Upon moving to Paris I very quickly lost count of how many times I visited ‘top 10 things to do in Paris’ or ‘must sees in Paris’ websites. After over 8 months of living here I thought it was time I made my own.
I have worked my way around the vast majority of museums in Paris, and I’m going to release my top five favourites out into the world so that you can make the most of your visit.
5. Musée du Louvre
To be honest, I am not the biggest fan of the Louvre. I pretty much only included this because it’s on every single ‘what to do in Paris’ list I have ever read. Don’t get me wrong, I have been to the Louvre twice and I did enjoy both visits, but it is serious hard work.
The building itself is stunning, and I personally love the controversial glass pyramids outside. The actual content of the museum however is less appealing to me. It feels a bit ‘once you’ve seen one room you’ve seen them all’, and it is so huge that after a couple of hours you can find yourself exhausted. Probably the Louvre’s most celebrated piece is the Mona Lisa, which is about A4 size and a little disappointing, but worth visiting just so you can say you’ve seen it.
*Top Louvre Tip* If you’re desperate to go to the Louvre, my advice would be not to try and see it all. Have a look on the website and decide which areas you’d like to visit before you go, this way you won’t get overwhelmed or bored by aimless walking.
4. Musée de l’Orangerie
I remember studying Monet’s Water Lilies at school when I was younger and being fascinated. The Musée de l’Orangerie is perfectly designed to display these huge paintings, well and truly showing them off in all their glory. Each painting is unique and stunning to look at and the bright white, oval rooms provide the best conditions to view them. Being situated in the Jardin des Tuileries on the banks of the Seine, it’s right in the centre of the city and easy to visit alongside other sights.
If you’re looking for a smaller museum to look around then this one is perfect. The water lily paintings themselves are spread across two rooms so it’s easy to pop in and see them if you’re in a rush. If you do have longer to look around however there is more art in a downstairs section of the museum, they often have a temporary exhibit too.
*Top Orangerie Tip* Because of the oval shape of the rooms they can feel pretty full when busy. There are always many people taking photos of the paintings and standing in front of them, so if possible try and visit this museum during a weekday when it should be quieter.
3. Grande Galerie de l’Evolution
In the wise words of my good friend who suggested that we visit here, ‘you can’t go wrong with a natural history museum’. She was right, and the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution is one of the best I have been to.
This museum is one of the two situated in the Jardin des Plantes, just along the Seine from the Notre Dame. It’s entirely focussed on animals and the displays were beautiful, especially the huge display of mammals in the centre and the underground sea-life section. The building is impressive in itself, with the colour changing walls and huge open centre surrounded by balconies leading off to various exhibits. Kids would love it, although everyone I went with was over 20 and we had a blast.
* Top Galerie de l’Evolution Tip* This museum is in the Jardin des Plantes which is a beautiful park bursting full of things to do. You could easily spend a day here so bring a picnic and enjoy visiting the museums, zoo and botanical gardens.
2. Musée d’Orsay
The Musée d’Orsay is another extremely famous Paris museum, mostly because of the wide range of highly celebrated works it hosts. There’s everyone from Van Gogh to Cézanne, from Rodin to Degas. It’s built in an old railway station so it has huge high ceilings and fully glass walls.
Something I love about this museum is the variety of artwork it shows, meaning you could spend hours there and see multiple different things. You can see sculptures, paintings, furniture and even clothing, ranging across multiple eras throughout history. I have only properly visited the d’Orsay once but found it the perfect size, not so big that it was overwhelming but big enough that you could easily spend a whole afternoon there. A couple of my favourite must-sees are Degas’ Small Dancer, Van Gogh’s Self Portrait and Monet’s London, Houses of Parliament.
* Top d’Orsay Tip* The Musée d’Orsay still houses the massive railway station clock, and you’ve probably seen it all over Instagram. It’s the perfect place to snap a photo, or simply to get a beautiful view over Paris and the Seine.
1. Centre Georges Pompidou
I had no struggle deciding which is my favourite museum in all of Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou shot right up there the first time I visited and has only secured that spot every time I have been there since. I am a big fan of modern art so it was bound to be right up my street, although even those who aren’t the biggest fans have fallen in love with it too.
More commonly known as the Pompidou Centre, this museum is about a two minute walk from Châtelet station so incredibly easy to get to and very central. I could go on and on about reasons why this museum is my favourite. The view from the top floor is stunning, you can see right over Paris and if you’re there for sunset you’ll be blown away. Like all modern art museums, it has pieces I do not understand like plain blue canvases, but there are also incredibly creative and interactive artworks I have never seen anything like before. There is a small geometric cave you can climb inside, a giant golden thumb and a large heart shaped bail of hay. As I said I have visited multiple times and hope to do so many more.
* Tip Pompidou Tip* The Pompidou always has constantly changing temporary exhibits so it’s worth having a look at what’s on while you’re there. They can add a couple of euros onto the ticket price, unless you’re a student, but are entirely worth it.
Other museums worth mentioning
There are of course hundreds of museums in Paris, it was difficult to narrow it down to only five! Here are a few of my other favourites:
Free museum tips
18-26 year old students and European citizens can have an absolute field day in Paris because almost all sights and museums are free. Just show valid ID like a passport or driving licence and you can go where you please, whether you want to climb the Arc de Triomphe, explore the Notre Dame or visit one of the museums on this list.
Also, most museums in Paris are free of everyone on the first Sunday of every month. This is both a pro and con, you save money but they are quite often close to bursting with tourists. If you can cope with the crowds your wallet will thank you.
*Be sure to check websites for exact prices before visiting, these rules apply to most museums, not all*
I’d love to know if you have visited any of these museums yourself and what your top pick would be, let me know!
Best wishes from Paris x