petit palais

The Magnificent Petit Palais in Paris: What you need to know

Every time I visit Paris, I try to visit at least one museum. There is no denying that there are many great museums in Paris, so the choices are numerous. But while most people tend to flock to the main ones, like the Louvre or the Musee d’Orsay, there are other free museums, like the Petit Palais Museum, that are less crowded and just as wonderful to explore.

The Petit Palais Museum stands out not only for its magnificent building but also for its collection of artworks. If you are a museum enthusiast planning a trip to Paris, the Petit Palais Museum is an absolute must-visit. It’s a place where history, architecture and art come together for a taste of Parisian culture.

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The Petit Palais, a throwback to a different time

When you look at the Petit Palais building from the outside, it transports you to a different time. The beginning of the 20th century, to be exact. The architect Charles Girault constructed it for the 1900 Exposition Universelle (The World’s Fair). He aimed to showcase French art and culture to the world, and he did so spectacularly.

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The Petit Palais is an excellent example of Beaux-Arts architecture. This highly decorative and elaborate style originated from the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. It combines elements of classical architecture with Renaissance and Baroque influences, emphasizing symmetry, grandeur, and the use of classical forms.

petit palais

In Beaux-Arts architecture, art and architecture are closely intertwined. The buildings often feature murals, mosaics, and stained glass, integrating various art forms to create a cohesive and immersive environment. The Petit Palais, with its grand entrance, classical columns, and elaborate decorations, is the place to admire this beautiful style.  

Don’t miss the courtyard garden

One of the unique features of the Petit Palais is its serene interior garden. This tranquil oasis, surrounded by colonnaded walkways and blooming with vibrant flowers, provides a perfect retreat from the bustling city outside. The garden, with its symmetrical design and classical sculptures, is a nod to the French formal garden tradition and adds to the overall charm of the museum.

petit palais

Inside the museum, there is a café overlooking the garden where you can grab a bite and some coffee. There are several small tables and chairs to sit and enjoy the atmosphere. Even in January, the place was packed with people, and it was one of my favourite spots at the museum.

Inside the Petit Palais

Stepping inside the Petit Palais, you are immediately struck by the opulence of its interior. It might appear less elaborate than the decorative entrance, but a simple elegance makes an impact. The central rotunda, with its soaring dome and lavish frescoes, is just as inspiring as the art itself.

petit palais

Visiting the museum is also very easy, as the layout is designed to guide visitors through a chronological exploration of art from antiquity to the early 20th century. Then there are the magnificent large windows that add to the sense of airiness and make the art easy to admire.

Petit Palais collections

You start the visit with the collection of artifacts from ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt. You can walk up and admire them close up and admire their timeless beauty and significance. Moving forward, you encounter a rich array of Renaissance art, with masterpieces by artists such as Botticelli and Rembrandt.

petit palais
petit palais

18th and 19th century French Art

The heart of the Petit Palais collection lies in its extensive array of 18th—and 19th-century French art. Paintings by Jean-Baptiste Greuze, François Boucher, and Gustave Courbet adorn the walls, each telling a story of its own. The museum also has impressive sculptures, including works by Auguste Rodin and Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux.

petit palais

Impressionism and beyond

As you continue your journey, you will encounter the vibrant world of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. The Petit Palais is home to stunning works by Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Paul Cézanne, among others. These paintings, with their bold colours and innovative techniques, offer a glimpse into the revolutionary art movements that shaped modern art.

Decorative Arts and Art Nouveau

The Petit Palais is not just about paintings and sculptures. It also houses an exquisite collection of decorative arts, including furniture, ceramics, and tapestries. One of the highlights is the Art Nouveau section, featuring works by Hector Guimard and Émile Gallé. These pieces, with their organic forms and intricate designs, reflect the artistic and cultural innovations of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

petit palais

Temporary exhibitions

In addition to its permanent collection, the Petit Palais hosts several temporary exhibitions throughout the year. These exhibitions cover diverse themes and periods, offering visitors fresh perspectives and new insights into the world of art. Recent exhibitions have featured everything from the works of contemporary artists to retrospectives of historical figures, ensuring that there is always something new and exciting to see.

Practical Information for your visit

The Petit Palais is conveniently located at Avenue Winston Churchill, making it easily accessible by public transport. The nearest metro stations are Champs-Élysées – Clemenceau and Franklin D. Roosevelt, a short walk away.

Opening hours and admission

The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm, with extended hours on Fridays until 9 pm. Admission to the permanent collections is free, while temporary exhibitions may have an entrance fee. Always check the official website for the latest exhibitions and ticket price information. The museum also has a well-stocked bookstore and gift shop, where you can find art books, souvenirs and unique gifts.

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Get the Petit Palais app

If you like to know more about the museum and the art, get the official Petit Palais app. It’s free and offers information on the different collections, events and workshops that you can explore when you visit. The app also offers more detailed information about the collection items and the artists who created them. It’s a great way to round up your visit and learn more about the things you’re seeing. The app is available in French, English and Spanish.

Why the Petit Palais is a Must-Visit

As a lover of museums, Paris, and architecture, the Petit Palais holds a special place in my heart. The museum’s blend of architectural beauty, historical significance and artistic diversity makes it a unique destination. Whether you are an art aficionado or a casual visitor, the Petit Palais offers an enriching experience that captures the essence of Parisian culture.

petit palais

Its rich collections, stunning architecture, and serene gardens make it a must-visit destination for anyone passionate about culture and beauty. Whether you are a seasoned museum-goer or a first-time visitor to Paris, the Petit Palais promises an unforgettable journey through art. So, the next time you find yourself in the city of lights, set aside time to explore this magnificent museum. You won’t be disappointed.

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