Paris is the city of love but it is also an absolute gem for art lovers. There are over 130 museums in Paris, isn’t that crazy? Though if we consider the number of talented artists throughout France’s history, it makes sense that there needs to be enough museums to house all the artworks!
Most people immediately think of the Louvre when they think of museums in Paris.
But the Louvre hasn’t made my list of unmissable museums! I have nothing against it, but it is usually overcrowded, too hot inside and the queues are just too long.
Today I’m focusing on museums that are smaller and not as well known as the Louvre, but just as worth visiting.
So, here is my list of 6 unmissable art museums in Paris.
1 – Musée Gustave Moreau – 9th Arrondissement
It wouldn’t surprise me if you’ve never heard of this museum but it’s a great non-crowded art spot (it’s a 20 minute walk from the Montmartre area).
Gustave Moreau was a symbolist painter. The museum was actually his family home, he then turned it into an atelier whilst the first floor was kept as his apartment.
The most unique aspect about this museum is that there are paintings stuffed everywhere. Most of the paintings are packed so closely together that it doesn’t quite feel like a museum- it feels rather cozy. There are over 1,300 of them.
Some of the subjects are mythological and biblical, some are half finished and some you will just have to leave to your imagination! Moreau must have been quite wacky and eccentric!
There is also a gorgeous spiral staircase which you can’t miss – as pictured in the picture above!
Art pieces to look out for: Jupiter et Sémélé, Les Chimères.
2 – Musée Cernuschi – 8th Arrondissement
While in Paris, why not enjoy some Asian art? This museum used to be a private mansion, so it’s big… but not too big. The art collection is just superbe. I particularly love the huge bronze Bouddha. The room was build especially to fit it… You have to be there to realize its size… The picture doesn’t do it justice!
Another plus: the museum is located just by the very popular among French families Parc Monceau. Perfect to take a stroll, rest your head and… French people watch!
3 – Musée National Rodin – 7th Arrondissement
Just a 20 minute walk from the Eiffel Tower, located in a beautiful neoclassical style Mansion (Hôtel Biron), you will find this museum dedicated to the works of Auguste Rodin. If you aren’t familiar with him, Rodin is often referred to as the father of modern sculpture.
This museum displays many of Rodin’s sculptures, drawings and paintings. His sculptures are quite simply breathtaking- each one expressing such emotional depth, they almost seem real. His most loved sculpture is probably “The Kiss” (Le Baiser). And yes- it is utterly phenomenal.
The seven acres of garden is in my opinion the highlight of this museum . This is where you will find some of his most famous sculptures. In spring, the roses begin to bloom and make the experience even more special…
Watch out though! Just like Giverny, this museum is very popular among tourists. Try to go there at lunch time to beat the crowds – or off-season, in winter there’s almost no line.
Because this is a smaller museum, you can probably see it all within an hour or so. It is nowhere near as crowded as the Louvre (so it’s perfect to escape the hustle and bustle of the city).
To me, the Museé Rodin is almost poetic.
Art pieces to look out for : The kiss (Le Baiser), The gates of hell (La Porte d’Enfer), The Thinker (Le Penseur), Monument to Balzac.
Speaking of museums… in the story of her upper intermediate audiobook method À Moi Paris L6, chapter 12, Camille takes you for a visit of Giverny: you’ll learn plenty of museum related vocabulary in context, as well as how to give your opinion about art in French.
A new approach to learning both traditional and modern French logically structured for English speakers.
4 – Centre Pompidou- 4th Arrondissement
The first thought that came to my mind when I saw the Centre Pompidou from the outside was “what the hell is this?! Is it still under construction?” I mean, it looks ugly… And it is often considered one of the ugliest buildings in Paris. Anyway, you know what they say: “don’t judge a book by its cover”…
The inside is a lot nicer than the outside- the Centre Pompidou is the biggest modern art museum in Europe so this one is for all the modern art lovers (Surrealism, Pop art, Dadaism, Cubism etc.) Inside, there are works by Picasso, Matisse and Kandinsky and much more (it really is huge).
I think the Centre Pompidou is one you will either love or hate. Me- personally, I’m not a modern art fan in the slightest, but I did enjoy some of the pieces in this museum. It’s just something you have to try.
Even if you don’t enjoy the art, on the top floor you get a stunning panoramic view over Paris. It’s like something out of the Ratatouille movie.
Art pieces to look out for: Fountain (Marcel Duchamp), Self-Portrait in Drag (Andy Warhol), The Frame (Frida Kahlo)
5 – Musée de l’Orangerie- 1st Arrondissement
Any Claude Monet, impressionism fans here? This museum is one of those “things-you-need-to-experience-before-you-die” for art lovers.
Straight in the heart of the Jardin des Tuileries, the Musée de L’Orangerie is one of Paris’ most special museums.
The two separate oval rooms are my favorite parts of this museum. They were specially built to showcase Claude Monet’s eight Nymphéas – (water lilies) paintings. Take a step back and marvel at these beauties.
Then take a step closer and admire the detailed little brush strokes. The rooms are filled with light making the paintings look even more breathtaking- you just have to see it in person to fully understand.
Downstairs, you will find oils by Renoir and Cézanne.There are also pieces by Picasso and Matisse.
If this impressionism doesn’t impress you, then I don’t know what will! (This is probably my favorite museum in Paris).
Art pieces to look out for: Les Nymphéas (Claude Monet), Jeunes Filles au Piano (August Renoir), Pomme et biscuits (Paul Cezanne)
6 – Musée Du Luxembourg – 6th Arrondissement
You probably know the Luxembourg gardens. But did you know there was a very nice museum there? The Luxembourg museum doesn’t have a permanent collection: they change every so often so you’ll need to check the program.
If you go at the beginning of an exhibit, or at the very end, it’s probably going to be quite crowded. Parisians know and love this museum, and so does Camille! maybe you’ll see her there!
So, what are some of your favorite museums in Paris and why?