My Favorite Paris Museums (So Far)

Visiting Paris never fails to awaken in me a school girl-like excitement. Every time I visit, I feel like a younger version of myself, eager to learn and absorb the day’s lessons. The feeling is akin to being on a big, cultural field trip. Over the years, I’ve worked my way around the city, popping into museums, and curating my own list of favorites along the way. I thought I’d share a few on my list — four that I return to time and again when I find myself in the inimitable city of light. As you’ll see, most are small in size and intimate in nature; quiet spaces that summon a sense of reflection and inner dialogue. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Picture taken from Musee Rodin Site

  1. The Rodin Museum & Sculpture Garden: What a jewel this place is and one that I find to be equally educational and therapeutic. As the name suggests, this is a tribute to Rodin housed in a beautiful mansion – known as the Hotel Biron – in the 7th arrondissement. It was built between 1727 and 1732 as a town home and country residence for Abraham Peyrenc de Moras. Between that early time and today, the building has been occupied by many tenants and owners, including three nuns who opened it up as a boarding school for girls. Henri Matisse stayed there as did August Rodin who rented out four rooms overlooking the gardens for his studio. The space made an indelible impression on the artist who later, in a letter to the French state, declared he’d donate all of his works in plaster, bronze, stone and his drawings as well as his antiquities collection to the Hotel Biron, reserving the right that it be called the Musee Rodin and that he live there the rest of his life. There are over 300 works from Rodin’s collection on view in this beautiful manse. Equally beautiful is the 3-hectares garden that surrounds the home in verdant greenery and blooming flowers. Visitors can be seen picnicking on the grounds, taking quiet strolls, sharing a light lunch in the outdoor cafe, or holding hands on the benches perched throughout the gardens. Some of Rodin’s greatest masterpieces, such as The Thinker, are placed in these outdoor spaces. Both inside and out, it’s a lovely homage to the late Rodin’s legacy.

    Picture via Suitcase Magazine

  2. Musee National Picasso: The Hôtel Salé, now known as the Picasso Museum, is a grand, private mansion located at 5 Rue de Thorny in the city’s 3rd arrondissement. The home was built by a salt-tax farmer whose position in the trade influenced the name of his house {Salé means “salty” in French.} Today, the home-turned-museum is filled with a Picasso collection that comprises over 5,000 works of art with  tens of thousands of archived pieces. It’s the only collection in the world to have Picasso’s paintings, sculptures, prints and engravings all in one place along with a detailed record of his creative process. Inside, a magnificent central staircase takes visitors up to the first floor where nooks and crevices and light-filled exhibition spaces await. Interestingly, this staircase is inspired by Michelangelo’s design for the Laurentian Library in Florence. The home was occupied by many different owners over the years, including the Embassy of the Republic of Venice. During the French Revolution, it was used as a place to store books discovered in local convents. The city acquired the building in 1964 and today it is a Historic Monument paying tribute to the late, great Picasso. I highly recommend it on your next visit if you’re at all interested in this Spanish artist.


  3. Musee Marmottan Monet: Of all the Impressionist painters, Monet has always drawn me the closest. My mother in law told me about The Musee Marmottan Monet in the 16th arrondissement and today I count it as one of my favorites in the city. The Marmottan is housed in the former hunting lodge of the Duke of Valmy. Today, it is home to the largest collection of Monet in the world. Though it is a bit of a drive from the center of Paris and most other attractions, I think you will find it is worth the effort – and then some.

Picture my own, taken in spring 2017

4. Musee Orangerie: The first time I visited the Orangerie was in 2008, weeks before Christmas. That was my first trip to Paris and I got to experience the city with my parents, which was very special. It reminds me of a lovely quote by Gwyneth Paltrow’s father. After Gwyneth asked why it was just the two of them on her first trip to the city of light, he said: “Because I wanted your first trip to Paris to be with the one man who is going to love you for the rest of your life.” I saw Paris with my father for the first time and I’ll treasure that experience forever. The Orangerie was one of the first museums we went to and it still resonates with me every time I return. Though the museum houses many works of art, by far the most special, in my opinion, its the installation of Claude Monet’s world-renowned water lilies from his days living in Giverny. Monet offered the lilies to the French state on 11/11/1918, the day after the Armistice, as a symbol of peace and beauty after a tragic war. There are a total of eight compositions housed in two consecutive oval rooms with natural right filtering in from the roof. The two rooms symbolize infinity while the paintings capture the cycle of light that moves throughout the day. The works are masterpieces – a study of light on water, reflection, nature, color. I find myself in awe every time I visit.

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