Art is what you came to Paris for, non? Paris has an unhealthy variety of art and design museums (you can say we are shamelessly obsessed) worth your time and money. Stave off any foot and back pain from walking through so many galleries in so many palaces by melting into a chair at a menu tea salon or cocktail bar afterwards. And we’re just going to let you know now, you cannot do The Louvre in a day, nor can you do all Paris museums in a week. Don’t even try.
Musée du Louvre
As obvious as it is, how could you not mention this place? This list would be stark naked if we didn’t bring up the Louvre.Once a palace home to kings and queens, (and one well-known emperor, Napoleon…) it now serves as one of the most well-known art museums in Paris, and the world. Its artwork spans across 10,000 years of history and of course it includes famous paintings such as Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (or La Joconde, as she’s better known in Paris). You can choose from three circuits to explore the museum, or do your own thing, like hit up the Persian or ancient Egyptian wing and see a mummy IRL. Or, rather, a person experiencing a millenium-long dry spa treatment, (don’t want to dehumanize the poor chap.) , given the declining popularity of colonialism (yay progress), who knows how long antiquities, some of which were pillaged and plundered from poorly-defended world heritage sites from our way back, less wokedays, will be ensconced in western treasure palaces? See them while you can in the world’s largest palace of art.
We have also compiled a more detailed article about the Louvre here.
Here we have one of the finest examples of what recycling/repurposing buildings can look like. Located in the city center, (but dont’s say downtown, there’s no such thing in decentralized Paris) this art museum was once a railway station that was built on ruins of an old palace. Now, since 1986, it’s hosted a top-notch array of art exhibitions. Many artworks the other museums, such as the Louvre, couldn’t hold on to anymore can be found here. But that doesn’t make the Orsay Museum second-rate, non, non, non! Exhibitions they are best known for display art from 1848–1914 and each collection has its own unique history. We recommend starting from the top and working your way down, with tea in their cafe before or after to get your mind ripe for stunning artistic treasures.
If you love the Impressionists and the kind of atmosphere that makes you feel like you are walking in a dream, you must visit the Musée de l’Orangerie. Built in 1852 as a winter shelter for the orange trees that lined the gardens of the Tuileries Palace, after World War I it was redesigned as a space to exhibit works by living artists. At that time, Claude Monet was painting what is now the chef‑d’œuvre of the museum itself: the large Water Lilies set. Eight panels, each two meters (6.66 ft) high and spanning a total length of 91 meters (298.6 ft), were then arranged in two oval rooms that form the symbol of infinity. If this doesn’t sound like heaven to you, it’s just because you haven’t yet set foot there.
This museum is host to over 13,000 works and it’s one collection that has been on the move over the years. On May 24, 1937, the International Exposition of Arts and Technology opened the museum in the Palais de Tokyo’s eastern wing. The museum was officially inaugurated in 1961. While the five paintings stolen in 2010 have not been found, there are still plenty of others to choose from. You can see such fine works such as Raoul Dufy’s “The Electricity Fairy,” Robert Delaunuy’s “Rhythm #1” and Henri Matisse’s “Dance.” (Look at you, smartypants…) Of course, you can see the artists that came later to the game as well (Picasso, Haring, Chagall, or Duchamp, anyone?). Its 2018/19 renovation made the museum easier to navigate for patrons, especially for those who are physically disabled. On-site are some rather amazing restaurants — for a unique experience we recommend Forest. For crazy views (ahhh, Paris) (and a brunch d’ouf)Monsieur Bleu.
A picture can say a thousand words, and in the case of the Maison Européen de la Photographie, or the MEP, their collections have a lot to say. Like the Musée d’Orsay, this museum is located in the heart of Paris. Also similar to the Orsay, the museum’s building is repurposed. The building is also known as the Hôtel Hénault de Cantobre, a palace that had been built in 1706 and went through renovations and expansions a little over a century later. If you enjoy photography more than paintings, this might be the place for you.
Feeling like art museums can be too stuffy? If so, check out the Musée de la Sculpture en plein air. This park has been displaying the finest sculptures in Paris since 1980. And really, how could you go wrong with sculptures? Located just along the river Seine, this museum is open all day, every day. The best part is that admission is absolutely free.
ADDRESS: 11 Bis Quai Saint-Bernard (5th arr.)
MÉTRO: Quai de la Rapée (l. 5) or Gare d’Austerlitz train station
Look at this place. It was meant to be an art gallery, am I right? You can thank Frank Gehry for the Fondation’s unique design. Its goal was to represent France’s cultural calling, which isn’t too off the mark. Since its official opening in 2014, this museum has hosted some of the most modern (as well as historical) works of art that the world has to offer. They even have stage shows like concerts, dances, performances, etc. The FLV invites artists and performers to mesh well with the artwork presented in the galleries. While touring, you might want to consider downloading the app, which works as an audio guide. You can also take short guided tours to give you a general overview of the museum. Tip: If you have kids and plan to go to the adjoining Jardin d’Acclimatation amusement park on the same day, entry to the FLV is free with park tickets.
In 1916, a year before he died, sculptor Auguste Rodin, famous for classic masterpieces such as “the Thinker,” wanted to give France a gift. He wanted to keep his works (sculptures, drawings, sketches, etc.) safe in the Hôtel Biron. If that wasn’t enough, on top of the 18 rooms in the hotel (now a museum), you can also see the evolution of his work in a garden just outside. Rain or shine, this is a fantastic place to see the life and progression of one Auguste Rodin.
An industrialist named Emile Guimet (1836–1918) traveled to India, Egypt, Greece, Japan, China, and other countries in Asia and wanted everyone to see what he had collected. There’s even a 1979 historical landmark library gorgeous enough to make your inner Belle blush.
The 104/Centquatre is THE place for artistic innovation, by their own admission. Every artist and audience member has a place here, whether to create or witness the chaos in creation. You can explore the shops or take some time in the art studios. Thiscontemporary metropolis has all the modern art and culture you could ask for. Less of a museum and more of a practice space for performance artists needing to get out of their 150 square-foot apartments, le 104 is where you can gawk at Paris’ current next big things as they rehearse for their next show.
Situated in the Palais de Chaillot, the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine is one of the oldest museums for architectural history and culture anywhere. Originally called the Museum of Comparative Sculpture in 1882, it was reimagined as the Museum of French Monuments in 1937 and stayed that way ever since. Unlike comparative sculptures (whatever those are), preserving the models of monuments will never truly die out. For a better understanding about the time, materials, and effort that goes into every other monument in the City of Lights, why not check this place out?
ADDRESS: 1 Place du Trocadéro et du 11 Novembre (16th arr.)
Le Musée Des Arts Décoratifs distinguishes itself as one of the most important collections of decorative arts in the world. Here, you can choose to look at seven types of artifacts (wallpapers, glass, fashion & textiles, ads, toys, jewelry, and graphic arts) from five different time periods: Medieval times through the present day. There’s no doubt you could get a good sense of Paris’s ethnography when perusing through here. It’s part of the same palace that houses the Louvre, but you will need a separate ticket.
ADDRESS: 107 Rue de Rivoli (1st arr.)
MÉTRO: Palais Royal — Musée du Louvre (lines 1, 7) or Pyramides (lines 7, 14)
Walking in, you might ask yourself, “what is this place anyway?” In simple terms, take most of Europe’s modern art, display it in one location and you’ll get the Palais de Tokyo. Since its inception in 2002, this place has been a self-described “anti-museum in permanent transformation.” Not only can you see art on display, but you can also see art being created. You could say this museum is like Shin Godzilla, except the constant evolution won’t kill you or destroy most of the city. Even with consistent visits, you never know what you’ll find. Truly outrageous, truly spectacular, and truly one-of-a-kind, should you decide to visit, only expect the unexpected.
ADDRESS: 13 Avenue du Président Wilson (16th arr.)
Come see the “Notre Dame of the Pipes” here at the Centre Pompidou! Paris doesn’t call it one of the most photographed sites in the city for nothing. Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano modeled the building’s design after a Roman piazza, and its glass exterior allows for great sightseeing. An architectural wonder, this place offers more than art to anyone who comes to visit.
ADDRESS: Place Georges-Pompidou (4th arr.)
MÉTRO: Hôtel de Ville (lines 1, 11) or Rambuteau (line 11)
Although the museum was initiated in 1984, the Fondation Cartier’s current location was designed by Jean Nouvel and its collections have remained there since. Its goal is still the same; aiming to raise awareness and promote contemporary art. The museum also hosts Nomadic Nights, a performing arts rendez-vous that connects visual art with other forms of artistic expression. Want to check out some of the unique forms of art out there? Feel free to stop by.
Here we have a newcomer to the art gallery game, but it’s a great find nonetheless. You can witness a contemporary art collection over forty years in the making and see Francois Pinault’s vision coming to life; sharing an eclectic art collection with the widest audience you can find. Should you look inside, out of more than 10,000 works featured, there might be one that could resound your heartstrings and resonate with you forever.
ADDRESS: 2 Rue de Viarmes (1st arr.)
MÉTRO: Louvre — Rivioli (line 1) or Les Halles (line 4)
If you want to see artwork that captures a contemporary artsy scene, then the MAC VAL may be right for you. This place has been collecting contemporary art in France since the 1950s, and it features more than 2,500 works of art from nearly 330 artists. But, that’s not all. This institution also includes a 150-seat auditorium, 3 educational workshop spaces, 2 artist-housing residencies, a restaurant, and a 45-space parking lot.
ADDRESS: Place de la Libération, 94400 Vitry-sur-Seine
MÉTRO: Tram 9 stop Musée MAC-VAL
NEIGHBORHOOD: ugh don’t ask it’s the (near) suburbs you have to be committed to the material
When the State decided to refurbish the Hôtel Salé in the mid 1970s, there remained one question: what to do with it? Around the same time, famous cubist artist Pablo Picasso went to the great art studio in the sky, leaving his work to his heirs who decided to give some of it to the hotel. Thus, in 1985, the Paris Picasso Museum was born. Here you can view 297 paintings, 368 sculptures and 3D models, about 1,719 drawings and notebooks, and 92 book illustrations of his work. If you’re a Picasso fan who needs her fix in the City of Lights, or even if you’re not, feel free to check this place out.
The Musée du Quai Branly is a museum, research & teaching haven, and a cultural center all rolled into one. The collections come from various museums in Paris, pretty much all of which highlight artifacts from the Neolithic period (in layman’s terms we’re talking about 10,000 BC or so) to the 20th century. Every object or photograph is meant to give an idea about their countries of origin (the Americas, Africa, near East-Asia, and Oceania) and what life in that time was like.
The Musée Marmottan Monet features over 100 paintings from the main man Claude Monet himself, a few of which were once unpublished in his lifetime. It also features a collection of works dating back to the middle ages and the renaissance, all of which were collected by Jules Marmottan. If you want to get a sense of art history or want to get your Monet fix, you’ve come to the right place.
Like other museums of this caliber, these paintings, busts, and other ornamental treasures were once held in a private collection. A widow named Nélie Jacquemart knew where she wanted her and her husband’s collection to end up after passing away, and she made sure to let le Institut de France know that. They agreed, and on December 8, 1913, about a year after Jacquemart’s passing, the museum opened its doors to the public with resounding success. Like the recreation of their living quarters, the museum remains largely unchanged and just as beloved as it was.
With most of his relatives having died or disappeared, artist Gustave Moreau had a dilemma on his hands: where would his collections of paintings, cartoons, etc. go when he died? As death drew near, he had an idea to turn his house into a museum, and he had his friend Henri Rupp to help him realize his dream. In 1903, the museum Moreau always wanted finally opened and remains unchanged to this day.
In this day and age, it’s important to see past preconceived notions about cultures, and the Institut du Monde Arabe has such a goal. Since its opening in 1987, its aim is to educate anything and everything about Islamic and Arab cultures. Anything to help understand Muslim culture better, from its roots to present-day, can be found here.
ADDRESS: 1 Rue des Fossés Saint-Bernard (5th arr.)
In his lifetime, sculptor Antoine Bourdelle viewed his workspace as a laboratory and a sanctuary, and he wished to have that idea carry on for generations to come. When he died, it was up to his wife and daughter to make that dream a reality. As he wished, the museum gives a snapshot of an artist’s evolution and the studio was left as it was, safe and preserved. Not only are there rooms to see his body of work, but there’s also a tranquil garden that features his work as well.
Big 1920s artists Maurice Denis, Paul Signac, Edouard Vuillard, and Ker-Xavier Roussel wanted to pay a tribute to their hero Delacroix. The result: an apartment and studio beautifully preserved and open to the public since 1932. Is that quaint or what? Whether it’s perusing a garden, attending a workshop, or looking through Delacroix’s many paintings, prints, and other artworks, there’s a good chance you’ll see the love and care that went into honoring a good friend’s memory.
ADDRESS: 6 Rue de Furstemberg (6th arr.)
MÉTRO: Saint Germain des Prés (line 4) or Mabillon (line 10)
The Palais Galliera has some of the richest collections of clothing ever seen anywhere. It presents the fashion code from the 18th century to the present day. If fashion’s your thing, then this place is where it’s at.
ADDRESS: 10 Avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie (16th arr.)
Here you can catch a glimpse of what French life was like in the 18th century through a 20th century lens. Between 1900–1927, Ernest Cognac, founder of La Samaritaine department stores, and his wife Marie-Louise Jay had amassed a massive eighteenth century art collection. Upon Cognac’s death in 1928, he donated his collection to the city of Paris, making it available to the public. The museum has continued showcasing this collection since 1929. In 1990, the museum’s collection was moved to the Hôtel Donon, where it still resides to this day.
On January 20, 1995, the Maillol museum opened to the public after 15 years of development. Its opening can be attributed to the sculptor’s collaborator and model Dina Vierny. She lived in one of the museum’s residential apartments and eventually bought the other buildings surrounding it. Besides hosting Maillol’s works, the museum also hosts works by the greatest names in art history such as Diego Rivera and Francis Bacon.
ADDRESS: 59–61 Rue de Grenelle (7th arr.)
MÉTRO: Solférino (line 12) or Saint Sulpice (line 4)
Since its opening in 1998, this museum aims to preserve and enhance private collections, such as those featured in the 1948 Jewish Art Musuem created by Holocaust survivors, as well as educate visitors and honor over 2,000 years of Jewish history. If you’re a history buff or are curious to learn more about Jewish culture, this is the place for you.
ADDRESS: Hôtel de Saint-Aignan, 71 Rue du Temple (3rd arr.)
Here lies a rare testimony of accessible private architecture under the Third Republic: a former home-studio of painter Guillaume Dubufe. Between 2008 and 2009, the museum underwent renovations to improve accessibility by moving elevators and making a new route to the dining room. 2014–2016 brought even more refurbishments such as a new glass roof. Its collections remain unchanged and worth checking out.
The Musée Cernuschi has almost 140 years worth of discovery marked by a Western outlook of Asian art. By the time the museum opened, Paris was at the height of Japonism as Impressionist artists had gained a high interest in Japanese prints. Today, this place has a mix of ancient and contemporary Asian art such as models, calligraphy, illustrations, prints, statues, masks, etc.
This museum was once the home of Russian sculptor Ossip Zadkine who worked in Paris from 1928–1967. The building’s design had dual-purposes: a place to live and work, like most artist lofts. It opened as a museum in 1982, and about thirty years later, from 2011–2012, the building went through renovation that created a new reception center. Here, patrons could see the evolution of his body of work while also taking in the relaxing atmosphere it resonates with. His sculptures are so prevalent that his work bursts out into the garden for all to see and marvel. The design is made for creating dialogue between the works. What kind of story they’ll tell is up to you to discover.
In 1835, this gallery was the Chemin-Vert Foundry, a factory geared to help meet navy and railroad needs for iron works. It closed in 1929 with the property sitting in semi-limbo for a number of decades. Then in 2013, someone rediscovered this building and said, “Hey, why don’t we make this into a digital art gallery?” The property owners agreed, and in 2018, this place ignited to life. As you walk through the halls, you may notice the featured artwork moving around the room as if it’s a whale looking in on aquarium visitors. Each visitor is immersed in art no matter where they go. In case you’re wondering: no, there isn’t a chance of finding the singing candlestick from Beauty and the Beast here (in fact, you’ll have better luck in Euro Disneyland). However, you might see art as you never have before.
Ah, l’amour, toujours amore, am I right? Well, if you’re expecting to find any cupids shooting arrows here, then no, I’m not. However, if you’re expecting to find a time capsule of the classical Romantic movement, then you’ve come to the right place. Originally a house lived in by Dutch artist Ary Scheffer in the 18th century, it was sold to the state in 1956 and has remained a museum ever since. Not to say finding love there is impossible, but it’s nice to have a dream.