Last Updated on April 20, 2022
Paris is the place to go if you’re looking to view some of the greatest artworks in the world (aside from Florence of course) Of the many things to do in Paris, visiting the art museums is a must for your Paris bucket list. In Paris, you can find some of the most famous art pieces such as the Mona Lisa and Monet’s Water Lillies. Since there are so many art museums in Paris, we have created this guide that breaks down which museums you should visit based on what you’re interested in viewing. For so many people, the Louvre is the first art museum in Paris that comes to mind, but there are others worth visiting too! Here is everything you need to know before visiting art museums in Paris! So keep reading for your guide to art museums in Paris!
Top Art Museums in Paris (and what to see)
The Louvre hasn’t always been an art museum! The history of the Louvre spans more than 800 years.
The Louvre was originally built in 1190 by King Philippe Auguste as a defensive fortress and over the centuries the Palais du Louvre had become a residence for royalty. It was Francis I who chose to turn the Louvre into a Renaissance “palace”. The estate underwent majors changes over the centuries with additional castles being built and connected to the main palace.
The beautiful Tuileries Garden and castle were constructed during the reign of Henry IV and Catherine de’ Medici. The Tuileries Garden is still present day.
During 1682, French monarchs lost interest in the Palais du Louvre when Louis XIV decided to relocate himself and court to Versailles. At this point, the Louvre was on it’s way to becoming the museum it is today.
In 1793 during the French Revolution, the Louvre became a museum and has been gifted some of the most famous and prestigious of artworks and artifacts of history. There are 400,000 objects in the Louvre so it’s easy to spend literally DAYS exploring a fraction of the museum has to offer.
So when visiting the Louvre, go in with a plan. Decide before you even get there which artworks and halls you want to spend time in. With the crowds and volume of things to see, you don’t want to waste your time simply deciding what you want to see and searching for it. Get your skip the line tickets or a guided tour to make it easier!
Hours: Daily except for Tuesdays 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Public Transit: Palais-Royal Musée du Louvre (lines 1 and 7) and Pyramides (line 14)
Top Artworks to See at the Louvre Museum
Mona Lisa by DaVinci
When you visit the Mona Lisa, don’t be shocked by the crowds surrounding the 20 inch painting protected by bulletproof glass. The Mona Lisa is considered the most famous artwork in the Louvre.
The Wedding Feast at Cana by Veronese
After looking at mysterious Mona, look around the room. You won’t miss the Wedding Feast at Cana. This quite gigantic piece of art is another famous work worth “feasting” your eyes one.
Aphrodite or Venus
Aphrodite is interesting to look at from all angles because her face and body language seem to change as your view here from different perspectives. From one angle, she appears to express different emotions.
Liberty Leading the People by Delacroix
The artist Delacroix who painted this work was a witness of the three-day uprising against the French government by the Parisians. This interpretation of the uprising shows the woman, Liberty, as both an allegorical goddess and a woman of the people.
Victoire de Samothrace
This sculpture is easy to walk by, especially if you’re on a mission to reach the Mona Lisa. Located on the victory of Samothrace staircase. This figure of “grandeur and theatricality” is the goddess of Victory or in greek Nike.
There’s more to see at the Louvre Museum than the Mona Lisa!
There are so many “off the museum map” things to see at the Louvre. Here are some of the really interesting and amazing pieces are art that are hidden in the Louvre.
Napoleon III’s Palace Apartments
If you want to see how royalty once lived, visit Napoleon III’s palace rooms in the Louvre! These rooms in Louvre are remarkable examples of Second Empire decorative art in France. Since this Louvre was historically a palace, it’s interesting to see how the building was once used before it became an art museum.
Here’s are some more alternative things to see at the Louvre
If you want to see Impressionist art in Paris, you won’t find it in the Louvre! Impressionist art in Paris is housed in Musée d’Orsay. This beautiful museum was originally the Orsay railway station, built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. If you go to the cafe on the top floor you can see Paris from behind the clock! Get your skip the line tickets here!
Hours: 9.30am to 6pm, 9.30am to 9.45pm on Thursdays
Closed on Mondays
Public Transit: Line 12, to Solférino
BONUS: Get entrance to Musee d-Orsay AND Musée de l’Orangerie with this combination ticket!
Top Artworks to See at Musée d’Orsay
Self Portrait of Van Gogh by Van Gogh
This self-portrait combines a beautiful combination of orange and blue colors. Van Gogh’s face in this portrait is portrayed as hard and tense.
Bal du Moulin de la Galette by Renoir
This work is considered one of the most celebrated Impressionist masterpieces. Bal du Moulin de la Galette depicts people enjoying their Sunday afternoon near Montmartre. Renoirs use of light and brushstrokes showing everyday life makes this piece stand out.
The Small Dancer Aged 14 by Degas
The original wax Small Dancer sculpture is naturally colored, fitted with real hair, dressed in a tutu and real dancing slippers. Today you can see bronze casts of her all over the world. Degas Small Dancer is an example of hyperrealism. After it’s displayed at an exhibition, the work was accused of representing the girl in a poor manner. But today it’s one of Degas’s most remembered works.
Musée de l’Orangerie
The Musée de l’Orangerie is our favorite art museum in Paris. Here, you can see eight of the “Water Lillies” that captivated Claude Monet’s work for over thirty years. Over his entire career, Monet created paintings inspired by his water garden in Normandy. In 1922, Monet donated a series of his Water Lillies to the French State, and they have been on display at the Musée de l’Orangerie ever since 1927.
The Musée de l’Orangerie itself is the result of Monet’s creativity. Monet carefully planned the design of the display rooms, lighting, and which pieces were to be featured. Monet had the vision to have his work’s displayed in oval-shaped rooms as his “great decoration” so the Parisians can enjoy a moment of peace in the city.
Hours: Open from 9am to 6pm, Closed on Tuesdays
Public Transit: Lines 1, 8, 12, Concorde station
Top Artworks to See at Musée de l’Orangerie
The main art pieces to see at Musée de l’Orangerie are Monet’s Water Lillies. The beautiful oval rooms house Monet’s Water Lillies. The atmosphere of Musée de l’Orangerie is much different from the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay, it’s small, intimate, and you feel so relaxed and separated from the rest of Paris.
In addition to viewing Monet’s work, you can see other pieces of interesting pieces at Musée de l’Orangerie by Cezzane, Manet, Matisse, and Renoir to name a few!
If you’re looking for a unique museum to visit in Paris, visit the Fragonard Perfume Museum!
Musée Rodin features the work of sculpture, Rodin. Here you can view Rodin’s beautiful sculptures inside the museum that was once a mansion and in the sculpture garden. The former mansion was built in Paris, between 1727 and 1737, so take a look at the classical architecture. The garden during the spring is incredibly and relaxing and peaceful when the flowers are in bloom.
Hours: Open daily, except Mondays. 10am to 5:45pm
Public Transit: Varenne (line 13) or Invalides (line 13, line 8)
Top Artworks to See at Musée Rodin
Bronze Cast of the Thinker
The cast of Rodin’s masterpiece was made by Fonderie Alexis Rudier in 1904 and transferred to the museum in 1922.
When created in 1880 The Thinker was originally entitled The Poet. The figured represented Dante, author of the Divine Comedy while meditating on his work. The Thinker is a being with a tortured body, and a free-thinking man.