With over 130 museums in Paris, the is something for everyone to enjoy. Those who love science, history and architecture will have a lot to choose from. Others looking to explore the more quirky and unique Paris museums will find magic, fashion, wine, music and perfume museums. However, if you love art, these are the 10 best Paris museums for you.
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Best Paris museums for art lovers
Choosing the best Paris museums, just like choosing art, can be very subjective. There is no denying that all of the museums in Paris offer outstanding collections of art, history and culture of France and the world. However, it’s also important to note that there are many different types of museums in Paris, and listing them all would be a very long and overwhelming read. That’s why I’ve decided to highlight the ones I think will appeal to art lovers in particular.
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Musée Louvre (The Louvre Museum)
Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
The Louvre is probably the most famous museum in Paris and one of the world’s most visited. Each year, more than 10 million visitors explore the priceless collections housed in equally magnificent buildings. With over 782,000 square feet (over 72,000 m2), the Louvre Museum has one of the world’s largest art collections.
The Louvre dates back to the late 12th century when the King of France, Philip II, commissioned a garrison fortress to protect and watch over the city. Over the years, it underwent numerous changes and additions, with the royals moving their official residence out of the city. During the 16th century, it once again became the official residence of the kings of France.
Subsequently, it became the formidable complex we see today. Inside are priceless paintings by Italian, Dutch and French masters, including the Mona Lisa. Visitors can also admire ancient sculptures and precious art objects, including jewellery and textiles from all over the world. I’m not gonna lie, the Louvre truly is one of the best Paris museums and my happy place.
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1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007 Paris
Musée d’Orsay makes the list of the best Paris museums for art lovers for two reasons. One is its extensive collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist art from artists like Van Gogh, Gaugin, Cézanne, Manet, Monet and Renoir. The other is the incredible buildings it’s housed in.
Located Left Bank of the Seine River is a former railway station – Gare d’Orsay. Built for the 1900 Exposition Universelle, it served as the railway terminal until 1939. Before it officially became a museum in 1986, it served as a mailing station during the war and, subsequently, a movie set.
It narrowly escaped demolition, and today, Musée d’Orsay is one of the biggest art museums in Europe. Over three million visitors come here every year to view over 2,000 paintings, 600 sculptures and other works.
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Musée de l’Orangerie
1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007 Paris
Musée de l’Orangerie started as a winter shelter for the orange trees in the Tuileries Palace at the request of Emperor Napoleon III. What became a fancy greenhouse in 1852 was used to store orange trees and as an event venue until 1922.
Today it contains an extensive collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings. Here you’ll find Monet’s Water Lilies and works by Cézanne, Matisse, Modigliani, Picasso, Renoir and Rousseau.
5 Rue de Thorigny, 75003 Paris
I’d say that some of the best Paris museums are those based on the works of the many incredible artists that lived here at one point or another. While I haven’t included them all on this list, I had to include the Picasso Museum.
Located in the Hôtel Salé, the Picasso Museum (full name Musée National Picasso-Paris) is dedicated to the genius of Pablo Picasso. Here you’ll find a collection of over 5,000 pieces ranging from paintings, sculptures and books to ceramics and numerous archival items, including manuscripts and personal letters.
Before going in, I knew Picasso was a famous painter that I studied in school. While some of his work was interesting, I wasn’t necessarily a huge fan. However, I was impressed by how creative and versatile an artist Picasso was. Seeing his paintings and sculptures opened up an appreciation for the artist and his art that I didn’t know was in me. Even if you’re not a huge Picasso fan, I will encourage you to step into his world, even if just for a few hours.
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Le Petit Palais
Avenue Winston Churchill, 75008 Paris
The Petit Palais, much like the nearby Grand Palais, was built for the 1900 Universal Exhibition and became a museum in 1902. Known as the Musée des Beaux-Arts de la ville de Paris or the Museum of Fine Arts of the city of Paris, it’s also a stunning architectural gem.
The building is shaped like a trapezium with four wings around a semi-circular garden. It blends traditional and modern architectural styles offering a grandeur of a palace befitting Paris and its art.
The museum houses collections of paintings and furniture from the Medieval and Renaissance to that of the 18th century. If you love art by the French and Dutch masters, you’ll enjoy the works of Cézanne, Poussin, Monet, Rodin, Rembrandt and Rubens.
Musée National d’Art Moderne
11 Avenue du Président Wilson, 75116 Paris
Located inside the famous Center Pompidou, the Musée National d’Art Moderne (National Museum of Modern Art) is home to contemporary pieces of the 20th and 21st centuries. There are over 15,000 pieces in the museum’s permanent collections in addition to the frequent temporary exhibits.
Here you’ll find works by artists of Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, Dada, Abstract art and Surrealism movements. Some of them include Dufy, Matisse, Lhote, Derain, Rouault, Soutine, Modigliani and Buffet. If you love modern art, this is the Paris museum for you.
Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme
Hôtel de Saint-Aignan, 71 Rue du Temple, 75003 Paris
Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme (Museum of the Art and History of Judaism), also known as mahJ, is the biggest Jewish museum focused on art and history. Housed in the gorgeous 17th-century mansion Hôtel de Saint-Aignan, the museum retraces the history of the Jewish people of France, Europe and North Africa.
Here you’ll find a collection of 12,000 pieces, comprised of archives, manuscripts, religious objects, ceremonial dress, art and medieval gravestones from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. The museum has an extensive collection of works by Marc Chagall and Amedeo Modigliani.
Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac
37 Quai Branly, 75007 Paris
Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac is dedicated to indigenous art and cultures of Africa, the Near East, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. The collections include over 370,00 art objects, 700,000 iconographical pieces and more than 200,000 reference works from the Neolithic period to the 20th century.
Many of the pieces were originally part of private collections that accumulated as a result of colonial expansion. These private cabinets of curiosities included natural history specimens, historical and archaeological pieces and art. During the 18th century and following the French Revolution, specialized museums were created to showcase and preserve these collections.
Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac opened in 2006, bringing many of these collections under one roof. Today, the museum attracts over a million visitors annually.
8 Rue Elzevir, 75003 Paris
Musée Cognacq-Jay originated as a private collection of Ernest Cognacq and his wife, Marie-Louise Jay. Upon his death in 1928, Ernest donated his collection of 18th-century art to the city. Here you’ll find over 1,200 items, including paintings, ceramics and jewellery accumulated between 1900 and 1927.
The collection focuses on the Age of Enlightenment and provides an insight into French art and society during the 18th century. This collection was housed in other places before being transferred to its current location in 1990. The museum is free and is a great opportunity to admire artists like Rembrandt, Paul Cézanne and Edgar Degas.
7 Avenue Velasquez, 75008 Paris
Musée Cernuschi is a museum of Asian art with extensive collections from China, Korea and Japan. It represents the vision and personal collections of Henri Cernuschi, an Italian patriot in exile in France. He amassed over 5,000 works of art that formed his collection’s core.
Henri built a private mansion to house his collection and left both to the city upon his death. The museum opened in 1898 and hosted numerous exhibitions focusing on art from China and Japan. Additional artworks were added over the years with discoveries in Asia. The collection today includes over 12,000 items obtained through numerous acquisitions and significant donations.
Further thoughts on the best Paris museums for art lovers
When it comes to picking the best museums in Paris, the choices are extensive. Those that love art will find it everywhere, as most Paris museums are endless treasure troves of priceless art. Architecture lovers can also admire the artful buildings that house these museums.
Paris has been a leading centre of European culture for centuries, so it’s not surprising to see such a grand amassment of priceless art here. Ultimately, only you can decide what the best Paris museums are for you. This list will get you started on your artful treasure hunt. Enjoy the adventure.
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