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Best Museums in Paris

Lose Yourself In A Parisian Museum For An Afternoon, Hour, Entire Day


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 in one of the Left Bank's most picturesque little cul-de-sacs. And, yes, it's dedicated to the painter Delacroix. The museum houses his preserved atelier where he worked overlooking a charming hidden courtyard garden. 

The advance ticket purchase advice is mostly for the Louvre and Musee d'Orsay, but since you likely have a already heard all about the Louvre, 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 and has them aplenty.

A fabulous museum that is just next door to the Louvre is the Museum of Decorative Arts (Musee Arts Decoratifs). Exhibits are usually around style, jewelry, fashion, furniture and other art-de-vivre design disciplines. However at present there is an exceptional exhibit displaying original sketches of the Le Petit Prince, including letters written by Antoine St. Exupery himself. 

The Picasso Museum and its Marais location not far from the Place des Vosges makes it especially charming to visit. Include this one on your list of tickets to reserve in advance. Newly renovated and re-opened is the exquisite Carnavalet Museum also in the Marais and devoted to the History of Paris alongwith insightful temporary exhibits. Also in this little Marais triangle is the delicate flower of a museum, the Cognacq-Jay. This museum, once privately owned, devotes its curation to 18th c. French art-de-vivre, decorative arts and finery. 

The Grand Palais is currently closed, under renovation. But there is a temporary structure in the Champs de Mars that you can visit in the meantime called the Grand Palais Ephemere.

For a family day, I would suggest a walk along the Quai St. Bernard on the Left Bank near the Institut du Monde Arabe. The Quai is also an outdoor sculpture garden and if you follow the walk/bike path along the river, not only do you get to see gorgeous outdoor sculptures by the likes of Rimbaud, but you can follow it all the way to the Museum of Natural History, always a favorite with the young (and older) ones, alike. 

 


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One of Paris' main draws is its timeless devotion to fashion. The city certainly has carved out a place for itself on the throne of world fashion centers. And it has done so largely thanks to its designers and its reverence for the decorative arts. This museum, dedicated to all things decorative, whether that be interior design, textiles, furniture or fashion, puts the spotlight on outstanding creative talent and collections. For example, during the summer of 2017 the exhibiton was devoted to Christian Dior's collections mainly from the 50s and early 60s. The museum is located just next to the Louvre at the beginning of the Tulieries. It covers over 6OOO square meters of exhibition space and houses more than 6000 objects of historical and decorative value. The most popular time to visit is in the afternoon after lunch, so if you don't want to wait in line or be rubbing shoulders with big crowds, it's probably best to go at off hours. The exhibits change every few months so check the website to see what you will be able to take in while there.

Recommended for Museums because: This museum celebrates the art and history of jewelry, furniture, textiles and even such icons as Christian Dior and author-artist Antoine de St.-Exupery.

Paige's expert tip: As of this writing, there is a very special Le Petit Prince exhibit going on at this museum. The original manuscript of Antoine St. Exupery has been carefully repatriated from New York and is on display here through June 2022. It is estimated that over 200 Million copies of this classic children's tale have been sold worldwide since its first printing. The museum stays open until 6pm Tuesday through Sunday. During school holidays it keeps its doors open until 10pm. School holidays are frequent in France so check to see what the hours are during your stay in the city. And every Thursday evening the temporary exhibit stays open until 10pm.

Read more about Musee des Arts Decoratifs de Paris →


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3rd Arondissement - Marais

The elegant museum devoted to the 18th century arts, the Cognacq-Jay Museum began its existence as a private museum. It was established by Ernest Cognacq and his wife, Marie-Louise Jay with the intent to enshrine 18th c. art and furniture/ decorative arts. M. Cognacq was the founder of the iconic department store, La Samaritaine, recently re-opened after years of renovations undertaken by LVMH Groupe. The building itself, the Hotel de Donon, is one of the rare still-existing mansions that the Marais became famous for in its 16th ad 17th c. heyday when it was home to French aristocracy. The permanent collections here are worth the visit and, incidentally, the admission is free. If you'd like to take in the temporary exhibits as well (highly recommended!) there is a small admission price.

Recommended for Museums because: Think of France and one can't help but think of kings and queens and 18th c. finery. This museum is devoted to French art-de-vivre.

Paige's expert tip: This is one of the museums that anchors a cultural excursion into the Marais. If 18th c. aristocratic life and finery appeal to you, you will certainly enjoy the elegance found here in this museum, both its setting and its collections.

Read more about Musee Cognacq-Jay →


An interactive children's area allows youngsters the privilege of making their own discoveries about the physical world through play and experimentation. The Cite 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)

Recommended for Museums because: This is Europe's largest landscaped park. Just at the fringes of the city, it's expansiveness makes it well worth the trip, especially with the kids.

Paige's expert tip: There are two areas devoted exclusively to children, one for ages 2-7 and the other for ages 5-12. They are called the Cite des Enfants.

Read more about Cite des Sciences et de l'Industrie →


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3ème Arrondissement
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 Sal– was named after the salt-tax farmer who built this most impressive of Parisian mansions back in the mid-17th c. (sal– means salty in French). All of Paris has flocked to the museum since it reopened in the fall of 2014 after extensive renovations.

Recommended for Museums because: This newly renovated and just reopened (2014) museum houses the most complete collection of Pablo Picasso's works to be held anywhere in the world.

Paige's expert tip: Be sure not to miss another stunning collection here at the Musee Picasso: the rotating exhibits always keep this museum attractive for a fresh visit.

Read more about Musee Picasso →


The museum in Paris devoted to Photography (yes, with a capital P) is located in the heart of the Marais. The museum's curators seemingly have no narrow style guide they strictly follow save for what moves and what provokes in terms of imagery. The exhibits at the museum are under one theme and usually show for several months, after which the entire exhibit is refreshed with new works and a new theme. The building itself is indelibly charming withe three floors of show rooms. Thank goodness the creaky old stairwell has been re-carpeted of late. The photographers selected to show here seem to have only one thing in common - their works push the propverbial envelope on some level.

Recommended for Museums because: Marvelous, isn't it, to see the world around us through the lens of an artist's eye?

Paige's expert tip: In the age of Insta and Pinterest, photos are all around us always. It is refreshing to wade into a pond-like museum of images where photographs displayed for art's sake and art's sake only.

Read more about Maison Europeenne de la Photographie →


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16th Arrondissement - Auteuil Pa

The Museum of the Federation Francaise de Tennis, otherwise known as the Tenniseum, is a one-of-a-kind museum devoted to the sport of tennis. Other features that make it outstanding is that it is situated on the stadium grounds of Roland-Garros. Also its media rich archives, with films and digitized historical documents about tennis, offer lots of fun distractions for an afternoon. The French Tennis Open, known by the French as 'Roland Garros' takes place every year at the end of May. If you are a tennis buff, this is a not-to-miss event. But plan on pouncing on your online ticket purchases as soon as they open up, or you might miss out.

Recommended for Museums because: On the very site of the French Open, now is a great time to visit this unique museum devoted to France's origin history of tennis.

Paige's expert tip: The best option is to take the hour-long stadium tour that walks you through these legendary red-clay tennis courts, then leads you into the museum which is on the stadium grounds.

Read more about Le Musee de la Federation Francaise de Tennis →


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 Hotel 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.

Recommended for Museums because: Considered one of the greatest works of art of the Middle Ages in Europe, the tapestries, The Lady and The Unicorn, are on display here.

Paige's expert tip: Herman Melville references this building, the Hotel de Cluny, in his classic Moby-Dick.

Read more about Musee National du Moyen Age/Thermes de Cluny (Musee de Cluny) →


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8ème Arrondissement

This museum in Paris is devoted fully to the art of perfume. It is a private museum funded partially with state funds and partially by private investors. Perfume is as integral to French culture as couture, fine wine and art. That there had not yet existed in the French capital a museum wholly devoted to perfume, unaffiliated with a perfume brand, was seen as something of an empty space that needed filling. The museum's location is just a block or so away from the French White House, the Elysee. It is devoted to sensory perception and has been designed to be highly interactive. Visitors are easily and luxuriously drawn into testing their olfactory senses and playing at finding the scents that most please them. In the four floors of the perfume museum (including the Roederer-like champagne cellars basement) of the renovated private mansion, the visitor is introduced to the history of perfum and its importance at the King's court especially Versailles. The upper floors are devoted to sensory and smell perceptions. This is a museum that is certain to appeal to both young and old, male and female.

Recommended for Museums because: But of course, a museum devoted to perfume and the history of its making is to be found here in the French capital!

Paige's expert tip: Experts tell us that our sense of smell is inseparably intertwined with our memories. Here you can make beautiful memories together while exploring your sense of smell and the making of perfume, with your significant other. In the four floors of the perfume museum (including the Roederer-like champagne cellars basement) of the renovated private mansion, the visitor is introduced to the history of perfume and its importance at the King's court especially Versailles. The upper floors are devoted to sensory and smell perception. Walking through the garden of scents installation is a delightful way to test your olfactory prowess.

Read more about Le Grand Musee du Parfum →


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18th Arrondissement - Montmartre

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.

Recommended for Museums because: This little picture-perfect museum is the oh-so-right start or finish to a day spent taking in Montmartre.

Paige's expert tip: Along with the new renovations came a charming little tea room, worth taking your time and enjoying while you are visiting the museum.

Read more about Musee de Montmartre →


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.

Recommended for Museums because: The Carnavalet takes you through the history of Paris from its Gallo-Roman times all the way up through the Third Empire and on into today.

Paige's expert tip: The museum's permanent collection offers free entry and its rotating exhibits are so enticing that you'll likely want to delve into them too while you're here.

Read more about Carnavalet Musee de l'Histoire de Paris →


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Meet Paige Donner

Paige's guidebook Paris On 4 Paws, A Dog Lover's Guide To The City of Light , her cookbook, Le CBD Cafe Coockbook and novel, I'll Take Paris are all available on Kindle and Amazon. .

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