Top 10 most important museums in Paris
Paris appears to be the European centre for many things: fashion, cuisine, literature, arts… It comes as no surprise that the concentration of cultural establishments in the City of Lights is overwhelming. More than 150 museums dedicated to everything, from history and art to natural sciences, more than 170 theatres, hundreds of cinemas… What should a culture vulture start with in Paris? How not to get lost in the abundance of art when visiting the city? The simple answer is: firstly, visit the places that are much spoken about, then head to the less popular spots. Our list of the most important museums in Paris will help you choose where to go first.
10 must-visit Paris museums
The Louvre. 75001 Paris
Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”, “Nike of Samothrace”, Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People” and “Venus de Milo” are all found here, in the world’s most visited museum (more than 9,7 million visitors in 2012). The Louvre is your gateway to art and history from prehistoric period to present days, and a way to discover the world’s most important masterpieces in one place. Nearly 35 thousand exhibits are found in the Louvre, so take your time to choose the subject you want to explore. And better examine one exposition than observe the whole museum in one day. The museum itself is the centerpiece of the 1st arrondissement of Paris. It’s located in the Louvre Palace, initially a 12th-century fortress, parts of which can still be seen in the museum basement. From then on, many changes have been done to the Palace. The most modern evidence of these changes is the Louvre Pyramid, a glass structure that serves as the museum entrance.
Hotels near the Louvre:
Musée National d'Art Moderne. (Centre Pompidou). Place Georges Pompidou, 75004 Paris
Both the inside and the outside parts of this impressive centre are remarkable. The brainchild of Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, it may by right be listed as one of the most bold and practical projects in the world. All the functional elements of the building, including pipes, escalators and air-conditioning, are located outside and coloured differently, making the building look like an industrial monster. But the Centre’s contents are much more important. The museum of modern art, public library, IRCAM – the centre for music and acoustic research, are located under one roof. The most important section for you as an art lover is the Musée National d'Art Moderne, which contains the second largest collection of modern art in the world (after the MoMA in New York). More than 100.000 painting, drawing, photography, print, architecture and design objects represent all kinds of modern artistic styles starting from 1905: Fauvism, Primitivism, Cubism, Surrealism and more. Works by Matisse, Kandinsky, Picasso, Delaunay and Picabia are to be observed here. There are also temporary exhibitions organized at the Centre.
Hotels near Centre Pompidou:
Musée d’Orsay. Rue de Lille 75343 Paris
For a taste of 19th century French art, you can hardly find a place better than Musée d’Orsay. The museum contains the largest collection of French Impressionist and Post-impressionist art, including paintings by Monet, Degas, Renoir, Manet, Cezanne, Gauguin and others. Renoir’s “Dance in the Country”, Gauguin’s “Tahitian Women on the Beach”, Cezanne’s “Card Players” are exhibited at the museum. It also plays home to some prominent non-French masterpieces (meaning the artists’ origins), including Van Gogh’s “Starry Night Over the Rhone Arles”. Paintings, photography, architecture and decorative art objects will interest any fan of the early modern art. The building is located on the Left bank of the Seine and is pretty curious from the architectural point too: it was originally a railway station, Gare d’Orsay, designed by Victor Laloux. The museum appeared here in 1986.
Hotels near the Musée d’Orsay:
Grand Palais. Avenue Winston-Churchill, 75008 Paris
The Grand Palais, housing the Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, is the place with history. Originally constructed for Universal Exposition of 1900, this impressive building was used as a hospital during the World War I, occupied by the Nazis in the World War II, and finally, returned to its initial destination. Many come to the Grand Palais mainly to observe its stunning Beaux-Arts architecture that combines a heavy stone outer structure and a glass-and-iron arena inside. As for the exposition, the Grand Palais hosts major exhibitions and cultural events and is opened 7 days a week. Check its website for information on current exhibitions and events. You can also easily observe the city centre from the Palais due to its convenient location on Champs Elysees.
Hotels near Grand Palais:
Petit Palais. Avenue Winston Churchill, 75008 Paris
Standing adjacent to the Grand Palais (and built up with the same purpose in mind) is the Petit Palais that houses the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts. The Beaux-Style building might not be as impressive as its big brother, but its collection is of no less importance. 1300 works of art that cover the vast period from the antiquity till the beginning of the 20th century, including works by Rubens, Rembrandt, Poussin, Delacroix, Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, Rodin and others. Some masterpieces of the Greek and Roman arts are also found at the museum. In the whole, a perfect place to continue your acquaintance with the artistic collection of Paris.
Musée du quai Branly. 37 Quai Branly, 75007 Paris
Get yourself familiarized with an artistic world that lies beyond European civilization at this museum on the Seine. Hidden from a tourist’s eye by its lush garden, the Musée du quai Branly is the youngest of the most important Parisian museums, as it was opened only in 2006. The museum collection is pretty impressive: nearly 450 thousand objects that represent the cultures and art of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. These come from the collections of Musee national des Arts d’Afrique at d’Oceanie and Musee de lHomme (its ethnographic department), complemented by some recent acquisitions. Masks, statues, sculptures, mascots, costumes, musical instruments… Everything you want to know about the world outside Europe is found here.
Hotels near the Musée du quai Branly:
- Hotel Plaza Athenee 5*
Musée de l'Orangerie. Place de la Concorde 75008 Paris
For more Impressionist art, head to Musée de l’Orangerie, located in an old orangerie adjacent to the Tuileries Palace (Place de la Concorde). We bet most people come here to see Monet’s eight Water Lilies murals. But that’s not the only gallery’s treasure, as it also exhibits works by Cezanne, Picasso, Matisse, Renoir, Sisley and other names that are already familiar to you. The building was renovated several years ago and opened to the public in 2006.
Hotels near Musée de l'Orangerie:
Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (at the Palais de Tokyo). 11 avenue du Président Wilson, 75016 Paris
Situated near the Trocadero, the Palais de Tokyo is a large structure that in fact houses two establishments: the “Site for contemporary creation” in its western wing, and the Museum of Modern Art in its eastern wing. The latter is primarily dedicated to the 20th and 21st century art and houses more than 8 thousand items. Again, Picasso and Matisse on display, accompanied by some other artists from the same company. If you know who’s who in the art world, the names of Metzinger, Gleizes, Dufy, Leger and Braque must be well familiar. The place is also perfect for breathtaking views on the Eiffel Tower (from the terrace).
Hotels near Palais de Tokyo:
- Hotel Plaza Athenee 5*
- Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris 5*
- Hotel Pershing Hall 5*
Musée Rodin. 79 Rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris
Come to Musée Rodin to fall in love with the sculptor’s talent. Or, if you have already done this, to feast your eyes on your favourite masterpieces, including “The Thinker”, “The Gates of Hell” and “The Kiss”. The museum has in fact two sites: the first is in the sculptor’s former home outside the city, the second at Hotel Biron and its gardens on Rue de Varenne. More than 6,5 thousand sculptures by the prolific artist, plus works by Camille Claudel and artistic items from the sculptor’s own collection can be observed at the museum. The majority of works are displayed in the garden, so you can combine a pleasant stroll with the museum visit. Some temporary exhibitions are also organized on-site.
Hotels near Musée Rodin:
Musée Carnavalet. 23, rue de Sévigné, 75003 Paris
The best place to make an imaginable tour into the history of Paris is the Musée Carnavalet, that occupies the two neighbouring Renaissance-style mansions: Hôtel Carnavalet and Hotel Le Peletier de Saint Fargeau. 140 museum rooms contain objects that cover the city’s history from the very beginning: pre-Roman times, Middle Ages, Renaissance and religious wars, French revolution, Napoleon’s Empire and the 20th century are included. Documents, photographs, pieces of art, furniture, engravings, sculptures, personal items all help reveal the thrilling story of the City of Lights.
Hotels near Musée Carnavalet: