What to see > Museums
Visiting museums is an obvious choice while in Paris.
However, after you are through with the world famous Louvre, Musée D'Orsay, Centre Pompidou, and Rodin just to name a few, here are a few other intimate, less-popular museums that are wonderful and just as worthy of a visit.
In this section...
- Musée Jacquemart-André
- Musée National Du Moyen Age
- Musée Carnavalet
- Grand Palais
- Museum national d'historie Naturelle
- Château de Malmaison
- Musée Nissim de Camondo
- Hôtel des Invalides
- The National Library of France - La Bibliothèque nationale de France
- Musée national Gustave-Moreau
- Fondation Louis-Vuitton
Musée Jacquemart André is a private collection housed in a spectacular mansion which was built during the second empire. The collection includes 18th century French masterpieces, Egyptian artifacts, Flemish works and many Italian renaissance paintings.
Located on Boulevard Haussmann, just steps away from Champs Élyseé, this museum was the private home of Edouard André and Nelie Jacquement. They proudly displayed the art they collected during their lives and willed their collection and home to the city of Paris. The mansion and its apartments remain furnished, giving you a real feel as to what it would have been like to live there.
After reading The Lady and the Unicorn, visiting Musée du Moyen Age was a must! Hôtel de Cluny is an outstanding example of medieval Paris and a perfect place to house such a masterpiece as the famous series of six tapestries, The Lady and the Unicorn. Other works include medieval artifacts and sculptures from the seventh and eight centuries. The entire visit was enchanting!
Musée Carnavalet is located in the Marais District and caught my eye because of its rose gardens. We walked by the most beautiful courtyard and upon entering found Musée Carnavalet. Another old private mansion turned museum, Musée Carnavalet houses many paintings, drawings, engravings, photographs, furniture, sculptures and archeological fragments, all relating to the history of Paris.
This museum does not have its own website, however, there are many websites that provide information on Musée Carnavalet.
Location & how to get there
23 Rue de Sévigné, 75003 | Google Maps
Métro Saint-Paul, Chemin Vert
The Grand Palais also holds many art exhibitions each year so it might be worth seeing “what's on”. I was thrilled to see the Andy Warhol exhibit last year. Check it out, you might miss something!
After reading Tracy Chevalier's Remarkable Creatures, I was on the hunt for Mary Annings' findings.
Chevalier's novel takes place in the early 1800s. It retells the fascinating true story of Mary Annings, who lived in Lyme, a coastal town in West Dorset England. Since she had an eye for finding fossils, Mary's days were spent searching the beaches and cliffs for the 'curiosities' which her family sold to tourists. During one of Mary's hunts she came across an unusual looking specimen. Calling in the help of family and friends to dig the piece out, she found none less than the bones of a dinosaur–an incredible find!
I found the story intriguing as women back then where not acknowledged for any kind of success. Mary's find was handed over to a gentleman who took credit. Only later in life did Mary finally receive the recognition that she deserved. Countless other scientific finds by women were similarly attributed to men instead.
Feeling compassion for Mary made me want to see her discovery... which now sits at the Museum of Natural History in Paris with her name on it!
The gallery of dinosaurs located in the Gallery of Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy is truly fascinating to see. The King's Garden, an old medicinal garden, is also worth a visit.
After reading Sandra Gulland's The Josephine B. Trilogy, I was besotted and quite curious to learn more about this captivating woman. My search led me to discover that the country house Château de Malmaison which she had purchased in 1799, was still standing. Not only was it still standing, it's a museum! I think I might have squealed a bit when I came across that unexpected piece of information.
It was on my next trip to Paris that I rented a car, dragged my girlfriend Lynne with me, and off we went to find Malmaison.
Château de Mailmaison is located 13 kilometers west of Paris in the city of Rueil-Malmaison. Thanks to our GPS it was easy to find. I had read stories on Trip Advisor saying it was a big effort to get there via Métro; hence the smart choice of a rental car.
As we came upon the front gates Lynne and I ran up to the entrance like two impatient children only to find out that they had just closed for lunch. (Argh!) However, had we not been forced to have lunch ourselves we wouldn't have discovered the yummy restaurant with its beautiful sun-filled courtyard, and just down the street: La Brasserie du Château..
After lunch we headed back to the Château and enjoyed every minute and every inch of Josephine and Napoleon's home. This very sweet, highly energetic and enthusiastic guide kept popping up all over the place where he would then proceed to tell us stories -in French - of what we were looking at. Thank God for Lynne's pre-kindergarten level of French as she caught the gist of it and quickly filled me in.
One of the nicest bits about this excursion was that the tourists were missing. It was quiet and felt like we had the entire place to ourselves (actually we pretty much did). I don't believe many venture out to this Château due to its location. However, if you are a fan of Josephine like I am or simply enjoy stately extravagant homes then you will very much enjoy a quiet afternoon at Château de Malmaison.
Mansions-turned-museums are definitely my favourite to tour. Their beauty and splendour—and exquisite furniture—always leave me breathless, and getting the feel of how the former inhabitants lived intrigues me to no end.
This private home belonged to the wealthy Camondo banking family. The mansion was built in 1911 and modeled after the Petit Trianon in Versailles. As you will see during your visit, Moïse de Camondo was a passionate collector of French furniture and d'art objects from 18th century France.
One of my favorite rooms in the house is the kitchen. A large light-filled space with a stunning collection of copper pots. Another favorite was the spiral staircase leading from the 2nd to the 3rd floor.
It is hard to believe that this beautiful place had such a tragic end. Moïse Camondo's only son Nissim was killed as a pilot in World War I. Devastated by his son's death, Moïse willed his entire house and its contents to the state. More tragedy followed when a few years later his daughter Béatrice and her husband and children all perished at Auschwitz.
I have wanted to tour Les Invalides for years now. Even though the dome is a significant piece of the Paris skyline and in constant view, for some reason I just never got around to it. I am thrilled I finally did.
L'Hôtel national des Invalides was constructed in 1670 to serve as a home for over 7,000 aged and unwell soldiers. Today it is a captivating Army Museum and presents the military history of France from antiquity to the end of the Second World War. The WWI and WWII exhibition hit me the most. It was quite sad and I left with a heavy heart.
The museum is also known for its famous occupant, Napoleon. His tomb sits directly under the majestic dome. It is something to see!
A wonderful way to approach Les Invalides is to walk up the the Esplanade des Invalides. This allows you time to appreciate just how enormous it is and enjoy the surrounding the landscape.
It was a bit of a trek but I had to see the globes of Louis XIV: two beautiful, mammoth spheres made in 1681 and 1683.
One is a terrestrial globe showing the world as it was known in the late 17th century, while the other is a celestial globe showing stars and their constellations. They are phenomenal and took my breath away.
Globes aside, I am happy I took the time to visit. After walking up a bold and prominent staircase, you walk through one of many green passageways to enter the centre of four large buildings. The architecture is quite impressive.
I had heard that the most beautiful staircase sits in Musée Gustave-Moreau and I desperately wanted to see it.
After entering I quickly realized it wasn't just about the staircase – the art and Monsieur Moreau's living quarters were just as fascinating!
Two hours later I tore myself away.
If you are planning to see a lot of museums during your visit, purchase a museum pass. You will save in admission fees.