Paris is a city of fashion and art. Today, many fashion designers and young models come to the city to chase their dream in the fashion world, just like what happened a couple of hundreds of years ago, aspiring artists from all over Europe came to Paris to learn, to experience, to feel, and to show their creation to the world. Their works remained a legacy, continuing on to inspire today’s visitors in prestigious art museums and galleries – and I am one of them.
Well, not everyone is an artist, I am not; but I am, among many, an art enthusiast. It was a journey and deeply influenced my life, my style through the appreciation of beauty. So, here I am sharing some of my favorite art museums in Paris – you are also welcome to leave a comment and share with us about your favorite museum in Paris, too!
Paris Museum Pass
Many travelers (like me) purchase a city pass when they visit Europe. The Paris Museum Pass is the perfect choice for art enthusiasts as it offers good savings on the entrance fee and queuing time. A 2-day pass (48 consecutive hours) costs 52 Euros, which is about the admission fee for 4 museums. One of the key benefits of having a pass is that it saves time to queue up at the ticket office to buy a ticket.
While the Paris Pass (132 Euros) covers transportation and offers an extra discount in some restaurants – you don’t usually have time to enjoy all these benefits in two days’ time. Besides, it is easier to explore Paris on foot than taking the subway in some areas!
How to use the Pass? Before your visit, preferably in the morning to take full advantage of the first day, jot down your last name, first name, and the day’s date on the back of your pass and it will be activated for the next few days.
Paris Museum Pass highlights the Coverage of over fifty museums and monuments in Paris and the surrounding area, including landmarks like Arc de Triomphe, Conciergerie, Tours de Notre-Dame, and Pantheon.
Prices: 2-day pass (€52), 4-day pass (€66), 6-day pass (€78)
Where to buy it? The Pass is available to pre-order online, at Paris CDG’s tourist information desks, or at the ticket office of many museums and attractions in Paris.
Major Attractions include Arc de Triomphe, Musée du Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Centre Pompidou, Musée Rodin, Versailles, Sainte-Chapelle, Panthéon, Château de Pierrefonds, and so many more.
Day 1: Musée du Louvre > Musée Rodin > Musée d’Orsay > Centre Pompidou
(Especially Wed – Fri as the museum may close at 9-11 pm, that gives more time to use the Museum Pass)
Day 2: Versailles, or any other museums of your choice on the list.
Musée du Louvre
Le Louvre is the world’s largest museum, and an icon in the world for sure; So, it would be no surprise that I am putting it first on my list! Begin from the entrance, there is already an argumentative giant glass and metal pyramid that you either love or hate. Built in 1989 and designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei, it is a statement piece located in the center of the Louvre Palace courtyard.
Regarding the palace – Le Louvre was originally built in the 12th century by Philippe Auguste as a fort. It was later converted by Charles V in 1360 as a royal residence. For over two centuries, Le Louvre was the political center in France until Versailles. It officially became an art museum after the French Revolution in 1793.
The museum has a collection of 420,000 artworks that came from both ancient (7,000BC) and the contemporary world (1858); while 13,000 pieces are on public display, they are all masterpieces from big names like Da Vinci, Theodore Gericault, Raphael, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, and more. It has an impressive range of genres from Near Eastern Antiques, Egyptian Antiques, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiques, History of the Louvre and Medieval Louvre, paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, prints, and drawings, to Islamic art.
The museum is divided into three main areas: Sully, Denton, and Richelieu. The collection is categorized into seven groups: Ancient Islamic, Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Greek, Les Étrusques and Roman, Sculpture, Artifacts, Paintings, Bas Reliefs, and the history of Le Louvre. The museum also hosts temporary themed exhibitions that attracted visitors to come again and again. While some of the European permanent collections are among the most famous and popular, its Islamic art collection on display is really interesting, too. This department showcases works from Islamic areas including various countries in the Mediterranean Basin, Iran, central Asia, and India. Some items used to belong to the French royal collections. This collection is composed primarily of objects made of ceramics, metals, or wood in addition to ivories, rugs, and paintings from the 7th to the 19th century.
If you have visited the post about my world’s best art galleries, I have already shared the three Le Louvre “must-sees”, and if you are interested to know which three they are, check out: My Top 10 Classical Art Galleries in the World. So what else?
Lower Ground Floor – Sculptures, Egyptian Antiquities, History of the Louvre, The Medieval Louvre
- Horses of Marly
- Medieval Moat
- Château de Marly is located in one of my favorite halls on the 1st floor in Richelieu.
- Sainte Marie-Madeleine is a Germanic sculpture on the 1st floor in Denton.
- Le Louvre’s trench is one of its oldest features that could be easily ignored. See them on the B1 floor in Sully
Ground Floor – Sculptures, Near Eastern Antiquities, Egyptian Antiquities, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
- Colossal Statue of Ramesses II
- Code of Hammurabi
- Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss is a great work by Italian sculptor Antonio Canova and it’s a romantic depiction of Roman myth between Psyche and Cupid. Their elegant posture was very impressive.
- Sculpture from Chuicuaro
- Idole Cycladique is unearthed in Cycladic, Greece, and its artwork from 2,700 BC!
1st Floor – Decorative Arts, Egyptian Antiquities, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, Paintings, Print, and Drawings
- Napoleon II Appartments
- Seated Scribe
- The consecration of the Emperor Napoleon
- The Wedding Feast at Cana
- Milton de Crotona is a sculpture by famous sculptor Puget depicting ancient Greek Olympic athlete Milo’s arm was stuck in a tree, and finally got eaten by a wolf. The expression of the sculpture is really good.
- L’Esclave is a Renaissance sculpture created by Michelangelo in Italy. It was originally planned for Pope Julius II’s tomb; the work was later canceled due to financial troubles; it was sold to Le Louvre.
2nd Floor – French paintings, Prints, and French Drawings, German, Flemish, Dutch, Belgian, Russian, Swiss, and Scandinavian Paintings
- Durer Self-portrait
- The Lacemaker
- The Card-sharper
- The Turkish Bath
- Sarcophagus of the Spouses was an exhibit at the necropolis section. It depicts a married couple reclining at a banquet together in the afterlife and was found in 19th-century excavations.
In regards to paintings, there are so much more to see! Le Radeau de la Méduse, The Coronation of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David, Le Pied-bot by Josèphe de Ribera, Portrait Présumé de Gabrielle d’Estrées et de Sa Sœur la Duchesse de Villars, and La Liberté Guidant le Peuple by Eugene Delacroix, La Dentellière by Jan Vermeer, Le Tricheur by George de Latour.
Many of you know I love contemporary art (I have a series of “Instagram modern art scenes” in many cities all over the world. The Centre Pompidou is again, one of the most prestigious contemporary art centers in the world. Although it was designed and built in the 70s by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, the center still looks modern and forward until today. The museum was commissioned by former president George Pompidou and the center was finally completed and opened to the public in 1977, after George’s death. The art museum is all about contemporary art forms from installation, visual effects, animations, large-scale paintings to sculpture. Its permanent collection showcases work by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Marc Chagall. The museum may refresh some display annually, and I especially love the artworks in the 4/F, which has an exciting collection of many big names from over 55 countries between 1965 to 1980.
Visit the 5th floor of the center – the balcony showcases amazing sculpture by Miro, Richier, and Ernst, the open-air area also offers a great view of Paris. You may actually see Montmartre and Eiffel Tower! Behind Centre Pompidou is a hip area where you find lots of coffee shops or vintage stores where you could fish some serious fashion at a low price. At the Place Igor Stravinsky, you will find a fountain designed by Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint-Phalle. This is the first moving fountain in Paris and a place for a lot of street performers to come busking on the weekends.
The museum is an intimate manor with a compact yet artist garden. Originally a hotel, it is a small building yet it showcases one of the greatest sculptors in the world – Auguste Rodin. The art museum opened in 1919, and there is no better place to celebrate the artist’s work in a delicately trimmed garden. There are over one hundred sculptures in the museum, including Le Penseur (The Thinker).
Some other notable works include L’age D’Airain (1877), Saint ean-Baptiste (1880), La Danaide (1885), Iris (1895), Balzac (1898), Eve (1899), L’homme qui march (1907), and Lady Sackville (1914).
With the exception of acquisitions made after the museum opened in 1919, the collections consist entirely of works and documents from Rodin’s studio. The collection of works by Rodin includes some 6,500 sculptures, bronzes, marbles, sketches, terracotta models, and studio plaster casts, together with 6,500 drawings, watercolors, and prints. Complementing these, Rodin’s personal art collection includes 1,700 paintings, sculptures, and prints, mostly by his contemporaries and close associates. The museum also holds Rodin’s archive of over 7,000 photographs, assembled from the late 1870s onwards, and a rich collection of antiquities comprising over 6,400 sculptures. fragments and objects.
The permanent collection is displayed in the Hôtel Biron, housing the sculptor’s best-known works, chiefly in marble and bronze. One room is dedicated to the work of Camille Claudel, Rodin’s pupil, collaborator, and mistress, Rodin’s principal monumental works are displayed throughout the garden.
The Hôtel Biron is close to the Invalides, this sumptuous private townhouse was built by Jean Aubert in the finest rocaille style, in the early 18th century. The building is named for one of its owners, Marshal de Biron. In 1820, it was bought by the Société du Sacré-Cœur de Jésus as a school for young girls. The Societe built a chapel on the site in 1876. In 1908, it became the Paris residence of the sculptor Auguste Rodin.
The garden covers three hectares, the garden is divided into sections, each offering a different atmosphere – quite unlike the wild, overgrown space where Rodin loved to stroll. Visitors can see The Thinker and the Gates of Hell in the rose garden; extensive lawns lined with flowerbeds and avenues of trees lead to the ornamental pond, in the center of which is Rodin’s Ugolin. The surrounding area features the figure of Adam, the Génie du repos éternel, and La Meditation.
Musée de l’Orangerie
This is another museum that focused on one artist, or technically, one painting. The museum was reopened in 2006 and it is popular among art enthusiasts because of its collection and location. It’s located on the other end of Jardin de Tuileries from Le Louvre, and everyone comes here to visit the two oval halls on the 1st floor that showcase eight large scale long paintings of Les Nympheas (Water Lilies) by Claude Monet. I have to say the setting of a bright, white oval hall is brilliant – it gives a true panoramic viewing experience of the painting. Apart from the Water Lilies, the galleries also display paintings by notable artists from Paul Cezanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso; Besides, it also has a number of rooms that host temporary exhibitions, showcasing themed artworks.
Orsay is a former train station that was wonderfully converted to an art museum designed by three architects including Laloux. The building was aimed to stay harmonious with Le Louvre and La Place de Concorde on the other side of the Seine. It is a great place to appreciate impressionist paintings in the 19th and 20th centuries because it houses impressionist works from the impressionist museum and Le Louvre in 1986 when the Paris authorities decided to transform Orsay into an art museum. Look out for masterpieces from artists including Eugene Delacroix, Jean-Auguste-Dominique, Jean-Francois Millet, Pierre Etienne Théodore Rousseau, and Gustave Courbet.
There are a few well-known paintings that you must recognize in an instant: Vincent van Gogh’s portrait and Starry Night over the Rhone, Jean-Francois Millet’s Des Glaneuses, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Bal du Moulin de la Galette.
Your art journey starts in zone 1 on the ground floor, where you will find a number of sculptures, and then to the second floor, and to level 5 and check out the Impressionist Gallery.
The new Pavillon Amont© is an extension that showcases large-scale paintings and other works of Scandinavian artists. Check out the cafe at the top of the building, the food tastes good and you can have a good view of Paris’s city skyline through the windows of the clock tower!