Let’s face it: the entirety of Paris is a museum. A living, breathing culture house filled with quirky intrigues and oodles of history. But if you want to head indoors, then there are plenty of those kinds of museums too. Here are the very best of the best, crème de la crème of French culture top 10 museums in Paris you should know about.
Musée de l’Orangerie
Address | Jardin Tuileries, 75001 Paris, France
Home to Monet’s iconic water lilies, of all the Paris museums, l’Orangerie remains my favourite to this day. Nestled in between rows of Plane Trees in the heart of the Jardin des Tuileries, the Musée de l’Orangerie is, like its name suggests, housed in a former orangery.
Constructed in the 1850s to house the orange trees of the Tuileries garden, hence its name. During the Third Republic, the structure was then used for a variety of things, including as an examination room, and as a place where soldiers could stay. Now, the Orangery Museum houses treasures such as works by Picasso, Renoir, and Rousseau.
Musée du Louvre
Address | Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France
Of course, no article about the must-see museums in Paris would be complete without a nod to the Louvre Museum, the largest art museum in the world. Housed within the former Louvre Palace, whose roots date back to the 12th century (and whose foundations can still be seen in the museum today), the museum opened to the public in 1793.
Now, the Louvre is home to some of France’s greatest treasures, including the Mona Lisa. Other highlights of the Louvre include the Victoire de Samothrace, the Coronation of Napoleon painting, and the Venus de Milo, which was of course discovered on Milos Island in Greece.
Musée de la Vie Romantique
Address | 16 Rue Chaptal, 75009 Paris, France
In complete contrast to the Louvre Museum is Musée de la Vie Romantique (the Museum of Romantic Life). Located at the base of Butte Montmartre, in the 9th arrondissement, you’ll be able to discover one of the least-known house museums in the city.
Constructed in 1830 as a Maison Particulier (mansion house), the abode was built to serve as the Parisian residence of Dutch-born artist, Ary Scheffer. During the 19th-century, Scheffer would host Friday salons, where famous minds of the time like George Sand and Frederic Chopin would attend.
Musée de Montmartre
Address | 12 Rue Cortot, 75018 Paris, France
Down a little cobbled lane, not far from the Sacré-Coeur, you’ll find Musée de Montmartre. Once home to world famous artist Auguste Renoir, the small institution in Montmartre has been opened to the public as a house museum since 1960.
With its own private green space in the back, the Renoir Gardens, the interior of the museum even features an artist’s atelier and is spread across two centuries old dwellings (Maison du Bel Air and the Hotel Demarne). Head here today if you want to experience a glimpse of Montmartre village life and learn more about the
Address | 16 Rue des Francs Bourgeois, 75003 Paris, France
Located in the very heart of Le Marais, Paris’ medieval district, Musée Carnavalet is housed within two former mansion houses and is complete with sumptuous decor and a well-manicured courtyard. The museum documents the history of Paris, right from its Roman foundations to its current manifestation.
Opened to the public in 1880, the Carnavalet Museum is home to gems such as a statue of the Sun King, Louis XIV (i.e. creator of the current Palace of Versailles) and over 2600 pictures. The museum is currently closed for renovation works and is due to be reopened until the end of 2019.
Centre Georges Pompidou
Address | Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 Paris, France
With an open-air terrace that provides breathtaking views of the city (including of the Eiffel Tower), the Centre Pompidou provides one of the best views of Paris to be found anywhere in the City of Light. View aside, this modern art museum is hard to miss with its quirky and bright exterior.
Highlights of the Pompidou museum collection include works by Picasso, David Hockney, and Dalí. Situated in the 4th arrondissement of the city, nearby you’ll find gems like Rue Montorgueil, which in turn is home to Stohrer, the oldest patisserie in Paris.
Address | 1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007 Paris, France
You might well recognise the iconic clock of Musée d’Orsay within this former train station as it’s easily one of the most photographed places to visit in Paris. Situated on the very top floor of the museum, if you want to capture the clock without the crowds, be sure to head there in the day, as soon as it opens.
Housed within the former Gare d’Orsay, this Beaux-Arts railway station was constructed in the 19th-century. However, by 1939 the station fell out of use as the platforms were too short for the newer model of trains used in France. The Musée d’Orsay was finally opened to the public as a museum in 1986.
Musée des Egouts (Paris Sewer Museum)
Address | 93 Quai d’Orsay, 75007 Paris, France
For those looking for a museum a little off (and quite literally under) the beaten path, you need to look no further than the Paris sewer museum. Documenting the history of waste disposal in the city from when Paris was called Lutetia, right up until the present day, tours of the museum have been available since the 19th-century. The Paris sewer museum is currently closed for renovations until 2020.
Maison de Victor Hugo (Victor Hugo’s House)
Address | 6 Place des Vosges, 75004 Paris, France
Place des Vosges is the crown jewel of Le Marais. As the first planned square in the city (built on the site of a former palace), it’s one of the best places to head to for a picnic in the summer months or wander around so as to find the best ‘vin chaud’ in the winter months.
And at No. 6, you’ll find one of the best free museums in Paris. Maison de Victor Hugo is the former residence of iconic French writer, Victor Hugo, who is best known as being the author of Les Misérables and the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Once inside, you’ll soon discover that the permanent collections are free to explore and the windows offer beautiful views onto the Place des Vosges.
Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle
Address | 57 Rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris, France
For those who are interested in history a little older than humankind, the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle provides the perfect location to enjoy an afternoon learning all about animals, rocks, minerals, the natural world, and even the dinosaurs.
Featured in the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, All the Light We Cannot See, the main museum building was founded in 1793, during the French Revolution. The current decor of the interior largely dates back to the 19th-century and is reminiscent of the Natural History Museum in London. The Jardin des Plantes out the front is a botanical garden and is home to the Dodo Manage, one of the most unusual carousels in Paris.