The Top 8 Museums in Paris
No other city in the world can compare to Paris when it comes to art. Few cities can even come close. Naturally the city of Monet, Manet and Picasso should have some of the greatest art museums in the world.
Built for the 1900 Exposition Universelle, the “little palace” now houses the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts. While it’s one of the smaller art museums in Paris, by global standards it still holds a substantial collection. Several notable Renaissance and medieval paintings and drawings are part of the collection, as well as works from Dutch Old Masters such as Rembrandt and Rubens. Finally, as expected of a museum in Paris, the Petit Palais has a rich collection of French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists such as Monet, Sisley and Cezanne.
The architecture of the Petit Palais is in a Beaux-Arts style common to the era. The main façade of the entrance is topped by a large dome and a broad set of steps. The interior features a gardened and styled courtyard with the main rooms of the museum running parallel to it.
The Musee National d’Art Moderne, or National Museum of Modern Art is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world. Located in the Centre Pompidou of the 4th arrondissement, the museum features a rich collection of modern art dating back to 1905. Artists as diverse as Andy Warhol, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso and Frida Kahlo are all featured heavily in the museum.
The museum is also worth a visit just to see its home. The Centre Pompidou is a complex built in a high-tech style with an architectural style that calls to mind a nerve-wracking roller coaster ride. Each structural element of the building is color-coded with exposed mechanical systems and circulation pipes. And while the building was originally called a “monster” when first erected, the bizarre design has become an emblem of a new and modern Paris.
World famous for their walls of Monet waterlilies, the Musee l’Orangerie is one of Paris’s most beloved museums. While small by Parisian standards, the museum holds an impressive collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings including works by Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso and of course, Monet.
The museum is in a former building used to store citrus trees held in the Tuileries Gardens in the 19th century. Across from the Tuileries Gardens and next to the Place de la Concorde, the museum is close by to both the Musee d’Orsay as well as the Louvre, if you would like to extend your museum viewing trip.
Few artists influenced modern sculpture like Auguste Rodin. The French sculpture celebrated individual character and a physical realism in his work and remains one of sculpture’s most famous artists. The Musee Rodin in Paris celebrates his life and work. The museum is separated into two locations, the Hotel Biron in central Paris, and just outside Paris at Rodin’s former home. The collection contains more than 6,000 sculptures, 8,000 drawings and receives over 700,000 visitors a year.
While the museum is dedicated primarily to the work of Rodin, paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir also are shown. The museum grounds feature gardens that showcase some of his most famous sculptures in natural light and settings. Works such as The Thinker and Monument to Balzac are located here.
One of the most visible buildings in Paris, the Grand Palais is both historic site and museum complex. Built in the Beaux-Arts style, the Grand Palais is perhaps the best example of that architectural style with its ornate decorations, iron and steel framing and stone facades. The Palais is next door to both the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay, making it an easy addition to any day spent in Paris’ major museums.
The Grand Palais today holds major art exhibits and cultural evens six days a week. While there is no permanent collection, the Palais holds several salons in the traditional French style. These exhibitions showcase a variety of different art at once for visitors to peruse and discuss. For a true French art salon experience, the Grand Palais cannot be beat.
There are few spots in Paris as singularly important in France’s history as Les Invalides. Officially the Hotel des Invalides, this complex was formally a series of military hospitals. Built by Louis XIV in 1670, the famous dome was created to allow for the King and his shoulders to attend mass together. Later, in the French Revolution, rioters used cannons and muskets from Les Invalides to seize the Bastille. And finally, Napoleon was entombed under the dome in 1840. As his final resting place, Les Invalides is forever associated as a symbol of Napoleonic France.
The complex today still has a working hospital and rehabilitation center along with war museums and historical monuments. The dome still stands and is the tallest church in Paris. While within its walls lies the tombs of Napoleon, his generals as well as other famous figures in French military history. The famous tomb of Napoleon is a sight to behold, with an enormous base of green granite topped with the sarcophagus of red quartzite. To understand the history of France and Paris, a visit to Les Invalides is highly recommended.
For French modern art, no other museum can challenge the Musee d’Orsay. Housed in the Gare d’Orsay, a former railway station. The Musee d’Orsay holds the largest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art in the world. Most museums have a few paintings of Monet, Manet or Cezanne. At the Musee d’Orsay, each of the French masters has a whole wing. Famous masterpieces such as Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone, Renoir’s Bal du moulin de la Galette and Manet’s The Luncheon on the Grass are all found here, along with countless others.
As one of the largest museums in the world, and the second largest in Paris, the Musee d’Orsay is a must-see for any art-loving visitor. The Musee d’Orsay is best enjoyed when viewed in connection with the Louvre. While the Louvre only holds art up to 1848, the Musee d’Orsay holds mainly art from 1848 to 1914. Spend a day at the Louvre, and the next at the Musee d’Orsay to experience the full circle of French fine arts.
What is there to say about the Louvre that hasn’t already been said? Not only is it the world’s largest museum, it’s also the most-visited. Housed in the Louvre Palace complex, this art museum is the only one housed in an actual castle. Everything from the grounds to the glass pyramid are icons in the world of art. Next door to the Louvre is the Tuileries Gardens, and a straight walk from the Louvre down the Champs Elysee to the Arc d’Triumphe is also on every Parisian tourist’s bucket list.
The Louvre is best known for its collections on ancient art and sculpture, Renaissance art as well as French Romantic and Neo-Classical art. Here you’ll find the famous Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, as well as countless works from Renaissance grand masters Raphael and Michelangelo. The collection’s Ancient Greek sculptures are also always popular with the Nike of Samothrace and Venus de Milo among the museum’s most sought after.
To truly have the Paris experience, you need to live through its art. Visiting one of the city’s art museums is a great way to understand the city. Book your next trip to Paris and tickets to these museums through Expedia for a great deal.