The Paris Art & Architecture Guide


No other city has Paris’s cultural credibility or stores of art: Whether it’s the Louvre, the Pompidou, or its literary legacy, Paris is one of those cities that’s been pace-setting for centuries.

Picasso Museum

5 Rue de Thorigny, 3rd | +

It's rare to find a museum where you can see such a wide breadth of a single artist's work, but in this Marais manse (which dates back to the 1600s), you can see pieces from every period of Picasso's life. In addition, it also houses Picasso's personal art collection, which includes pieces from Cézanne, Rousseau, and Degas, as well as significant African art. After a much longer than anticipated renovation, the museum finally reopened in the fall of 2014. Photograph by Béatrice Hatala

Les Catacombes de Paris

1 Avenue of Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 14th | +

When a handful of city cemeteries were closed in the 18th and 19th centuries because they were overflowing and posed a threat to public health, the bodies of more than six million Parisians were relocated to a former quarry below the city. What's even gnarlier is that bones and skulls were used to create its walls. You can tour the labrynth-like ossuary—and theoretically visit the remains of notables like Rabelais and Robespierre—but this is not for the claustrophic, and probably not for kids.

Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain

261 Boulevard Raspail, 14th | +

The Foundation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, situated in a Jean Nouvel-designed glass building and fronted by a soaring garden wall, houses an important—and growing—contemporary art collection. Don’t miss their Nomadic Nights, when the Foundation invites contemporary artists to host evenings of concerts, screenings, lectures, and performances.

Musée Nissim de Camondo

63 Rue de Monceau, 8th | +

This is officially part of Les Artes Décoratifs (the main museum occupies the Western wing of the Louvre), but this is a great opportunity to tour a former private home and see pieces in situ. Incredibly intricate rugs, needlepoint chairs, and gorgeous table settings. Built in 1911 by Comte Moïse de Camondo, a Sephardic jew whose family made its fortune in banking in the Ottoman Empire, the house was left to his son, Nissim, who was killed in World War I; Moïse established the home as a museum in his honor. Years later, Moïse's daughter, Béatrice, and her family were killed in Auschwitz.

Cinémathèque Française

51 Rue de Bercy, 12th | +

Built on the collection of co-founder Henri Langlois—who, with the help of friends, managed to smuggle most of his compendium of films out of France before the German Occupation—the Cinématheque Francaise houses one of the largest movie archives in the world. Though it's had a peripatetic existence, it's now housed in a Frank Gehry-designed building. There are exhibitions along with daily screenings of classics (and a restaurant on the ground floor).

Docks en Seine

34 Quai d’Austerlitz, 13th | +

Home to Paris's fashion institute, this rehabbed 1907 warehouse on the Seine—marked by an undulating lime green glass roof—also plays host to exhibition spaces and a handful of boutiques (many of which sell student work). The real draw, though, is the new bar/club/rooftop restaurant called Wanderlust on the quay level. It occupies an outdoor terrace where you can catch an open-air screening or just sit in the sun. And lest we forget, new club Nüba lives on the roof.

La Gaîté Lyrique

3 Bis Rue Papin, 3rd | +

In a wildly compelling juxtaposition, this museum pairs electronic music and digital arts with the facade of an original 19th-century theatre. While the exhibitions are great, try to catch a concert here—and cap it off with a cocktail at the bar.

Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin

76 Rue de Turenne, 3rd | +

Best known for giving Damien Hirst his first solo show in 1991, Galerie Perrotin trailblazed in the Asian art market (they also gave Takashi Murakami his first exhibition outside of Japan). Over the intervening years, Galerie Perrotin's pace hasn't dwindled: They continue to launch up-and-coming artists from around the globe.

Musée Rodin

79 Rue de Varenne, 7th | +

Auguste Rodin donated his complete collection—including the pieces for which he's most famous like The Thinker and The Gates of Hell—to France so long as they promised to transform the very stately Hôtel Biron, which was his workshop from 1908 on, into a museum. There are thousands of his sculptures on-site, in both the museum's halls and scattered throughout the surrounding gardens, along with highlights from his personal art collection (Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, and Camille Claudel, who was his mistress). Schedule a visit for Wednesday night: You can walk the gardens under the light of the moon.

Galerie Chez Valentin

9 Rue Saint-Gilles, 3rd | +

Chez Valentin may be small in size, but it's big on ambition: The contemporary artwork here always pushes the envelope in the most compelling way.

Galerie Chantal Crousel

10 Rue Charlot, 3rd | +

This is Chantal Crousel's second location, offering the same reliably excellent mix of emerging and established artists from the contemporary art scene: In the past, she's exhibited talents like Cindy Sherman, Jenny Holzer, Sophie Calle, and Richard Prince.

Musée du Quai Branly

37 Quai Branly, 7th | +

Opened in 2006 in a soaring space designed by Jean Nouvel, this is part museum and part research/education center. You'll see a compendious display of objects and art from African, Oceanic, Asian, and American cultures that truly appeals to all ages. We always make any trip here revolve around lunch in order to take a pitstop at Les Ombres on the 5th floor: It has great views of the Eiffel Tower.

Musée des Arts Décoratifs

107 Rue de Rivoli, 1st | +

Located in the Western wing of the Louvre, this is where you'll find Aubusson carpets, plenty of Lalique, hand-painted ceramics, and Jeanne Lanvin's interiors. While the collection spans back to the 13th century, it also includes more contemporary furniture designers, too.

Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

7 Rue Debelleyme, 3rd | +

Thaddaeus Ropac opened his first gallery in Salzburg when he was only 23, followed by an outpost in Paris seven years later. He represents a host of international talents (including Anselm Keifer), and is known for ambitious exhibitions and plenty of guest star curators (Sofia Coppola recently lent a hand). Thaddaeus Ropac just opened a new space in the Paris suburb of Pantin, which easily justifies a trip for collectors.

Père Lachaise Cemetery

16 Rue du Repos, 20th | +

Paris's largest (and most historic) cemetery plays home to pretty much everyone you'd ever want to commune with after death: Marcel Proust, Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Georges-Pierre Seurat, Gertrude Stein, and Édith Piaf all rest here—plots are still available, but the waiting list is long. Photograph by Chemin Errazu

Maison Européenne de la Photographie

5 Rue de Fourcy, 4th | +

While the work of photographers like Helmut Newton might hypothetically seem too stark and modern for this rambling and elegant 18th century mansion, it's a combination that totally works: Beyond an impressive permanent collection, this museum always lands the exhibitions everyone is talking about, whether it's Shirin Neshat, Henri Cartier-Bresson, or Sebastião Salgado. Keep in mind that they're closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.