Paris’s Best Small Museums

Courtesy of Musee Jacquemart Andre

As all Paris lovers know, it's not just the major monuments that make this the world's most compelling city. The real Paris lies behind the doors and in the hidden gardens of the city's smaller museums: the town houses and mansions of extraordinary people who exemplified what life in Paris is all about—passion, splendor, inspiration, and most of all, l'art de vivre. —Jennifer Ladonne & Diane Viadino

Amélie Dupont/Paris Tourism

Musee de la Vie Romantique

Tout Paris congregated at this Italianate villa on a lovely cobbled street, home of painter Ary Scheffer, whose salon attracted the leading artistic and intellectual lights of the day: George Sand, Chopin, Rossini, Ingres, Delacroix, Turgenev. Now devoted to Sand and Scheffer's memorabilia, the museum also has a charming garden tea salon that is a favorite spot to while away an hour or two.

16 rue Chaptal, 9th, 01 55 31 95 67, Closed Mon.

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Amélie Dupont/Paris Tourism

Musée des Arts et Métiers

Kids who love Legos, or general tinkering, should be happy to explore the thousands of examples of ingenious design and technology here, from penny-farthings to a model of Foucault's pendulum. The building itself, a priory turned into a prison during the Revolution, is worth a visit, with a pretty green space suitable for outdoor lounging.

60 rue Réaumur, 3rd, 01 53 01 82 00, Closed Mon.

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Sailko via Wikimedia Commons, [CC BY 3.0]

MUSÉE Cognacq-Jay

In the heart of the Marais, this splendid hôtel particulier (private mansion) and gardens—one-time home to Théodore-Ernest Cognacq and his wife Marie-Louise Jay, founders of Paris's La Samaritaine department store—exemplify the elegant Paris life via a superb private collection of 18th-century French furniture, tapestries, and important paintings by the likes of Watteau, Chardin, Boucher, La Tour, and Fragonard.

8 rue Elzévir, 3rd, 01 40 27 07 21, Closed Mon.

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Amélie Dupont/Paris Tourism

Musée Eugène Delacroix

Fans of one of the masters of 19th-century French painting will want to ensure a visit to this site, which encompasses Delacroix's studio, apartment, and garden, selected for its proximity to the Church of Saint-Sulpice. There’s free entry with a Louvre ticket if you visit both museums on the same day—see his masterworks there, and then head here for a look at his private quarters, preliminary sketches, and the beloved green space that fueled his imagination.

6 rue de Furstenberg, 6th, 01 44 41 86 50, Closed Tues. 

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Guillaume Jacquet via Wikimedia Commons, [CC BY-SA 3.0]

CERNUSCHI MUSEUM FOR ASIAN ART

Paris's oldest museum and home to France's second most important assemblage of Chinese and Asian art, this graceful mansion once belonged to world traveler and connoisseur Enrico Cernuschi, who built the collection with passionate devotion. The Chinese collection, which spans prehistory to modern times, has been enriched over the years through private donations, and now includes sections dedicated to the art of Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.

7 ave Vélasquez, 8th, 01 53 96 21 50, Closed Mon.

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Courtesy of Musee Jacquemart Andre

Musée Jacquemart-AndréAndre

This 19th-century mansion is worth visiting for the splendor of Edoard André and Nélie Jacquemart's winter garden alone. The couple's art collection is equally remarkable, ranging from a show-stopper Fragonard (“Head of an Old Man”) to Jacquemart's own striking portraits. Stay for lunch in the ornate dining room and ask for a table in the conservatory.

158 boulevard Haussmann, 8th, 01 45 62 11 59.

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Daderot via Wikimedia Commons, [public domain]

Musée Nissim de Camondo

This stupendous mansion was bequeathed to France by Moïse de Camondo, scion of an Ottoman banking dynasty in honor of his only son, who was killed in World War I. With an unerring eye—and the means to back it—de Camondo built a private an art and furniture collection of rare magnificence, seen just as it was when the family lived here.

63 rue de Monceau, 8th, 01 53 89 06 50, Closed Mon. and Tue.

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Ji-Elle via Wikimedia Commons, [public domain]

Musée Dapper

Thisgem of a museum in an exclusive Paris neighborhood is a must for appreciators of African art and artifacts. The museum has no permanent collection, but is recognized as an important leader in organizing superb long-term exhibitions acclaimed for imagination and scope.

35 rue Paul Valéry, 16th, 01 45 00 91 75. Closed Tues. and Thurs.

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Marc Bertrand/Paris Tourism

Musée Bourdelle

Paris may have nurtured generations of artists, but their spirit of invention can be hard to grasp behind the crowds at the Louvre or the d'Orsay. It's well evident here, though, in the turn-of-the-century atelier of sculptor Antoine Bourdelle. Whether or not Bourdelle's sculptures and drawings resonate, the space is both grand and intimate, and deeply affecting.

18 rue Bourdelle, 15th, 01 49 54 73 73, Closed Mon. 

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Courtesy of the Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature

Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature

This museum is a celebration of and investigation into the hunt and its attendant concerns: nature, safaris, animals, and taxidermy. Toddlers will love the space and its quirky attractions—a life-size polar bear, a two-story giraffe who pokes his head into an upper level—although older, animal-loving children might be less appreciative. Adults may be interested in tracing the hunting adventures of Monaco's royal family across the United States, alongside such icons of American history as Buffalo Bill.

62 rue des Archives, 3rd, 01 53 01 92 40, Closed Mon.

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Musée Zadkine

Two steps from the Luxembourg gardens, Russian sculptor Ossip Zadkine lived and worked at this verdant home-atelier from 1928 until the late 1960s. Upon his death, his wife bequeathed everything to the city of Paris, and the secluded gardens, filled with Zadkine's modernist sculptures, are a true urban oasis.

100 bis rue d'Assas, 6th, 01 55 42 77 20. Open daily.

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Art class by Francisco Anzola [CC BY 2.0]

Musée Gustave Moreau

Remaining almost as it was when Moreau painted here, thiselegant town house offers a rare glimpse into the enigmatic artist's life and times. A respected teacher—Matisse and Rouault were his students—Moreau caused a sensation in Paris with his hallucinatory paintings. A primary influence on the later Surrealist and Symbolist movements, Moreau's work also had an impact on the literature and music of his day.

14 rue de la Rochefoucauld, 9th, 01 48 74 38 50. Closed Tue.

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