Louvre. Musée d’Orsay. Le Centre Pompidou. All beautiful museums, yes, but if you’ve already been to Paris and visited these gems, why wait in line for hours just to get elbowed by somebody trying to get a selfie with the Mona Lisa after discovering they’re not allowed to use their selfie stick? Delve deeper into the heart of the city with some of Paris’ most beautiful small museums.
Musée Gustave Moreau is, from the outside, a very nondescript building. It’s not until you enter that you understand just how extensive and beautiful the collection of art within really is. This staircase connects the top two floors and houses the largest (literally) collection of paintings in the museum.
TIP: If you don’t speak French, I’d recommend getting an audioguide if you want to understand the purpose behind the other rooms- the top two have cards that explain a little about the paintings, but the rest of the museum is in French.
Musée de la Vie Romantique is the type of place that doesn’t seem like it should exist in its neighborhood, the very residential Pigalle. The peaceful feeling of the museum begins as you walk down the leaf-covered alleyway to get to the entrance, where someone will check your bag and direct you to the ticket counter. The museum itself is small and doesn’t take long to walk through, but there’s also a beautiful patio where you can enjoy lunch when the weather’s nice.
Musée Cognacq-Jay is housed in one of the big beautiful old mansions of the Marais, and every room is painted a different color and holds a different type of artwork. Check out the beautiful seascape paintings of the room above and then go sit in the courtyard in the hopes that someone will come along to play the piano.
Just around the corner is the Musée Picasso, which was recently renovated and an incredible showcase of not only Picasso’s work, but the work of some of his contemporaries and friends on the top floor of the museum. The space itself is full of light and a photorapher’s dream, especially if you’re a Picasso fan.
Continuing through the Marais, it’s easy to peek through the doors of the Hôtel de Soubise or even wander through its gardens without ever going into the Musée des Archives Nationales– as I did walking by it nearly every day for a year because I worked down the street! Going in is worth it if for this room alone, the Salon de la Princesse upstairs on the first floor (second floor to Americans).
Most of the smaller museums in Paris are housed in former residences of Parisian elite, and these mansions are exquisite to say the least. Musée Jacquemart-André is one such museum, with yet another stunning staircase and an impressive art collection. Get an audio guide for this one- it’s worth it to learn about why Monsieur André and Madame Jacquemart styled their home the way they did before leaving it to the city of Paris upon her death.
TIP: Most museums in Paris are free to residents of the EU under 26 with justification (so bring your visa/passport/residency card), and are free to everyone on the first Sunday of the month (though it gets crowded so go early!). The only museum on this list that isn’t free for anyone is Musée Jacquemart-André.
Musée Gustave Moreau:
14 rue de la Rochefoucauld, 75009. Closed Tuesday. Entry: 6€
Musée de la Vie Romantique:
16 rue Chaptal, 75009. Closed Monday. Entry: Free
8 rue Elzevir, 75003. Closed Monday. Entry: Free
5 rue de Thorigny, 75003. Closed Monday. Entry: 12.50€
Musée des Archives Nationales:
60 rue des Francs Bourgeois, 75003. Closed Tuesday. Entry: 6€ during temporary exhibitions, 3€ otherwise
Musée Jacquemart André:
158 boulevard Haussmann, 75008. Open daily. Entry: 12€
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