It goes without saying that Paris is the city of love. Some people find it on the cobblestoned, neo-Gothic streets, whilst others find love in the mouth-watering and sometimes adventurous (I’m talking snails) Parisian cuisine. For others like me, love lies elsewhere. The French capital is a place to marvel at and be inspired by millennia of history, culture and art. The world-class galleries and museums in Paris let you travel back in time with the Egyptians and Romans, be mesmerised by Impressionist paintings, hypnotised by Picasso’s use of rich colours or simply be left awestruck by the architecture.
As much as Paris is beautiful, impressive and magical it’s also overwhelming. You won’t see every piece of treasure or hit every museum on your first, second or even third trip, no matter how tightly packed your schedule. For those on a budget or simply used to the free admission in many London and Berlin museums, entry fees here can be a little steep. To make the choosing easier here’s our list of the best museums in Paris that you can’t miss.
1. The Louvre
This is a no-brainer. The Louvre is not only the best museum in Paris, but the world’s largest art museum with some 35,000 artefacts and works of art on display. Originally used as a fortress, then a Royal Palace before being opened to the public as a museum in 1793, it’s a treasure trove for culture, art, history and architecture buffs. There’s something for everyone whether it’s Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Botticelli’s masterpieces, Venus di Milo statue or ancient relics.
One thing to keep in mind is you can’t possibly see everything in one visit. The museum is split into three massive wings and is pretty much a city within itself, with a maze of galleries, staircases and hallways. Do some research beforehand to decide what’s a must see. It will make the visit more enjoyable and save you from emerging hours later exhausted and defeated by the mammoth collection.
💰 Admission cost: €15
💸 Free if you’re under 18 or aged between 18 and 25 and from a EU country. €9 if you’re aged between 18 and 25 and from a non-EU country. The permanent collection is free for everyone on Sundays from October to March.
Magical museum 📷: @sara_okolbeseder
Perusing the masters 📷: @melissaissinging_
2. Musée d’Orsay
Second to the Louvre, this gallery is a must. The collection begins where the Louvre’s finishes – around 1848 – and displays just over 60 years of art history from symbolism to realism, sculpture to photography, to the world’s largest collection of impressionist works. Marvel at the artistic prowess of the likes of Monet, Van Gogh, Delacroix, Cézanne, Corbet and Corot to name a few.
The artworks aren’t the only drawcard. The museum was originally a palatial train station, designed by Victor Laloux in 1900. In 2011 it underwent a renovation, adding a restaurant and outside viewing platform. Head up there for spectacular views across to Sacré-Cœur atop Montmartre.
💰 Admission: €12.
💸 Free if you’re under 18 or aged between 18 and 25 and from a EU country. €9 if you’re aged between 18 and 25 and from a non-EU country. Free for everyone on the first Sunday of the month and €9 for everyone on Thursday evenings, from 6pm.
How beautiful is this former train station! 📷 @ashjwick
The world’s largest collection of impressionist works 📷: @rudenana
3. Musée National Rodin
If sculptures and modernity are your thing, then this is one of the best museums in Paris for you. The mansion where Auguste Rodin – one of France’s most outstanding sculptors – spent the last years of his life now contains a massive collection of his work. The house dates back to the 18th century and displays pieces such as the great Balzac, the Burghers of Calais and the Gates of Hell, letting visitors trace how he revolutionised late 19th-century sculpture.
The jewel of Musee Rodin lies in the beautiful, peaceful garden: The Thinker. It’s one of Rodin’s most important works. You’ll also find works by Camille Claudel and Vincent van Gogh which were part of Rodin’s private collection.
💰 Admission: €10
💸 Free if you’re under 25 years old.
Pretty as a picture 📷: @itskellykline
Strike a pose 📷: ashmordel
4. Musée Picasso
This is one of my personal favourites, and no list of museums in Paris would be complete without it. The variety and beauty of the works here are incredible. More than 5,000 of Pablo Picasso’s paintings, drawings, engravings, ceramic works and sculptures are on display. The staggering collection traces the Spanish artist’s evolution through the blue and pink period to the foundations he created for cubism and modernism. The museum is housed in Hôtel Salé, an exquisite private mansion owned by the city, not far from where Picasso spent much of his life living and working.
💰 Admission: €12.50. Museum is closed on Mondays.
💸 €11 if you’re a student. Free on Sundays.
The lovely Hôtel Salé 📷: @melody_clox
Here’s looking at you kid 📷: @blumeblumee
5. Grand Palais
Remember the glass dome you saw from the top of The Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe? This is it and I can confirm it’s as glorious and impressive from the inside as it is out. In fact, it’s the largest glass roof in the whole of Europe! Originally built for the 1900 World Exposition this extravagant monument houses changing art exhibitions and a science museum. The Grand Nave is home to the FIAC art fair in October, Paris Photo in November and various art and photography events the rest of the year. If you’re not up for checking out an exhibition, the interior of this palatial building is something you can’t leave Paris without seeing.
💰 Admission: ticket costs vary according to exhibitions.
💸 Entering the iconic foyer is free.
Monumenta 2016 📷: @yannaudino
Irving Penn 📷: @honeybunnyhoneyhoneyho
6. Musée Marmottan-Claude Monet
This is one of the city’s hidden gems, and the perfect choice if you’re looking for museums in Paris that are a bit more off the beaten track. It displays the largest collection of works by Impressionist pioneer Claude Monet, most of which were donated by the artist’s family. Some of the most notable works are ‘Impressionism, soleil levant’, which gave Impressionism its name. Make sure to check out the vibrant works of his Giverny water garden and the works of other painters of Monet’s time such as Renoir, Manet and Pissarro.
💰 Admission: €11
💸 Free if you’re under 25-years-old.
Just a lil’ girl standing in front of Monet (asking him to love her) 📷: @orklein
L’Amour et Psyché 📷: @riffnes
7. Centre Pompidou
If the striking façade of bold, primary colours, exposed piping and metal stairwells didn’t give it away, the Centre Pompidou is dedicated to all things modern art. When it opened in 1977 it was revolutionary and still is, due to its multi-disciplinary use of space and the fact it houses the largest collection of modern art in Europe. 50,000 works by 5,000 artists are held here however only about 600 are displayed at any one time. The Centre is home to an art museum, library and exhibition and performance spaces. Prices vary according to what you’re after.
💰 Museum admission: €14.
💸 €11 if you’re a student. Entrance to the inside forum is free but it costs to ascend the iconic escalators.
Art – do you have anything to declare? 📷 @minkaguides
Exit Through the Gift Shop 📷: @colorintrip
8. Musée des Arts Décoratifs
This is a mecca for those with an eye for fashion, design and furnishings. You’ll find The Arts Décoratifs in a side wing of the Louvre. It covers three areas of design – art, fashion and advertising. A whopping 86,000 fashion items and sketches are on show in the fashion and textile section. Some of the more famous pieces exhibited are by Chanel, Pierre Balmain, Christian Dion and Yves Saint Laurent. The advertising section is just as impressive with thousands of pieces of poster art, films, newspaper ads and promotional material all old and new. One of the best museums in Paris for anyone more interested in new media and the art forms we see around us on a daily basis.
💰 Admission: ticket prices vary according to the exhibition.
Magnifique exposition 📷: @nicolecoullier
Dior got me like… 📷: @angie_m.t
9. Musée National du Moyen-Age-Thermes
Here you’ll find something special which stands apart from the city’s main attractions. This intimate museum – known simply as Cluny – provides a different insight into the history of France through the incredible medieval treasures on display. The building itself is an example of 15th-century Gothic architecture and lies off the beaten track, just above the finest roman bath remains in Paris. This alone is well worth the visit. However, the real star of the show is the Lady and Unicorn tapestry cycle which lies among beautiful medieval sculptures and enamels.
💰 Admission: €8. Closed Tuesdays.
💸 €6 for students. Free on first Sunday of month.
Weathered and beautiful Medieval sculptures 📷: @monica__st
Old school textbooks 📷: @madison.chloe34
10. Musée Jacquemart-Andrew
This exquisite 19th-century mansion is the work of 19th-century art buffs Edouard André and his wife Nélie Jacquemart. The pair spent much of the life scouring Europe for artistic treasures. As you walk through the serious of salons and music room you’ll find various Rembrandts, a Botticelli Virgin and Child, Tiepolo frescoes and paintings by Boucher, Fragonard and Nattier to name a few. Wrap up your visit with lunch or cakes at the elegant tearoom.
💰 Admission: €13.50, €11.50 reduced price.
Plush AF 📷: @carlos_f_lieja
So lifelike! 📷: @lesorigamisdamelie
11. Musee Nissim de Camondo
Step back into the 18th-century with the collection of furniture, paintings, tapestries and silverware displayed throughout this mansion. The unique and rare pieces highlight just how Paris came to be at the centre of the European art trade during this time. The building itself was inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles.
💰 Admission: €9, €6.50 reduced rate.
The beautiful house of the extraordinary de Camondo family 📷: @verytroubledchild
Imagine having this in your house 📷: @denniskrieger
12. Musée de l’Orangerie
Paris is a serious heaven for impressionist and art lovers. Not many other museums in Paris offer such a treat for the eyes, showing Claude Monet’s eight water lily canvases. The light, watery panels are displayed exactly as Monet wanted – in two oval rooms which surround gallery-goers with the scenes of his garden at Giverny. The lower level contains works by Matisse, Renoir, Rousseau among others.
💰 Admission: €9
💸 €6.50 for students.
Monet’s lilies 📷: @iulapereira
Renoir 📷: @journalofsedef
13. La Maison Rouge
La Maison Rouge is dedicated to new contemporary artists. You’ll never see the same collection twice as the exhibitions are constantly changing. This stems from the curator’s desire to show as many facets of new and emerging art as possible. Visitors can wander the monographic exhibitions or check out the international private art collections. Here you can also find France’s famous café culture with the delectable Rose Bakery.
💰 Admission: €10, €7 reduced price.
Les Spectres de la Couturière – Annette Messager 📷: @charlottedfrobert
Marin Karmitz Collection 📷: @matthieu_ly
14. Pavillon de l’arsenal
Urban planners and architects: eat your heart out. This is the place to learn about the urban and architectural evolution of Paris. Permanent collections, a photo library, large models and temporary exhibits take visitors through how the city was built, how it will evolve and how history has influenced its design.
💸 Admission: free.
Climbing the walls 📷: @highline_paris
Montparnasse Tower 📷: @parisfriendsparty
🇫🇷 How many museums in Paris have you managed to visit? Tell us your favourite below 👇
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