Paris Museums and Galleries
The team of art historian docents at Paris Muse put on some fantastically informative 2-2.5-hour tours for adults through the Louvre, the Orsay, Notre Dame, and neighborhoods like Montmartre, though their kids tours are a real highlight. Tailored to little ones, they make the learning part fun and informative enough for parents to enjoy. Plus, you get to skip the line at the museum.
Place Georges-Pompidou, 4th
This postmodern building revolutionized the world of architecture—and turned the rarified concept of a museum into something that could be unintimidating and fun. Designed by Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers, and Gianfrancho Franchini, the Centre Pompidou is marked by an exterior lined with colorful tubes that hold the center's plumbing, electric, and circulation systems—inside, it's just as interactive. Home to a public library, a center for music and acoustic research, and the Musee National d’Art Moderne, since its inception in 1977 some of the most important modern art in the world has graced its walls, including pieces from Dali, Pollock, Warhol, and Picasso.
Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle
36 Rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire, 5th
While the Jardins des Plantes’ Menagerie houses living endangered species (like red pandas and gaurs), its Natural History Museum houses taxidermy (like dodos and coelacanths), teaching kids and adults alike about the importance of conserving diverse animal life. Highlights include fossils and dinosaur skeletons in the Galerie de Paléontologie et d'Anatomie Comparée and meteorites in the Galerie de Minéralogie et de Géologie.
Palais de Tokyo
13 Avenue du Président Wilson, 16th
Thanks to a 2012 expansion that took the museum all the way to the bank of the Seine, nearly tripling its original size, the open-plan Palais de Tokyo is one of the best spots in Europe to see contemporary and modern art. The Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in the eastern wing houses more than 8,000 works of twentieth-century art (Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Delauney, etc.) and opens onto a lovely view of the Eiffel Tower. Complete with a comprehensive children's program, artists-in-residence, opening hours that extend until midnight, an excellent bookstore (distinguished by its chain-link-fence walls), and restaurants (we like Tokyo Eats), the Palais de Tokyo can easily eat up the better part of a day.
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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