We offer you a list the best museums in Paris which are followed by the links to their official websites. Note: Some museums in the capital of France still do not have their own website.
Our main goal was to create a descent collection of Paris museums and create a useful guide for every tourist who is visiting this great city for the first time. Some of the given museums can be visited free of charge while others require additional charges. It will depend on a specific exhibition.
Every name of the museum is a link to the official website. In case you want to know more about each museum, all you need is to click on the name of the establishment. You will be immediately transferred to the webpage where you may find additional information and other details.
The majority of websites support English language. However some of them are in French. In case you want the content of the page be translated into English, just click on the British flag.
The list in alphabetical order
ARTS ET METIERS, Musée des (history of science and technology) The triumphantly renovated Musée des Arts et Métiers, in both a modern stone structure and the 4th century l’Eglise St-Martin, is the French answer to the Museum of Science and Industry, and the answer resonates astoundingly. The museum houses over 80,000 objects relating to the history of science and practically all of them are on display, exquisitely restored and lovingly cared for by a passionate and motivated staff. While the place decidedly (and characteristically) credits France with the greatest scientific achievements and doesn’t miss a beat when praising French scientists and innovators, there is a large breadth of objects in the collection from Renaissance Italy, to feudal China and Japan, to the US at the turn of the century. This is an amazing spot for children who will be occupied for hours, parents too, as you navigate the vast collection of Louvre proportions.
ART MODERNE DE LA VILLE DE PARIS, Musée d’ (Paris modern art collection) The colossal art deco structure, the Palais de Tokyo, was designed by architects Dondel and Aubert for the 1937 World’s Fair and was to house a vast modern art collection long before the idea for the Centre Georges Pompidou dawned in the consciousness of art savvy Parisians. However, when Pompidou was built most of the good stuff from the Palais de Tokyo went with it leaving a smaller, less comprehensive permanent collection and an enormous museum with fewer grants to fund its upkeep. Today, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris is still worth seeing for it’s concentrated collection of the works of artists such as Derain, Léger, Robert Delaunay, Bonnard, and Soutine and its contemporary art section.
BALZAC, Maison de (life and work in the home of Honoré de Balzac) “To work means to wake up each evening at midnight, to write until eight o’clock, take a quarter of an hour for breakfast, work until five o’clock, have dinner, go to sleep and start again the next day,” once proclaimed the granddaddy of the French roman. This spirit is dually represented in the flat looking home, where Balzac lived and worked obsessively on his masterpiece la Comédie humaine. In a faded corner of the now filthy rich and bourgeois 16th arrondissement, at the time the banlieue Passy, Balzac found refuge from his blood-hungry creditors from 1840-1847 and assumed a false name to throw them off: M. de Breugnol. The garden outside has benches and grapevines and overlooks a modern skyline mixed with 16th arrondissement grandeur.
CAMONDO, Musée Nissim de (home, art and objects of banker Nissim de Camondo) A trove of 18th-century French furniture and objets d’art, this museum also offers a glimpse at wealthy, fin-de-siècle Paris. The three-story mansion, inspired by the Petit Trianon, was home to the Comte Moïse Camondo, a banker friend of Proust’s, and has been left much as it was when the comte died in the early 1930s. He named his collection after a son Nissim, lost to WWI. The rooms are overflowing with rococo objects, some having belonged to the big names of the period, like Madame de Pompadour and Marie Antoinette. Among the paintings is a splendid portrait of a woman by Vigée-Lebrun in the grand salon, and a suite of pastoral scenes by Huet in the aptly named salon des Huet. But as most of the mansion is open to the public, you will also find a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the workings of luxury living in post-Haussmann Paris. From the master bedroom overlooking the Parc Monceau to the austere servants’ dining area tucked behind the kitchen, there’s a palpable sense of how lives could be lived side-by-side, under one roof, yet always worlds apart.
CARNAVALET, Musée (history of the City of Paris) The grandeur, the esteem, the innovation, the brilliance, the blood, sweat, and tears of Parisian history from prehistory to the 20th century are marvelously on display for all to see at the Musée Carnavalet. To understand today’s Paris, it is imperative to study up on the nobles, politicians, artists, and writers who shaped the Paris of yesterday into the Paris we now know and love. The Musée Carnavalet delves deep into the splendid, fanfare filled yet elusive French capital, taking time to explore every aspect, no matter how miniscule (from the Louis XV’s shaving kit to Roman coins), of Parisian history with flare that is uniquely, unmistakably Parisian. Today the museum is a cavernous trove of over 140 rooms, brimming with historical pleasures to the eye; a fitting transformation for the former home of Madame de Sévigné, who entertained those in the know in her famous literary salons during the Enlightenment. The collections range from archeology, to painting, to sculpture, to furniture, to odds and ends that simply can’t be described.
CLUNY, Musée National du Moyen Age (history and art of the middle ages) Combining the remains of ancient Roman baths and a 15th-century monk’s residence, the Museum of the Middle Ages is an eclectic mix. Its main strength is a broad range of secular objects that give a strikingly vivid sense of medieval European life. From furniture to kitchenware, to combs and other fashion accessories, these suggest just how sophisticated society was 500 years ago. Although some of the art treasures of the period are housed at the Louvre, the rest are here. Highlights include the Lady with the Unicorn tapestry series (room 13), a renowned 15th-century Flemish masterpiece. These six stunningly-colored tapestries celebrate worldly pleasures and nature’s wonders, in strong contrast to more somber depictions of the time. The pleasant, but sometimes crowded, public park behind the museum is designed to resemble a medieval garden, with historically accurate plantings.
COGNACQ-JAY, Musée (home and art of businessman Ernest Cognacq) This Marais gem of a museum, located in the Hôtel Donon, presents a copious collection of 18th century paintings, sculpture, and furniture from the founder of the Parisian’s favorite department store: La Samaritaine. Ernest Cognacq started off as a dry goods peddler on the Pont Neuf and envisioned the shopping mecca that is now a few paces from the bridge. Despite modest beginnings, Cognacq had a taste for all things bourgeois and together with his wife, Marie-Louise Jay (hence the hyphen), he collected sumptuous 18th century do-dads and larger works that once graced the salons, dining rooms, bedrooms, and decorated walls of the French aristocracy before the guillotine got them. The museum’s endless collections are nestled tastefully in the many circuitous and high ceilinged rooms, spread out over 4 floors.
DELACROIX, Musée Eugene (home and studio of painter Eugene Delacroix) Off the tiny Place Fürstemberg, away from the mobs on the Boulevard Saint-Germain, we find the calm and insulated studio of one of the greats of French painting, Delacroix. Through a distinctly Parisian courtyard, up a steep wooden staircase, is situated the artist’s home and studio where he spent the last peaceful years (1857-1863) of his celebrated career. The aging and ailing Delacroix moved here to be closer to his work at the nearby church, Saint-Sulpice, and it is here that he found solace in the care of his domestique and supposed lover, Jenny Le Guillou. The museum is scrupulously organized. Start in the salon and take in pastels of landscapes and biblical scenes. The bibliothèque is where visitors waited to greet the artist in his studio. In the bedroom where he drew his last breaths, a Delacroix portrait hangs of Jenny who faithfully cared for him until the end. Also, “Le Lit Defait” (The Unmade bed) hints eerily to the atmosphere at the time of his death.
GUIMET, Musée National des Arts Asiatiques (ancient to modern asian art) No one ever said Paris was a mecca for Asian art, but the Musée Guimet is. If you’re looking for a refreshing take on the Paris museum, and you’ve taken about as much classical and Impressionist art as you can handle, head over to this delightful and fascinating museum which houses an astounding collection of Asian art snatched by last-century art collector Emile Guimet. The museum fills a void in the maze of Paris museums for non-Western art and answers to an exploding Asian population and Asian art enthusiasts. Reopened in 2001 after a smashing success of a renovation, the Musée Guimet offers scrolls, sculptures, fans, pottery, jewelry, clothing, statues, and paintings from Japan, China, Korea, Cambodia, Indonesia, India, Nepal, Tibet, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The minimalist setting allows the treasures to sparkle in gray stone, white walls, and sun-filled rooms. Temporary exhibits host contemporary Asian artists.
HUGO, Maison de Victor (home and workspace of writer Victor Hugo) It is here in the Hôtel de Rohan-Guéménée, at the long fashionable, hors de prix address, la Place des Vosges, that Victor Hugo, the VIP of the French literary aristocracy, lived between 1832 and 1848 with wife Adèle and his brood of 4. Today, real estate is through the roof in this grand corner of the Marais and the pomposity of the area is reflected in the museum’s dark, silk brocade lined walls, and rooms where daylight sneaks through the heavy velvet curtains that remain perpetually drawn. The visitor is presented with a chronicle of Hugo’s illustrious career by progressing from room to room where each theme in his writings is portrayed. Although the master lived and worked here, the place is practically void of any signs that the famille Hugo once ate, slept, and went about daily life in these quarters. Rather, Hugo’s former apartments exhibit manuscripts in his faint but roughly legible hand with whole passages crossed out and the modern day equivalent of “notes to self,” his own pen and ink renderings of sets and costumes for his plays, and the characters that peppered his novels.
JACQUEMART-ANDRE, Musée (spectacular home and art collection of famous couple) The former home of art collectors Nélie Jacquemart and Edouard André. For a late 19th century bourgeois couple with extensive means and a love of art, you might expect to link their names with the Impressionists or even the Montmartre movement, but Jacquemart and André were thoroughly obsessed with a bygone era: the Italian Renaissance. An eccentric couple deeply in love, the Jacquemart-Andrés spent gobs of money on the opulence that today adorns the mansion. They hired the architect Parent, who wanted to make a splash after having been beat out for the Paris opera house by Garnier, to design their home. Just by strolling up the marble hall into the impeccably maintained courtyard that stands in front of the imposing structure, the visitor senses the richness of the collection ahead. Stroll through glorious, gleaming, gilded salons. French painters of the 17th and 18th centuries are well represented: Boucher, Chardin, Drouais, Fragonard, and Greuze. The salon de thé is absolutely lovely and overlooks the courtyard.
JUDAISME, Musée d’Art et Histoire du (Jewish art and history) While not in the Jewish quarter proper, this museum bends over backward to “explore Judaism’s different transmissions in the communities where they developed”, and that includes the now ethnically chic Rue des Rosiers in Paris. The museum also does a fine job representing Jewish peoples from Eastern Europe, North Africa, and the parts of the Middle East. In the palatial Hôtel de Saint-Aignan, a white stone fortress in the Marais, the museum exhibits moving and comprehensive displays from all brackets of Jewish life in an elegant and immaculate fashion.
LOUVRE, Musée du Whether it’s your first séjour in France or your umpteenth visit, you are, no doubt, familiar with the glory of the Louvre, arguably the world’s largest and greatest art museum. You are one among millions of annual visitors who will have nudged, pushed, or downright shoved your way through the thick hordes of international tourists, vying for a glimpse of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Van Eyck’s Madonna of Chancellor Rolin, Giorgione’s Concert Champêtre, and Delacroix’s Liberty Guiding the People. After three decades of frenzied renovations, bureaucratic mud-slinging, art historian tantrums, and a spanking new entrance in the form of a glass pyramid by architect I.M. Pei, the Louvre has finally got its act together, and unlike days of yore, a visit is indeed possible without collapsing from exhaustion in front of the 186-karat Regent Diamond or getting desperately lost in the red brocaded salons of Napoléon III. However, you should prepare for a taxing day with its fair share of crowd-induced stress. The trick is to pace oneself, breezing by the most famous works if you have limited time, or breaking the visit up over two days for a more leisurely taste of the Louvre.
MAILLOL, Musée (work of sculptor Astride Maillol, as well as his contemporaries) Unpretentiously nestled among the antique shops and high fashion boutiques of the 7th arrondissement, the Musée Maillol houses a delightful collection of little known works by your favorite 20th century artists and the totality of the works of sculptor, painter, woodworker, and textile artist Aristide Maillol. The museum is of manageable size and presents a wide breadth in its permanent collection as well as temporary exhibits to boot. Dina Vierny, founder of the museum, met Aristide Maillol when she was just 15 and she eerily resembled the face and body of the female figure Maillol had been sculpting for years. From then on, the two had a close relationship and Vierny posed for Maillol’s most successful works as well as his contemporaries Matisse (Olympia), Bonnard (Grand Nu sombre), and Raoul Dufy. After Maillol’s death and a brilliant career as an art dealer, Vierny, who discovered artists such as Serge Poliakoff, opened the Fondation Dina Vierny and with it, the Musée Maillol. Maillol’s female sculptures are a great deal more buxom than those of his contemporaries.
MARMOTTAN, Musée (Medieval, Second Empire and Impressionist art) For die-hard Monet fans, this is the place for you. Situated practically outside the city limits of Paris, the Musée Marmottan houses an eccentric collection of Medieval art, Second Empire art, and Impressionists, but the main attraction here is Monet’s Water Lilies. Located in the basement of the museum, the Monet section features other Monet favorites such as Norway. The Red Houses at Bjornegaard, Le Pont Japonais, Weeping Willow, The Boat, La Locomative, Promenade près d’Argenteuil, and Impression, Soleil Levant as well as one of the master’s sketchbooks. Now on to what you really came for: the Water Lilies. Check out the deep blues, greens, purples, reds, and pinks, in the characteristic broad brush strokes that made Monet famous. This may inspire you to take a trip out to Giverny, Monet’s favored residence where he painted the works that won him the most revere.
ORSAY, Musée d’ The grand old Musée d’Orsay, deep in the aristocratic 7th arrondissement and a stone’s throw from the Seine, is flexing its newly renovated muscles, and brimming with Impressionist treasures for both the newcomer and the seasoned visitor to Paris. Like the Louvre and the Centre Georges Pompidou, you will be hard pressed to see everything in one day and the frenzied environment and chaotic lay-out of the former train station turned museum may inspire bleary-eyed memories of your pokey home town art museum, but fear not, this museum can and has been done. The collections are comprehensive and well-organized, themed and chronological. Portable information boards available in nearly all sections of the museum remedy the visitor’s overwhelming sense of futileness and general disorientation. Map is a must, needless to say. The museum, once the Belle Époque train station, Gare d’Orléans, is a lovely example of Art Nouveau architecture. From the outside, it appears somewhat austere, but upon entrance, the airy skylight ceiling, gigantic clock, and stylized metal work are stunning. Once inside, you’ll notice the place echoes. Not only voices and footsteps but the original bustling atmosphere of the former train station. People dash about madly trying to take in all the museum has to offer and the occasional pigeon swoops down from the lofty rafters.
PHOTOGRAPHIE, Maison Européenne de la (contemporary and older photography) The Maison Européene de la Photographie honors contemporary creation in the ever-changing field of photography. Step into the courtyard on a street off the teeming Rue de Rivoli and gage your first impression by the black and white pebble ying yang near the entrance and the overflowing beds of ivy. Located in the now faded and scuffed early 18th century Hôtel Hénault de Cantobre since 1990, the cool, austere museum painstakingly displays works by contemporary photographers in rotating 3 month cycles. The Maison is certainly a hot spot for up and coming photographers from around the world and renown retrospectives, often exhibiting in every room of the museum. In this way, the museum has the air of a gallery and visiting can often feel like you’re at an unveiling cocktail with savvy photo people.
PICASSO, Musée National (work of paitner Pablo Picasso in a hôtel particulier) The Musée Picasso is a bit of a monster. The collection, presenting works from all of the myriad periods of his career, takes at least an hour to see, even when you’re just breezing through. In the 17th century Hôtel Salé, the visitor circulates through a seemingly never ending complex of rooms on two floors, aided by multilingual plaques describing each foray in the playboy career of Pablo Picasso. The museum reiterates the fact that Picasso was involved in every major art movement during his lifetime, from the bohemian Montmartre crowd, to cubism and surrealism.
POMPIDOU, Centre Georges – Musée National d’Art Moderne (contemporary and modern art) The Centre Pompidou, or as locals in the know refer to it, “Beaubourg,” is vast beyond belief. Ranking among the three most visited museums in Paris, including older, wiser cousins the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, the place is a veritable beehive of activity, innovation, tourists, Parisians, and art historians alike. Whether you come to Beaubourg for a cutting edge temporary exhibition, for its esteemed permanent collection, to do research at the library shoulder to shoulder with sleep-deprived students from the Sorbonne, to take in an art film, or to poke around the hodgepodge gift shop, you will step in with excitement and step out with the buzzing energy that effuses the Centre, that of a wacky yet serious learning atmosphere, usually swollen with people. The Centre Pompidou is the Parisian mecca of modern art. The collections encompass over 1400 works by the favorites in modern art: Matisse, Picasso, Braque, Duchamp, Kandinsky, Léger, Miró, Ernst, Giacometti, and Pollock, and many no name artists such as Sonia Delaunay, Georges Rouault, Nicholas de Staël, and Pierre Soulages.
RODIN, Musée (house, garden and art of sculptor Auguste Rodin) For the most famous French sculptor to walk the earth, a befitting museum, conceived towards the end of the artist’s celebrated life, was created in the 18th century Hôtel Biron and continues to attract flocks of visitors from around the world. You really don’t have to scour Paris for Rodin’s most renowned works; they are all here, including The Thinker, The Gates of Hell, The Kiss, and The Burghers of Calais. Not only is the location grand, a frilly mansion constructed by a rich financier to be the “finest town house in Paris” in the Rocaille style, but the works span the grand career of Auguste Rodin, the maître to whom the world kowtowed. Before Rodin took up residence at 77 Rue de Varenne, towards the end of his life, the place was home to a commune of artists including Isadora Duncan, Cocteau, Matisse, and Rilke. Word reached Rodin via these artists that plans for demolition were in motion and the master swooped in and saved it. In 1919, two years after Rodin’s well-publicized death, the museum opened its doors, with the blessing and specifications of the departed sculptor. The French State took possession of his collections, the most comprehensive assembly of Rodin originals to date.