Paris could be called the Art capital of the world. Nestled right amidst all the attractions of Paris, are world-famous museums like the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, L’Orangerie, Musee Rodin to name a few. If you are a visitor to Paris, an array of choices bewilder the tourist pressed for time. Unlike London, the entry to the museums don’t come free. Further, the serpentine queues that await outside the museums can deter even the most hard-boiled art fan from visiting. Better planning and advance purchases could help in ensuring less fatigue and disappointment. Here are some tips!
Which Museums to visit in Paris?
There are more than 130+ museums listed in Paris. Choosing the top five out of them can be a tricky affair and there are no easy answers. We pick the top unmissable five.
Ofcourse, the absolutely one-of-its-kind Louvre is a must-visit and tops the list. Louvre is actually many museums in one. It is almost impossible to visit within one day (Atleast 2-3 days to do any justice to the vast array of exhibits there). Most visitors start with ambitious plans. However, by the time they are done with a leisurely stroll of the Egyptian, Roman and Greek galleries, they are tired and out of breath. After they are done checking out the Italian renaissance masters and the MonaLisa they decide to call it a day out of sheer fatigue. And then they miss out on the Dutch masters, Polynesian sculptures, the fine French art deco collections or the magnificent Islamic art exhibits. Through better planning, by say, focusing on the top 100 – 200 objects within the museum, one could make sure that at least the important portions of the collection is done. We suggest using the Top 100 / Top 250 tours feature of our Louvre Visitor Guide App. Download it here.
With Louvre done, the next on the list would most certainly be Musee d’Orsay. Apart from its curious setting of a 19th century Railway station converted into a museum, it is home to the masterpieces of the 19th century art renaissance movements in France. Neo-classicism, Romanticism, Impressionism, Naturalism, Symbolism, Primitivism, Realism, Fauvism, Pointillism all find a home here and are neatly organized according to their respective genre. It is a great place for better understanding of the evolution of art and the birth of these art movements. Starting with Ingres and Delacroix, the museum hosts some of the largest collections of Courbet, Van Gogh, Manet, Monet, Cezanne, Renoir, Sisley, Degas, Gauguin just to name a few. There is an outstanding collection of sculptures from Rodin, Carpeaux, Belleuse, Degas, Cordier and others dotted throughout the museum. The museum takes the best part of a day. Start early and start from the top floor and work your way downwards for the maximum Impact (All the Impressionist masterpieces are in the topmost floor) and to avoid the crowds. The Vusiem Visitor guide App to Musee d’Orsay is an ideal companion to take with you to the museum to get to know the masterpieces and the evolution of the art movement and the artists. Download it here.
The Centre Pompidou is also a visit-worthy destination for the fans of Modern art. The largest modern art museum in Europe, it is home to some of the finest collections of Salvador Dali, Edvard Munch, Miro, Andy Warhol, Max Ernst and others. Open till late in the evening, it features several family-friendly and social atmosphere within an avant-garde architectural construct. Several exhibitions are always ongoing at the centre. So be sure to check them out. Depending on the time available and your interest, budget around 4-6 hours for the gallery.
Nestled amidst the lively Tulieres gardens next to the Place de la Concorde, is the Musee de l’Orangerie. It might be not be as sprawling as the Louvre, Orsay or the Pompidou, but it boasts of some of the finest masterpieces in Paris. It is best known for its world-famou Monet’s water gardens exhibit. Purpose-built on the instructions of Monet himself, the two oval sunlight-illuminated rooms featuring the eight water-lilies paintings at different times of the day and seasons is a sight that will banish the tourist’s fatigue. Apart from Monet, it has some of the best collections of Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri Rousseau, Alfred Sisley, Chaim Soutine, and Maurice Utrillo amongst others. A 4-hour time visit time could be budgeted for a well-paced trip to the l’Orangerie. It is well worth the visit. Ofcourse, do not forget to download our Visitor guide to the L’Orangerie to make the best use of your time at the museum. (if you are an Apple phone user, you could download the three museum apps – Louvre, Orsay and Orangerie as a bundle within the iOS appstore for a nice discount!)
And if you still have the enthusiasm and energy left to visit just one more museum before leaving Paris, we would recommend the Musee Rodin. Housed in the charming Hôtel Biron just ouside Rodin’s old home in central Paris, it is the best place to goto for a complete view of Rodin’s vast collection of works that dots museums worldwide. Apart from Rodin’s masterpieces, it also features a substantial collection of Camille Claudel’s works and provides a great insight into the ground-breaking sculptural techniques adopted by Rodin. Several of his large works are scattered throughout the stately garden surrounding the museum. Be sure to walk around the gardens after your museum visit. Less crowded and with less queues than the other museums above, it is a great place to goto before the 3 or 4-day museum pass expires!
When to Visit:
All the museums above have a free entrance policy on the first sunday of every month. So if you are visiting Paris around then, be sure to mark your time on your itinerary for these museums. Ofcourse, be sure to start early and budget enough time for the large queues that you can inevitably expect. One useful tip for museums is that the queues reduce considerably after noon times. So if you could plan your day such that you visit the museums after the time, you could expect a smaller wait period in the queues. An hour or two before the museum closes in the evening would be the ideal time to visit. The Musee Louvre is also free on the first sunday of the month. However, given the queues and the crowds that could be expected, we would advise to give that a miss and instead use the day visiting the other museums above. If you are visiting with a short time at hand, we would strongly recommend making use of the Vusiem Apps and directly get to the top masterpieces. It is easy to get lost in the maze of the Louvre. Visitors under 18 are always free (be sure to carry an identity card!) and visitors under 26 if you are a resident of Europe.
There are 1-2 days in the week when the museums are open till late in the evening. We would certainly recommend checking that and scheduling into your plans. Further, also note that there are days when these museums are closed.
Louvre – Closed on Tuesdays. Open till 945 PM on Wednesday and Fridays (as compared to 6 PM closure on other days)
Musee d’Orsay – Closed on Mondays. Open till 945 PM on Thursday (as compared to 6 PM on other days)
L’Orangerie – Closed on Tuesdays. Open from 9AM till 6 PM
Pompidou – Closed Tuesdays. Open from 11 AM till 10 PM
Musee Rodin – Closed Mondays. Open till 545 PM. Late opening till 845 PM on wednesdays during peak tourist season.
Museum Pass – To Buy or not to Buy!
The Museum Pass Paris gives you free entry into over 60 museums and monuments of Paris. However, Starting at 48 Euros for a 2-day pass and going onto 72 Euros for a 6-day pass it definitely does not come cheap (and keeps increasing by the year!). However, The cost of the pass has to be considered against waiting in the long serpentine queues and getting on-the-spot tickets to enter. Maybe, if you are visiting only one museum or two, it may not be bargain. However, if you are planning to visit more than two museums and other places like the Versailles, Pantheon etc, it is definitely something worth considering. If nothing, just for the sheer luxury of not having to stand in the queues should make it a purchase well-worth the cost. If you are staying for 5-days to a week, we would strongly suggesting getting the 4-day or 6-day pass. It should prove to be a good bargain. Ofcourse, if you are visiting just one museum (say, the Louvre) and do not wish to stand in the queue, you could also buy the ticket online from the Louvre website for a small premium. However, the flip side is that you need to ensure that you turn up at the allotted time and be disciplined about your schedule, which is certainly difficult to do on a holiday.
important – If you are planning to visit, dont plan on buying the museumpass at the Louvre, if you dont like standing in the queues. Its a long line to the counter. You can purchase museumpass in several other locations including at the airport or the Eurostar station. Be sure to check at the Tourist Information counter. The Pass starts the day you first get it validated (and hence you can buy it in advance as well!). That should save you a few hours in the queue at a museum since the museumpass are generally much shorter.
How to get there:
Without doubt, the best way to travel in Paris is the Paris underground. All the museums listed above are well-connected through underground lines and are within a 5-10 minute walking distance from the station. The Paris Velib bike service is also quite suitable for the museum visit with a bike stand usually available just outside the museums. Avoid the stress of traffic and parking with the public transport system.
Tips to avoid the Queues at the Louvre:
While the queues at Louvre are well-known, the little known aspect about the Louvre is there are several entrances to get inside. Most people assume that there is one main entrance and end up standing in front of the famous glass pyramids amidst the long-snaky lines. However, there are other options.
Carrousel de Louvre entrance
This is the easiest alternate entrance to find. It’s also called the “shopping mall entrance to the Louvre” . But more often than not it might be as crowded an entrance to the Louvre. However, you will be standing in a shopping mall instead of amongst the elements outside.
Portes des Lions entrance
This entrance is located less than 5 minutes away from the Glass Pyramid and still within the inner confines of the Louvre.
This is a bit of a tricky one and needs some advance preparation instead of just turning up. It is meant for groups only. But card-holders are also allowed entrance. If you have a pre-purchased ticket to the Louvre or a museumpass, you can enter through this entrance as well.
However, note that with increased security restrictions, some of these entrances may not have baggage security screening facilities. So travel light, if you can to make use of these alternate entrances!
Hope this was useful for you. If you have any suggestions, comments or queries, we would be glad to hear! Please leave a comment below!