Looking for the best museums in Paris? You’ve come to the right place.
I’ve been to dozens of Paris museums, both large and small, in my many visits over the years. Paris is a veritable art paradise. It just oozes art, with more museums per mile than any city in the world.
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.
Best Museums in Paris
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.
If you’re seeing a lot of attractions and museums, you may want to book Paris Museum Pass. The museum pass is included is the the more general Paris Pass.
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.
- 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. 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.
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.
Once you have your ticket, be sure to get in the right line. You’ll go through security, a ticket check, and then a line for audio guides.
For more information, here’s my comprehensive guide to 25 must see masterpieces of the Musee d’Orsay.
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: € 16
- Metro: Solferino
- Online tickets
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 and the largest one in Europe. The brainchild of French President Georges Pompidou, it’s located in central Paris near the Marais. It’s one of the best museums in Paris, so be sure to visit before it closes for renovations in the Fall of 2024!
Opened in 1977, the Pompidou is known for its futuristic and colorful architecture, designed by Renzo Piano. Within the guts of this exoskeleton lie 120,000 works of art.
The permanent collection is on the 4th and 5th floors. 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 6th floor viewing terrace. You can also visit the studio of Constantin Brancusi, which is in a freestanding structure opposite the main entrance to the Pompidou.
The sculptor lived most of his life in Paris. Upon his death in 1956, he gifted the entire contents of his studio to the French state.
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, starting at € 15, the audioguide is € 5
- Metro: Rambuteau, Hotel de Ville, or Les Halles
- Pro Tip: The museum will be closed for renovations from the Fall of 2024 to 2027.
5. Rodin Museum: Sculptures By the Master
The spectacular Rodin Museum is one of the best museums in Paris for those who love sculpture. Rodin’s titular museum is housed in the 18th century Hotel Biron on the Left Bank.
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. Inside, 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, 13 €, 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
The Paris’ Picasso 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 Paris museum that should be on your Paris bucket list.
The museum’s housed in the Hotel de Cluny, built in the 14th century and atop extant Roman bath. It recently underwent a € 26 million renovation, which added a reception area and more exhibition space. You can now view the exhibits in chronological order.
As its name implies, the Cluny Museum is dedicated to all things from the Middle Ages. The museum houses the world’s best collection of medieval art and objects.
You’ll find sculptures from Notre Dame and other churches and stained glass from Sainte-Chapelle. The museum’s pièce de résistance is the six 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.
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: 12 €
- 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 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, period rooms, paintings, 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.
Beginning in 2016, the museum underwent a spectacular $65 million renovation. The redesign created a new chronological route and added much more display space and signage in English.
If you’re in a hurry, make a beeline for the French Revolution exhibits on the top floor.
Practical Information for 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. It’s a UNESCO site, Paris’ most exquisite Gothic monument, and surely one of the best museums in Paris.
The 14th century royal chapel was built by Louis IX to house the supposed Crown of Thorns of Christ.
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 the first king of France. In the 14th century, the kings and queens of France abandoned the gloomy Gothic palace and 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.
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
- Online tickets
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. The impressive museum has 7 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” best, which focuses on WWI and WWII. 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 Fondation Louis Vuitton was inaugurated in 2014. It’s an absolutely stunning building designed by Frank Gehry.
The museum is located in the Bois de Bologne, so you’ll need to take the metro or a taxi. The Foundation houses late 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.
But it’s worth the trip just for the building itself. The museum also hosts special exhibitions in large galleries with soaring ceilings. I just went to an excellent one featuring the works of Claude Monet and Joan Mitchell.
Practical Information for the Fondation Louis Vuitton:
- Address: 8 Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi
- Hours: Open daily from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm. On Friday night, it’s open until 11:00 pm.
- Entry fee: 16 €, which also gives you access to the Jardins d’Acclimatation
- Metro: Les Sablons
Small Secret Museums in Paris
Don’t have a year to spend gazing at Louvre exhibits? There are plenty of secret, less crowded museums to visit.
12. Musée National Eugène Delacroix: Romantic Period Pieces
The Delacroix Museum is an eccentric little gem of museum. 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.
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.
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 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
- Metro: Saint-Germain-des-Prés
13. Musée National Gustave Moreau: Works of Symbolism
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.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 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.
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 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, not far from 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 the world’s largest collection of art works of Claude Monet, 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.
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
The Montmartre Museum is a compelling charmer and full of hart and istory. 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, Moulin de la Galette, which is also in the Musée d’Orsay.
Founded in 1960, the museum chronicles the raucous, bohemian history of Belle Époque Paris. It was a time when artists like Pissarro, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Dongon, Utrillo, 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. There’s also a separate exhibition space.
Practical Information for 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 ( known as “MAM”) 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 boasts a lovely view of the Eiffel Tour.
The museum was inaugurated in 1961 and 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.
Practical Information for 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
Newly renovated and beautiful, the Petit Palais is another of the best museums in Paris. Plus, the 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.
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.
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 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
- Entry fees
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.
Practical Information for 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
- Metro: Passy
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. The decor is alluring with painted ceilings, stucco decoration, old fireplaces, and chandeliers.
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.
Pratical Information for the Musée du Parfum – Fragonard:
- Address: 3-5 square Louis Jouvet, 75009
- Entry: free
- 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 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 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.
The museum also hosts temporary exhibits. From the top floor, there’s an amazing view out over the Tuileries Gardens.
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: Contemporary Art
Housed in Paris’ former stock exchange two blocks from the Louvre, thie spanking new Bourse de Commerce 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 space and it’s gorgeous. It’s worth a visit just to see the building.
You can hardly take your eyes off the painted panorama in the lower part of the dome. It’s over 4500 feet and represents the five parts of the world.
Pinault’s collection of contemporary art includes 5,000 works by Cy Twonbley, Cindy Sherman, Daniel Hirst, and Jeff Koons. There is also plenty of exhibition space.
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 the Bourse de Commerce
- Address: 2 rue de Viarmes
- Metro: Châtelet – Les Halles
- Entry fee: € 14
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. The Great Hall holds the plaster casts used as the basis for his best known bronzes. Probably the most famous are his casts for Hercules the Archer.
Bourdelle was a pupil of Auguste Rodin and a mentor to Alberto Giacometti and Aristide Maillol. His studio was also used by Dalou and Chagall.
You’ll also see art 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.
The Bourdelle Museum closed in January 2021 for renovations, but will reopen on March 15, 2023.
Practical Information for Visiting the Musee Bourdelle:
- Address: 18, rue Antoine Bourdelle
- Metro: Montparnasse
- 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.
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 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
- Metro: Pigalle
30. Maillol Museum: Single Artist Sculpture Museum
This beloved Maillol Museum is a single artist museum that’s 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 a fan of 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.
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 abstract.
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. The museum also hosts some outstanding exhibits.
Practical Information for 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 – Jacques Chirac is one of the best museums in Paris. It was the pet project of French President Jacques Chirac. The museum is housed in an extraordinary building designed by award winning architect Jean Nouvel.
The low slung horizontal building consists of four connected buildings, which are all wildly different. One exterior wall is covered with vegetation. One curves with the Seine.
You enter into a high ceilinged atrium. A spiraling stairway that mimics a river leads to the massive permanent display area.
The museum is devoted entirely to non-Western indigenous art and culture. Its vast collection has thousands of artifacts, with dimly-lit 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, ritual masks, and rare frescos from Ethiopia.
Practical Information for 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
33. Palais Galliera: Fashion
The Palais Galliera is a museum dedicated to fashion and the history of fashion. Its official name is the Palais Galliera – Musee de la Mode de la Ville de Paris.
The collection is housed in a Renaissance palace built by the Duchesse de Galliera, then Paris’ wealthiest woman.
Newly renovated, the permanent collection takes a generalist approach to the history of fashion since the 18th century. You’ll find designer costumes, jewelry, walking sticks, hats, shoes, bags, fans, gloves, parasols and umbrellas.
This museum is a surprisingly hot ticket in Paris. I was just there for a temporary exhibition on Frida Kahlo and it was completely sold out.
Practical Information for the Palais Galliera
- Address: 10 avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie
- Metro: Lena or Alma-Marceau
- Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
- Entry fee: 15 €
34. Hotel de la Marine: Sumptuous Period Rooms
The Hôtel de la Marine is another new museum in Paris, just opening in 2021. It’s housed in a grand Neo-classical palace on the Place de la Concorde,
It was designed and built between 1757 and 1774 by the architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel. Louis XV’s superintendent had a grand suite of rooms there.
The museum can now be visited for the first time in almost 250 years after a 4 year $157 million renovation. 200 of France’s finest craftsmen were hired to restore it to its former to its Louis XV splendor.
Today, visitors can embark on an immersive visit of the sumptuous apartments, complete with furnishings and state rooms that provide access to the loggia overlooking the Place de la Concorde. The elegance quotient is off the charts and an audio guide offers colorful historical anecdotes.
Click here to book a skip the line ticket.
Practical Information for the Hotel de la Marine
- Address: 2 Place de la Concorde
- Metro: Notre Dame Des Champs
- Hours: Open daily from 10:30 am to 7:00 pm. On Friday nights, open until 9:00 pm.
- Entry fee: 17,00 €
I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to the best museums in Paris. You may enjoy these other Paris travel guides and resources:
- 5 Day Itinerary for Paris
- 3 Day Itinerary for Paris
- 2 Day Itinerary for Paris
- Tourist Traps To Avoid In Paris
- Top Attractions in Montmartre
- Top Attractions in the Marais
- Hidden Gems in Paris
- Best Churches in Paris
- Best Things To Do in Paris in Winter
- Guide to the Opera District
- Secret day trips from Paris
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