My Must See Paris Museums

Paris is one of the most beautiful, elegant cities in the world. It is a treasure trove of art, museums and sights. How to choose which ones to visit? My last trip to Paris was only five days long. Enough time for me to visit my old favorites and include some new ones. If you plan to visit many of the museums and historical sights, purchase a Paris Museum Pass. These can be bought online or your hotel concierge can purchase for you. The passes vary in price based on how many days you purchases for. Prices range from 48, 62, 74 euro. The pass gives you access to 50 museums and monuments. One perk that makes for a great day -Paris Pass holders use separate entry lines which are often much shorter. Waiting on a long line is not a good way to start a visit to any museum!

Check out my favorites.

Musée L'Orangerie (1st Arr.): I love to walk in any city I visit. So I decided to head down the Champs Élysées from my hotel through the Place de la Concorde (the site of the guillitone during the French Revolution ) to the Tuileries Garden. My first stop, the Musée L’Orangerie, is a small museum that sits in a corner of the park. The building was built in 1852 to shelter the Tuileries' orange trees. Now it is the home of eight of Claude Monet’s Waterlilies. It is a peaceful experience to sit in the white, oval-shaped rooms and be surrounded by these masterpieces.  I make it point to always start my Paris trips here and I am never disappointed. 

Claude Monet's  Waterlilies

Claude Monet's Waterlilies

Musée d'Orsay (7th Arr.): For more Monet and other impressionist works, head across the Seine to the Musée d’Orsay (located on the left bank). This is a MUST for anyone visiting Paris. Entering this former train station takes your breath away. The restoration of the architecture in itself is specatular.  The building is the former Gare d'Orsay, a railroad station built between 1898 and 1900. The collection of works is mostly French Art dating from 1848-1914. It is also the largest Impressionist and Post Impressionist collection in the world.   Highlights include Van Gogh's Starry Night Over the Rhone Arles, Pierre- August Renoir's Bal du moulin de l Galette , Paul Cezanne's The Card Players, 86 paintings by Claude Monet and 43 by Edgar Degas. This truly remarkable museum is a treat to wander through.

Musée Louvre (1st Arr.): From the Musée d’Orsay, I walked lesiurely back across the Seine to the Musée Louvre located at the opposite end of the Tuileries from the L’Orangerie. The Louvre collection is incredibly different then the impressionists of the d’Orsay. It features Greek and Roman masterpieces, an extenisve Egyptian and Ancient collection, and many Old Masters just to name a few. Check out my next post on the highlights of the Louvre collection. If you need a break after walking the halls of this large, venerable institution, grab an ice cream and a bench in the Tuileries and people watch. Nothing better in Paris!

The Louvre entrance

The Louvre entrance

Ile de la Cité (4th Arr.): I always feel transported back to the middle ages when I arrive on Ile de la Cité (a natural island in the middle of the Seine). This is the center of Paris. Make sure to check out Notre Dame de Paris, the famous medieval Gothic cathedral. The facade filled wth sculptures and gargoyles is overwhelming but breathtaking. Lines to visit the church and climb the towers can be very, very long. My suggestion check it out first thing in the morning. My absolute favorite place in all of Paris is located at the other end of Ile de la Cité. Sainte-Chapelle (translated holy chapel) is a 12th century private Gothic chapel built by King Louis IX. The king built the chapel to house his Passion relics which included a Thorn from Christ's crown. The chapel sits in a coutryard surrounded by government buildings in the Palais de la Cité, which until the 14th century had been the residence of the French kings. After you enter from the street, go through security and come back outside to enter the chapel. The first floor is rather dark. But as you ascend the narrow, windy stairs you emerge in a high ceiling chapel surrounded by stunning stained glass windows. The 13th century glass features stories from the New Testament, the Old Testament, and the life of the King. A MUST!!!! To return to the street, you will be directed to enter another building, the Conciergerie, which played a major role in the French Revolution. Enemies of the Revolution were housed here while they awaited their fate. The most notable prisoner was Marie Antoinette!

Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame de Paris

Musée Picasso (3rd Arr.): For a nice change of pace, visit to the Musée Picasso in the Marais. This section of Paris has fabulous shopping and incredibe galleries. The museum is housed in a historic mansion, the Hotel Salé, which was built in 1656-1659 by a salt tax farmer. Over the years it served as the Embassy of the Republic of Venice, as a school, and as a museum. PIcasso lived for many years as an expatriate in Paris traveling in circles with notable people like the American writer, Gertude Stein. The collection features about 5,000 works of art by Picasso. The works in this museum represent Picasso's broad range of mediums including works on paper, paintings, ceramics and sculpture. It also features some Iberian masks which were his inspiration when he embarked on his cubist style.

Musée Rodin (7th Arr.): The beauty of many of Paris’ museums is not just their collections but also the buildings that house them. Like the Picasso Museum, my other favorite museum, Musée Rodin, exhibits the artist’s work in a stately house, the Hotel Biron, surrounded by stunning gardens. Rodin’s The Thinker sits proudly amidst gorgeous gardens. One thing my family loves to do is find the sculpture The Burghers of Calais in the garden. Have one person imitate one of the character’s stances in the sculpture. Lots of fun and a great picture!

Rodin's  The Thinker

Rodin's The Thinker

Eiffel Tower (17th Arr.): Not far from the Musée Rodin you will find the Eiffel Tower. Since I’m a walker, I love this walk through the fashionable 7th arrondissement. Approaching the Eiffel Tower by foot is also a spectacular experiece.  If you would like to take the elevator or climb to the top, purchase these tickets as soon as you book your trip! Tickets sell out fast and lines can be incredible long for tickets the same day. The top does not disappoint. The 360 degree views of Paris are unparalleled! Gustave Eiffel built the tower in 1887-1889. It is the tallest building in Paris standing about as tall as an 81-story building. Almost 7 million people visit the tower each year.

The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower

There are so many places and things to see when visiting Paris. These are just some of the big must see stops. Check out my next few posts on restaurants, shopping, guided Louvre tour and secret spots!!

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