the louvre courtyard in paris

12 Excellent Paris Museums You Should Visit

Exploring Paris’s vibrant museum scene can be overwhelming, with so many options spanning every topic you could imagine! Whether you’re a modern art enthusiast, lover of sculpture, or history buff, there’s a museum in Paris tailored to your taste. My list will help you find the perfect Parisian museum to suit your interests and make the most of your visit to the City of Light!

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The thing about Paris is that there is such an abundance of amazing things to do and see. It can be overwhelming to know how to narrow your options for anything, and choosing which Paris museums will make the cut for your itinerary is no exception.

Paris is one of my favorite cities, and the world class selection of museums definitely plays a large part in my obsession! Every time I visit Paris I try to see a new museum, though it’s becoming harder when I’ve gone to so many by now!

After this latest trip to Paris I was so excited to come back and make a little Paris museums guide to help you choose the best museums for your interests and itinerary. And Paris museums aren’t all full of stuffy old paintings either!

There truly are Paris museums to fit every taste—even those who aren’t typically “museum people.” So keep scrolling to get inspired for your Paris trip!

Trip map courtesy of Wanderlog, a trip planner app on iOS and Android

Delve into France

The 12 Best Paris Museums for Every Interest

🏛️ Planning to visit multiple Paris museums? 🏛️

The 2-day, 4-day, or 6-day Paris Museum Pass will save you tons of money!

The pass covers entry to 60+ museums and sites in and around Paris—including the majority of the museums on my list. On average, you’ll be saving money starting with your 4th visit!

1. Centre Pompidou: For Modern Art Enthusiasts

centre pompidou is a modern art museum in central paris is a great thing to do in paris

The Centre Pompidou, is completely unmissable, literally. 

Sticking out like a big modern sore thumb in the otherwise historic 4th arrondissement, this distinctively modern building is probably some of the most divisive Paris museum architecture, and houses Europe’s largest modern art collection. Among Paris museums modern art is not typically the most sought-out genre, but the Pompidou’s collection is rivaled only by MoMA in New York.

Inside you’ll find an extensive collection of modern art, including works by the likes of Picasso and Matisse. It’s a must-visit for art enthusiasts and casual enjoyers alike. 

I highly recommend booking tickets in advance to get a specific time slot, as this is one of the most popular Paris museums on the list!

P.S. When you book using my links, you help support Rachel IRL at no extra cost to you. It’s a win-win!

2. The Louvre: For the Mona Lisa

the louvre courtyard in paris

The most famous Paris museum, The Louvre, is the largest and most visited museum in the world. Obviously, it’s a masterpiece in its own right and it’s probably already on your radar! 

This Paris museum, recognizable for its iconic glass pyramid entrance, is practically a city within a city. That also means you sort of run the risk of getting lost in it, much like you could in an unknown city. 

Seriously, the museum is a multi-level maze of different galleries, wings, and collections, and I should warn you right now: you will not see it all in one day, and you shouldn’t even try. 

The most famous piece in the museum is, as I’m sure you know, the Mona Lisa. But there are hundreds, if not thousands, of equally impressive and noteworthy pieces waiting to be seen in The Louvre. 

I do think that The Louvre does a pretty good job of making its collection accessible and as un-overwhelming as possible. Still, at the end of the day, it’s such a behemoth of a collection that there’s very little that can overcome that concern entirely.

Or better yet, take a guided tour and let someone else do all the heavy lifting!

3. Musée d’Orsay: For Lovers of Sculpture or Impressionism

musee d'orsay former train station stunning building for a paris museum

If you’re looking for a Paris museum with Monet (but want more than just the Water Lilies), then the D’Orsay is calling your name.

The Musée d’Orsay is located centrally, right along the river in the 7th arrondissement. It’s the second-most visited museum in Paris, and offers a look at the art world from 1848 to 1914.

The permanent collection has some seriously well-known pieces, and the museum itself is housed within a former train station, giving it an incredibly grand and airy feel.

The biggest draw, in my opinion, is the impeccable collection of Impressionist works that’s well-balanced between world-renowned and lesser-known pieces. 

This collection is slightly difficult to locate as the only entrance to it requires you walk all the way to the back of the main foyer to a somewhat hidden escalator. But trust me, the effort is worth it for the amazing works (and excellent curation of them) you’ll get to see.

I should also note that the iconic clock face photo op you may be familiar with is also accessible right at the start of the Impressionist exhibit. 

The sculpture section in the main foyer—which you’ll pass on your way to the Impressionists—is a stunning collection worth stopping to admire as well.

The d’Orsay is one of my personal favorite Paris museums. It holds some of my favorite art, but it’s also just big enough to be an impressive museum without necessarily eating up your whole day.

4. Musée de l’Orangerie: If You Usually Find Museums Overwhelming

Musée de l'Orangerie monet water lilies in central paris

Musée de l’Orangerie is conveniently located on the edge of les Jardin des Tuileries. This Paris museum’s Monet collection is remarkable, and is displayed in a much more intimate setting than most other options for viewing his work. 

Here you’ll see Monet’s iconic “Nymphéas,” the 1918 panoramic waterlily piece that spans 8 massive panels. Downstairs, you’ll also find work by Cézanne, Renoir, Matisse, Picasso, and other notable Impressionists.

As one of the slightly less popular Paris museums, Musée de l’Orangerie would be an excellent option for someone who doesn’t have a whole lot of time on their trip to devote to a museum visit, or who simply prefers to avoid crowds!

5. Musée Carnavalet: For History Buffs

Musée Carnavalet history of paris museums close up of the building

The Musée Carnavalet is the oldest Paris museum, and definitely one of the more overlooked ones—which is a complete shame! It’s located right in the middle of the Marais, meaning you’ll most likely pass it, and will definitely have time to pop in if it catches your interest.

The permanent collection showcases Paris’s past, including furniture, signage, artwork and more. The museum spans 450 years of history with over 618,000 items in its collection. It also hosts rotating exhibitions of art and photography that focus on more specific time periods. 

I don’t think this museum is for everyone (there is admittedly quite a focus on 16th and 17th century Paris in the main collection). But, for anyone who’s as interested in the history of Paris as I am, it’s a must see!

Entry to the permanent collection is also completely free! Guided tours and temporary exhibitions are a small fee, and can be paid directly at the museum.

⚜️ Does the idea of delving deeper in Parisian history excite you? ⚜️

If so, I highly recommend supplementing your Carnavalet Museum visit with a guided history & fashion tour of the Marais or a Jewish history tour of the Marais while you’re in the area. Make a day of exploring this important pocket of Paris!

6. Musée Rodin: If You Want a Relaxing Open-Air Museum Experience

the thinker sculpture at musee rodin in paris museums

Here’s a Paris museum Rodin lovers will definitely want to take note of. At the Musée Rodin you can get an intimate glimpse at the life and work of Rodin, the renowned sculptor, at the Hôtel Biron, where he used to live. 

Opened to the public in 1919, this Paris museum offers galleries to view Rodin’s works, as well as an impressive sculpture garden to see some of his more iconic masterpieces like “The Gates of Hell” and “The Thinker.” 

The museum is located nearly right between the Jardin du Luxembourg and the Eiffel Tower, so you could easily make a “Left Bank” day out of visiting all three!

7. Musée Picasso: For True Picasso Enthusiasts

picasso museum in paris marais from the street

The Musée Picasso-Paris is located in the stunning 17th-century Hôtel Salé, an architectural masterpiece in the Marais. 

This one is best for true Picasso enthusiasts, rather than the casual enjoyer, because it’s quite easy to get lost in here! The museum holds over 5000 works from Picasso, more than any other museum in the world. Temporary exhibitions often delve deeper into the artist’s life and career. 

You can also take advantage of the lovely rooftop cafe to enjoy after your time in the museum.

8. Montmartre Museum: If You Want to Dig Into Paris’s Bohemian Past 

musee de montmartre in paris museums from the outside of susan valadons studio

Located in a historic 17th-century building surrounded by charming gardens, this is one of my personal favorite museums in Paris—and also something of a hidden gem! This museum captures the history and essence of Montmartre, and allows you to see the historic neighborhood in a new way. 

The exhibition includes a collection of paintings, posters, and drawings that carefully showcase Montmartre’s past, from the artistic crowds and salons of the late 19th century to the famed cabarets of the early 20th century.

You’ll also get to see a recreation of Susan Valadon’s studio, and you can take advantage of the stunning cafe and gardens in the back.

Tickets to the Montmartre Museum can be booked directly on the museum’s website.

🎨 Taken by Paris’s bohemian spirit? 🎨

Check out this guided Montmartre tour focused on revealing the Paris of Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Van Gogh. You’ll see where they worked, lived, and hung out all over Montmartre!

9. Louis Vuitton Foundation: For Rotating Contemporary Art Exhibitions

Louis Vuitton Foundation in paris museums modern art

The Fondation Louis Vuitton is a privately owned art space in a stunning Frank Gehry-designed building that resembles a surrealist sailboat floating on an artificial lake. It’s located in the gigantic Bois de Boulogne park on the western edge of Paris.

The collection is a nice mix of 20th- and 21st-century contemporary art both in their permanent collection and temporary exhibitions.

Most recently it’s received a lot of attention for its exhibition on the collaboration between Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat as well as the famous Rothkos on loan from London’s Tate Modern.

10. Petit Palais: An Art Nouveau Lover’s Paradise

Petit Palais paris museums

The ‘Little Palace,’ is often overshadowed by Le Grand Palais nearby, which is a shame because it’s home to one of Paris’s loveliest art museums. It has an extensive collection that spans from antiquity to 1900, including works by Poussin, Doré, Courbet, and the Impressionists. 

Anyone who loves Art Nouveau as much as I do will enjoy jewelry, knickknacks, and other pieces from notable artists like Lalique, Gallé, Hector Guimard, and Jean Carriès.

In fact, I’d say the Art Nouveau building is probably one of the main draws of this museum, as you won’t find anything like this at any other Paris museums! It was designed by Charles Girault for the 1900 World Fair, and is entirely lit by natural light. The Palais also sits around a garden, which is ideal for a little coffee or treat!

The gorgeous setting and the fact that this a completely free museum, make it a perfect stop for anyone who doesn’t typically identify as a “museum person”!

11. Musée du Quai Branly: If You Want a Break From European Art

Tucked between the trees along the river, just steps from the Eiffel Tower, is the Musée du Quai Branly. While the inside is obviously the draw, the contemporary building is an architectural sight to see in itself. 

This more or less brand new museum is a tribute to “non-European” cultures—often, but not exclusively, those which were formerly colonized by France. The museum has a very rich collection of 700,000 photographs and 300,000 objects across different centuries. 

However, I’d say the biggest draw for me are the rotating exhibitions of contemporary art by indigenous and other non-European artists. There is always something super interesting to see since these change every few months, and you’ll probably learn about an artist or artistic movement you never would have heard of otherwise!

12. Musée des Arts Décoratifs: For Design Lovers

paris ferris wheel across the seine best things to do in paris

Occupying the west wing of the Louvre (though not part of the Louvre itself), the Musée des Arts Décoratifs is known for its wide-ranging collection of decorative arts and design, including modern fashion, furniture, and graphic design.

It’s the city’s second oldest museum (the Musee Carnavalet is the oldest) and one of the more unique ones! I highly recommend a visit to MAD if you are someone who expects to be easily bored by other Paris museums. You definitely won’t be here!

The permanent collection has about 600,000 objects, from the Middle Ages to the current day, including graphic arts, household items, furniture, fashion, and jewelry. 

I would also recommend the restaurant, LouLou, which overlooks the Tuileries Garden.

Tickets for this museum must be purchased directly on its own website.

Bonus: The Palace of Versailles

The Palace of Versaille paris museums

Not technically a museum, and not technically in Paris, the Palace of Versailles had to make the list despite these caveats!

The Palace of Versailles is a 17th-century château and an 800-hectare estate that was created during the reign of Louis XIV. You can get a glimpse into the past as you explore the bedrooms, state apartments, the Hall of Mirrors, and so, so much more, including the rest of the grounds.

inside of the musee d'orsay in paris museums

FAQs about Paris Museums

What are the 3 main art museums in Paris?

The three main art museums in Paris are 1. the Louvre, 2. the Musee d’Orsay, and 3. the Centre Pompidou. If you want to hit the main museums but aren’t sure how to prioritize your time, I would say that these are a safe bet. 

The Louvre is the largest and most visited museum in Paris, and is of course home to the famous Mona Lisa, as well as countless other masterpieces, and you could probably get lost inside this museum for days without seeing it all. 

The Musee d’Orsay is much less of a behemoth, though still boasts an impressive collection. The real draw, in my opinion, is the Impressionist section upstairs, and of course the stunning setting in a former train station. 

Last, but not least, is the Centre Pompidou, which is the largest and most impressive collection of modern art in Europe.

Visiting these three museums will definitely give you a good taste of all that Paris has to offer, but will also take a lot of your time. Make sure you’re satisfied with the rest of your itinerary and have enough time to do all the other best things to do in Paris!

musee d'orsay sculpture section best things to do in paris

What is the best day for museums in Paris?

It’s obviously preferable to visit museums in Paris on days where they’ll be less crowded, but I’ll be honest, unless you’re visiting Paris in the peak of the off-season, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a time that the main museums aren’t crowded.

That being said, there are some ways you can try to minimize the crowds you’ll encounter. The most obvious, and also the one that makes the biggest difference, is: do not visit on the weekends if you can help it. The weekends will also draw bigger crowds for any big attraction in any city. You get locals, weekend trippers, day trippers, and the rest of the tourists that are there all going on the weekends, whereas during the week you’ll only really encounter tourists, and any locals who aren’t working.

Additionally, you should try to avoid going on the day right before, or right after the day(s) that the museum is closed (most often on Mondays). For some reason you’ll see more people sandwiching the closed day than the other days.

I would also say, unless you’re not pressed about crowds and just want to save a bit of money, do not go on the free Sundays that happen each month. This is one of the most crowded days you’ll find at the museums.

Anecdotally, I’ve always found Sunday to be the more pleasant day to visit museums in Paris compared to Saturday (if I can’t make it on a weekday). I’m not sure that it’s because it’s less crowded necessarily, but I do find the crowds to be less frenetic, and generally just a better vibe. So do with that what you will!

Rodin Museum Paris France

Is it worth visiting the Rodin Museum in Paris?

Rodin is largely considered to be the most important sculptor in modern history, so I would say that yes, if you’re even remotely interested in sculpture, or Rodin’s work, it’s worth visiting the Rodin Museum in Paris. This is especially true because unlike most museums in Paris: the Rodin Museum is pay-what-you-wish, and the gardens are free.

The museum has both a sculpture garden, as well as a lovely collection inside the building. While you’re there you can see some of Rodin’s most famous work, like “The Thinker”, “The Kiss”, and “The Gates of Hell”. 

The museum also has works from other artists and time periods, so it’s really a great collection. Plus, as a bonus, there’s a lovely cafe in the sculpture garden, which makes for a very peaceful coffee break.

Where is the best place to see modern art in Paris?

The best place to see modern art in Paris is definitely the Centre Pompidou. The museum is home to Europe’s largest modern art collection, and its collection is rivaled only by MoMA in Manhattan. 

You’ll find an impressive collection of modern art, including pieces by artists like Picasso and Matisse. 

As an added bonus, the rooftop offers a great view of the city from its central location in the 4th. I highly recommend booking tickets in advance to get a specific time slot!

inside of the musee d'orsay in paris museums old train station

Is Musee d Orsay worth seeing?

Yes, absolutely the Musee d’Orsay is worth seeing. In fact, it’s one of my favorite museums in Paris, and if you only wanted to fit one museum in your Paris itinerary, I would recommend you choose the d’Orsay! Not only is the setting stunning in the former train station, but it also has one of the most impressive collections of impressionist paintings. 

P.S. When you book using my links, you help support Rachel IRL at no extra cost to you. It’s a win-win!

Are you ready to explore the best Paris Museums?

I hope that this post about the best Paris museums has been helpful in planning your trip to Paris! If you have any feedback or want to share your experience with museums in Paris, please leave me a comment! 

As always you can always find me on Instagram (tag me in your travel content!), Youtube, or Pinterest.

Happy traveling!

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