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Culture, Learning, History and Art: There Is a Paris Museum for Everyone



In Paris there is the Louvre. If you are a tourist, even for the first time, and you have not heard of the Louvre and don’t know that it’s one of the world’s most impressive museums housing one of the world’s most stunning art collections our civilization has ever known, then, well, there’s really nothing left to say.

 

But, likely, you already know all about the Louvre so there’s no need to mention it here. What’s worth mentioning are all the small museums that Paris has tucked in every arrondissement. In this respect, Paris is uniquely a museum lover’s mecca. There are few other cities that host scores of small museums alongside their grandiose top-liners. But Paris has them.

 

The re-opening of the Picasso Museum earlier this year grabbed headlines as if the man himself had reincarnated. Its Marais location near the Place des Vosges makes it especially charming to visit. Be sure to reserve in advance. The same goes for any of the inspiring seasonal exhibits at the Grand Palais.

 

If you haven’t thought to buy your museum tickets online well in advance of your arrival in Paris, there are still some museums you can visit. A favorite is the Musée National Eugène Delacroix. It’s less than a five minute walk from the Eglise Saint-Germain, which is celebrating its 1000th year this year (not a typo) and is dedicated to the painter. The museum houses his preserved atelier where he worked overlooking a charming hidden courtyard garden. 


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Musee Picasso
Photo courtesy of Muséé Picasso Paris copyright

In 1923, Picasso made Paris his home, creating his most memorable and lasting works here. After his death in 1973, his family � faced with an astronomical tax debt � donated more than 3,288 works from his estate, including his own private collection of contemporary art. This collection houses complete works by Picasso including sculptures, sketches and paintings. Displayed in chronological order in the elegant, restored H�tel Sal�, the works make an informative statement of creativity, continuity, and genius. They also give credence to his famous motto, "I do not seek, I find." The H�tel Salé was named after the salt-tax farmer who built this most impressive of Parisian mansions back in the mid-17th c. (salé means salty in French). All of Paris has flocked to the museum since it reopened in the fall of 2014 after extensive renovations.


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With continuously rotating exhibits, the Mus�e Maillol likes to keep itself out on the cutting edge of what can be enjoyed as an art exhibit. Its upcoming show, called Le Baiser (The Kiss), follows justly on the heels of the very successful run which was all about the Borgias. Created in dedication to the memory of the great sculptor and artist, Aristide Maillol, this is a private museum established and run by the Dina Vierny Foundation. Miss Vierny was the former muse of this great artist, having been discovered when she was only 15 years old by this already mature and highly-esteemed artist. Alas, his greatest work, "Harmonie," which he was working on with Dina as his muse, during WWII at his isolated mountain atelier, remains unfinished. He died in a car accident while in the midst of the project.


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The Bel Air house, the 17th c. mansion which houses the Mus�e Montmartre and the Renoir Gardens, is the oldest building in Montmartre. It once drew celebrated artists such as August Renoir, Suzanne Valadon and Emile Bernard, all of whom had their artist studios on rue Cortot, which served as a sort of central meeting place for the artists of the day. The museum itself was only recently re-opened (fall 2014) after extensive renovations. It was first established in 1960. The artworks housed at the museum recount the history of Montmartre including the cabarets of the Moulin Rouge and the animated Lapin Agile. There's even an entire room dedicated to the French can-can. Paintings, posters and drawings signed by Valadon, Utrillo, Modigliani, Kupka, Steinlen and, yes, even Toulouse-Lautrec make up the museum's permanent collection.


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Musée des égouts de Paris


The sewer museum may be out of sight, under the streets of Paris, but it's worth a visit, especially if you're familiar with Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, or if you're fascinated with the offbeat. The city's current sewer network was begun in 1850, although some rudimentary pipes were laid earlier, under order of Napoleon I. The visit, dotted with explanatory panels and dredging equipment, takes you around a maze of tunnels and sewer pipes. You likely won't want to make it a long one, as the smell can be off-putting. The entrance is in the riverside gardens the Quai d'Orsay and the Seine. Closed 2 weeks in Jan. METRO: Alma-Marceau (and cross bridge) or RER Pont de l'Alma


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This is at one and the same time an art history museum, a museum of science and technical achievement, of human adventure and popular tradition all with the view toward maritime achievements. The institution benefited from collections from Versailles, Paris, engineering schools and myriad other sources to assemble its one of two of the world's best maritime historical collections.(The other is said to be in St. Petersburg). Considered one of the world's greatest maritime museums, this Parisian institution details France's sea-going history beginning with the 18th century. Among the holdings are a vast collection of model ships, maritime artwork, a replica of an 18th-century vessel, the French Navy's last sailing ship, and artifacts crafted of ebony, ivory and silver. METRO: Trocad�ro


An interactive children's area allows youngsters the privilege of making their own discoveries about the physical world through play and experimentation. The Cité itself sits on Europe's largest landscaped park and is thought to be the biggest science museum in Europe. In 2012 renovations to the entrance way made it even more accessible when arriving by public transport. Occupying the site of a former slaughterhouse, this museum of science and technology acts with a more benign hand these days. Exhibits range from scientific exploration, medicine, technology, industry, space, botany and more. The site also includes the G�ode, an IMAX cinema in a metallic sphere, a submarine and the Parc de la Villette, which extends either side of a canal. Ideal for the entire family. METRO: Porte de la Villette (line 7)


A museum dedicated to the history of Paris, from its beginnings to the present, is the Carnavalet. With exhibits highlighting Paris from Neolithic times to the present day, this museum has a broad historical range. It was first opened in 1880 and is housed in two 16th and 17th c. mansions, the spectacular "Carnavalet" and "Pelletier de Saint-Fargeau" mansions, which have been restored to period authenticity. A variety of collections includes memorabilia from the French Revolution, Gallo-Roman archaeological treasures, paintings, sculpture and rare furniture. A recent exhibit was all about the wardrobe of one of the first female French fashion designers. Major exhibitions and dynamic programming is part of this museum's personality today. Its Marais location sets you right in the middle of one of Paris's most charming and most historical quarters.


There are many good reasons to visit this National Museum of the Middle Ages housed in the heart of Paris' most ancient quarter, the Latin Quarter. To begin with the medieval artifacts on display here are some of the most treasured in Europe, including the famed Lady and The Unicorn tapestries woven in Flanders of wool and silk based on designs drawn in Paris around 1500 c.e. There are also the stained glass collections (an entire room of it), the Reliquary of the Holy Umbilical Cord, and the Illuminated Manuscripts. The structure itself, the Hôtel de Cluny, is fascinating too since it was built over what was once the 3rd c. Gallo- Roman baths. The baths were actually located where the second building, the frigidarium or cooling room, was built over the "Thermes de Cluny." All of this is to be found right in St. Michel, the center of Paris.


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Located behind the Grand Palais, this science and technology museum (museum of discovery is the literal translation) is smaller and older than the Cit� des Sciences, but it has a charm all its own. Created in 1937 to help people understand the scientific method, the museum brings in excellent temporary exhibits to augment its permanent displays on physics, biology, electricity, astronomy and the like. The real philosophy behind this museum is that most of us learn and comprehend scientific theory better when we have a chance to experience it. So many of the temporary and permanent exhibits here are hands-on. That's a feature that is sure to make the kids, big and small, crack a smile. It also has a wonderful collection of original Da Vinci designs. Note: explanations are often in French only. METRO: Champs Elys�es-Clemenceau (line 1 or 3)




This wonderfully extravagant palace, where royals frittered away much of the treasury, is a necessary stop for visitors. Top designers of the day created an ornate complex of gardens, lakes, stables and guest houses to complement the luxuriously furnished palace, where Louis XIV, XV and XVI lived before the kingdom gave way to revolution. Beautifully restored rooms hint at the court's wealth, as seen in the gilt, crystal and hand-painted furnishings and details. Make sure to see the historic Hall of Mirrors. Guided and unguided tours are available. The gardens are as much as an attraction as the interior, especially when the spectacular fountains are turned on to music on summer weekends. Access from Paris by train (RER line C; Versailles Rive Gauche station is an 8-minute walk from the palace).


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Meet Paige Donner

Paige's latest book, The Romantic Couple's Guide To The City of Love, Sexy Paris follows her earlier guidebook Paris On 4 Paws, A Dog Lover's Guide To The City of Light and her acclaimed...  More About Paige

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