Some say that, to measure the importance of a city globally, one should look at its museums. The more, the better right? And if New York City is known for its pop-art and natural history institutions, Paris’ reputation is clearly embedded in history and arts throughout the centuries. It comes as no surprise as art and culture have always been the core of the Parisian history. So it’s only right that we pay homage to la ville-musée (French saying that means “the museum-city”) and list the essential museums to visit in Paris that are worthy of your time. So whether you want to admire a Koons or an artifact from a five thousand years old civilisation, you can do that in the City of Lights.
Keep in mind though, most museums close one day per week. It is usually Monday and/or Tuesday, so make sure to check the openings beforehand!
Le Musée National Georges Pompidou is one of those places that everyone knows, no matter what you call it. Some simply call it Beaubourg, referring to its location in the heart of the city, others, Centre Pompidou. The building is famous for its architectural audacity, with its external pipes and primary colours, as well as its plaza, that welcomes thousands of visitors daily. Inside the museum, modern, contemporary and pop art all blend together as the flow of exhibitions changes with the seasons. Centre Pompidou has seen classic pieces from the world’s most famous artists seen in recent history, from Koons to Rothko, Warhol to Klein or Picasso.
This old train station was turned, during the mid 1980s into a museum specialised in impressionist and post-impressionist artists. Its selection includes photography, paintings from the likes of Renoir, Monet and Van Gogh and several stylish sculptures, all dating up to the mid nineteenth century. And while you’re there, if you need a quick break before or after your visit, we strongly recommend you checking out the big clock… Because, yes, there’s a café behind it.
Hard to mention Paris without thinking about the Louvre, its pyramids, its huge art collection and its even bigger crowds of visitors. Which by the way are coming from all parts of the globe. The museum is actually the largest in the world — and the most visited, with 10.2 million visitors in 2018 alone. Divided into eight departments, the institution stores about 36 000 works of art and other architectural fragments. Sculptures, sarcophagi and ancient civilizations artifacts are on display, but the heart of the collection is of course Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa… But don’t forget: Le Louvre, like most Parisian museums, closes on Tuesdays.
The museum is located on the west wing of Palais du Louvre and is technically not part of Mona Lisa’s home. The MAD, as locals call it, focuses curating the very best of decorative arts from the Middle Ages to today. You’ll find anything artisanally made, from pieces of furniture to precious glass, porcelain to precious metals and from fashion and clothing to graphic design and advertising. The establishment was reopened in 2006 after a huge makeover that took a decade, and cost around €35 million.
By the Seine, the Quai Branly Museum is a French testimony to ethnic arts from Africa, America, Asia and Oceania. It features anthropological and archeological finds from the colonial era, as well as pieces from indigenous cultures from Mali to Peru, Vietnam to Gabon, Australia to Algeria. Architecturally speaking, the place is a must see as well. Designed by Jean Nouvel, the building seems lost in a luxurious greenscape that is a whole part of the museum. The biggest actually, as it spreads its leaves and roots on over 18 000 square metres. One of the city’s must see museums, that’s for sure!