Famous French Museums in Paris

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Paris is home to a wealth of museums, many housing famous French and other art from the Middle Ages to the present day. Check individual museums’ websites for information on special exhibitions that will take place during your visit to the City of Lights.

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The Louvre Museum, housed in a former royal palace and the home of I.M. Pei’s landmark glass pyramids, opened in 1793. The Louvre holds thousands of artworks created prior to 1848. Notable French works in the Louvre include a collection of paintings by Eugene Delacriox, Watteau and painters from the court of Louis XIV. There is also a large collection of 18th-century decorative arts, housed in its own wing at the museum. The Louvre also boasts collections of Near Eastern, Egyptian, and Greek and Roman antiquities, Islamic art, and art from other parts of Europe, including Germany and Holland. It is also home to the famous Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, as well as several sketches by Leonardo. As of 2009, the Louvre is open every day except Tuesday. Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month.

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The Rodin Museum, or Musée Rodin, is devoted to works by Auguste Rodin, ranging from his engravings and paintings to his vast body of sculpture, some of which is exhibited outdoors in the museum’s garden. The museum is home to more than 6,000 sculptures, including the well-known works The Kiss, The Gates of Hell, Monument to Victor Hugo, Monument to the Burghers of Calais and The Thinker. The Musée Rodin also displays temporary exhibits on a rotating basis, including new works by modern French sculptors and artists. The museum is open every day except Monday. Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month.

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The Musée d’Orsay is Paris’ preeminent museum of decorative arts, with several galleries devoted to the display of furniture, glassware and other household objects created in the Art Nouveau style. It also holds collections of works by artists whose careers took place during the Second Republic, Impressionist works, and works from the National Museum of Modern Art, featuring works by artists born since 1870. The museum also has an extensive sculpture gallery. Housed in the former train station the Gare d’Orsay, the Musée d’Orsay offers exhibitions ranging from photography to mixed-media installations and a cafe at its top with views of Paris. The museum is open every day except Monday.

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The Centre Pompidou, known for its colorful “inside-out” architectural design by Richard Rogers, is home to one of the largest collections of modern art in Paris. The collections include more than 60,000 works by artists such as Jean Arp, George Braques, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and Wassily Kandinsky. The Centre is also home to the studio of Constantin Brancusi, creator of Bird in Space. The studio is preserved exactly as it was at Brancusi’s death, and visitors can see sketches and works in progress. The museum is open every day except Tuesday.

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The Musée National Pablo Picasso exhibits works by Picasso, including paintings, drawings, sculpture and more. It is also home to Picasso’s own private art collection, such as works by Cézanne, Renoir, Braque, Matisse, Derain, Modigliani and Miró. On permanent display are Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, a number of works from his blue period, and cubist sculptures. The museum is open every day except Tuesday. Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month.

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The Musée National du Moyen Age, or Museum of the Middle Ages, is home to works from antiquity through the medieval period. Highlights of the collections include Gothic sculpture, paintings and stained glass, and tapestries and textiles. The museum is home to the famous Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, a cycle of six allegorical and mysterious tapestries from the 15th century. The museum itself is housed in an ancient Roman bath from the 1st-3rd centuries, and the monastery of Cluny, built in the 15th century. Visitors are encouraged to explore the baths and abbey as part of their visit to the museum. The museum is open every day except Tuesday. Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month.

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