris museums, both large and small, in my numerous visits over the years. Paris is an epicenter of museums, with superb collections. It’s a veritable paradise for art lovers.
The sheer number of museums in Paris can be overwhelming though. There’s visual art in all forms in Paris — classical, Renaissance art, contemporary art, fashion, and shrines to Monet and Picasso.
There are major must visit museums, with world renowned collections in architectural landmarks — like the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay, and the Pompidou Center.
But what if you’re done with the Louvre and world’s most recognizable enigmatic smile?
That’s the time to delve into Paris’ small intimate museums. They include single artist showcases, private collections, and secret hidden gem galleries.
Many of these unique smaller collections are housed in grand palace-homes with world-class troves. This is where you can escape the crowds. You can admire high quality fine art and have a serene museum experience.
I’ve compiled a list of 32 museums that you should consider putting on your itinerary for a visit, or repeat visit, to Paris.
I’ve grouped them into large/most famous museums and small/more secret museums, beginning with the heavy hitters.
I give you an overview of the museums and their must see masterpieces, so you can select museums that suit your personal museum-going taste.
32 Best Museums in Paris For Your Paris Art Bucket List
Let’s take a tour of the best museums in Paris, large and small. Then you can decide which museums to put on your Paris itinerary.
For each museum, I give you an overview of the collections and must see masterpieces. I also give you practical information and tips for visiting.
1. Louvre Museum: Classic Collection
If you love art, the august Louvre is likely on your Pairs bucket list. It’s the largest, busiest, and most visited museum in the world.
The Louvre has 35,000 works of art from the 6th century B.C. to the 19th century A.D. It’s a sumptuous Renaissance palace itself, with a lavishly decorated interior and beautifully painted ceilings.
It’s best to have a strategy for visiting. The Louvre is a U shape, divided into three wings: Denon, Sully, and Richelieu. Each of the wings has four floors.
The Denon Wing is the most visited wing. It’s home to the Louvre’s best known art work. You’ll also fine the ravishingly ornate Apollo Gallery. The space has high arches and frescoed ceilings.
The Sully Wing is known for its statuary and antiquities. The Richelieu Wing houses the lavish apartments of Napoleon III and famed Dutch art works.
The Louvre houses the classics — Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic Mona Lisa, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, and Vermeer’s The Lacemaker. The Louvre has the largest collection of Leonardo paintings in the world.
There are also plenty of underrated masterpieces there, if you don’t want to vie with selfie sticks.
You really can’t go to the Louvre without a pre-booked ticket anymore. The museum is simply too popular. Click here to pre-book a timed entry ticket.
Because the Louvre is so massive, you might consider booking a guided tour of the museum. There are myriad options that vary in length. You can book:
- a 2 hour skip the line guided tour
- a 2.5 hour skip the line guided tour
- a 2.5 hour skip the line semi-private tour
- a 3 hour skip the line tour with the Mona Lisa
- a skip the line private tour
Practical Information for Visiting the Louvre:
Address: Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France
Hours: Open daily, except Tuesday, from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. On Wednesday and Friday, the Louvre is open until 9:45 pm.
Entry fees: Adults € 17 online, € 15 at the museum. Included in the Paris Museum Pass and the Paris Pass.
Metro: Palais-Royal Musée du Louvre (lines 1 and 7) and Pyramides (line 14)
2. Musee d’Orsay: Impressionist Treasures
The Musée d’Orsay is one of Paris’ true treasures and a must visit site on the Left Bank. In 2018, it was named the “best museum in the world” in the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards.
There’s good reason. The Musée d’Orsay is housed in a stunning converted Beaux-Arts railway station.
The museum has the world’s largest collection of French paintings from 1848 to 1914, a period when Paris was the undisputed artistic capital of the world.
The Musée d’Orsay is where you’ll find a spectacular cache of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. This includes works by the movements’ most revered figures, including Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh. The Musée d’Orsay also has rich collections of decorative arts, sculpture, and photography.
The Orsay museum is just chock full of groundbreaking masterpieces. Be sure to see Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass and Olympia, Van Gogh’s Bedroom and Self Portrait, Degas’ Ballerina, Cezanne’s The Card Players, and Renoir’s La Moulin de la Galette.
Here’s my comprehensive guide to 25 must see masterpieces of the Musee d’Orsay.
It’s essential to make an advance reservation at the Orsay or you will wait in a very long line. Click here to book a skip the line ticket.
Practical Information for Visiting the Musee d’Orsay:
Address: 1 Rue de la Legion d’Honneur
Hours: 9:30 am to 6:00 pm, except closed Mondays. Open until 9:45 pm on Thursdays
Entry fee: € 14
3. Grand Palais: Stunning Exhibition Space
The Grand Palais is a historic site and museum complex on the Champs-Elysées. It’s a massive Beaux-Arts icon.
The facade combines a classical stone facade and a riot of Art Nouveau style ironwork. Two monumental bronze chariots with flying horses crown each end of the facade.
Inside, there’s an incredible lofty exhibition hall. It has a stunning glass and steel roof, which gives the effect of a greenhouse. At night, the glass roof glows, lit from the inside.
The west wing houses a science museum with a planetarium. The east wing is reserved for high profile blockbuster art and photography exhibits.
The Grand Palais is an “in the know” place used for all sort of occasions, including Chanel fashion shows. The complex also hosts fairs, trade shows, and sporting events. In winter, it even has an ice rink.
Practical Information for Visiting the Grand Palais:
Address: 3 Avenue du General Eisenhower
Hours: Open daily 10:00 am to 8:00 pm
Metro: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Champs-Elysées Clemenceau
Pro tip: The Grand Palais has four entrances. The one you should use is printed on your ticket.
4. Pompidou Center: Modern & Contemporary Art
The Centre Pompidou is Paris’ modern art museum, the largest one in Europe. The brainchild of French President Georges Pompidou, it’s located in Paris’ lively Beaubourg area on the Right Bank.
Opened in 1977, the Pompidou is known for its radical “inside out” architecture, designed by Renzo Piano. Outside is the famous Stravinsky Fountain, a whimsical homage to the composer. Within the guts of this exoskeleton lie 120,000 works of art.
The Pompidou is Europe’s best and most important collection of wild and crazy 20th century art, the Golden Age of modern art.
There are works of Fauvism, Dada, Cubism, Surrealism, Pop Art, and contemporary art on display. You’ll find works by such artistic luminaries as Kandinsky, Rothko, Kiefer, Hockney, Picasso, Pollack, Miro, Klee, Matisse, and Modigliani.
Some of the must see masterpieces include Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, Louise Bourgeois’ Precious Liquids, Andy Warhol’s Self-Portrait in Drag, Jackson Pollock’s Number 26 A, Miro’s Bleu II, and Picasso’s The Guitarist and Harlequin.
But you’ll see all forms of media, from paintings to photography to experimental film.
Don’t miss the spectacular Paris views from the Pompidou’s rooftop. You can also visit Brancusi’s studio, reconstructed by Piano.
Romanian by birth, the sculptor Constantin Brancusi lived most of his life in Paris. Upon his death in 1956, he gifted the entire contents of his studio to the French state. The studio is a work of art in its own right.
Practical Information for Visiting Centre Pompidou
Address: Place Georges Pompidou, 4th arrondissement
Hours: Open daily, except Tuesday, from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm generally. Check the website linked below for all hours.
Entry fee: There’s an adjustable ticket price depending on the number of exhibition spaces you wish to visit, from 7-10-12 €, 5 € audioguide
Metro: Rambuteau, Hotel de Ville, or Les Halles
Pro Tip: The museum will be closed from late 2023 to 2027 for renovations.
5. Rodin Museum: Sculptures By the Master
The spectacular Rodin Museum is one of my favorites museums in Paris. Rodin’s titular museum is housed in the 18th century Hotel Biron.
It’s a romantic mansion where Rodin created some of his greatest works. The Rodin Museum is an atypical, unstuffy museum. A verdant retreat.
Rodin is considered the father of modern sculpture. He was absurdly talented, his works a torrent of expressive power.
Like Michelangelo, Rodin wanted to convey the raw emotion and physicality of a subject, not just an idealized or sanitized view. He wanted to capture the ugly inner truths of the human psyche.
The expressive and erotic nature of Rodin’s work was quite revolutionary for the time. His work was constantly rejected by the Salon. No one appreciated his penchant for realism until much later in his career.
Rodin curated the museum and placed his sculptures amidst the garden’s pointy hedges and leafy groves. The museum is laid out in chronological order.
The museum’s permanent collection includes many iconic Rodin sculptures and works from the brilliant Camille Claudel. Claudel was Rodin’s student and muse, an unsung sculptor herself, and had a tumultuous 10 year affair with Rodin.
In Paris’ Rodin Museum, you’ll find some of Rodin’s most famous pieces — The Thinker, The Kiss, The Gates of Hell, Monument to Balzac, Young Girl with Flowers in Her Hair, etc. There’s also a room dedicated to Claudel.
Practical Information for the Musée Rodin:
Address: 79, rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris
Entry fee: full price, 12 €, audioguide 6 €
Hours: Open daily except Mondays from 10:00 am to 5:45 pm, open late on Wednesdays until 8:45 pm
Metro: Varenne (line 13) or Invalides (line 13, line 8)
6. Musée National Picasso-Paris: His Lifetime & Loves
Ah, I adore Paris’ Picasso Museum. The eponymous museum is housed in the gorgeous Baroque Hotel de Sale in the Marais neighborhood. It’s definitely one of the best museums in Paris.
What I love most about the museum is that it houses all the art that Pablo Picasso couldn’t part with in his life, donated to France by his heirs (to avoid taxes).
It’s a personal collection that he created, curated, lived with, and kept nearby his entire life. The intimate museum represents all the artistic periods of his life, all the women he loved, and reveals his extraordinary range and talent.
Picasso wan’t a nice man, to say the least. He was a lothario and chronic womanizer. Picasso was a one man female wrecking ball who once said “love is the greatest refreshment” and never left the concession stand.
The Picasso Museum is organized chronologically. As you stroll through it, you can see the progression of his artistic styles.
You can also see the succession of his long-suffering female casualties — Fernand Olivier, Olga Khoklova, Dora Maar, Marie Therese-Walter, Francoise Gilot, and Jacqueline Roque. His art and his loves were always intertwined.
Practical Information for Visiting the Picasso Museum in Paris:
Address: 5 Rue de Thorigny, 75003 Paris
Entry fee: 14 €, under 28 free, audioguide 5 €, 1 € online reservation fee
Hours: Tues to Fri: 10:30 am to 6:00 pm, Sat- Sun: 9:30 am to 6:00 pm, closed Monday
Metro: 1 Saint-Paul, 8 Saint-Sébastien-Froissart, 8 Chemin Vert
7. Cluny Museum | Museum of the Middle Ages
Are you a history buff who wants to be transported back to the late Middle Ages? Or are you, like everyone else it seems, just crazy for mythical unicorns? If so, the Musée Cluny is a must visit Paris museum in the Latin Quarter.
It’s truly one of my favorite museums in Paris. The museum’s housed in the Hotel de Cluny, built in the 14th century and adjacent to an extant Roman bath.
The Cluny Museum is dedicated to all things from the Middle Ages. Its centerpiece is the famous Lady and the Unicorn tapestries.
They’re considered the Mona Lisa of tapestries and one of the greatest surviving medieval relics. Created in 1550, the six tapestries are rather mysterious and the artist is unknown. #6 is the most famous, titled To My Sole Desire.
Unicorns have various meanings. In medieval lore, they were mercurial solitary creatures that could only be tamed by a virgin. In secular society, they symbolize the attraction of a man to his love. In religious iconography, the unicorn was a symbol of Christ.
The Cluny houses beautiful medieval stained glass, stone heads from Notre Dame, a Roman frigidarium (cold bath), byzantine ivories, medieval shields, and Romanesque capitals.
Practical Information for Visiting the Cluny Museum:
Address: 28 rue du Sommerand
Hours: The museum is currently closed for renovation until early 2022
Entry fee: 5 €
Metro: Cluny-La Sorbonne, Saint-Michel, Odeon
8. Carnavalet Museum: Ultimate Paris-Centric Museum
The 17th century Carnavalet Museum is “the museum of the city of Paris.” It was Paris’ very first municipal museum.
It’s plopped in the center of the bustling and museum-dense Marais neighborhood. It’s been listed as a Monument Historique since the mid 1800s. And it’s fabulous.
The very special museum fills two adjacent mansions, the Hôtel Le Peletier de St-Fargeau and the Hôtel Carnavalet. One of Paris’ most famous and colorful citizens, Madame de Sevigne, once lived in the Hotel Carnavalet.
The museum documents Paris’ compelling history in an eclectic and eccentric way. Its hodgepodge collection comprises over 600,000 artifacts and historical curiosities. This makes it one of France’s most important museums.
The museum has medieval and Gallo-Roman archeological collections, mementos of the French Revolution, paintings, sculptures, furniture, and other items of art.
It’s also filled with fun everyday objects and historical curiosities — Rousseau’s inkwell, Voltaire’s armchair, a scale model of the guillotine made of bones, keys to the Bastille, a reconstruction of Louis XVI’s prison cell, a ring containing Marie Antoinette’s hair and a pair of her shoes, and Napoleon’s toiletries
In 2016, the museum was closed for extensive architectural renovation. But it reopened for business in 2021.
The gussied up museum has a new reception area, contemporary staircases, and updated facilities. It’ll also has more signage, helping you to re-live the story of Paris.
Practical Information for Visiting the Musee Carnavalet:
Address: 16 Rue des Francs Bourgeois, 75003 Paris
Hours: Open daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
Entry: permanent collection is free
Metro: Saint-Paul or Chemin Vert
9. Sainte-Chapelle: Incredible Stained Glass
On the Île de la Cité, you’ll find the beautiful Saint-Chapelle, a true Gothic wonder. Completed in 1248 and enshrined within the Palais de Justice, Sainte-Chapelle is Paris’ most exquisite Gothic monument.
It’s a 14th century royal chapel, built by Louis IX. It was intended to house the the supposed Crown of Thorns of Christ (now it’s part of the Notre Dame treasury).
You’ll be awed by the gorgeous stained glass and intricate painted wood columns. In the Upper Chapel, there are 15 separate panels of glass, showing scenes from the history of the Christian world.
Practical Information for Visiting Sainte-Chapelle:
Address: Boulevard du Palais 8
Hours: Open daily, March to Oct 9:30 am to 6:00 pm & Nov to Feb 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Entry fee: 11.50 €, combined ticket with the Conciergerie 17 €
Metro: Cite (line 4)
10. La Conciergerie: Marie Antoinette’s Prison
The Conciergerie was Maire Antoinette’s gloomy prison after her arrest. The original fortress was built in the 6th century.
It was the residence of Clovis, the first King of France, and used to be a royal palace. Today’s version of the Conciergerie dates from 1200.
In the 14th century, the kings and queens of France abandoned the gloomy Gothic palace. They decamped for brighter digs.
When King Charles V, the last royal resident, moved out, he appointed the first “Concierge.” The building was then renamed the building La Conciergerie.
The Concierge oversaw the police and supervised the prisons. During the Reign of Terror after the revolution, “enemies of the people” were imprisoned without trial and duly “sentenced.” The verdict was either innocent or death, no murky middle ground.
The Conciergerie became the “antechamber of the guillotine,” the last stop before people were marched to the Place de la Concorde and decapitated.
Its stunning and atmospheric vaulted ceiling in the Hall of Soldiers, the Salon des gens d’armes, was declared a UNESCO site in 2006.
Downstairs, there’s an exhibit featuring Marie Antoinette, the Conciergerie’s most famous prisoner. It’s decidedly unsatisfying and not “her cell.”
It’s a rather kitschy memorial, a reconstructed staging of her cell with her posed in a long black veil. The actual cell was demolished and is now an expiatory chapel.
Click here to pre-book a ticket.
Practical Information for Visiting the Conciergerie:
Address: 2 boulevard du Palais 75001 Paris
Entry fee: 9.50 €, combined ticket with Sainte-Chapelle 17 €
Hours: Open daily, 9:30 am to 6:00 pm
Metro: line 1, station Châtelet, line 4, stations Saint-Michel or Cité, lines 7, 11 and 14, station Châtelet
11. Musee de l’Armee at Les Invalides: Europe’s Premiere Military Museum
If you’re a lover of French history or antique weapons, then Paris’ Musée de l’Armée is a must see site in Paris. The Army Museum is one of Europe’s best military museums.
It’s housed in the Les Invalides complex in the 7th arrondissement. Military buffs and history geeks will be in heaven.
The impressive museum has seven collections and over 500,000 pieces of art — artillery, weapons, armor, uniforms, and paintings from antiquity to the 20th century. You can even find Napoleon’s stuffed horse and one of Hitler’s notebooks.
I liked the “contemporary department,” which focuses on WWI and WWII, the best. The department uses photos, maps, videos, and a few artifacts to trace the Blitzkrieg that overran France, D-Day battles, the concentration camps, the atomic bomb, and the eventual Allied victory.
It also comes with a handy documentary film telling war stories.
Museum visitors might also be surprised to discover some high quality artwork in the museum, such as Ingres’ 1806 Napoleon on his Imperial Throne and Paul Delaroche’s Napoleon I at Fontainbleau. I love Delaroche, a rather melodramatic Salon painter, particularly his underrated Young Martyr painting at the Louvre.
Practical Information For Visiting the Army Museum:
Address: 129 rue de Grenelle, 7th arrondissement
Hours: Open daily from April 1 to Oct 31 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, and from Nov 1 to March 31, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. From April 1 to Sept 30, on Tuesday evenings it is open until 9:00 pm.
Entry fee: Full price: €14, audio guide € 6 (you need ID for the audioguide), € 10 after 4:00 pm. Paris Museum Pass is accepted
Metro: Varennes La Tour Maubourg or Invalides
10. Louis Vuitton Foundation: Contemporary Art
The Louis Vuitton Foundation was inaugurated in 2014. It was designed by Frank Gehry and houses the collection of Bernard Arnault.
It’s a chic little museum tucked into a stunning Frank Gehry designed glass building. It’s located in the Bois de Bologne. The Foundation houses modern and contemporary art from the 1960s to the present.
The museum’s permanent collection showcases Pop, Expressionistic, and Contemplative pieces. You’ll find masterpieces by the likes of Egon Schiele, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jeff Koons, Henri Matisse, and Ellsworth Kelly. The foundation hosts temporary exhibits as well.
Click here to pre-book a ticket.
Practical Information for Visiting the Fondation Louis Vuitton:
Address: 8 Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi
Hours: Typically open from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm Mon to Fri and until 9:00 pm on weekends
Entry fee: 16 €, which also gives you access to the Jardins d’Acclimatation
Metro: Les Sablons
Small Secret Museums in Paris
In Paris, you can go beyond the classic must see museums, rather than waiting in line for hours. Seasoned travelers will want to explore the myriad secret, less crowded museums Paris has on offer.
12. Musée National Eugène Delacroix: Romantic Period Pieces
The Delacroix Museum is an eccentric little gem of museum. It’s off the beaten track in Paris and designed for art lovers.
It’s set on the lovely Place de Furstenberg, off the Rue Jacob, in the trendy Left Bank neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. When I last visited, it was nearly empty.
The museum has an intimate setting, housed in Delacroix’s final apartment and studio before his death in 1863. I tend to love museum-ateliers. They’re so revelatory.
Delacroix is known as the founder of the Romantic Period of painting. He rejected the Academy’s idea of precise drawing. Instead, he adopted a flowing, convulsive brush style.
When you look at a Delacroix, you see “fuzziness, smears, fibrillating paint, irradiated color that destabilize space and emulsify objects.”
You won’t see anything as stunning as Delacroix’s famous Liberty Leading the People (that draws massive crowds at the Louvre) at his studio.
What you’ll find is lush religious and historical paintings and drawings by Delacroix and others, as well as personal objects and mementos. Delacroix had an obsession with large cats, and you’ll see some of those paintings.
The museum’s most important piece is Mary Magdalene in the Desert, which was admired by Baudelaire. He said Delacroix’s works had “a kind of furious rivalry with the written word.”
There’s also a short film about Delacroix’s paintings at Saint Sulpice, the nearby 17th century church in the Latin Quarter.
I would advise coming to the museum before visiting the church to have a more informed view of the recently restored paintings on display there, which are Delacroix’s best murals.
Practical Information for Visiting the Eugene Delacroix Museum:
Address: 6 Rue de Furstemberg, 75006 Paris
Entry Fee: 7 €, under 18 free, free to visit with a Louvre ticket, Paris Museum Pass, or Louvre Membership
Hours: Wed to Mon, from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm, night opening until 9:00 pm on the first Thursday of each month. Daily free guided tours at 3:00 pm and 4:30 pm
13. Musée National Gustave Moreau: Works of Symbolism
The Gustave Moreau Museum is another utterly uncrowded art spot. It’s tucked away in the 9th arrondissement in an area of grand mansions known as Nouvelle-Athènes or South Pigalle. If you are sightseeing in Montmartre, it’s just a 15-20 minute walk.
Gustave Moreau was a prolific 19th century French symbolist painter. He was an art school dropout inspired by Delacroix.
Some consider his oeuvre a precursor to Surrealism. Henri Matisse was one of his students, and Moreau influenced many 20th century artists.
This museum, like the Delacroix Museum, was Moreau’s family home. He transformed it into an atelier and kept the first floor as his apartment.
It’s absolutely stuffed with his sometimes macabre paintings and drawings. With copious art and half finished sketches, you can almost imagine what life was like for a fin de siècle artist in Paris.
There are over 1,300 paintings, watercolors and sketches. There are 5,000 drawings of mythological, biblical, and literary subjects. There’s not much curation; you are largely left to interpret the works yourself.
This is fairly typically of museums self-designed by eccentric artists or art collectors. But that’s OK, you can come up with whatever narrative you want or that suits your mood.
Once you head up the gorgeous spiral staircase, you’ll find Moreau’s bright well-lit studio. Many drawings are behind curtains and some have to be slid from drawers to be viewed.
Practical Information for Visiting the Musée National Gustave Moreau:
Address: 14 rue de La Rochefoucauld
Entry fee: € 7, reduced rate: € 5, Under 18 free
Guided tour: one Thursday a month at 6:00 pm € 8, reduced rate: € 6, duration: 1 hour
Hours: Open daily from 10:00 am to 12:45 pm & from 2:00 pm to 5:15 pm, closed Tuesdays
Metro: Trinité d’Estienne d’Orves (line 12) or Pigalle (line 2)
14. Musée Jacquemart-André: Dutch & Italian Renaissance Art
The Jaquemart-André is another oddly overlooked museum, located just off the Champs-Elysées in the tony 8th arrondissement. It’s usually empty unless there’s a special exhibition.
Then, the Parisians flock in and you’ll need to pre-purchase a ticket. When I was there one February, I seemed to be the only English speaking person in line.
The gorgeous classical mansion dates to Baron Haussmann’s massive renovation of Paris. It offers a glimpse into another era of elegant high society living and collecting.
Édouard André and Nélie Jacquemart wanted their home to be as grand and beautiful as the new Paris. So the duo set about assembling a magnificent art collection and renovating the mansion to showcase the pieces.
And there are some real masterpieces. The museum has Dutch pieces by Rembrandt and Van Dyke. It also has a large collection of 14th and 15th century Italian art, including works by Mantegna and Botticelli.
The painting of St. George and the Dragon (shown above) is deemed one of the greatest achievements in Italian Renaissance art. It’s the jewel of the Jacquemart-André
Another astonishing piece is a massive 1745 Tiepolo fresco titled Henri III Being Welcomed to the Contarini Villa. The luminous fresco greets you at the top of the spectacular main stairway.
Click here to book a skip the line ticket.
Practical Information for Visiting the Musée Jacquemart-André:
Address: 158 boulevard Haussmann, 8th arrondissement
Entry fee: € 12, € 15 to include special exhibitions
Hours: Daily 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, late hours until 8:30 pm during special exhibitions
Metro: Miromesnil or Champs-Elysées Clemenceau
15. Musée Marmottan Monet: Impressionism Galore
The Musée Marmottan Monet is a small jewel of a museum. It’s tucked away in Paris’ sleepy, posh 16th arrondissement.
The museum was the recipient of generous bequests from the Monet family. Because of its rather far flung location, the Marmottan is largely and delightfully devoid of tourist throngs.
If you’re staying in the center of Paris, it’s absolutely worth a detour by metro. And it’s not far past the Eiffel Tower.
The Musée Marmottan Monet was once home to art critic and collector Paul Marmottan, who bequeathed his collection of Napoleonic art objects.
It has a specially built basement gallery with an exceptional overview of the art works of Claude Monet, over 300 pieces, from his early caricatures to his late works at Giverny. The museum also has 300+ paintings by fellow Impressionists Renoir, Dégas, Gaugin, Manet, and Morisot.
It has a specially built basement gallery. It gives you an exceptional overview of the art works of Claude Monet.
There are over 300 Monet pieces. They range from his early caricatures to his late works at his estate in Giverny. The museum also has 300+ paintings by fellow Impressionists Renoir, Dégas, Gaugin, Manet, and Morisot.
Monet’s water lilies are the star of the show. They’re massive, especially compared to the usual postage size Impressionist painting. And they sparkle with pure vivid color. I found them mesmerizing.
The museum also has Monet’s famous painting, Impression, Sunrise. The painting is significant because it gave birth to the name of the art movement. It was first shown at what was derogatorily dubbed the “Exhibition of the Impressionists” in 1874.
Practical Information for Visiting the Musée Marmottan Monet:
Address: 2 rue Louis Boilly | 16th Arrondissement, 75016 Paris, France
Hours: Daily: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, Thursday until 9:00 pm, closed Mondays
Entry: 12 €, 3 € for audioguide
Metro: Line 9 to La Muette
16. Musée de Montmartre: Secrets of Montmartre
Most people come to Montmartre, but never visit the Montmartre Museum, lost in the twisty cobbled streets of the charming Parisian neighborhood. That’s a shame. The museum’s a compelling charmer and full of history.
It’s housed in an atmospheric 17th century manor house, Maison Bel Air. It has a beautiful inner garden with the famous swing from Renoir’s 1876 painting.
The Swing is a companion piece to the Moulin de la Galette, which is also in the Musée d’Orsay. I couldn’t resist it on a wintery geographical cure.
Founded in 1960, the museum chronicles the raucous, bohemian history of late 19th century Montmartre. It captures a celebrated time, steeped in history and immortalized in art. Artists like Pissarro, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Dongen, and Modigliani lived in Montmartre, and paved the way for modern art.
Renoir, Valadon, Bernard, Dufy, and Utrillo lived in the museum itself. Eric Satie the composer also lived there. There’s a room dedicated to him.
On the second floor, you’ll find an exact replica of the studio of Valadon and her son Marcus Utrillo.
You’ll feel thrust into the wild, gritty period that was Belle Epoque Paris. You will learn about the avant-garde artists’ studios at the Bateau Lavoir and the infamous animated cabarets of the Lapin Agile and the Moulin Rouge.
There’s an entire room dedicated to the French can can. The museum provides great cultural background for a trip to the Orsay.
Practical Information for Visiting the Musée de Montmartre:
Address: 12-14 rue Cortot, 75018 Paris
Entry Fee: 13 €
Hours: Daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm (to 7:00 pm during Summer)
Metro: Ligne 12 Lamarck Caulaincourt or Ligne 2 Anvers (then take the funicular)
17. Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris: Modern Art
Off the typical tourist circuit, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (or “MAM” as it is known) is a must see nerve center for modern art.
MAM is in a prime location in the eastern wing of the Tokyo Palace. The museum overlooks the Seine and the Eiffel Tour.
It was inaugurated in 1961. MAM boasts over 10,000 works of art from the 20th and 21st centuries. The museum has high ceilings, open spaces, and is filled with colorful eye-catching art.
The permanent collection is free to the public and and showcases major artistic movements, including Fauvism, Cubism, Surrealism, and Orphism. There are works by Matisse, Picasso, Derain, Chagall, Modigliani, and Sonia and Robert Delaunay.
The Electricity Fairy (shown above) is the pièce de résistance of MAM. It’s a monumental work, 10 x 60 meters and one of the world’s largest painting, making it impervious to theft.
It was commissioned for the curving walls of the Pavilion de L’Electricite et de la Lumiere at the Exposition Internationale de Paris in 1937. It has 250 painted panels covering an entire room of the museum.
MAM was the scene of a dramatic one man “Spiderman” art theft, described as the “heist of the century.” On a chilly spring day in 2010, in the dead of night, Vjeran Tomic did the deed.
He cut a padlock, smashed a ground floor window, and snuck into MAM unhindered when the museum’s security system failed. The stolen paintings included works by Matisse, Picasso, Modigiliani, Léger, and Braque.
They are still missing. Along with the theft at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, it’s one of the most famous unsolved art heists in the world.
Practical Information for Visiting the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville:
Address: 12-14 avenue de New York – 75116 Paris (entrance until fall 2019)
Entry fee: permanent collection is free
Hours: Open Tues-Sun from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, Thurs night until 10:00 pm
Metro: Alma-Marceau or Iéna
18. Petit Palais | Musée des Beaux Arts de la Ville de Paris: Secret Masterpieces
Why does no one stop in here? It’s inexplicable. The newly renovated museum collection is free, absolutely free, and a joy to take in.
Like its sister palace the Grand Palais, the Neo-Classical Petit Palais was built for Paris’ 1900 World Fair. It became a museum in 1902.
Designed in the Beaux Arts style by famous architect Charles Girault, it’s a charming small museum that’s easy to cover in an hour or so.
It has French paintings, sculpture, and artifacts from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The collection includes artists as diverse as Rembrandt, Fragonard, Delacroix, Cézanne, Courbet, Corot, Monet, Rodin, Sisley, Pissarro, and many others.
There’s also a section dedicated to Roman and Greek art and some splashes of Post-Impressionism.
Practical Information for Visiting the Petit Palais:
Address: Avenue Winston Churchill, 8th arrondissement
Entry fee: permanent collection is free
Hours: Open Tues-Sun, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Closed Mondays and bank holidays.
Metro: Champs-Elysées Clémenceau
19. Zadkine Museum: Cubist Sculpture
Two blocks from the lush Luxembourg Gardens, in the heart of Montparnasse, lies the secret Zadkine Museum. You can blink and miss it, it’s so well hidden.
It’s situated behind an industrial building that seems inconsistent with anything artistic. But just to the left is a small seemingly private driveway. If you follow it, you arrive at the Zadkine Museum. Voila!
The intimate museum occupies the first floor of a two story house and has an impressive sculptural garden. It was formerly Zadkine’s home and studio, where he lived and created his atelier for 40 years.
Entering the museum, you’ll find a procession of small well-lit rooms with glass ceilings and white walls. The museum presents all periods of Russian expat Zadkine’s work in roughly chronological order.
It traces the “primitivism” of his first sculptures in wood or stone, to the strict geometry of his Cubist works, to his more expressionistic works, and finally to the pared down neoclassicism of his final years.
The heart of the museum, much like the Rodin Museum, is the lovely garden, dotted with terrific sculptures. There, you’ll find Zadkine’s Torso of a Destroyed City, a smaller scale version of his most famous piece, The Destroyed City, in Rotterdam. Other seminal garden works include Orphee, Rebecca, and The Human Forest.
The elegant little Zadkine Museum is well off the beaten path. But it’s definitely worth an hour or two of your time, especially if you like sculpture.
Practical Information for Visiting the Zadkine Museum:
Address: 100 bis rue d’Assas, 6th arrondissement
Hours: Tues to Sun from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, closed Mondays and holidays.
Entry: free unless there is a special exhibition, then 7 €
Metro: Vavin or Notre-Dame des Champs
20. Grevin Museum: Wax Museum
Inaugurated in 1882, the Grévin Museum is a veritable Parisian institution and one of the best things to do in the Opera District. It’s not a museum that many tourists frequent. It’s a fantastical wax museum. Sacré bleu!
The museum was the brainchild of prominent La Galoise newspaperman Arthur Meyer. In the pre-photography era, he dreamt of giving his loyal readers real life versions of the people they admired.
Using Madame Tussauds in London as a model, he hired Alfred Grévin, a sculptor and designer of theater costumes to create wax figures. Grévin did such a fantastic job that the museum bears his name.
In the museum’s themed rooms, visitors can relive French and world history. There are over 500 replicas of famous entertainers, politicians, historical figures, and painters.
The Grevin Museum is located in the historic Passage Jouffroy. It’s one of the most popular covered passages in Paris because of its sheer beauty. It has gorgeous marble flooring, a glass ceiling, and intricate wrought iron.
Click here to pre-book a ticket.
Practical Information for Visiting the Grevin Museum:
Address: 10 Boulevard Montmartre
Hours: Open daily 10:00 am to 6:30 pm, weekends open until 7:00 pm
Metro: Grand Boulevards
21. Maison de Balzac: Novelist’s Lair
In the 16th arrondissement, close to the magnificent Rue Berton, lies the Maison de Balzac. It offers an immersion into the daily life of one of France’s greatest writers, Honoré de Balzac. Toiling away in his writing study, Balzac edited the entire Human Comedy and wrote some of his other masterpieces.
Fleeing creditors, Balzac moved into the house on 1840 under the name of his mistress. The furniture is mostly gone due to subsequent moves, but it is still evocative and packed with interesting momentos.
You’ll find Balzac’s famous cane, paintings, engravings, illustrations, and documents about his loved ones. And you will see his fabulous carved writing desk and chair.
Of Balzac’s 11 different Paris residences, this is the only surviving one. Be sure to peek through the windows. There are commanding views of the Eiffel Tower.
Practical Information for Visiting the Maison de Balzac:
Address: 47 rue de Raynouard – 75016 Paris
Hours: Open Tues-Sun 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, closed Monday
Entry: permanent collection is free
22. Musée du Parfum – Fragonard: Test Your Nose
Nestled in the heart of Paris, a half block from the Opéra Garnier, is the unique Fragonard Musée du Parfum. The museum opened in 2015 and is housed in a romantic, ornate 19th century townhouse.
It was built by Joseph Lesoufaché, a student of Garnier, for whom the nearby Opera Garnier was named. The decor is alluring with painted ceilings, stucco decoration, old fireplaces, and chandeliers.
Fragonard is a French perfume company founded by Eugène Fuchsin in 1926. The company makes and sells its products only in France.
The museum offers a magical look at the secrets and history of the perfume trade. It has a magnificent collection of precious objects tracing the history of perfume from antiquity to the present day.
Visitors will find a cabinet of curiosities, including ancient artifacts, perfume “organs,” scent boxes, bottles in blown glass that look like beautiful jewels, and potpourri used at the court of the Louis XIV.
You’ll learn that the Iris is the most expensive flower to make perfume from and that light, heat and air are the enemy of perfume.
The museum offers a free small group guided tour in English. It is really quite a wonderful intimate experience, lasting about 30 minutes. And, after discovering the history of the precious elixirs, you can test your nose with an olfactory game available free of charge at the end of the tour.
This is a unique olfactory journey in Paris!
Pratical Information for Visiting the Musée du Parfum – Fragonard:
Address: 3-5 square Louis Jouvet, 75009
Hours: Open Mon to Sat from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, Sun & holidays, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Metro: Opera (Line 3, Line 7, Line 8), Chausée d’Antin La Fayette (Line 7, Line 9), Auber on RER line A (Red)
Pro tip: The entrance to the museum is at the back of the building. The shop is in front.
23. Musée Curie: For Science Geeks
The Curie Museum celebrates the life of scientist Marie Curie. It’s located near the Pantheon in the leafy green streets of the 5th arrondissement.
Curie was the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize. The permanent exhibition of her eponymous museum traces the history of radioactivity and its medical applications, along with the lives and works of Curie, her husband Pierre, and their children, Irene and Frederic.
They’ve been dubbed “the family of 5 Nobel prizes.” There’s also a chemistry laboratory that houses laboratory notes and scientific instruments from the 1930. I especially loved Curie’s small office where she spent most of her time.
The displays are in both English and French and you can pre-book private tours. When you’re done with the museum, you can head over to the nearby Arènes de Lutèce, the most important Roman ruin in Paris in the Latin Quarter.
Practical Information for Visiting the Musée Curie:
Address: 1 rue Pierre et Marie Curie – 75005 Paris
Note: The actual entrance to the museum is 11 Rue Pierre et Marie Curie
Hours: Wed-Sat 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Entry: permanent collection is free
Metro: Place Monge or Cardinal Lemoine
24. Musee de l’Orangerie: Monet’s Water Lilies
Paris’ Musée de l’Orangerie, or the Orangerie Museum, is one of the best small museums in Paris. The Orangerie’s marquee attraction is Impressionist painter Claude Monet’s water lily paintings, his career defining work.
In 1927, the water lily canvases were set in massive curved panels. They were installed in two adjoining oval shaped rooms in the (then new) museum.
Some art historians call the Orangerie Museum’s space the world’s “first art installation” because the rooms were created and designed specifically for Monet’s water lilies, which he created at his estate in Giverny.
The water lily installation is conceived so that the four panels in one gallery represent sunrise and the four in the other evoke dusk. And the water lilies are ravishing.
The rooms are a panorama of light and water. You’ll feel immersed in Monet’s garden at Giverney. Monet’s fierce oversize brushstrokes show the lily pond surfaces, reflections, depth, and movement, all at once. It’s like a distillation of a summer idyll in an enchanted place.
Once you’re done admiring Monet’s works, head downstairs to inspect another fabulous collection of paintings. Natural light floods a wide corridor where oils by Renoir and Cézanne are given pride of place.
Other rooms are devoted to more modern masters like Picasso, Matisse, Maurice Utrillo, and Henri Rousseau. The museum’s collection of works by Soutine is arguably the best in Paris.
Practical Information for Visiting the Musée de L’Orangerie:
Address: Place de la Concorde 75001 Paris
Hours: Open daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, last admission 5:15 pm, closed Tuesday
Entry fees: Full rate: € 12.50, reduced rate € 10
25. Victor Hugo Museum: Quirky House Museum
If you’re obsessed with Victor Hugo and the grandeur of Les Miserables, visit the writer’s former pied-à-terre, the Musée Victor Hugo. It’s a quirky off the beaten path destination in Paris. The museum is on the second floor of the Hôtel de Rohan-Guéménée at 6 Place des Vosges.
Hugo lived there from 1832 to 1848. The museum is an impressionist form of academic preservation. The house is reconstituted from several of the writer’s residences and that of his mistress, Juliette Drouet.
Still, it’s a romantic place, like the swashbuckling and romantic author. And, surprisingly, it reveals that Hugo was not only a prolific writer and womanizer, but had a sub-speciality in interior design.
The museum is intended to give visitors a sense of what Hugo’s daily existence might have looked like. Thematic rooms are arranged with furniture and works of art that Hugo created or are from his personal collections.
You’ll see first editions of his books, family portraits, photographs, sheet music, and 350 drawings by Hugo, as well as paintings and sculptures that were created in his honor.
Practical Information for Visiting the Victor Hugo Museum:
Address: 6 place des Vosges 75004, Paris
Entry fee: permanent collection free, audio guide € 5
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
Metro: St. Paul or Bastille
26. Musée des Arts Décoratifs: French Savoir Faire
Paris’ Decorative Arts Museum is housed in a 19th century wing of the Louvre. But it’s not part of the Louvre. The museum is the second oldest gallery in Paris, housing 8 centuries of French savoir faire. Light floods through the oculi of its central hall.
The museum combines beautiful architecture with a French passion for priceless decorative art. Decorative arts are objects and crafts whose purpose is both beautiful and functional.
The museum has room after room of furniture, mirrors, glass vases, carpets, jewelry, books, and fashion items — spread out over 10 floors in roughly chronological order.
The museum has a world renowned collection of reconstructed period rooms. It’s also known for its fashion collection. If you need a bite, try the white pizza with black truffles at Loulou, a casual Italian eatery on the ground floor.
Practical Information for Visiting the Decorative Arts Museum
Address: 107-111 rue de Rivoli
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 11:00 am to 6:00 pm. Thursday open until 9:00 pm. Closed Mondays. Entry fee: 14 €, free admission und 26
Metro: Palais-Royal-musée du Louvre (lines 1,7), Tuileries (line 1), Pyramides (lines 7, 14).
27. Bourse de Commerce: Just Opened
Housed in Paris’ former stock exchange two blocks from the Louvre, this spanking new museum houses the collection of one man, French billionaire Francoise Pinault.
The museum opened in May 2021 and was 20 years in the making. The private museum was overhauled and renovated by prize winning architect Tadao Ando, to the tune of $140 million. It has 3,000 square feet of exhibition space.
Pinault’s collection of contemporary art includes 5,000 works by Cy Twonbley, Cindy Sherman, Daniel Hirst, and Jeff Koons.
The museum reopened in May 2021 after a restoration and redesign by Japanese architect Tadao Ando. Pinnault plans to mount exhibitions and continue growing the collection with some site specific commissions.
The Bourse de Commerce’s third floor overlooks the Jardin Nelson Mandela. It offers views of Saint Eustache church, the Centre Pompidou, and the Paris rooftops.
Practical Information for Visiting the Bourse de Commerce
Address: 2 rue de Viarmes
Metro: Châtelet – Les Halles
28. Musée Bourdelle: Artist Studio
The Musée Bourdelle is one of the few remaining examples of the artists’ studios that filled Montparnasse in fin-de-siecle Paris. Arranged throughout its darkly atmospheric interiors are close to 500 monumental works by sculptor Antoine Bourdelle.
Bourdelle was a pupil of Auguste Rodin and a mentor to Alberto Giacometti. The studios were also used by Dalou and Chagall.
You’ll also see works by Ingres, Delacroix, and Rodin himself. The artist’s studio is still arranged as it was during his lifetime, complete with intriguing details like a full set of Samurai armor and scraps of medieval architecture.
Practical Information for Visiting the Musee Bourdelle:
Address: 18, rue Antoine Bourdelle
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, closed Mondays
Entry fee: permanent collection is free of charge
29. Museum of the Romantic Life: 19th Century Works
The 9th arrondissement also has a lovely museum dedicated to Romanticism called the Musée de la Vie Romantique, or the Museum of the Romantic Life. In the lexicon of swoonful museums names, this museum wins top prize.
Opened in 1987, the museum is housed in the Italianate style Hôtel Scheffer-Renan at the foot of Montmartre Hill. It’s hidden down a picturesque cobblestone alley and wrought iron gate.
With South Pigalle transformed from a grit to glamor hotspot, the museum’s seen an uptick in visitors. The museum’s spokesperson Catherine Sorel, has said, “We’re seeing a whole new population coming to the museum. There’s almost a kind of neo-dandyism – it’s fashionable to be interested in the 19th century and these artists.”
The intimate little museum is widely regarded as one of Paris’ most beautiful and quaint museums. It celebrates the lives and works of George Sand, who was a writer, libertine, and femme fatale, and Ary Scheffer, a Romantic Period Dutch painter.
With its creaking floors and curios, you can almost imagine yourself in the 19th century. If hunger calls, there’s a cafe onsite, Rose’s Bakery. It’s a satellite store of the famous bakery on Rue des Martyrs.
Practical Information for Visiting the Museum of the Romantic Life:
Address: 16 Rue Chaptal, 75009 Paris
Hours: Tues-Sun 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, closed Mon
Entry: permanent collection is free
30. Maillol Museum: Single Artist Sculpture Museum
This beloved single artist museum is a hidden gem in Paris. The small museum is located on the Left Bank. It’s only a 10 minute walk from the Rodin Museum, if you’re into sculpture.
The Maillol Museum was founded by Maillol’s late-in-life muse and model Dina Vierny. After Maillol’s death, she inherited the bulk of his art work.
As a Paris art dealer, Vierny worked tirelessly to promote his work. Eventually, created the Maillol Museum.
Maillol was a sculptor and sometimes painter, who adopted an old school craftsman style. His full bodied sculptures offer an absolute stability. Some look like the very image of determination.
In contrast to Rodin, whose sculptures were in a continuous state of drama and uproar, Maillol’s sturdier pieces seem effortless, idealized, and more reserved.
The museum showcases Maillol’s most important drawings, engravings, pastels, tapestry panels, ceramics, and sculptures. The collection epitomizes his calm, modern classicism.
They art works range in date from 1899 to 1940. The permanent collection also includes works by Picasso, Monet, Degas, Duchamp, and Kandinsky.
Practical Information for Visiting the Maillol Museum:
Address: 61 rue de Grenelle
Hours: Open daily from 10:30 am to 6:30 pm, late opening Friday until 8:30 pm
Entry: 13 €
Metro: Rue du Bac
31. The Quai Branly Museum: Non-Western Artifacts
Opened in 2006, the Musee du Quai Branley was the pet project of French President Jacques Chirac. The museum is housed in an extraordinary building designed by award winning architect Jean Nouvel.
It sits on a prime piece of real estate one block from the Eiffel Tower. You’ll have a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower from inside.
The low slung horizontal building consists of four connected buildings. One exterior wall is covered with vegetation. But the dominant feature is the 600 foot long exhibition hall that mimics the curve in the Seine.
You enter into a massive atrium. A curving spiral stairway leads to the display area. The museum’s goal is to treat indigenous non-Western art with the same reverence the Louvre treats Roman and Renaissance art. If you’re bored with Impressionism, come here.
The Branly thus attempts to be a universal showcase of non-European art and culture. Its vast collection has thousands of artifacts, with rooms dedicated to art from Asia, Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.
Its treasures include a 10th century Dogon statue from Mali, Aztec statues, Peruvian feather tunics, and rare frescos from Ethiopia.
Practical Information for Visiting the Musee Quay du Branly
Address: 37 Quai Branley
Hours: Open daily 10:30 am to 7:00 pm, late opening Thursday until 10:00pm, Closed Mondays
Entry: 12 €
Metro: Alma-Marceau, Lena, Ecole Militaire, Bir Hakeim
32. L’Atelier des Lumieres: Paris’ Digital Museum
If you’re looking for a twinkly indoor activity that’s visually amazing, you’ll love the Atelier des Lumieres, or Workshop of Light. The Atelier is Paris’ first digital museum. It’s operated by Culturespaces, a French museum foundation specializing in immersive art displays.
The Atelier is housed in an old factory in the 11th arrondissement. Using state of the art visuals and audio, the Atelier transforms famous works of art into projections on a vast 3300 square foot space. It’s a multi-sensory light and sound show.
The Atelier des Lumieres has became a new cultural hotspot in Paris. You don’t see the paintings as the artist intended, in quiet reflection.
Practical Information for L’Atelier des Lumières:
Address: 38 rue Saint Maur 75011 Paris
Hours: Open daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
Entry: 15 €
Metro: Voltaire, Saint-Ambroise, Rue Saint-Maur, Pere Lachaise
I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to the best must visit museums in Paris. You may enjoy these other Paris travel guides and resources:
- 5 Day Itinerary for Paris
- Tourist Traps To Avoid In Paris
- Top Attractions in Montmartre
- Hidden Gems in Paris
- Best Churches in Paris
- Best Things To Do in Paris in Winter
- Guide to the Opera District
- Marie Antoinette Sites in Paris
- Secret day trips from Paris
If you’d like to see great art in Paris, pin it for later.