Paris, France, is a dream destination in Europe. There are so many things to do in Paris, places to see, that it is impossible not to find something regardless of preferences and age.
I already presented you a potential bucket list for Paris, as well as a travel guide for a day in France’s capital, and in this article, I am focusing solely on museums.
I am creating a list of the best museums to visit in Paris with places in multiple domains, going from the obvious, famous ones, but also including some museums that are more niched, but still exciting and pleasant surprises for their visitors.
When you are planning your Paris trip, keep in mind these tips and tricks, and if you are still asking yourself whether you should visit this city or not, then read this article on why you shouldn’t go to Paris. But let’s move forward to unmissable museums in Paris.
The Best Museums to Visit in Paris: A Guide to Art, History, and more
First of all, a note: I will say only a few words about each museum. About some of them, I’ve written dedicated articles, while about others I didn’t manage to say anything here so far.
I believe that by offering a few, concise details about each museum, you will have a lot more to gain, as you will get the essence: what to visit in Paris.
Also, I only included museums in Paris – not near the city, though even I visited some, as I wanted to check them out. While they are accessible by RER (many of them), I want to keep this article exclusively about Museums in Paris (as you will see, there are many!)
While it was not the first museum I visited in Paris, it is definitely the first museum I have to recommend. It is a huge museum, with exhibitions on multiple topics – from Napoleon the 3rd’s Appartments to Egypt, from ancient history to almost all periods in art and sculpture. The Louvre is home to Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Hammurabi Code, mummies, and so much more.
It is hard to see it all in one day (as you don’t really have time to enjoy each exhibit, each item), but, even if you only have a few hours to spend here, this is a must-visit museum in Paris.
The Orsay Museum was the first museum I visited in Paris. I admit I was sad that taking pictures it is not allowed here (I would have loved to be able to take photos as memories), but this museum is a treasure trove for those who love the Impressionists and the Post-Impressionism painters – including Monet, Manet, Degas, Van Gogh – and see some beautiful sculptures, including by Rodin.
Musée Marmottan Monet
Ok, I admit it: I like Impressionist painters – therefore the numerous museums in Paris dedicated to this period in this article.
But if you like Monet’s paintings, you don’t want to miss this museum, believe me. Especially as it houses the largest collection of his paintings in the world, including his famous series of water lilies.
Don’t be fooled by the name. It is not a small museum – though yes, it is smaller than the Louvre, for instance.
It is a wonderful experience for all those who like fine arts and applied arts. It features works by famous artists such as Boucher, Fragonard, David, Watteau, and Delacroix (and others).
Fondation Louis Vuitton
Yes, Louis Vuitton – but not about fashion. The Louis Vuitton Foundation was created as a place dedicated to art and culture and houses interesting exhibitions all the time. The building is also interesting, in terms of architecture. According to its official site, “The Collection of the Fondation comprises a constantly evolving body of works that naturally falls into four categories: Contemplative, Pop, Expressionist, Music & Sound.”
Centre Georges Pompidou
A modern art museum dedicated to 20th-century and contemporary art, with an extensive collection of modern paintings, sculptures, and photographs. There are fun activities taking place here – definitely one of the best museums in Paris.
At the Orsay Museum you can see a few sculptures by Rodin, but if you want to see more of his art, then you should go to this museum.
It is dedicated to the works of the famous sculptor Auguste Rodin, and includes his bronze and marble sculptures, including “The Thinker” and “The Kiss.”
As the name suggests, this is a museum dedicated to the works of Pablo Picasso, showcasing his paintings, drawings, and sculptures from throughout his career.
If you haven’t been to another museum dedicated to Picasso – or if you are a fan of his and want to visit all possible museums and exhibitions with his works of art, then this museum is a must so make sure you include it on your Paris bucket list.
Musée de Cluny
If you are interested in medieval art and history, then the Cluny Museum, located in the heart of Paris’ oldest quarter, is the place to go. Here you will be able to admire the famous Lady and the unicorn tapestries.
Maison de Victor Hugo
Not a painter or sculptor, yes, but Victor Hugo is huge in literature.
This museum (not very big) is dedicated to his life and works, showcasing his manuscripts, letters, and personal belongings.
Musée National Gustave Moreau
Gustave Moreau Museum is – as the name suggests – a museum dedicated to the works of the Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau, featuring his paintings, drawings, and watercolors.
Musée National du Moyen Âge
With interesting artifacts and manuscripts, this museum of medieval history and art is a very interesting one. You can also see here stained glass windows.
It is free to visit on the first Sunday of every month.
Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris
Dedicated to modern and contemporary art, this museum has about 15 000 works by many artists. Some of the famous names are Marc Chagall, Raoul Dufy, Gaston Suisse, Amedeo Modigliani, and Henri Matisse.
Musée des Arts Décoratifs
As far as I know, the Museum of Decorative Arts holds the largest collection of its kind in Europe. It is housed inside one of the wings of the Louvre Museum and it showcases a wide range of decorative objects and furnishings, including furniture, textiles, and ceramics.
Musée National des Arts Asiatiques Guimet
We remain in the art domain and talk next about Asian art. With items from many Asian countries, this museum is a gem for those who want to discover the Asian arts.
Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac
Fun fact: the museum’s collection includes around a million objects. True, not all of them are exhibited at the same time – around 3500, but that is quite a collection, I’d say!
Jacques Chirac Museum of Branly Quay is a museum designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and it is focused on the indigenous art and cultures of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas.
Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson
Do you like to take pictures? Do you like to discover photographers and their best photos? Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson invites you to discover the life and works of the famous photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Musée de l’Orangerie
Given the many famous Impressionist painters, apart from the Orsay Museum, there is another museum dedicated to Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. Here you can see works of art by Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, and Matisse. An unmissable museum in Paris for art lovers!
Musée du Parfum Fragonard
France is famous for its perfumes. if you’ve ever been curious about the history of perfume, then this is a museum to visit while in Paris.
The museum is showcasing the history of perfume-making, including displays of historic perfumes and scent-making tools and techniques.
Musée de la Monnaie
I admit I like coins and money. I try to keep some – as souvenirs, from all my trips.
So I do not miss a museum dedicated to this topic. The museum dedicated to the history of money and coinage in Paris has a wide range of coins, medals, and currency from around the world. Plus, it is housed inside a spectacular building.
Musée de la Magie
Magic is an art and many are smitten with magic tricks – while others try to figure out how they are performed.
This is a museum dedicated to the history of magic, and you can learn a lot about the history of magic and illusions, and see many magic props and tricks, and a collection of historical magic posters.
Musée de la Musique
Music – another art we love. A museum dedicated entirely to it is a must-see for everyone liking music, even a little bit. You can find out many things here about the history of music in general, but also about the history of music and its development in France; you can also see a wide range of musical instruments and sheet music.
Musée des Arts et Métiers
This museum allows you to take a short trip back in time as it includes historical scientific equipment and early technological innovations along with several scientific instruments and machines.
Musée de la Poupée
Creating dolls is an art – and modern dolls are very different than the ones from the past. This museum presents the history of dolls and toys and includes a collection of dolls and toys from across the world, even some antique dolls and rare toy collectibles.
A special note: The Musée de la Marine
While it is currently closed due to renovation works – the reopening is scheduled for mid-October 2023, this museum is a must-visit for those who are interested in maritime history (obviously, focused on France’s rich maritime history.) The collections of the museum include over 1,000 items.