Museums in Paris: Which Ones are Worth the Visit?

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

For many people, traveling to Paris is a top item on their bucket list, and it’s easy to see why. From the glory of Sacre Coeur and the city’s other cathedrals to the decadent food to the lavish shopping, Paris is a center of culture and beauty. And at the heart of this magnificent city are some of its best attractions: let's have a look at the many museums in Paris, and save the other top things to do in Paris for later.

If you’re planning on visiting Paris, you’re going to want to make a list of museums to visit. But with more than 130 museums in the city limits, how do you choose which ones to see? Below is a list of some museums in Paris you won’t want to miss.

The Louvre

No trip to Paris is complete without a visit to The Louvre. This colossal museum was once the home of Napoleon and covers more than 700,000 square feet. Last year, the Louvre hosted more than 10,000 videos and has about 38,000 items on exhibit; if you spent just 30 seconds looking at each thing, you would still spend 100 days in the museum.

The vastness of the Louvre means you’ll need to plan what you want to see ahead of time. You can look up walking tours of the museum or arrange for guided tours. If you’re feeling spontaneous, strap on your best tennis shoes, and dive into the world’s largest collection of artistic wonders.

Musee de Orsay

Located in an old train station, the Musee de Orsay is a cathedral of sunlight streaming in through glass windows and falling across stunning pieces of art. The museum focuses on impressionist and post-impressionist art, including works by Monet, Renoir, van Gogh, and more. There are also pieces from the Art Nouveau era and sculptures from the 1800s.

If you get hungry while exploring the museum, go grab a bite in the museum café. The café is housed behind a gigantic clock in the upper floors of the Musee de Orsay. Sacre Coeur is visible through the workings of the clock, and you’ll feel like you’re seeing all the best of Paris sitting in that café.

Musee de Arts et Metiers

For those who aren’t skilled in French, “Musee de Arts et Metiers” translates to the Museum of Arts and Crafts. But in fact, this establishment is the world’s oldest science museum. Constitutional Bishop Henri Gregoire founded it in 1794 in order to educate France’s manufacturing industry about useful scientific techniques.

The museum is housed in a stunning former Benedictine priory and holds some incredible scientific instruments. Barometers, astrolabes, clocks, Pascal’s calculating tools, the Lumiere brothers’ cinematograph, and the world’s first powered vehicle are among the exhibits. You can also see incredible scale models of all manner of buildings and machines.

Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais

The Grand Palais was constructed in 1900 for the Exposition Universelle and shows off all the flair Paris could manage in order to impress the world. The ceiling of this spectacular building is reason enough to visit. The steel-framed glass dome allows in a rainbow of colors and sunlight that illuminate the magnificence of this museum.

The museum hosts enormous exhibits of every kind of art. From the photography of Irving Penn to the portraits of Paul Gauguin, this splendid palace is someplace you don’t want to miss.

Jeu de Paume

The Jardin de Tuileries is a Paris site worth visiting all on its own; these stunning gardens are located next to the Louvre and cover more than 22 hectares. But within the garden is another Paris museum you’ll want to see: the Jeu de Paume. This museum is simpler in design than some of the others on this list, a former tennis court that now consists of two large galleries.

The focus of the Jeu de Paume is photography, and it focuses especially on showcase retrospectives. There are video art and cinema suites downstairs that show feature-length films made by exhibiting artists. If you’re looking for a breath of fresh air after the splendor of Versailles or the Louvre, this museum is a great pick.

Petit Palais

When you leave the Grand Palais, consider going across the street and paying a visit to the Petit Palais. This was built for the same 1900 exhibition, and Parisians refer to it fondly as the Grand Palais’s younger sibling. The Palais features a Belle Epoque exterior with gold gates that will charm you into going inside.

Indoors, you’ll find one of the most exquisite sculpture collections in the city. Work by the Impressionists, Poussin, Dore, and Courbet adorn the halls, and there are even some treats for Art Nouveau fans. Downstairs you’ll find jewelry and other works by Lalique and Galle.

Centre Pompidou

The Centre Pompidou is a revolutionary space that redefines the meaning of art in Paris. The museum combines a modern art museum, a library, an exhibition and performance space, and a cinema all under one roof. The building features primary colors, exposed air ducts, and an exterior that looks like it might be under construction.

The Centre Pompidou hosts the most expansive collection of modern art in Europe. Only the Museum of Modern Art in New York can rival it. Admission is free, and if you visit after sunset, you can watch the City of Lights come alive.

Find More Museums in Paris

One of the best things about visiting Paris is the art. The city is the cultural capital of the world, and even the museums on this list are just a small portion of the sites you can visit. Dive into the museums in Paris, soak up the art culture, and make spectacular memories in the City of Lights.

If you’d like to discover more travel tips, check out the rest of our site. I travel solo around the world and chronicle my journey here. Check out my postcards and get inspiration for your own adventures.

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