Paris France: The Best Museums And How To Enjoy Them
We love museums and based on our recent Instagram poll, so do you. It’s tough to beat the museums in Paris. So much art and history, in a very old city, make for some amazing museums. Below are our favorites and one we could do without. Plus some tips to make your visit to these great places as smooth as possible.
It’s tough to compare The Louvre to any other museum in Paris. First off, it’s massive at 652,000 sq. feet. Second, the collections are vast and span so many time periods and genres. If you spent just 30 seconds at each piece, it would take you 100 days to see everything. The Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory...it can be overwhelming. But if you can only do one museum in Paris, this is the one you visit. We had a great time getting lost in the Louvre. In fact we went four times during our trip and got lost each time. Here are some of our highlights.
While certainly not as vast as The Louvre, Orsay definitely makes up for it with character. Located inside an old train station, Orsay is home to the impressionists. Inside you’ll see great works from Monet, Degas, Manet, Van Gogh and Renoir. Plus there’s a huge clock that every single tourist wants to get a picture in front of...including us.
Charise was the most excited about Musee Rodin but we both left impressed. Featuring several bronze casts of his most famous work, the museum is located at Rodin's workshop. In the spring and summer the gardens are a big draw. Sadly we went when it was cold and rainy. Even in that state though the grounds, home and views were amazing. It would be spectacular with everything in bloom though.
I know he’s a genius. Cubism, blah, blah, blah. Most important artist of the 20th century, blah, blah, blah. I just don’t get it. I know he's talented but it's just not my thing. We tried going into his museum with an open mind though. We left underwhelmed. It probably didn’t help that it had one of the most boring audio tours we’ve ever experienced. The building was great though. His home was beautiful. It just wasn't for us. If you're a Picasso fan though, I'm sure you'll enjoy yourself.
L'Orangerie is quite small. You can see everything in about an hour. There is some impressionist overflow from Orsay but the big draw is Monet's Waterlilies. They are located in two rooms in a wing Monet himself designed. The huge curved canvases completely surround the circular rooms. If you're pressed for time or have a short layover, L'Orangerie is the perfect way to spend an hour.
Tips For Visiting Museums
There are so many museums and pieces of art to see in Paris that it quickly becomes overwhelming. Overwhelming isn’t fun. How can you maneuver through these vast complexes without pulling your hair out? Here are some pointers that helped us.
1. Paris Museum Pass
We bought the Paris Museum Pass ahead of time. Sold in 2, 4 or 6 day varieties, it allows you to visit most of the museums in Paris as many times as you want. Not only did it save us money but it also allowed us to skip most of the long lines to get into the museums. If you are only going to one or two museums, it might be better and cheaper just to prepay for your tickets individually. However, if you have time and want to see several museums, the Pass really pays for itself.
2. Avoiding Crowds
We were in Paris during the offseason, so crowds weren't too much of a problem for us. What though if your traveling during the busy spring and summer season? The Paris Museum Pass will allow you to skip most of the lines to get into the museums. That will help with wait times. Avoid going to any museums on the first Sunday of the month. That's when admission is free. As you can imagine, free admission means tons of crowds. Also try to visit later in the day when the museum starts to clear out. Just be prepared though, if it's the busy time, there will be crowds no matter what.
3. Know Where You're Going and What You Want to See
Try to plan ahead. There is so much to see and you can't possibly see it all. Pick select pieces and rooms that you definitely don't want to miss. Then plot out your course on the map or on the museums website. This will save you from getting lost or wandering around aimlessly. Also don't be afraid to ask for help. The French people are incredibly nice and even with a language barrier they will help you find your way around.
4. Audio Tours
We love art but we're definitely not art historians. If you're in the same boat, audio tours can be very helpful. Almost every museum offers them and they give you information about everything you see. There's usually a cost involved and the quality varies from museum to museum. What we did at several locations was use our iPhones and AirPods. There are several podcasts and apps that offer free walking tours of not only the museums but of other sites around Paris. Not only did this save us money but the quality and information was better in our opinions. Plus you can use your own headphones and not the public ones that may or may not have been cleaned well.
No matter your taste in art or history, Paris has a museum for you. The crowds and huge layouts can make a visit to the museums stressful. Don't let it get to you though. You are in Paris after all. Relax and follow the tips that we learned along the way. You'll have a great time, just like we did.