Here’s my artsy wanderlust guide to the best virtual museums in Paris France, for at home culture vultures.
Do you love the City of Light? Or need some digital destination or cultural inspiration for a future trip to France? No problem! Now, you can virtually tour many of Paris’ amazing museums right from your couch or computer.
Some of Paris’ museums have partnered with Google Arts & Culture or have stand out online collections. Still others provide virtual tours, have added special online exhibits for virtual viewers, or can be visited via YouTube art experts. You can take a delightful DIY virtual tour of Paris museums without leaving your home.
The Best Virtual Museum Tours in Paris
Let’s take a digital tour of Paris’ amazing virtual museums.
1. Musee Rodin, Rodin Museum Virtual Tour
Opened in 1919, the Rodin Museum is a shrine to the complex life and oeuvre of one of France’s most revered artists, Auguste Rodin. Rodin is considered the father of modern sculpture.
He was absurdly talented, his works a torrent of expressive power. Rodin’s titular museum is housed in the 18th century Hotel Biron, a romantic mansion where Rodin created some of his greatest works.
The museum’s permanent collection includes many iconic Rodin sculptures and works from Rodin’s brilliant student Camille Claudel. The Rodin Museum also has a vast and verdant sculpture garden. In it, Rodin hand placed some of his favorite and most iconic sculptures.
The Rodin Museum has added some online audio tours. You can take a virtual tour of his famous sculpture The Thinker, read stories about Rodin’s life, and view and learn about 40 of the figures in his masterpiece The Gates of Hell. You can also explore over 300 Rodin sculptures on Google Arts & Culture. Here’s my complete guide to Paris’ Rodin Museum, if you want to know more.
2. The Musee de l’Armee, the Army Museum Virtual Tour
Paris’ Army Museum is one of Europe’s best military museums, 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.
You can explore the Army Museum’s collections online. You can also take a 360 tour of the Les Invalides complex where the museum is housed, showcasing the Tomb of Napoleon and the famous gold Les Invalides dome and chapel. If you want the full scoop, I’ve written a guide to visiting Paris’ Army Museum.
3. Musée National Picasso, Picasso Museum Virtual Tour
Paris’ Picasso Museum is a fantastic single artist museum. It holds one of Paris’ most treasured art collections, shown off in an elegant private mansion in the Marais.
What I love most about the Picasso Museum is that it houses all the art that Picasso himself couldn’t part with. It’s a personal collection that he created, curated, lived with, and kept nearby his entire life. The museum showcases all the artistic periods of his long life, all the women he romanced, and reveals his extraordinary range and talent.
Here’s an excellent series of audio tours of Picasso Museum masterpieces. The museum itself doesn’t yet have a very good online collection. But you can check out virtual tours of the museum on YouTube here and here. Smarthistory offers 13 virtual tours of seminal Picasso works. And you get explore Picasso paintings on Google Arts & Culture.
Here’s my complete guide to visiting the Picasso Museum in Paris.
4. Louvre Virtual Tour
The Louvre is Paris’ crown jewel and the world’s most visited museum. Unfortunately, the Louvre doesn’t have an arrangement with Google Arts & Culture.
But the Louvre does offer free virtual tours of some of its most important exhibits. You can admire the Egyptian Antiquities collection, Napoleon’s Rooms, the Medieval Louvre, and sculptures by Michelangelo. In my guide, I tell you how to take a virtual tour of every Louvre masterpiece.
If you’re a Beyonce fan, her recent music video featured pieces from the Louvre. Now, you can follow the Beyonce Louvre Trail on the Louvre website. Smarthistory also has a large collection of YouTube videos about individual master works in the Louvre. Don’t miss everyone’s favorite, the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.
5. Musee d’Orsay Virtual Tour
The Musee d’Orsay is a bastion of fantastic 19th century art, mostly French. It has the largest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art in the world. It boasts masterpieces by Monet, Degas, Cézanne, Manet, Gauguin, Seurat, and so many other artists.
In particular, the d’Orsay is a Van Gogh treasure trove. You can inspect his Self Portrait, Starry Night, Dr. Gachet, The Church at Auvers, and The Bedroom.
Other d’Orsay masterpieces include Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass and Olympia, Cezanne’s Card Players, Monet’s Houses of Parliament, and Renoir’s La Moulin de la Galette.
On Google Arts and Culture you can virtually tour dozens of famous works from the d’Orsay. Smarthistory has a good collection of online videos analyzing many of the d’Orsay’s masterpieces. Here’s my complete guide to the masterpieces at the Musee d’Orsay.
6. Musee de l’Orangerie Virtual Tour
Paris’ Musée de l’Orangerie, or the Orangerie Museum, is one of the best small museums in Paris. The Orangerie’s main claim to fame is its collection of Impressionist painter Claude Monet’s water lilies.
In 1927, the water lily canvases were set in massive curved panels and 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.
7. Grand Palais Virtual Tour
The Grand Palais is a massive Beaux-Arts icon. The facade combines a classical stone facade and a riot of Art Nouveau style ironwork. It has a beautiful glass roof. At the corners, are statues of flying horses and chariots. At night, the glass roof glows, lit from the inside.
The Grand Palais is used for all sort of occasions. It hosts art exhibitions, fairs, trade shows, and sporting events. In winter, it even has an ice rink.
You can take a virtual tour of the Grand Palais and learn about its history and design. You can virtually hike up to the roof and see panoramic views of Paris. The Grand Palais has also partnered with Google Arts & Culture. You’ll find hundreds of images, stories, and photographs there.
8. Monnaie de Paris Virtual Tour
The off the beaten path Monnaie de Paris is a government owned institution and former mint of Paris, facing the banks of the Seine River.
It’s a multi-functional place. It houses a museum on coin making, hosts temporary art exhibitions, houses artists workshops, and houses the Michelin starred Café Frappé by Bloom.
You can take virtual tour of the grand building here. Stroll its grand rooms and decorations online.
9. The Petit Palais
Like its sister palace the Grand Palais, the 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, the Petit Palais is a charming small museum.
It houses French paintings, sculpture, and artifacts from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Petit Palais collection includes artists as diverse as Rembrandt, Fragonard, Delacroix, Cézanne, Courbot, Corot, Monet, Rodin, Sisley, Pissarro, and many others. There’s also a section dedicated to Roman and Greek art.
Though the museum isn’t on Google Arts & Culture, it has a very good online collection for you to explore. You can also virtually visit its current temporary exhibition, In the Drawing Room, featuring Masterpieces of the Prat Collection. And here’s a YouTube video of the museum’s collection.
10. Musée des Arts Décoratifs Virtual Tour
Paris’ Decorative Arts Museum combines beautiful architecture with priceless art. Decorative arts are objects and crafts whose purpose is both beautiful and functional.
The museum has room after room of furniture, reconstructed rooms, mirrors, glass vases, jewelry, books, and fashion items. The museum also hosts special exhibitions.
You can take a virtual tour of the museum online here.
11. Cluny Museum, the National Museum of the Middle Ages, Virtual Tour
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 see site in the Latin Quarter of Paris.
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.
12. Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris Virtual Tour
This is Paris’ Museum of 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 in Paris.
MAM was inaugurated in 1961 and boasts almost 15,000 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 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 monumental Electricity Fairy (shown above) is the pièce de résistance of MAM.
13. Musee Jacquemart-Andre Virtual Tour
The Jacquemart-André is an oddly overlooked Paris museum, located just off the Champs-Elysées in the 8th arrondissement. The mansion dates to Baron Haussmann’s massive renovation of Paris.
Édouard André and Nélie Jacquemart wanted their home to be as grand and beautiful as the new Paris. So they set about creating a gorgeous art collection and renovating the mansion to showcase their pieces.
And there are some masterpieces inside. The museum has Dutch pieces by Rembrandt and Van Dyke and a large collection of 14th and 15th century Italian art. The painting of St. George and the Dragon, shown above, is the jewel of the Jacquemart-Andre. It’s considered one of the greatest achievements in Italian Renaissance art.
14. The Catacombs
The Catacombs is Paris’ “Empire of Death,” a 200 mile honeycomb of tunnels. The system is so enormous that no one knows exactly how many tunnels or chambers exist. The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables’ Jean Valjean both haunted these tunnels. During WWII, the French Resistance used the tunnels to hide.
With cemeteries in Paris overflowing, a portion of the tunnels were turned into an ossuary for human remains. At first, bones were haphazardly deposited. Eventually, they were organized and systematically displayed.
15. Musee Carnavalet Virtual Tour
The 17th century Carnavalet Museum was Paris’ very first municipal museum, plopped into the center of the bustling Marais neighborhood. The very special museum fills two adjacent mansions, the Hôtel Le Peletier de St-Fargeau and the Hôtel Carnavalet.
The museum documents Paris’ compelling history in an eclectic and eccentric way. Its hodgepodge collection comprises over 600,000 artifacts. The museum has medieval and Gallo-Roman archeological collections, mementos of the French Revolution, paintings, sculptures, furniture, and other historical curiosities. A highlight is the Marie Antoinette Room, with rare portraits and a lock of her hair.
16. Musee Curie Virtual Tour
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 and the only person to win two Nobel Prizes.
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. It contains her small office, where she spent most of her time.
You can explore the Curie Museum on Google Arts & Culture. There are almost 200 items and 11 stories about the famous scientist.
17. The Palace of Versailles Virtual Tour
You can now take a virtual tour of the Louis XIV’s Palace of Versailles, the most ornate and famous royal chateau in France, just outside Paris. Once behind closed doors, the 17th century palace is now yours for digital viewing at home.
The palace has partnered with Google Arts & Culture to present virtual exhibits online. Google takes users on a journey of the palace’s rich decor and art collection of over 22,000 pieces. You can also take a plethora of amazing virtual tours on the Palace of Versailles’ website. Nothing is left out! You can see the Hall of Mirrors, the royal apartments, tour the famous Le Notre gardens, etc.
For the full scoop on everything you can see and read online, here’s my guide to taking a digital tour of the Palace of Versailles.
18. Paris Musees Collections Virtual Tours
In a collective effort, Paris museums have made 100,000 images of artworks from Paris museums freely available to the public. This includes digital downloads of masterpieces by artists like Rembrandt, Courbet, and Delacroix. Here’s the digital collections portal.
The portal includes 14 municipal museums in Paris, which are listed below. I’ve written guides on some of these museums and link to them below.
Maison de Balzac
Carnavalet Museum History of Paris
Musée Cernuschi Museum of Asian Art
Archaeological Crypt of Notre-Dame
Museum of the General Leclerc and the Paris’ Liberation – Jean Moulin Museum
Petit Palais City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts
19. Louis Vuitton Foundation
This is a sweet little museum tucked into a stunning Frank Gehry designed glass building located in the Bois de Bologne. The Foundation is new, just opening in 2014. It houses modern and contemporary art from the 1960s to the present.
The museum houses masterpieces by the likes of Egon Schiele, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jeff Koons, Henri Matisse, and Ellsworth Kelly. It hosts temporary exhibits as well.
You can take a virtual tour here.
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