19 best Paris museums to visit 🎨

By Sarah Chin A Sen

With over 200 museums and over 1,000 art galleries, Paris is the museum capital of the world. Understandably, it can become quite confusing and challenging for tourists to choose which ones to visit, when and how.

During the years I spent living in Paris, I cannot say that I have managed to cross all Paris museums off my long list. Still, the many I have visited made me true admirer of the Parisian arts and culture scene.

I will teach you 4 actionable tips and tricks for an efficient visit of museums in Paris and will hopefully help you plan your next trip to the City of Lights through an overview of my 19 best Paris museums in art, history, and science.

Ready to take a trip with me? Some of these places are more than simple museums and will make you feel an unbelievable range of emotions, from sadness and melancholy to joy, peace and admiration. A real emotional roller coaster!

Tips and tricks to visit museums in Paris

Museums in Paris are not only full of tourists eager to discover world-famous works of art, but also full of Parisians who just love roaming around their local museums. Here are some tips that you should follow to save you all the headaches of visiting museums in Paris.

 

1. Plan ahead

Planning is always your best buddy when it comes to having a tight schedule and figuring out where to go. For example, it’s always nice to do some research on the Paris museums you want to visit and why exactly you want to visit them.

This saves you the trouble of travelling all the way to the museum, only to realize that it’s closed, or that the exhibition you want to visit is now over. Equally frustrating is when you don’t know how to navigate through a museum, because you don’t have a map!

Planning your visit ahead helps you anticipate the issues you might have ahead.

2. Get your tickets online

Spare yourself the unnecessary loss of an incredible amount of time spent waiting in the line for tickets you could have bought online.

Most museums in Paris now offer the option to buy online tickets. This includes general passes that gives access to more attractions and other passes, such as:

  • The Paris Museum Pass (2-, 4-, or 6-day pass): gives you free access to over 60 Parisian museums and monuments with priority entry to some of the busiest ones.
  • The Paris Pass gives you free access to top Parisian experiences, hop-on/hop-off bus tours, discounts and offers.

But beware of the pass trap! There are many free museums in Paris if you are under 25 years old and from the European Union, and other smaller museums are free as well.

I recommend that you compare prices to make sure you’re getting the cheapest offers.

And of course, following the first tip, it’s best to buy online tickets for museums that attract many people like the Louvre and the Catacombs 3-6 months ahead, if you can.

3. Visit early and avoid the weekends if you can

Be smart by visiting Paris museums early in the morning, right when they open. This will help you avoid the crowds that will collect later in the day. If you’re not an early riser, nighttime is also a good option. Museums in Paris tend to get calmer after 5 pm.

And try to avoid visiting Paris museums during the weekends, if you can. In the first Sundays of the month, the entrance fee to most museums is waived, but at the expense of unbearable groups of people. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best days to visit!

4. Look into guided tours

Booking tours can also be an interesting option to visit Paris’ biggest museums. Some of the best museums in Paris such as the Louvre would take days to visit properly and getting a guided tour could help you see the most important parts and to have a better understanding of their history. Some tours will even help you avoid waiting in line to get in the busiest museums.

 

My best 19 museums in Paris

 

Museums in Paris cover all interests, from fashion and art to history and science.

I’ll start with art museums in Paris that are especially well-known worldwide:

1. The Louvre

Paris art museums

The Louvre, with its Mona Lisa, is the most famous Paris museums and the biggest and most visited museum in the world. Housed in a palace, this museum not only gathers an amazing collection of sculptures, paintings, drawings and decorative arts, but also gives visitors access to a large selection of antiquities from Egypt, Greece, the former Roman Empire, etc. Exploring the museum at night might definitely help you avoid the crowd. And who knows? You might even come face-to-face with Belphegor, the legendary phantom of the Louvre.

The Louvre museum Paris France

 

2. Musée d’Orsay

Paris art museums

The Musée d’Orsay, housed in a former railway station, has become a reference in the field of Impressionism. Displaying the work of Monet, Degas, Renoir, Van Gogh and more, the museum owns the world’s largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist pieces. The building itself is a work of art that one must see while in Paris. Go up to the giant glass clock to catch a beautiful panorama of the city!

Musée d’Orsay Paris France

 

3. Centre George Pompidou

Paris art museums

Centre George Pompidou Paris France musée

The famously controversial building of the Centre Pompidou is where modern art lovers all go for Europe’s richest modern art collection. From Picasso and Dali to Warhol and Klein, you will contemplate countless modern pieces from acclaimed artists.

 

Other less known art museums in Paris also deserve attention:

 

4. Musée de l’Orangerie

Paris art museums

Musée de l’Orangerie Paris France Monet peinture

The Musée de l’Orangerie for instance, is located in the former orangery of the Tuilerie Palace where Napoleon III stored his citrus trees. This Paris museum is dedicated to impressionism and is where Monet’s notorious Water Lilies series can be admired.

 

5. Musée Marmottan Monet

Paris art museums

Musée Marmottan Monet Paris France

Monet also has an entire museum in Paris dedicated to his incredible work, the Musée Marmottan Monet. Some of his most famous pieces are exhibited there, overwhelming you with an unexpected wave of emotions. Impression, Sunrise especially is a source of peacefulness and serenity to all who take the time to stop and admire this work of art.

 

6. Musée Rodin

Paris art museums

The Musée Rodin also pays tribute to another great French artist, August Rodin, housing about 6,600 of his sculptures including the acclaimed Thinker, Kiss and Gates of Hell. Works by his student and lover, Camille Claudel, can also be admired, along with Rodin’s personal art collection.

Musée Rodin Paris France

 

7. Musée Picasso

Paris art museums

Although Spanish, Picasso also finds his place in the capital with the Musée Picasso. Having spent most of his adult life in France, the painter wished to donate part of his work to the French state. Over 5,000 pieces by the artist can be appreciated in the museum.

Musée Picasso Paris France

 

8. Louis Vuitton Foundation

Paris art museums

Louis Vuitton Foundation Paris FranceLast but not least of my list of art museums in Paris, the Louis Vuitton Foundation is a modern art haven and a real architectural beauty that one must not miss while in Paris. Sponsored by the group LVMH, the glass building was created to promote art and culture. Its shape poetically refers to the inflated sails of a sailboat and fits oddly well with its green surroundings.

 

If you are more of a history aficionado do not worry, Paris is also full of history museums.

 

9. Musée Carnavalet

Museums in Paris, History

Musée Carnavalet Paris FranceThe Musée Carnavalet is where you will be able to learn about the history of Paris and its Parisians. This Paris museum summarizes the city’s evolution from pre-historic to modern times. Watch Paris transform from a small tribal village to the grand megalopolis it is today.

 

10. Musée National du Moyen-Age

Museums in Paris, Paris history

Musée National du Moyen-Age Paris FranceThe Musée National du Moyen- ge focuses on the Middle Age period in France and is where the famous Lady and the Unicorn tapestries are displayed. This Paris museum also gives you access to antic thermal baths and underground galleries dating back to when the city was called Lutetia.

 

11. Musée du barreau de Paris

Paris museums, Paris history

Musée du barreau de Paris FranceAnother museum in Paris that will help you understand French history better is the Musée du barreau de Paris where you will relive the greatest French trials that have shaped the country over the years: the trials of the last King and Queen of France, Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, the Dreyfus affair, etc.

 

Fans of Science will rejoice at the following museums:

 

12. Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie

Museums in Paris, Science museums

At the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, you will discover scientific theories and processes through interactive animations. My personal favorites: The Argonaute, a real hunter-killer submarine where you can imagine yourself navigating underwater, The Planetarium where you can explore the universe and travel through space, and The Géode where giant 3D movies teach you about our world around you.

Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie Paris France

 

13. Musée Curie

Museums in Paris, Science museums

Musée Curie Paris FranceThe Musée Curie is also an interesting place to visit. You will learn more about the discoveries made by the Curies, especially on radioactivity. Discover the office and laboratory of Marie Curie, first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and first person and only woman to win it twice!

 

14. Musée d’histoire de la médecine

Paris museums, Science museums

Musée d’histoire de la médecine Paris FranceIf you are more interested in medicine, the Musée d’histoire de la médecine hosts, in an elegant wood paneled room, Europe’s oldest collections of surgical instruments and pieces. The museum is located in the impressive buildings of the historic faculty of medicine created at the beginning of the 19th century.

 

Fashionistas and lifestyle connoisseurs will not be outdone:

 

15. Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris

Paris museums, Fashion museums

Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris FranceIf fashion is your thing, you will be excited to visit the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris, a real homage to the French fashion guru. The exhibit gathers his superb work and gives visitors the opportunity to explore his former atelier.

 

16. Musée Nissim de Camondo

Museums in Paris, Fashion museums

Musée Nissim de Camondo Paris FranceThe Musée Nissim de Camondo is another kind of experience. Collecting French decorative arts in a beautiful mansion, the museum brings back to life the 18th century in a luxurious atmosphere that all will relish.

 

For people looking for more original experiences, I highly recommend the following:

 

17. Day trip to Monet’s house and gardens in Giverny

Paris art museums

The train ride from Paris to the village is only 45-minute long and is absolutely worth it: walking in Monet’s gardens is like being in one of his impressionist paintings. Details from his works of art, such as the famous water lilies, the flowering arches and the Japanese bridge can be recognized all over the property. It is a truly magical experience during which you get to know the painter intimately, in a way that ordinary museums can never offer.

Monet’s house and gardens in Giverny France

 

18. Catacombs of Paris

Paris museums, Paris history

The Catacombs will also offer another kind of unforgettable experience. These underground ossuaries were created as a response to the city’s crowded cemeteries. Visiting the catacombs is like entering another world, between the living and the dead. Although you are surrounded by bones and skulls, the walk is much less macabre than it may sound and a lot more interesting than one may think.

Catacombs of Paris France

 

19. L’Atelier des Lumières

Paris art museums

On a more “luminous” topic, L’Atelier des Lumières organizes a very different kind of immersive expositions. Moving paintings by famous artists such as Klimt and Van Gogh are projected onto the walls and ground. Visitors walk around and become part of the art. It is like being in the artist’s mind as the ideas emerge and the painting is created.

 

A final note

Choosing which museums in Paris to visit can be quite overwhelming. You can easily lose yourself in the ocean of options that the city has to offer.

My advice would be to let your interests guide you and not to forget about these smaller museums that are as interesting and beautiful as their bigger counterparts.

Sarah Chin A Sen
By Sarah Chin A Sen
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