It is often said that you can't mention Paris without the word "art" somewhere in the same breath. It is, perhaps, the most influential in the Western world - all of the greats like Cézanne, Monet, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec (and so, so many more) explored what it means to live, feel and be in Paris on canvas. It is the reason why I, as an Art History aficionado, chose the city for my time abroad. To be surrounded by the most magnificent work every day is a feeling I cannot put into words, even now.
Everyone comes to Paris with usually one end goal in mind: the Louvre. The former Palais Royal hosts more than 9 million visitors a year - and they all want to see Da Vinci's Mona Lisa up close. While understandable, as the Louvre hosts some of the world's most important work in all of human history (and a selection of Delacroix that never fails to astound me at the sheer magnitude and power), there is also a lot of art in Paris that might fall lower on the priority list.
I guide you through some of Paris's smaller, less world-renowned museums that are worth the time and investment. You never know - you might just run into something that will definitely take your breath away.
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WHERE:5 Rue de Thorigny, 75003 (3ème arrondissement)
WHEN: 10:30AM - 6PM, except openings at 9:30AM on weekends
HOW MUCH: 12.50€ - free for exceptions
HOW TO: Line 8, Saint-Sébastien - Froissart
Located in the heart of Le Marais, Musée Picasso opened its doors in 1985 to much fanfare by the city of Paris. It hosts one of the greatest collections of Picasso's work in the world - over 5,000 that include 3,700 works on papers, sculptures, and paintings - from all of his periods. The museum does a spectacular job of curating his lifetime, focusing on his many lovers, muses, and contemporaries. Not only does it display some of his most important work (like 1904's La Celestine of his blue period as well as the 1937 portrait of Dora Maar), but the Hôtel Salé it inhabits is a particularly beautiful landmark of Paris. If you're not crazy about Picasso - check it out just for the high-beam painted ceilings and sculpture garden.
Musée National Gustave Moreau
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WHERE:14 Rue de la Rochefoucauld, 75009 (9ème arrondissement)
WHEN: 10:00AM - 5:00PM
HOW MUCH: 6€ - free for exceptions
HOW TO: Line 12, Trinité d'Estienne d'Orves
The most special thing about Musée National Gustave Moreau is that the artist once inhabited it. The space was originally Moreau's studio, before he decided to turn it into a gallery displaying his own work and living in an apartment on the first floor. The collection consists of more than 1,200 paintings and 5,000 drawings, unfinished or not, in the very space Moreau created them. It is a breathtaking display - one that breathes life into the room with every piece you examine. As a lover of art history as well as a lover of those who lived it, I can't think of a more magical place to be.
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WHERE:6 Place Paul Painlevé, 75005 (5ème arrondissement)
WHEN: 9:15AM - 5:45PM, closed on Tuesdays
HOW MUCH: 8€ - free for exceptions
HOW TO: Line 10, Cluny - La Sorbonne
CONTACT: Official website
One of the last remaining medieval structures in Paris, the Musée Cluny (also known as Musée national du Moyen Âge – Thermes et hôtel de Cluny) hosts a variety of artifacts from the medieval past. It is home to six of the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, which are a sight to behold in themselves. It can be compared to stepping inside a time machine, one that instantly teleports you to a Paris long gone but with fragments still remaining. Admiring the stained glass, tapestries and gardens are a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
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WHERE:8 Rue Elzevir, 75003 (3ème arrondissement)
WHEN: 10:00AM - 6:00PM
HOW MUCH: Free
HOW TO: Line 1, Saint-Paul
CONTACT: Official website
Hidden inside a courtyard of Le Marais, Musée Cognacq-Jay is a bit on the smaller side when it comes to museums - but what awaits inside is plenty. The museum's collection was formed between the years of 1920 and 1925 by Theodore-Ernest Cognacq and his wife Marie-Louise Jay, focusing on exquisite fine art and decor that consists of up to 1200 pieces in total. It ranges from fine furniture to ceramics to paintings by Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Sir Thomas Lawrence and Hubert Robert. Best part: it's free - you get to immerse yourself in the ultimate of Parisian decor at no cost whatsoever.
If you like our Paris series, stay tuned for the next installment: daytrips. This time, we take you out of the city for just a minute (up to an hour away) and show you some of the most beautiful towns France has to offer.