Best Museums in Paris
The City of Lights, The City of Love, the city of unending cultural gems; there’s good reason why Paris is one of the world’s most iconic capitals. A hub for trade, invention, fashion and colonial expansion through the ages, the city’s heritage and culture are captured within its countless fascinating museums. In this list you'll discover:
- Musée d’Orsay
- Grand Palais
- Centre Pompidou
- And many more...
Formerly a train station built in glorious Belle Époque style, the d’Orsay became a museum in 1986. Set on the riverbank on the opposite side of the Louvre, this museum specializes in 19th and 20th-century art, with some world-famous works by Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh, plus an exceptional display of sumptuous Art Nouveau decorative pieces. In fact, the Musée d’Orsay houses the world’s largest collection of impressionist paintings. And when you’re all art-ed out, there’s also an awesome café behind the huge transparent clock face that looks out over the city.
Plonked in the middle of Place Georges Pompidou, this postmodernist-spaceship-crashed-to-earth building houses the city’s Public Information Library, the National Museum of Modern Art and a center for musical research. Pompidou houses the largest collection of modern art in Europe and is particularly noted for its collection of pieces by Picasso. Totally rebuked by most of Paris’ inhabitants when it was first completed in 1977, Centre Pompidou has now become something of a cultural anti-hero in the middle of the city’s historic center. Its inside-out structure, featuring technical equipment and industrial circulation systems on the exterior, is in stark contrast to the Hausmann-era buildings that surround it. Make your own judgment, but we think its pretty magnifique.
Musée du Quai Branly
This fascinating museum, set in an enviable position on the banks of the Seine beneath the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, houses an incredible collection of indigenous art from civilizations outside of Europe. Split into four dedicated rooms, the museum showcases artwork and sculpture collected from the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. Among the vast collection of over 45,000 pieces are Papuan carvings, Peruvian feather costumes, and even an Easter Island Rapa Nui head sculpture. The building itself is worthy of a portrait. Designed by Jean Nouvel and opened in 2006, Musée du Quai Branly's rich red exterior covered in luscious flora is a stark contrast to its surroundings and makes for an intriguing escape into other worlds, right in the heart of Paris.
Palais de Tokyo
This impressive, Art Deco palace gets its name from the 1937 Exposition Universelle, where surrounding avenues were renamed according to the temporary pavilions set up by other countries. Formerly the Museum of Modern Art, the name Palais de Tokyo stuck as a link to the building’s showcase of Far Eastern art. Made up of two wings with a great central courtyard and huge, imposing modernist colonnades, the riverside building is one to make you look twice. Head inside to be wowed at the vast, skylit exhibition and performing space. It’s also known as the largest museum in France to hold temporary modern art installations.
Grand Palais & Petit Palais
These magnificent structures intersected by Avenue Winston Churchill were completed in 1900 and are some of the finest examples of Beaux-Arts architecture in the city. The not-so-little Petit Palais houses a museum of fine arts in an eclectic mix of styles, ranging from the Renaissance period right up to the 20th Century. There’s also a glistening display of jewels by Lalique in the Palais’ downstairs rooms. Across the avenue, the imposing Grand Palais plays host to exhibitions and cultural events within its vast hall, crowned by an awe-inspiringly intricate glass and steel roof. Set just beside the iconic Champs-Élysées, these sister structures are an unmissable stop on a cultural cruise around the capital.
The Louvre Museum
Did you really think we’d write a museum listicle about Paris and not include the Louvre?! As one of the most famous museums in the world, this place is quite the spectacle. It also boasts the impressive accolades of the World’s Largest Museum (with over 72,000m2 of exhibition space) and the World’s Most Visited Museum. Taking over a former royal palace, the Louvre is now home to 35,000 masterpieces spread across three vast wings. The Louvre plays host to some of the world’s most recognizable works of art, such as the Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, and the tiny portrait that everyone comes to see - the Mona Lisa. Battling through the crowds to get a snap of her curious smirk is practically a rite of passage in Paris. In fact, a staggering 10.2 million people flock here to see her each year.
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