17 Top-Rated Museums in Paris
As one of the world's most cultured cities, Paris has a wealth of exceptional museums. The city boasts an astounding 173 museums with something for everyone. The city's most highly regarded museum and must-see tourist attraction, the Louvre, astounds visitors with its collection of fine art from antiquity to the 19th century. Other museums are devoted to specific artists, such as the Musée Picasso, the Musée Rodin, and the Musée Marmottan Monet; or genres, such as Impressionist art at the Musée d'Orsay, medieval art at the Cluny Museum, and modern art at the Pompidou Center. Paris is also home to appealing small museums like the Musée Jacquemart-Andre and the Musée de l'Orangerie. To get the most out of a visit to Paris, it's best to plan in advance. Certain museums are closed on Mondays or Tuesdays, and some museums stay open late on Wednesdays or Thursdays.
1 Musée du Louvre
This incomparable museum contains the most important art collection in Paris and one of the most renowned in the world. The Louvre occupies the former royal palace of French Kings. It was built as a medieval fortress and then enhanced through the centuries with each successive king. The sumptuous building encompasses 60,000 square meters of exhibition space and displays more than 30,000 works of art including many renowned masterpieces. The collection includes German, Flemish, and Dutch paintings from the 15th to the 17th centuries; French paintings from the Middle Ages to the 19th century; and Italian paintings from the 11th to the 18th centuries. The museum has a rich collection of antiquities, including ancient Greek, Etruscan, Roman, and Mesopotamian artifacts. Also on view are the French crown jewels and antique French furniture. Some of the most famous works of art at the Louvre include Leonardo da Vinci's mysteriously beautiful Mona Lisa painting, the grand floor-to-ceiling masterpiece The Wedding Feast at Cana by Veronese in 1563, the Venus de Milo statue of the 2nd century BC, and the Winged Victory of Samothrace of the 3rd or 2nd century BC. The Louvre also has an impressive collection of Neoclassical 18th-century statues.
Address: Address: 36 Quai de Louvre, 75001 Paris (Métro: Palais-Royal Musée du Louvre station)
2 Musée d'Orsay
For those who appreciate French Impressionist art, the Musée d'Orsay is the ultimate destination in Paris. On the banks of the Seine River opposite the Tuileries Gardens, the building was originally designed as the Gare d'Orsay railway station for the Paris Exhibition of 1900. The gorgeous Belle Epoque building was converted into a museum with 17,200 square meters of display space. Focusing on art from 1848 to 1916, the collection includes pieces by all the great masters of the Impressionist movement. Boudin, Caillebotte, Corot, Courbet, Degas, Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, Renoir, and Vuillard are well represented. The museum complements the Impressionist paintings with works by Post-Impressionists Bonnard, Cézanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh, and the Pointillists Seurat and Signac. There are also drawings and paintings by Toulouse Lautrec, the Bohemian artist of Montmartre who is in a class of his own. Some of the museum's most exemplary pieces include Claude Monet's The Magpie (1868-1869) and Cathedral series painted in Rouen (1894), Renoir's The Swing (1876) and the Ball at Moulin de la Galette, Montmartre (1876), Degas' Blue Dancers (1893), and Morisot's The Cradle (1872). The museum has a bookstore and two casual cafés as well as an elegant restaurant with magnificent chandeliers and a gorgeous painted ceiling.
Address: 1 Rue de la Légion d'Honneur, 75007 Paris
3 Musée de Cluny (Musée National du Moyen Âge)
A hidden gem in the atmospheric Latin Quarter of Paris, the Musée de Cluny occupies the elegant Hôtel de Cluny, the 14th-century Parisian townhouse of the Benedictine Abbey of Cluny in Burgundy. The building stands at the corner of Boulevard Saint-Michel and Boulevard Saint-Germain, on an ancient Roman-era archeological site. The museum has an outstanding collection of medieval art, including magnificent medieval tapestries that are among the finest in France. The greatest treasure in the collection of tapestries is the renowned Lady with the Unicorn (Dame à la Licorne) series that dates back to the 15th century. Depicted in exquisite detail, the six scenes in the series are an allegory of the five senses and the joys of the senses. Especially noteworthy is the 23-scene tapestry series from Auxerre, Burgundy that illustrates the legend of Saint Stephen (Etienne). The museum also has an excellent collection of medieval stained glass. One of the rooms of the museum is an archeological site that was once part of the two-thousand-year-old Roman baths-the frigidarium (cold room). This room features antiquities such as Roman and Gallic sculptures from the 1st century AD. The rest of the Roman baths complex, Thermes de Cluny, built in AD 200, can be seen from the street outside the museum.
Address: 6 Place Paul Painlevé 75005 Paris (Métro Cluny-La Sorbonne, Saint-Michel, or Odéon station)
4 Centre Georges Pompidou (Musée National d'Art Moderne)
In between Les Halles shopping district and the Marais quarter, the Centre Pompidou astounds visitors with its stunning presentation of creativity and modernity. This structure of steel and glass features an outdoor escalator resembling a glass caterpillar. Some critics laud the building's originality, others call it a monstrosity. The Pompidou Center was designed as a place to foster creative work and the exchange of ideas. The center encompasses several different ateliers, libraries, and arts organizations. The center's main tourist attraction is the Musée National d'Art Moderne, an extensive collection of modern and contemporary art displayed in chronological order, beginning with the Fauves (Derain, Vlaminck, Marquet, Dufy, Matisse, and Bonnard) and Picasso's early works, continuing with Cubism (Picasso, Braque, Gris, and Léger), Expressionism (Nolde, Macke, and Kandinsky), Constructivism (Klee and Mondrian), Dadaism and Surrealism (Duchamp, Dalí, Ernst, and Magritte), Abstract Expressionism (de Staël, Hartung, Poliakoff, and Dubuffet), New Realism (Tinguely and Arman), and Pop Art (Warhol and Oldenburg). There is also an outstanding collection of modern sculpture (Giacometti, Calder, Laurens, and Duchamp-Villon).
Address: Address: Place Georges Pompidou, 75004 Paris (Métro: Rambuteau, Hôtel de Ville, or Châtelet-Les Halles)
5 Petit Palais: Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris
Designed in grand Belle Epoque style, the Petit Palais was created for the 1900 Universal Exhibition and became a museum in 1902. Designed by Charles Girault, the building has four wings that surround a pleasant garden with a richly decorated portico. The opulent interior features a spectacular main doorway with ornate sculptural details, beautiful ceiling paintings in the Dutuit cupola, galleries adorned with lovely decorative murals, and lavish mosaic floors. The Petit Palais houses the valuable art collections of the City of Paris' Musée des Beaux-Arts (Museum of Fine Arts), which includes classical antiquities, medieval artifacts and religious art, Renaissance painting and decorative objects, 17th- and 18th-century paintings, Impressionist art, Art Nouveau objects, graphic arts, manuscripts, and photography. Among the highlights of the collection are masterpieces by Delacroix, Rembrandt, and Rubens, and a wonderful collection of Impressionist pictures by Bonnard, Cézanne, Monet, Pissarro, and Renoir. There are also some impressive sculptures by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux.
6 Musée Rodin
The Rodin Museum is a wonderful tourist attraction housed in the Hôtel Biron, a gracious Neoclassical mansion built in the 18th century. In 1908, the French sculptor Auguste Rodin had rented part of the mansion for use as an art studio, and beginning in 1911, he occupied the entire building. Rodin was inspired by the property's beautiful formal garden with its shady trees and well-groomed shrubbery. Rodin willed much of his art work and his antiquities collection to the French government. The museum displays 300 works from Rodin's collection, featuring his celebrated sculptures as well as his paintings and drawings. The collection also includes paintings collected by Rodin, such as pieces by Renoir and Van Gogh. The garden doubles as an outdoor museum space that exhibits full-size copies of Rodin's world-famous works, including The Thinker (Le Penseur), the Burghers of Calais (Les Bourgeois de Calais), and the Gates of Hell (La Porte d'Enfer). The museum also hosts interesting temporary exhibitions.
Address: Address: 79 Rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris (Métro: Varenne or Invalides station)
7 Musée Marmottan Monet
In the former hunting lodge of the Duke of Valmy, near the lovely Bois de Boulogne park, the Musée Marmottan Monet is must-see sight for lovers of Impressionism. The museum showcases the paintings of France's most celebrated Impressionist artist Claude Monet. The collection includes 94 paintings and 29 drawings by Monet, allowing visitors to appreciate the progression of the artist's career. The collection begins with Monet's groundbreaking Impression, Soleil Levant painting (1872), which gave Impressionism its name, and continues chronologically until his Nymphéas (Water Lilies) series, which he painted in his later years while living in Giverny (an interesting Paris day trip). Treasures of the collection include Monet's renowned paintings Train dans la Neige (1875), Pont de l'Europe (1877), Gare Saint-Lazare (1877) and Parlements (1905). The museum also displays works by Monet's contemporaries: Boudin, Corot, Gauguin, Daumier, Morisot, Pissarro, Renoir, and Sisley among others. In addition, the museum has a room featuring medieval illuminated art; the collection includes masterpieces of craftsmanship from the 13th to the 16th centuries.
Address: 2 Rue Louis Boilly, 75016 Paris
8 Musée Carnavalet
This noteworthy museum lies in the Hôtel Carnavalet, an elegant mansion in the Marais district of Paris-a quarter steeped in medieval and Renaissance history. The Marais has a distinct Old World charm and is resplendent with former aristocratic palaces as well as religious monuments. The 16th-century Hôtel Carnavalet features an impressive facade with sculptures attributed to Jean Goujon, who decorated the Louvre for King Francois I. The Hôtel de Carnavalet was occupied from 1677 to 1696 by Madame de Sévigné, whose letters to her daughter, more than 1,500 in number, describing life in Paris and at the court in Versailles are valuable documents on the age of the Sun King. Housed in this exceptional historic monument, the Musée Carnavalet illustrates the history of Paris and her inhabitants through a collection of paintings, objects of art, and memorabilia. The collection gives a sense of everyday life in the different historical periods, while documenting the intellectual and cultural progress of Paris.
Address: Address: 16 Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, 75003 Paris (Métro: Saint-Paul)
9 Musée de l'Orangerie
Near the Place de la Concorde and the Tuileries Gardens in the center of Paris, the Musée de l'Orangerie is a joy to discover. This wonderful cultural attraction focuses on Impressionist art similar to the Musée d'Orsay, except that the Orangerie Museum is smaller and less well known and therefore usually less crowded. Tourists will enjoy seeing great paintings of the Impressionists in this intimate space. The museum represents the work of Impressionists (Monet, Sisley, and Renoir) as well as Post-Impressionists (Cézanne, Gauguin, Matisse, and Derain), and Modernists (Modigliani, Picasso, and Soutine). One of the highlights of the museum is Monet's series of Les Grandes Nymphéas (Big Water Lilies). The immense and gorgeous paintings cover the entire wall space of a circular exhibition room. When viewed from close up, the paintings appear to be scribbles of brush strokes, yet when viewed from several feet away the water lilies come to life. These masterpieces of Impressionist painting reveal the remarkable talent and genius of Claude Monet.
10 Musée Jacquemart-André
The Musée Jacquemart André occupies a graceful 19th-century "hôtel particulier." This beautiful mansion was once the residence of Edouard André and Nélie Jacquemart, and it was built for them and decorated lavishly. Visitors enter through the impressive Jardin d'Hiver (winter garden) courtyard in the Napoleon III style with its monumental staircase. The home reflects the refined tastes of Edouard André and his wife Nélie Jacquemart, who were avid art collectors. They were passionate about 17th-century French painting as well as the art of the Italian Renaissance. The couple's private art collection is on display throughout the salons and the Louis-XV-style private apartments. The collection of masterpieces includes pieces by Fragonard, Rembrandt, and Botticelli with frescoes by Tiepolo. Also noteworthy are the Beauvais tapestries and Sèvres porcelain. The museum has a boutique as well as an elegant café.
11 Musée Picasso
Renovated in 2014, this exceptional museum is located in the historic Marais quarter in the Hôtel Salé, one of the grandest aristocratic mansions in Paris. The 17th-century mansion has been converted to a spacious and elegant museum with 3,700 square meters of display space. Renowned for its scope and quality, the collection displays nearly 300 of Picasso's works (including more than 200 paintings). This expansive collection represents the entire span of the artist's career, highlighting key periods, and encompasses all the different mediums that Picasso used (painting, sculpture, and engraving), offering an insight into the artist's unique creative process. Among the highlights are his Self-Portrait and La Celestina (1904) from the Blue Period, the Young Ladies of Avignon (1907), and the Man with Mandolin and Violin and Sheet Music (1912) from the Cubist Period. Also noteworthy are the Large Nudes, the vibrant Matadors, and charming Musicians paintings. The museum's Picasso works are complemented by pieces that came from his personal art collection. Artists represented include Cézanne, Corot, Degas, Renoir, Matisse, Derain, Braque, Miró, and Rousseau.
Address: Address: 5 Rue de Thorigny, 75003 Paris (Métro: Saint-Paul, Saint-Sébastien-Froissart or Chemin Vert station)
12 Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute)
The Institut du Monde Arabe is a surprising modern monument in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, the medieval Latin Quarter. On the banks of the Seine, the tall, sleek building (completed in 1988) is reminiscent of Arab architecture; the facade resembles filigree work, and the interior features ornamental metal-openwork screens that filter light into the rooms. The institute was established to promote interchange between the cultures of the East and West through lectures, concerts, film screenings, dance performances, and temporary exhibitions that appeal to a general audience. Arabic language classes are offered in collaboration with the institute's Centre de Langue et de Civilisation.
The institute's museum, housed in more than seven stories of the building, presents a comprehensive view of the diverse civilizations of the Arab world (including 22 present-day countries). The collection commences with exhibits about the Arabian peninsula in the first millennium BC and highlights the period of the 3rd century when the Arabic language and the true identity of Arab culture emerge. The museum also illustrates the history of Islam beginning in the 7th century, then shows its influence throughout the world. In addition, the museum educates visitors about the other languages and religions of the Arab world, such as Aramaic, Amazighe, Kurdish languages, and Jewish and Christian religions. Many exquisite Islamic art works and everyday objects are on display, including calligraphy, printed books, carpets, textiles, and contemporary paintings. On the roof terrace, the restaurant & café is a splendid place for a snack or meal. Tourists will appreciate the panoramic views over the Île de la Cité and all the way to the Arc de Triomphe. On clear days, it's possible to see as far as La Défense.
Address: Address: 1 Rue des Fossés Saint-Bernard, 75005 Paris (Métro: Jussieu station)
13 Musée des Arts Décoratifs
For those who appreciate fashion and the finer things in life, this museum in the Louvre's western wing is a delight. The Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts) includes an extensive collection of fashion and textiles, decorative arts, and advertising posters. The fashion collection traces the history of garments since the 7th century. The decorative arts collection includes an astounding 150,000 objects, which reveal the French savoir-faire of craftsmanship and the art of living. Visitors will enjoy the variety of objects from porcelain to stained-glass and a doll's house. The posters collection displays advertisements from the 18th century to the present day. Also associated with the Musée des Arts Décoratifs is the Musée Nissim de Camondo in the 8th arrondissement at 63 Rue de Monceau. This magnificent Belle Epoque private mansion displays an interesting collection of art objects, from sparkling chandeliers and gilded clocks to Sèvres porcelain, serving pieces, and delicates vases. The Museum of Decorative Arts also supports the Ateliers du Carrousel, which offers art workshops for children and adults taught by professional artists.
Address: 107 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
14 Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
The excellent City of Paris' Museum of Modern Art occupies a building that was designed for the International Art and Technical Exhibition in 1937. Opened in 1961, the museum features the work of famous modern artists including paintings by Bonnard, Derain, Dufy, Léger, Matisse, and Vuillard among others. The collection highlights major trends in modern art and includes a history section, which allows visitors to appreciate the context of modern art. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year.
Address: Address: 11 Avenue du Président Wilson, 75116 Paris (Métro: Alma-Marceau or Iéna station)
15 Musée National des Arts et Metiers Techniques
Founded in 1794 by Henri Grégoire, the Musée National des Arts et Metiers Techniques is a museum of technological innovation. The museum exhibits more than 2,400 inventions, primarily focused on scientific instruments. The collection comprises seven categories: Communication, Construction, Energy, Materials, Mechanics, Scientific Instruments, and Transport. One of the highlights of the museum is the original version of Foucault's Pendulum demonstrated by the French physicist Jean Foucault in 1851. The pendulum swings in a full rotation of 360 degrees every 24 hours, thus proving the rotation of the earth.
Address: 60 Rue Réaumur 75003 Paris
16 Musée du Quai Branly
This innovative museum brings together ethnic art from all over the world. An eye-opening study of diverse cultures, the museum possesses 5,450 artifacts representing the geographic regions of Oceania, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The artifacts are organized into four different collections: History, Musicology, Photography, and Textiles. From musical instruments to traditional masks, the collection gives a unique insight into the heritage of each region. Some of the highlights of the museum include a tribal mask from Papua New Guinea, a statuette from the Solomon Islands, and an unusual anthropomorphic animal figure from Vietnam.
Address: Address: 37 Quai Branly 75007 Paris (Métro: Alma-Marceau, Iéna, Ecole Militaire, or Bir Hakeim station)
17 Musée Guimet
The Musée Guimet has the most important collection of Indian, Indonesian, Japanese, Nepalese, and Tibetan art in France. The museum was founded at the end of the 19th century, when the Lyons industrialist and traveler Emile Guimet bequeathed his collection to the city of Paris. Since then, the collection has been continuously enlarged in cooperation with the Institute for Research into East Asian Culture. Highlights of the collection include the 6th-century to 13th-century Khmer sculptures from Cambodia, Buddhist reliefs of the school of Amaravati, and Chinese porcelain from the Tang period to the Compagnie des Indes.
Address: Address: 6 Place d'léna, 75116 Paris (Métro: Iéna or Boissière station)
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