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18 Top-Rated Museums in Paris

Written by Lisa Alexander
May 31, 2019

As one of the world's most cultured cities, Paris is an amazing place to admire exceptional art. Visitors could spend an entire vacation (or a lifetime) exploring the art collections in more than 150 museums. The most prestigious is the Louvre, which displays some of Western Civilization's finest masterpieces.

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 also has appealing small museums like the Musée Jacquemart-Andre and the Musée de l'Orangerie.

Tips for Travelers: Many museums are closed on Mondays or Tuesdays, while some museums stay open late on certain days of the week. Admission to the Musée du Louvre is free of charge on the first Saturday of the month (from 6pm to 9:45pm). Entrance to the Musée d'Orsay and the Centre Pompidou is free on the first Sunday of the month.

A Paris Museum Pass allows unlimited entry to most museums over a 2-day or 4-day period. What's the best way to appreciate the art? Besides taking a crash course in Art History before the trip, organized tours enhance the experience by providing historical context and sharing unique insights.

Plan your visit with our list of the top museums in Paris.

1. Musée du Louvre

Musée du Louvre

Musée du Louvre

This incomparable museum contains the most important art collection in Paris (and one of the most renowned in the world) housed in the former royal palace of French Kings. With more than 30,000 works of art, the Louvre's expansive collection covers everything from Egyptian, Greek, and Roman antiquities to European paintings from the 13th to the 19th century. Also on view are the French crown jewels, antique French furniture, Islamic art, and Neoclassical 18th-century statues.

The most famous works of art include Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, the grandiose floor-to-ceiling painting Les Noces de Cana by Veronese, Le Sacre de Napoléon by Jacques Louis David, the Venus de Milo statue of the 2nd century BC, and the impressive monumental Victoire de Samothrace sculpture.

The best way to see all of the highlights is by taking a Louvre Museum Guided Tour, which has the added advantage of priority entry (to avoid the long lines). Another way to skip the lines is by using a 2-Day Paris Museum Pass or a 4-Day Paris Museum Pass.

Address: Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris (Métro: Palais-Royal Musée du Louvre station)

Official site: http://www.louvre.fr/en/homepage

2. Musée d'Orsay

Musée d'Orsay

Musée d'Orsay

The Musée d'Orsay displays its fabulous 19th- to 20th-century art collection (from 1848 to 1914) in a converted Belle Epoque railway station. The collection represents all the great masters of Impressionism: Boudin, Caillebotte, Corot, Courbet, Degas, Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, Renoir, and Vuillard.

Presented roughly in chronological order, the collection follows the progression of the Impressionism movement, then continues with Post-Impressionism, covering works by 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 Coquelicots (Poppies), Gare Saint-Lazare, and Nymphéas Bleus (Blue Water Lilies); Renoir's La Balançoire (The Swing) and the Bal du Moulin de la Galette; Cézanne's Pommes et Oranges still-life painting; Degas' La Classe de Danse; and Morisot's Le Berceau (The Cradle).

To best appreciate the works of art, taking a customizable private Orsay Museum two-hour guided tour is recommended. The museum has a bookshop-boutique and two casual cafés, as well as an elegant gourmet restaurant (listed as a Historical Monument) with glittering chandeliers, gilded moldings, and a splendid painting on the ceiling.

Address: 1 Rue de la Légion d'Honneur, 75007 Paris (Métro: Gare Musée d'Orsay station)

Official site: http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/

3. Musée de Cluny (Musée National du Moyen Âge)

Musée de Cluny (Musée National du Moyen Âge)

Musée de Cluny (Musée National du Moyen Âge)

This Musée de Cluny is tucked away in the 15th-century Hôtel des Abbés de Cluny (Abbey House) on a quiet street off the Boulevard Saint-Germain. One of the top attractions of the Latin Quarter. The museum has an outstanding collection of medieval paintings, sculpture, stained glass, and church treasury items.

The museum is renowned for its tapestries including the famous Lady with the Unicorn (Dame à la Licorne) series that dates back to the late 15th and early 16th century. Rendered in exquisite detail, this series of six "millefleurs" ("thousand flowers") style tapestries incorporates multitudes of blossoms, trees, and friendly animals.

One of the rooms of the museum is part of the two-thousand-year-old Roman baths archaeological site, the Frigidarium (room of the cold bath). This room displays a small assortment of statues, mosaics, and other antiquities such as Gallo-Roman sculptures. The rest of the Roman baths complex, the Thermes de Cluny, built around AD 200, can be seen from outside the museum along the Boulevard Saint-Michel.

Renovations Update: The main building (the Hôtel des Abbés de Cluny) of the Musée de Cluny is currently closed for renovations through the end of 2020. However, the museum will remain partially open. During the renovations, visitors will still have access to the Frigidarium (Roman baths) and can view a selection (70 works) of the museum's collection, including the Lady with the Unicorn tapestry.

Address: 28 Rue Du Sommerard, 75005 Paris (Métro Cluny-La Sorbonne, Saint-Michel or Odéon station)

Official site: https://www.musee-moyenage.fr/en/home.html

4. Centre Pompidou

Centre Georges Pompidou (Musée National d'Art Moderne)

Centre Pompidou

The Centre Pompidou astounds visitors with its stunningly modern steel-and-glass structure, considered by some to be fabulously original while others call it atrocious. The Pompidou Center houses the Musée National d'Art Moderne, an extensive collection (more than 100,000 works) of modern and contemporary art from the 20th and 21st century presented in chronological order, beginning with the Modern collection (including Braque, Duchamp, Dufy, Matisse, Kandinsky, and Picasso) continuing with the Contemporary collection (representing works by Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, and other renowned artists born after 1920).

A Galerie de Photographies presents an assortment of photographs from the 1920s to the present day. The Design collection displays works of modern furniture and household items. The Graphic Arts collection is noteworthy for its drawings by Marc Chagall, Jean Dubuffet, Marcel Duchamp, and Henri Matisse.

The Centre Pompidou covers all categories of art, including Cinema with a collection of visual art installations, as well as experimental and artistic films dating from 1902 through the 21st century. The Centre Pompidou also has a café at the mezzanine level and a 6th-floor restaurant with spectacular views of Paris landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

Address: Place Georges Pompidou, 75004 Paris (Métro: Rambuteau, Hôtel de Ville or Châtelet-Les Halles station)

Official site: https://www.centrepompidou.fr/en

5. Petit Palais: Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris

Petit Palais: Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris

Petit Palais: Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris

Designed in opulent Belle Epoque style, the Petit Palais was created for the 1900 Universal Exhibition and was converted into a museum in 1902. The building's ornate sculptural details and murals provide a perfect backdrop for the artworks on display.

The Petit Palais boasts an extensive fine arts collection covering classical antiquities, medieval artifacts, Renaissance paintings and manuscripts, 17th-century French and Dutch paintings, 18th-century Beauvais tapestries, 19th-century sculptures, Impressionist art, and Art Nouveau decorative objects.

Highlights of the collection are the masterpieces of European painting by Delacroix, Rembrandt, and Rubens, and a wonderful collection of Impressionist paintings by Bonnard, Cézanne, Monet, Morisot, Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley, and Vuillard. Not to be missed are Claude Monet's Soleil Couchant sur la Seine (Sunset on the Seine), Rembrandt's self-portrait, Fragonard's Jérôme de La Lande, Delacroix's Combat du Giaour et du Pacha, and La Parisienne by Charles-Alexandre Giron.

At the center of the building's four wings is a delightful courtyard garden with a café that serves a simple lunch menu and offers outdoor seating during summertime.

Address: Avenue Winston Churchill, 75008 Paris (Métro: Champs-Elysées Clemenceau station)

Official site: http://www.petitpalais.paris.fr/en

6. Musée Rodin

Musée Rodin

Musée Rodin Sculpture Garden

The Rodin Museum presents its collection in the 18th-century Hôtel Biron, a Neoclassical-style mansion that is listed as a Historical Monument. French sculptor Auguste Rodin was inspired by the property's formal garden with its shady trees and well-groomed shrubbery.

In 1908, Rodin rented part of the mansion for use as an art studio, and beginning in 1911, he occupied the entire building. Based on period photographs, the museum has reconstructed Rodin's art studio as it was furnished and decorated during the time the artist lived here. Also on display is an assortment of Rodin's artwork along with his personal art collection that he willed to the French government.

The museum invites visitors to admire 300 works by Rodin, including his celebrated sculptures, as well as his paintings and drawings. Exhibition space is also devoted to the pieces collected by Rodin, such as paintings by Claude Monet, August Renoir, and Vincent van Gogh.

After viewing the collections in the mansion, visitors may take a stroll through the Sculpture Garden and stop at the café for a snack at the outdoor terrace. The beautiful three-hectare Sculpture Garden 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). Originally Rodin had placed antique sculptures from his personal collection in the garden.

Address: 77 Rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris (Métro: Varenne or Invalides station)

Official site: http://www.musee-rodin.fr/en/home

7. Musée Marmottan Monet

Musée Marmottan Monet

Musée Marmottan Monet | Pierre Mondain-Monval / photo modified

In the former hunting lodge of the Duke of Valmy, near the lovely Bois de Boulogne park, the Musée Marmottan Monet is a must-see destination 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. (Monet's Garden in Giverny is one of the top tourist attractions in Normandy.)

Treasures of the collection include Monet's renowned paintings Train dans la Neige (1875), Pont de l'Europe (1877), Cathédrale de Rouen (1892), 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. The museum also has a boutique that sells books, postcards, posters, and souvenirs.

Address: 2 Rue Louis-Boilly, 75016 Paris (Métro: La Muette ou Ranelagh station)

Official site: http://www.marmottan.fr/

8. Musée Carnavalet

Musée Carnavalet

Musée Carnavalet | Yann Caradec / photo modified

The history of Paris is beautifully illustrated at this museum in Le Marais, an atmospheric quarter renowned for its resplendent medieval and Renaissance palaces. The museum's collection is displayed in two adjacent townhouses: the 17th-century Hôtel Peletier and the 16th-century Hôtel Carnavalet.

From 1677 to 1696, the Hôtel Carnavalet was the residence of Madame de Sévigné, whose letters to her daughter (more than 1,500 in number) describing life in Paris and at the court in Versailles provide valuable insights about the epoque of Louis XIV (the Sun King). Some of Madame de Sévigné's personal belongings can be seen at the museum.

Through its presentation of historical paintings, drawings, and objects of art, the museum gives visitors a vivid picture of Paris throughout the centuries. An assortment of portrait paintings, along with profiles of renowned Parisians, highlight the city's most influential citizens. The collection covers important events, such as the Wars of Religion and the French Revolution, while documenting the intellectual and cultural evolution of Paris.

Renovation Update: The Musée Carnavalet is temporarily closed for renovations through the end of 2019 and is scheduled to re-open in 2020.

Address: 16 Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, 75003 Paris (Métro: Saint-Paul station)

Official site: http://www.carnavalet.paris.fr/en/museum-carnavalet

9. Musée de l'Orangerie

Impressionist Painting

"Water Lilies" Painting by Monet | Jon / photo modified

The Musée de l'Orangerie is one of the best places to visit in Paris to admire Impressionist art. The focus on Impressionism and 19th- to 20th-century art is 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 gorgeous Impressionist paintings 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).

A highlight of the museum is Monet's series of Nymphéas (Water Lilies) displayed in two elliptical rooms, called the "Sistine Chapel of Impressionism" by André Masson in 1952. The panoramic paintings immediately impress the viewer with their enormous size; the series of eight paintings covers 200 square meters, the entire wall space of both exhibition rooms.

From close up, the paintings appear to be scribbles of brush strokes, yet when viewed from several feet away the composition creates a realistic impression of water lilies floating in a dreamy pond. These masterpieces of Impressionist art reveal the remarkable talent and genius of Claude Monet.

Address: Jardin des Tuileries, Place de la Concorde, 75001 Paris (Métro: Concorde or Tuileries station)

Official site: https://www.musee-orangerie.fr/en

10. Musée Jacquemart-André

Musée Jacquemart-André

Musée Jacquemart-André | Guillaume Baviere / photo modified

The Musée Jacquemart André occupies a sumptuous 19th-century mansion built for Edouard André and Nélie Jacquemart, who entertained the high society of Paris with lavish parties in their Grand Salon. The home reflects the refined tastes of the wealthy couple, avid art collectors who were passionate about 18th-century French painting, as well as the art of the Italian Renaissance. The couple's private art collection includes masterpieces by Elisabeth Lebrun, Fragonard, Jacques-Louis David, Rembrandt, Giovanni Bellini, Botticelli, and Tiepolo.

In a lovely dining room, the Café Jacquemart-André serves light meals, such as mixed salads and quiche for lunch and brunch, and the finest Parisian pastries at tea time.

Address: 158 Boulevard Haussmann, 75008 Paris (Métro: Saint-Philippe du Roule or Miromesnil station)

Official site: https://www.musee-jacquemart-andre.com/en/home

11. Musée Picasso

Museum Entrance

Hôtel Salé

Renovated in 2014, this exceptional museum is located in the historic Marais quarter in the Hôtel Salé, one of the grandest 17th-century aristocratic mansions in Paris. The mansion's 3,700 square meters of exhibition space is used to display a wide range of Picasso's paintings (almost 300 in total) along with sculptures and drawings representing the entire span of the artist's career.

Some of the most iconic works in the collection are Picasso's Self-Portrait and La Célestine from the Blue period, the Demoiselles d'Avignon (Young Ladies of Avignon), and the Homme à la Mandoline (Man with Mandolin) from the Cubist period. Also noteworthy are the paintings of Large Nudes, vibrant Matadors, and charming Musicians.

An equally interesting aspect of the museum is the assortment of pieces that came from Picasso's personal art collection, which are exclusive to the Musée Picasso (a previso in Picasso's donation to the state prohibits loaning these pieces to any other museum exhibits). Picasso's collection includes works by the most famous 20th-century artists: Braque, Cézanne, Corot, Degas, Derain, Gauguin, Renoir, Matisse, Miró, and Rousseau.

Address: 5 Rue de Thorigny, 75003 Paris (Métro: Saint-Paul, Saint-Sébastien-Froissart or Chemin Vert station)

Official site: http://www.museepicassoparis.fr/en/

12. Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute)

Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute)

Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute)

With its sleek modern lines, the Institut du Monde Arabe provides a stunning contrast to the ancient buildings of the medieval Latin Quarter. This striking Parisian landmark represents a contemporary interpretation of Arab architecture. Inspired by Arab-inspired geometric patterns, the south facade is adorned with mashrabiyas (resembling mosaics or filigree work) that allow light to filter into the interior.

The institute was established to promote interchange between the cultures of the East and West through lectures, music concerts, film screenings, dance and theater performances, poetry readings, 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 presents a comprehensive view of the diverse civilizations of the Arab world. The collection begins with antiquity and highlights the period of the 3rd century when the Arabic language and the true identity of Arab culture emerge, while illustrating the influence of the Islam religion as early as the 7th century. The collections covers archaeology, fine arts, and ethnography with thematic focuses such as Arab Cities, Beauty, the Sacred and Divine. Many exquisite Islamic art works and everyday objects are on display, including calligraphy, printed books, carpets, textiles, and contemporary paintings.

One of the most enjoyable things to do in Paris is dining at the institute's gastronomic restaurant, Le Zyriab, on the 9th floor, or relaxing at the self-service café on the roof terrace. The restaurant's upscale dining room offers sensational views of Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Île de la Cité. From the roof terrace, the panoramas extend all the way across the Paris cityscape to the Arc de Triomphe. On clear days, it's possible to see as far as La Défense.

Address: 1 Rue des Fossés Saint-Bernard, 75005 Paris (Métro: Jussieu or Cardinal Lemoine station)

Official site: https://www.imarabe.org/en/museum/the-museum-s-collections

13. Musée des Arts Décoratifs

Musée des Arts Décoratifs

Musée des Arts Décoratifs | jean-louis Zimmermann / photo modified

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) displays decorative arts from the Middle Ages through the centuries until the Art Nouveau movement. The collection includes an astounding 150,000 objects that reveal superb craftsmanship.

The museum's chic restaurant, Loulou, embodies the essence of Parisian art-de-vivre with its Mediterranean menu (inspired by the French Riviera and Italian coast), elegant contemporary dining room, and pleasant garden terrace seating.

Visitors will enjoy the variety of objects, from medieval altarpieces and Renaissance wedding chests to 18th-century tapestries and First Empire tableware. 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 a marvelous assortment of French decorative art objects and paintings from the 18th century, such as sparkling chandeliers, gilded clocks, Sèvres porcelain, and Marie Antoinette's 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 - 111 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris (Métro: Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre, Tuileries or Pyramides station)

Official site: http://www.lesartsdecoratifs.fr/en

14. Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris | Jean-Pierre Dalbra / photo modified

The City of Paris' Museum of Modern Art is housed in an Art Nouveau building that was designed for the International Art and Technical Exhibition in 1937. Opened in 1961, the museum focuses on 20th and 21st century art with a collection of around 13,000 works.

The collection features the work of famous modern artists including Bonnard, Chagall, Derain Dufy, Léger, Matisse, Picasso, and Vuillard among others. With its wide range of artists represented, the collection covers the major trends in modern art. Temporary exhibitions are held at the museum throughout the year.

Address: 11 Avenue du Président Wilson, 75116 Paris (Métro: Alma-Marceau or Iéna station)

Official site: http://www.mam.paris.fr/en

15. Musée National des Arts et Metiers Techniques

Foucault's Pendulum

Foucault's Pendulum | Christoph Derndorfer / photo modified

Founded in 1794 by Henri Grégoire, the Musée National des Arts et Metiers Techniques is a museum of scientific instruments. The collection exhibits more than 2,400 inventions that reveal remarkable technological innovations. Not to be missed is the original version of Foucault's Pendulum. Demonstrated by the French physicist Jean Foucault in 1851, the metal 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 (Métro: Réaumur - Sébastopol station)

Official site: http://www.arts-et-metiers.net/musee/visitor-information

16. Musée Grévin (Wax Museum)

Musée Grévin | patrick janicek / photo modified

The most entertaining of Paris' museums, the Musée Grévin is pure fun for tourists. This popular wax museum amuses visitors with its incredibly realistic likenesses of today's most famous celebrities, as well as historical figures from French history. Visitors can "meet" Louis XIV (the Sun King), Napoleon Bonaparte, and Victor Hugo, and then find favorite movie stars like Marilyn Monroe, Angelina Jolie, and Penélope Cruz (among more than 200 celebrities).

The Grévin Museum also has a café, with a simple menu for lunch or dinner, and a theater that presents classical music concerts. Visitors may purchase Grevin Paris Wax Museum tickets in advance to skip the long lines at the museum entrance.

Address: 10 Boulevard Montmartre, 75009 Paris (Métro: Richelieu - Drouot or Grands Boulevards station)

Official site: https://www.grevin-paris.com/en

17. Musée du Quai Branly - Jacques Chirac

Musée du Quai Branly

Musée du Quai Branly | Jean-Pierre Dalbra / photo modified

Opened in 2006, this unique museum brings together ethnic art from all over the world. An eye-opening study of diverse cultures, the museum possesses around 370,000 art works from Africa, Asia, Oceania, the Near East, and the Americas.

The collection displays a wide range of religious items, everyday objects, and artworks dating from the Neolithic period through the 20th century. Examples of noteworthy pieces at the museum include a tribal mask from Papua New Guinea, a carved ivory salt shaker from Nigeria, a wedding costume from Vietnam, an embroidered ceremonial robe from Uzbekistan, a traditional ritual lamp from Nepal, and a feathered helmet from the Hawaiian Islands.

Address: 37 Quai Branly, 75007 Paris (Métro: Alma-Marceau, Iéna, Ecole Militaire or Bir Hakeim station)

Official site: http://www.quaibranly.fr/en/

18. Musée Guimet

Musée Guimet

Musée Guimet | Jean-Pierre Dalbera / photo modified

The Musée Guimet has the most important collection of Asian art in France. The museum was founded at the end of the 19th century, when the industrialist Emile Guimet bequeathed his personal collection to the city of Paris. 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.

The museum also has a casual restaurant and a fantastic boutique that sells books, as well as art objects inspired by some of the museum's masterpieces.

Address: 6 Place d'léna, 75116 Paris (Métro: Iéna or Boissière station)

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