Musée du Louvre
If you only have time in your schedule for one museum outing in Paris then the Louvre has to be the one. It is massive and you can easily spend a day (or more) within its walls, but if you're short on time a must-see if, of course, the Mona Lisa. You can't miss her, because La Joconde (her French name) is signposted everywhere within the building. Also, it's safe to say you can just follow the crowd too and they will get you there. A word of warning: the painting is much smaller than you think it is and the crowd in front of it much bigger than you'd like. Go early and you might get lucky to get closer. I was within the first 10 people in the building when I visited and it made a massive difference.
I've also read that, logistically, the Porte des Lions entrance of the Louvre provides a quicker route to the famous painting but uh... I was unable to find this so just queued at the pyramid entrance instead. Because I had a museum pass I was able to join a much shorter queue, so this wasn't an issue for me. If you're after buying general admission tickets, you might want to avoid the massive queues at the glass pyramids.
Another area I really loved and recommend are the Greek and Roman Antiquities. I especially loved that some of the sculptures were arranged in such a way that you can almost imagine having stepped back in time, as you're suddenly surrounded by them all. Please note though that if you visit this museum first thing, that the different exhibitions open at staggered times. So if there is one section in particular you're after, make sure it's open when you get there and if it isn't have a back-up exhibit in mind to browse in the interim.
Musée d'Orsay is another one of those places where, time permitting, you can browse for an entire day and still not see everything on display. Like the Louvre though, the museum is split up in clear sections and you could just target those that are of most interest to you. The focus of the works in this museum are Impressionism and Post-Impressionism making it, chronologically speaking, fit in neatly after the timeline in the Louvre.
Highlights here include a selection of Vincent van Gogh's works (sadly Starry Night was out on loan when I visited but here were others there), The Small Dancer Aged 14 Years by Edgar Degas, and the old clock on the fifth floor through which the view of city is incredible. This location was previously a train station, and this is one of the remnants of its previous life. Looking through it really does transport you back through time and makes you feel part of an otherworldly place like Brian Selznick's Hugo.
Musée National d'Art Moderne
While I appreciate that the diversity of materials and installations seen in modern art, aren't quite for everyone, my favourite style is Pop Art and so a visit to Musée National d'Art Moderne at Centre de Pompidou was an absolute must for me. This is a museum I didn't spend quite as much time in as the others, about 90 minutes, but I was still pleasantly surprised by the scope of the works on display, and how many famous gems I was able to see during my visit.
Particular favourites included works by Piet Mondrian, Andy Warhol (of course), Jackson Pollock, and Vasilly Kandinsky.
Last, but certainly not least, a museum dedicated to a single artist, Auguste Rodin, has to be included. Located in the sculptor's former residence, over 300 works are on display at Musée Rodin including his most famous ones, The Thinker and The Kiss. The works are housed both inside of the museum as well as on the grounds behind it, creating a very open space for a casual stroll alongside these incredible pieces of art and making you feel very close to them.
While the artist's statues are impressive in their own right, the location makes this one even more enjoyable for a visit. The museum is housed in a beautiful mansion called Hôtel Biron and it's surrounded by nearly three hectares of park. The weather wasn't co-operative on my visit, but I can imagine it being a wonderful place for a stroll on a sunny spring or summer's day (or heck, even an autumn or winter day - as long as it doesn't rain!).
How to Visit Parisian Museums for Free!
Did you know that on the first Sunday of every month the majority of the Paris attractions are completely free to visit? All of the above museums are included as well as many other museums and highlights such as Panthéon, Arc the Triomphe, Tours de Notre-Dame and even Château de Versailles, which is just a short train journey away. For more information on all the attractions that are included, and any date restrictions, check out the dedicated page on the official Paris Visitors Bureau.
And if you're unable to plan your trip around the first Sunday of the month, I highly recommend checking out the Paris Museum Pass and whether it's worth investing in one for a few days. A big bonus, in addition to being able to visit as many museums as you can in one or more days for a set price, is that the majority of museums have a separate entrance for museum pass holders, and so you can breeze past the massive queues. It's worth it as a time saver alone, especially for popular destinations such as the Louvre.
What are your favourite museums in Paris?
Do leave your recommendations in the comments below!
Do leave your recommendations in the comments below!