Paris is one of the world’s cultural capitals. It boasts fascinating history, fine artwork, incredible architecture and world-class musical and theatrical performances. If you’re looking to soak up all the rich culture Paris has to offer, your best bet is to one of the city’s many famous museums and galleries – here are six which are worth a visit.
Museé du Louvre
Paris is synonymous with the Louvre, one of the world’s most famous museums and art galleries. This Parisian classic has a wealth of treasures that have to be seen to be believed. Combining a world-class art collection and a royal palace, items on display range from ancient Egyptian mummies and Mesopotamian antiquities to renaissance, baroque and modern artworks. Not to be missed are the Italian Renaissance galleries, home to the Mona Lisa, the glazed sculpture courts. A particular highlight the collection of grand French neoclassical and Romantic works, including Eugene Delacroix’s ‘Liberty leading the People’ (pictured). You can avoid the long queues by booking tickets in advance – these must be collected from the agency.
The Grand Palais is a legacy of the 1900 World’s Fair, forming an impressive ensemble alongside the Petit Palais and the Alexandre III Bridge. It hosts a variety of displays and exhibitions under one roof. The Rue Franklin D Roosevelt wing is home to the Palais de la Decouverte science museum, while the north wing houses several prestigious art exhibitions. Most impressive, however, is the Grand Nave, a glass-roofed quarter with stunning art nouveau metalwork, which makes for the perfect setting for numerous events, such as Paris Fashion week (pictured).
Transformed from a humble train station to the state’s art collection, the Museé d’Orsay houses some of the finest art France has ever produced. On the top floor, you’ll find impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces, including Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night over the Rhône’ (pictured). These are cleverly arranged to offer fresh new perspectives on much-loved and much-discussed artwork, while the bottom floor is devoted to symbolists, realists and Art Nouveau, including a room devoted to the giant canvases of Courbet. Buying tickets in advance is recommended, as advance ticket holders have their own queue-avoiding entrance.
Museé de Cluny
The Museé de Cluny’s full title is the ‘Musée national du Moyen Âge’ or the ‘National Museum of the Middle Ages’. This title, however, undersells the the site. First the impressive home of the Abbots of Cluny, it became an important civic building, until falling into disrepair. In the early 19th century, a French archaeologist and art collector, Alexandre de Sommerand, bought the site and installed his large collection of medieval French artworks. Since then, the museum has become one of the world’s most important collections of art from the middle ages, including the priceless tapestry series known as The Lady and the Unicorn (pictured). Recently, Roman baths with paintings and mosaics have been uncovered under the building and can be now be toured.
Centre Georges Pompidou
Since it was first opened in 1977, the Centre Georges Pompidou has been a striking addition to the streets of Paris, with its colourful, futuristic architecture (pictured). Art styles span the last century or so, beginning with the works of Picasso, Matisse and the surrealists and covering right up to the present day. It acts as a world stage for artworks, installations and videos by upcoming artists all over the world. Alongside the main exhibition, there are also a host of temporary exhibitions to see, which change regularly, a gallery specially for children, a cinema, live performances and two excellent shops. Avoid the crowds by visiting in the early evening.
Located in the former abattoir district, La Villette is much more than just a museum. Set within a modern park, decorated with themed gardens, this is the ideal location for a varied family day out. On the northern edge, the Cité des Science is alive with hands-on interactive exhibits, a special children’s section and the spherical Géode IMAX cinema (pictured). There’s much more to find south of the canal, including the Grande Halle, the last remnant of the once thriving livestock market, and the Cité de la Musique. The park also attracts all kinds of events from outdoor film festivals to theatre and circus.
Our boutique hotels in Paris are based in excellent locations close to the heart of the action, perfect for discovering the amazing treasures that lie in these great museums.
Image: Dennis Jarvis, available under Creative Commons