It's no wonder Paris is known as the world's cultural capital.
With nearly 300 museums in and around the capitol—far exceeding that of any other city in the world—it would take well over a year to visit all the museums that Paris offers.
Museum lovers should consider investing in a Paris Museum pass. The two-, four- and six-day passes (€55, €70, €85) give free admission to the major museums and monuments, allowing one entry to each site. Admissions can add up quickly—reserved online, tickets to the Louvre run €17, €16 for the Musée d’Orsay, and €15 for the Centre Pompidou.
If time is short, dozens of “hop the line” tours can be found online to avoid long lines in the summer heat. Many museums have evening hours one night a week (some with free entry), and most Paris museums are free the first Sunday of each month (excluding July and August).
You can reserve tickets to most of these museums online, but some require advance booking, especially for special exhibitions. Be sure to check online in advance.
Whatever your fancy, from the romantic life to the city sewers, you’ll find it in Paris. But if you don’t have a year to spend, these 15 iconic museums will take you deep into the city’s artistic riches.
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The world’s most famous and most visited museum, the Louvre is also its biggest, with over 780,000 square feet of exhibition space—about the area of a dozen football fields—and nearly 35,000 works on view. Besides a treasure trove of artworks, the museum’s architecture, interiors, history, and the sheer variety of its collections are vast and beyond compare. Keep in mind that apart from the clogged galleries housing the Mona Lisa and Winged Victory, the Louvre’s display of European paintings (including several other da Vinci masterpieces), Egyptian collection (including the Rosetta Stone), Persian rooms, Islamic collection, and so much more are world-class and rarely crowded.
INSIDER TIPDownload the Louvre app for fun interactive features and detailed information on the museum and every artwork.
This lavishly restored and converted Belle Époque train station in the center of Paris, Musée d’Orsay, now displays one of the world’s greatest collections of Impressionist and Postimpressionist paintings. Masterpieces by Manet (including his famous Olympia and Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe), Cézanne, Delacroix, Ingres, and Toulouse-Lautrec rub elbows with Postimpressionist works by Van Gogh and Gauguin. Don’t miss Monet’s gorgeous series on the Rouen cathedral and several versions of his water lilies. The museum’s Café Campana (containing the train station’s famous transparent clockface) and balcony are great places to view the Seine and the Right Bank.
History buffs and lovers of Paris won’t want to miss this marvelous Musée Carnavalet, housed in two elegant 17th-century mansions in the heart of the Marais, a few steps from the Place des Vosges. Besides fascinating relics of Parisian life from pre-history to the 19th century, the museum is home to a bevy of star-studded interiors, including Marcel Proust’s bedroom where he penned his A la Récherche du Temps Perdu, Fouquet’s jewelry shop, a masterpiece of art nouveau craftsmanship, with sculptures and mosaics by Alphonse Mucha. The sculpted French garden (entrance at 16 rue des Francs-Bourgeois) is one of the prettiest in Paris, where from April to October, you can dine al fresco or enjoy a glass of wine from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. at the onsite Fabula restaurant.
Palais Galliera (Musée de la Mode de Paris)
Set in a graceful 19th-century Neo-Renaissance-style palace on two acres of manicured gardens, Palais Galliera (Musée de la Mode de Paris) is Paris’s official fashion museum, housing nearly 200,000 pieces in its collection, including clothing, accessories, drawings, and photographs. The museum features three outstanding special exhibitions per year, devoted to riveting topics, such as the radical vision of Gabrielle Chanel, the convergence of art, identity, and fashion in the life and work of artist Frida Kahlo, and the explosion of late-20th-century creativity in “1997 Fashion Big Bang.” The next exhibition, “La Mode en Movement,” runs from July 16 to September 7, 2023).
INSIDER TIPTickets to the museum must be purchased online.
Once the great sculptor’s studio, Musée Rodin is a stately 18th-century mansion is one of Paris’s most beautiful museums and contains more than 6,000 of Rodin’s sculptures, including his great masterpieces The Thinker, The Kiss, The Burghers of Calais, and The Gates of Hell, along with 8,000 drawings and gouaches. The lovely grounds, complete with a reflection pool, rose gardens, and a charming outdoor café, make for a delightful indoor and outdoor afternoon. The museum also hosts special exhibitions and a cycle of exhibits on contemporary artists.
Paris’s main center for modern and contemporary art, Centre Pompidou, the colorful monolith at the center of Paris’s Les Halles neighborhood, opened in 1977 to both fanfare and derision. But much like I.M. Pei’s Louvre pyramid, it has since become a beloved icon on the Paris landscape. Besides its vast permanent collection, the museum hosts several blockbuster exhibits a year and an acclaimed series of performances, films, and other multimedia, as well as an extensive bookstore and a design boutique. Be aware that the Centre Pompidou will close at the end of 2025 for a five-year, €262 million restoration to replace air conditioning and windows, create new entrances, redesign the gallery spaces, and remove asbestos from the façade, among other updates.
Musée Guimet is home to one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive collections of Asian art. Highlights include the finest assemblage of Khmer sculpture outside Cambodia, ancient Gandhara Buddhas, Tibetan scholar, and explorer Alexandra David-Neel’s collection of Tibetan tangkas, 20,000 pieces of Chinese art, and graceful Japanese fans, scrolls, and porcelains. The Musée d’Ennery, an exceptional and little-known jewel featuring Japanese and Chinese art and furniture (by appointment only), is part of this superb collection. The onsite restaurant is a fine place for lunch or tea time, and the bookstore offers charming gifts from around Asia.
Housed in one of the city’s most beautiful mansions repurposed to house a collection bequeathed to Paris by Picasso’s family, Musée Picasso is the world’s largest collection of Picasso’s work. The 200,000 works displayed on two floors include paintings, drawings, sculptures, and works in ceramic. You won’t find the master’s iconic pieces, but many of the pieces here were the works he loved most from his own private collection.
Musée de l'Orangerie
This luminous gem of a museum set in the Tuileries Gardens between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde, was built specifically to house the largest version of Claude Monet’s Water Lilies (Les Nymphéas) in a building conceived by the master himself. Musée de l’Orangerie also contains a choice collection of early-20th-century paintings by Impressionist masters like Soutine, Cézanne, and Matisse and hosts world-class temporary exhibitions.
Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature
One of Paris’s most unique and beguiling museums, the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature‘s quirky art-meets-the hunt-meets-nature-meets-humans motif is expressed through nature-themed still life paintings (by the likes of Rubens and Gentileschi), interspersed with sculptures, antique weaponry, and taxidermy all interspersed with contemporary works by artists such as Jeff Koons, Sophie Calle, and Walton Ford. The museum, housed in the gorgeous 17th-century Hôtel de Guénégaud, features lavishly appointed period rooms and a charming multimedia exhibit on the myth of the unicorn, as well as interactive displays on antique weaponry and bird calls. It’s a little hard to describe, but trust us, you’ll love it.
Fondation Louis Vuitton
Rising out of the Bois de Boulogne like a phantom ocean liner, Fondation Louis Vuitton, the Frank Gehry-designed contemporary art museum, was commissioned by Bernard Arnault, CEO of luxury-goods conglomerate LVMH, to house his substantial private collection as well as an impressive roster of world-class temporary exhibitions, like a recent survey of Cindy Sherman’s photographs and the more recent blockbusters “Monet – Mitchell,” and “Andy Warhol x Jean-Michel Basquiat, Painting Four Hands.” The museum is a bit tricky to navigate, but if you just go with the flow, you’ll be fine. Don’t miss the outdoor viewing platforms, the excellent bookstore, and the onsite Le Frank restaurant for lunch, dinner, or a drink.
Nineteenth-century power couple artist Nélie Jacquemart and banker Edouard André bequeathed their elegant Haussmannian mansion stuffed with one of the finest private art collections in France (with an emphasis on Italian masterpieces) to the Institute of France. Left as it was when the couple lived there, visitors can see masterpieces like Botticelli’s Virgin and Child and Flight Into Egypt, Uccello’s Saint George and the Dragon, and Rembrandt’s The Supper at Emmaus hanging in the couple’s private rooms. Musée Jacquemart-André‘s intimate upstairs galleries host some of Paris’s best temporary exhibitions, including recent exhibitions dedicated to J.M.W. Turner’s watercolors and Botticelli’s paintings. Parisian ladies who lunch adore the museum’s delightful lunch and tearoom, complete with elegant moldings and period frescoes.
The often-overlooked little sister to the soaring Grand Palais across the street (now undergoing a five-year restoration until 2024), Paris’s museum of fine arts collection of paintings, sculptures, and objets d’art includes works by Rembrandt, Fragonard, Modigliani, Monet, Gauguin, and Courbet, among many others. The building is an architectural marvel of marble, glass, and gilt that was built for the 1900 World’s Fair, with impressive entry doors and huge windows overlooking the river. Petit Palais is a Parisian favorite for its superb temporary exhibitions and its charming garden café, with indoor and outdoor seating.
INSIDER TIPEntrance is free to the permanent collection and €15 for special exhibitions.
Maison Européenne de la Photographie (MEP)
Set in a landmark 17th-century mansion with a contemporary addition, this outstanding museum dedicated to modern and contemporary photography helped cement Paris’s reputation as a photography city extraordinaire. Maison Européenne de la Photographie (MEP) hosts up to four exhibitions at a time and themed visits, workshops, and programs for kids. Shows feature an international lineup of photographers and video artists and regular retrospectives of photos by the likes of Doisneau, Cartier-Bresson, Man Ray, and other classics from MEP’s vast collection. The center has an excellent library, bookstore, and a café that spills out into the courtyard in warm months.
Hôtel de la Marine
It took four years, 200 skilled artisans, and $160 million to restore the historic 18th-century Hôtel de la Marine, a neoclassical mansion once inhabited by the steward of the king’s furnishings. Feast your eyes on this masterpiece of historic interiors unrivaled in Paris, then feast your senses at one of two sumptuous restaurants housed on the premises: Mimosa, helmed by two-star chef Jean-François Piège, and Lapérouse, the contemporary offshoot of one of Paris’s oldest and most romantic restaurants (both with outdoor seating in warm weather). The museum hosts regular exhibitions from the Al Thani collection, featuring objects and artwork spanning 6,000 years and myriad civilizations. Visitors also enjoy interactive exhibits on the evolution of Paris’s Place de la Concord, and great views of the bustling square and obelisk from the balcony.
INSIDER TIPBe sure to book in advance and guided visits are recommended.