Free Museums

Paris is kinda expensive. We get it, but worry not! We have the places for you. Why not balance that dinner at Le Tour d’Argent with soaking in some of the free goodies Paris has to offer? We won’t scold you about avocado toasts, Ubers, or ‘making coffee at home’ because you do you. And you’re in Paris! Yes, the home of the €17 fruit tart, but it’s also the home of entire museums of free art and culture. 

The biggest Paris hack? First Sunday of the month, baby!  On that holiest of days for the underfunded, public museums and monuments in Paris offer free admission for any and all. That includes the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, Centre Pompidou, even the Arc de Triomphe (expect lines obvs). But the places listed below have free admission all-year round…

Le Plateau

Le Plateau is one of two loca­tions fea­tur­ing work belong­ing to the frac île-de-france (FRAC), an orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cat­ed to the pro­duc­tion and exhi­bi­tion of con­tem­po­rary art. Since 2002, Le Plateau gives Paris a chance to see what these new bud­ding artists have been up to. They have over 2,000 works on dis­play con­tain­ing nev­er-end­ing cre­ation; evolv­ing, dis­solv­ing, reviv­ing, revolv­ing, and any oth­er verb your imag­i­na­tion can come up with. Cur­rent­ly, they have a pro­gram called Chil­dren Pow­er. It’s one exhi­bi­tion ded­i­cat­ed to art made by kids and teenagers for kids and teenagers, no grown-ups allowed. Art paving a new way to a whole new gen­er­a­tion. How about that?

ADDRESS: 22 Rue des Alou­ettes (19th arr.)

HOURS: Wed. — Sun. 2p-7p

MÉTRO: Jour­dain (line 11)

NEIGHBORHOOD: Com­bat

NUMBER: +33 01 76 21 13 41

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INSTAGRAM: @fraciledefrance

Musée Curie

This place pre­serves and shows the life and lega­cy of Marie Curie. Her life is divid­ed in four sec­tions of the build­ing: the Fam­i­ly with Five Nobel Prizes, Radi­um (Curie’s well-known field), the Curie Lab­o­ra­to­ry, and the Curie Foun­da­tion for Can­cer research. The lab­o­ra­to­ry has a gar­den that was cre­at­ed in 1912 to spruce up her life while work­ing. Much of the sci­en­tif­ic equip­ment fea­tured in this exhi­bi­tion cen­ter was orig­i­nal­ly used by Marie for her radi­um research. Not only does it dis­play how Curie ded­i­cat­ed her life to research­ing radi­um, it also shows how her work is put to good use in can­cer research/treatment. If that doesn’t sound intrigu­ing enough to check out, I don’t know what is.

ADDRESS: 1 Rue Pierre et Marie Curie (5th arr.)

HOURS: Wed. — Sat. 1p-5p, closed August

MÉTRO: Place Mon­ge (line 7)

NEIGHBORHOOD: Mon­tagne Sainte Geneviève

NUMBER: +33 01 56 24 55 33

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Musée Zadkine

This muse­um was once the home of Russ­ian sculp­tor Ossip Zad­kine, who worked in Paris from 1928–1967. The building’s design was dual-pur­pose: 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 brought a new recep­tion cen­ter. Here, patrons could see the evo­lu­tion of his body of work while also tak­ing in the relax­ing atmos­phere. His sculp­tures are so preva­lent that his work bursts out into the gar­den for all to see and mar­vel. The design of the muse­um cre­ates dia­logue between the works. What kind of sto­ry they’ll tell is up to you to discover.

ADDRESS: 100 bis, rue d’As­sas (6th arr.)

HOURS: Tues.-Sun. 10a-6p

MÉTRO: Notre-Dame des Champs (line 12) or Vavin (line 4)

NEIGHBORHOOD: St Ger­main des Prés

NUMBER: +33 01 55 42 77 20

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INSTAGRAM: @museezadkine

Maison de Victor Hugo

You may know the acclaimed author from such clas­sic nov­els as The Hunch­back of Notre Dame and Les Mis­er­ables. What you may not know is that he has a muse­um that shows off his world vision and phi­los­o­phy through archives, writ­ings (which include over 18,000 let­ters), and even pho­tos and decor. In 1902, a close friend of Hugo’s, Paul Meurice, pro­posed a Vic­tor Hugo muse­um in the Hôtel de Rohan Guéménée where the author lived. On June 30, 1903, the muse­um opened to the pub­lic. Friends and fam­i­ly donat­ed bits of cor­re­spon­dence they received from Hugo and bits of oth­er man­u­scripts. The muse­um divides its col­lec­tion between the sec­ond floor, which was Hugo’s apart­ment, and tem­po­rary exhi­bi­tions on the first floor. It even includes a gar­den. If you’re look­ing for relax­ation and/or inspi­ra­tion, vis­it Hugo’s house, then bask in the sun in the sur­round­ing Place des Vos­ges park, one of the few places in Paris where the park staff don’t get salty if you lay on the grass. Also, like so much in Paris, this used to be a palace, so there’s that.

ADDRESS: 6 Place des Vos­ges (4th arr.)

HOURS: Tues. — Sun. 10a-6p

MÉTRO: Saint-Paul (line 1)

NEIGHBORHOOD: Arse­nal

NUMBER: +33 01 42 72 10 16

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Musée Librairie du Compagnonnage

When you hear the phrase “his­to­ry of com­pan­ion­ship,” what comes to mind? If you’re think­ing it’s prob­a­bly some­thing out of My Lit­tle Pony, you’re not the only one. But no, this kind of com­pan­ion­ship refers to being a carpenter’s appren­tice. This muse­um is locat­ed in a Car­pen­ters’ com­pan­ions’ for­mer head­quar­ters and there you can learn about mag­nif­i­cent wood­work as well as the tools that go into mak­ing it. While you’re there, you can also peruse books on wood­work and trade.

ADDRESS: 10 Rue Mabil­lon (6th arr.)

HOURS: Tues. & Fri. 2p-6p

MÉTRO: Mabil­lon (line 10)

NEIGHBORHOOD: Saint Ger­main des Prés

NUMBER: +33 1 43 26 25 03

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Arenes de Lutèce

Note: This place isn’t so much a muse­um as much as it is an open-air dive into Paris dur­ing the Roman era. The occu­py­ing Romans named the for­mer Paris, ‘Lutece’ but after they bounced, the locals were like, ‘let’s call it Paris again’. Also inter­est­ing is that this are­na was built between the first and sec­ond cen­turies mak­ing it one of the old­est his­tor­i­cal pre­serves in the world. Back in that day, the amphithe­ater could host between 15,000 to 17,000 peo­ple. Arche­ol­o­gists believe that the are­na was dis­man­tled in 280 AD. In 1896, the remains were dis­cov­ered and opened as a pub­lic gar­den short­ly after. Like the Ther­mes de Cluny (yes, found at the Musée de Cluny), it’s one of the only Gal­lo-Roman arti­facts that exist present-day. Here you can get a sense of what the view­ing enter­tain­ment was like back then: great acoustics, ani­mal cages, and a great view of what was hap­pen­ing. While those days have long gone, there’s noth­ing like a qui­et stroll in a pub­lic park. Imag­ine your­self a pas­try glad­i­a­tor and pick up some­thing sweet from one of the sur­round­ing Latin Quarter’s many top-shelf pas­try shops, like cream puffs from Odette or a cin­na­mon bun from Cir­cus Bak­ery, and demol­ish your sug­ary oppo­nent in the foot­steps of the Romans. « ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED??? »

ADDRESS: 49 Rue Mon­ge (5th arr.)

HOURS: dai­ly 8a-6p

MÉTRO: Car­di­nal Lemoine (line 10)

NEIGHBORHOOD: St Vic­tor

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INSTAGRAM: @parisjetaime

Nouveau Musée du Parfum Fragonard

Since 1983, this muse­um show­cas­es every­thing you need to know about per­fume. The exhi­bi­tions explore every­thing from how per­fume is made to how it’s man­u­fac­tured and all the lit­tle details in between. There’s even an old bot­tle col­lec­tion going back as ear­ly as ancient Egypt. Is that fan­cy or what?

ADDRESS: 9 Rue Scribe (9th arr.)

HOURS: dai­ly 9a‑5:30p

MÉTRO: Opéra (lines 3, 7, 8)

NEIGHBORHOOD: Opéra

NUMBER: +33 1 40 06 10 09

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INSTAGRAM: @fragonardparfumeurofficiel

Memorial de la Shoa

Note: this muse­um con­tains exhi­bi­tions that are heart-wrench­ing and heavy albeit insight­ful and infor­ma­tive. Patrons’ dis­cre­tion is advised.
It began with a mis­sion: pre­serve evi­dence of anti-Jew­ish per­se­cu­tion in hope that enough evi­dence can be com­piled for jus­tice for the Jews when World War II end­ed. Today, the Shoah Memo­r­i­al is ded­i­cat­ed to the (approx­i­mate­ly) six mil­lion Jews mur­dered in the Holo­caust. Shoah is Hebrew for Cat­a­stro­phe, which the Holo­caust was then and still is today. Here, there are twelve sta­tions show­cas­ing the his­to­ry of the Holo­caust and how it con­nects with France’s his­to­ry dur­ing WWII. Among the exhi­bi­tions are pic­tures of the chil­dren tak­en dur­ing the war as well as the Wall of Names which sets the women’s, children’s, and men’s names in stone, nev­er to be erased.

ADDRESS: 17 rue Geof­froy l’Asnier (4th arr.)

HOURS: Sun. — Fri. 10a-6p (open ’til 10p on Thurs)

MÉTRO: Saint-Paul (line 1) or Pont Marie (line 7)

NEIGHBORHOOD: Le Marais

NUMBER: +33 01 41 77 44 72

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INSTAGRAM: @memorialshoahofficiel

Musée Carnavalet

If you want to know how Paris got to where it is today, look no fur­ther than the Musée Car­navalet. Here, you can find objects that once belonged to the city’s famous fig­ures, roy­al­ty, and rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies alike. As the old­est muse­um in the city’s his­to­ry, per­haps it’s fit­ting that they show­case every oth­er arti­fact that graced it from pre­his­to­ry to the present day. Rarely crowd­ed, it’s one of the most under­rat­ed trea­sures in the city of treasures.

ADDRESS: 23 Rue de Sévi­gné (3rd arr.)

HOURS: Tues. — Sun. 10a-6p

MÉTRO: Saint Paul (line 1)

NEIGHBORHOOD: Les Archives

NUMBER: +33 1 44 59 58 58

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INSTAGRAM: @museecarnavalet

Atelier Brancusi

Most of Roman­ian artist, Con­stan­tin Bran­cusi’s (1876–1957) works were made in his stu­dio, which he decid­ed to give to the French State in his will. In 1997, the stu­dio was recre­at­ed near the Cen­tre Pom­pi­dou to house his body of work, which includes but is not lim­it­ed to 137 sculp­tures, 41 draw­ings, and over 1,600 glass plates and orig­i­nal prints. It’s amaz­ing how gen­er­ous artists can be, non?

ADDRESS: Place Georges Pom­pi­dou (4th arr.)

HOURS: Wed. — Mon 2p-6p

MÉTRO: Ram­buteau (line 11)

NEIGHBORHOOD: Beaubourg

NUMBER: +33 1 44 78 12 33

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INSTAGRAM: @centrepompidou

Maison de Balzac

This place is the only res­i­dence of writer Balzac (yes, I know what it sounds like, and you can snick­er all you want, but that was his real name) that exists today. Here you can look at the man­u­script col­lec­tions, por­traits of the writer, and illus­tra­tions of his work. You can even vis­it the library that was once used as stables.

ADDRESS: 47 Rue Ray­nouard (16th arr.)

HOURS: Tues. — Sun. 10a-6p

MÉTRO: Passy (line 6)

NEIGHBORHOOD: Passy

NUMBER: +33 1 55 74 41 80

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Musée d’Ennery

Like the Musée Guimet, this muse­um is full of Asian aes­thet­ic and cul­tur­al expres­sions. Most of the col­lec­tion can be attrib­uted to acclaimed play­wright Adolphe Philippe d’Ennery(1811–1899)’s wife Clé­mence who acquired her trea­sures from Chi­na and Japan. These trea­sures include porce­lain, masks, and dis­plays of ancient myths, pre­served and avail­able for all to see.

ADDRESS: 59 Avenue Foch (16th arr.)

HOURS: TEMPORARILY CLOSED

MÉTRO: Vic­tor Hugo (line 2)

NEIGHBORHOOD: Porte Dauphine

NUMBER: +33 1 56 52 53 45

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INSTAGRAM: @museeguimet

Musée National de la Légion d’Honneur et des Ordres de la Chevalerie

Wow, what a mouth­ful, but no, it does not cost a cent to vis­it. This place takes patrons on a jour­ney of pha­leris­tics, which is the study of chival­ry, dec­o­ra­tions, and medals. The muse­um start­ed out as a tem­po­rary exhi­bi­tion in 1911, but not too long after, some peo­ple won­dered if some­thing like it could be per­ma­nent. That idea didn’t come to fruition until 1925, a few years after WWI’s end. It has three aims to please: the his­to­ry buffs, the art fanat­ics, and of course, the pha­lerites. There are five sec­tions of the muse­um, start­ing off with his­to­ry of chival­ry going back to the Cru­sades. There are also badges from all over the world, around 400 orders from 122 states in total. All the exhi­bi­tions dis­play hon­or, mer­it and good cit­i­zen­ship. It’s a per­fect place to iden­ti­fy well-deserved recog­ni­tion. And (bonus for y’all Amer­i­cans) it’s said to be the archi­tec­tur­al mod­el for both the White House and Thomas Jefferson’s plan­ta­tion Mon­ti­cel­lo. You saw it here first.

ADDRESS: 2 Rue de la Légion d’Hon­neur (7th arr.)

HOURS: Wed. — Sun. 1p-6p, closed August

MÉTRO: Solféri­no (line 12)

NEIGHBORHOOD: Faubourg Sant Germain

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INSTAGRAM: @legiondhonneur_officiel

Palais d’léna

Auguste Per­ret had one goal when build­ing the Iéna Palace: make some­thing that rivals the Parthenon in terms of “aes­thet­ic per­fec­tion.” Did he ever suc­ceed? Well, since there’s a stair­case that stands on its own, an airy and bright hall­way for the Muse­um of Pub­lic Works, and a hemi­cy­cle that hous­es the EESC, I say he came pret­ty close. Then again, maybe you should be the judge.

ADDRESS: 9 Avenue d’Ié­na (16th arr.)

HOURS:Mon.-Fri. 8a-8p

MÉTRO: Iéna (line 9)

NEIGHBORHOOD: Chaillot

NUMBER: +33 9 70 46 68 14

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INSTAGRAM: @cese_officiel

Petit Palais

If you’re look­ing for some peace and qui­et, this place might be for you. You can look through their art and sculp­ture col­lec­tions or take a stroll in the gar­den in the heart of the muse­um itself. Here, you can immerse your­self in absolute peace, and a rather well-made and sur­pris­ing­ly afford­able lunch in the inner gar­den (just snag a table before you order as it’s first-come, first-served on the court­yard tables).

ADDRESS: Avenue Win­ston Churchill (8th arr.)

HOURS: Tues. — Sun. 10a-6p

MÉTRO: Champs-Elysées-Clé­menceau (lines 1, 13)

NEIGHBORHOOD: Champs Élysées

NUMBER: +33 1 53 43 40 00

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INSTAGRAM: @petitpalais_musee

Musée de la Vie Romantique

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.

ADDRESS: 16 Rue Chap­tal (9th arr.)

HOURS: Tues. — Sun. 10a-6p

MÉTRO: Pigalle (lines 2, 12)

NEIGHBORHOOD: Saint Georges

NUMBER: +33 1 55 31 95 67

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Musée Cognacq-Jay

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.

ADDRESS: 8 Rue Elze­vir (3rd arr.)

HOURS: Tues. — Sun. 10a-6p

MÉTRO: Saint Paul (line 1) or Chemin Vert (line 8)

NEIGHBORHOOD: Le Marais / Les Archives

NUMBER: +33 1 40 27 07 21

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INSTAGRAM: @museecognacqjay