Five Things to See and Do in Paris — Paris for Art Lovers
Paris has been home to many world-renowned artists and the birthplace of countless artistic movements throughout history. Today, the products of these great artists and their cultural and artistic revolutions can still be found in museums and galleries scattered across the city. In Paris’ greatest museums, you’ll find key artworks in every style, from Classical and Baroque to Impressionism, Expressionism, Dada, and Contemporary art. Many think of the Louvre when they think of Paris, and we covered this museum in another article here. But Paris has many more artistic delights to offer. Here are the five best museums and galleries for art lovers to enjoy during their stay in Paris.
1. The Palace of Versailles
Only rivaled by the Louvre, the Palace of Versailles is a must-see destination for art lovers visiting France. This lavish palace has been home to generations of royals, the best known of which is Louis XIV, the Sun King, who added the Hall of Mirrors to this sumptuous palace. The palace and gardens are filled with art spanning several centuries, including paintings, sculptures, decorative art, period furniture, and impressive chandeliers. The palace is of astonishing size, with 2300 luxurious rooms where the French royalty and nobility have played the drama of life throughout the ages.
Versailles contains over 60,000 works of art from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. The museum hosted by the palace is intended to provide both historical and aesthetic value to the visitors, with many of the artworks depicting historical figures, events, and settings in France. The palace also hosts a contemporary art exhibition that changes every season, and some works by contemporary artists have become an integral part of the Estate.
You can reach the Palace of Versailles in less than an hour by taking a short train ride and a 10-minute walk. The palace is open every day except Mondays, from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm. It is mandatory to reserve your ticket in advance.
2. Musée d’Orsay
Musée d’Orsay is internationally renowned for its rich collection of Impressionist art. And it’s not just the valuable collection that fascinates visitors, but the building itself as well. Located in the center of Paris on the banks of the river Seine, the museum is hosted in the building that was once the Orsay railway station. Founded for the Universal Exhibition in 1900, the palatial train station now displays art collections from 1848 to 1914 that feature paintings, sculptures, photography, decorative arts, and architecture. The museum includes famous impressionist works by Gustav Klimt, Van Gogh, Renoir, Degas, Manet, Camille Claudel, Millet, Camille Pissarro, Edvard Munch, and Paul Cézanne. The most spectacular pieces are located on the top floor, so a great way to explore this beautiful museum is to start at the top and work your way down.
The museum is open daily from 9:30 am to 6 pm daily, except Mondays.
3. Centre Pompidou
Centre Pompidou is a controversial multidisciplinary cultural center that includes the largest collection of Modern Art in Europe. This iconic landmark caused a stir in the 1970s with its unusual design that breaks the line of classical architecture in Paris. Made to look like an oil refinery, the façade of the building features exposed pipes and air ducts in strong primary colors against a steel and glass frame.
The Pompidou complex was a revolutionary concept when it first opened in 1977. Combining a modern art museum, library, cinema, exhibition, and performance space, Centre Pompidou paved the way for many art institutions around the world to create inclusive and diverse public spaces. Discover Centre Pompidou’s modern art collection with famous works by Matisse, Chagall, Mondrian, Brâncuși, Léger, Raysse, Dubuffet, Veilhan, Kandinsky, Marcel Duchamp, Frida Kahlo and many more.
When checking the opening hours, take note that the building itself, the museum, the library, and the cinema have different opening hours.
4. L’Atelier des Lumiéres
Have you ever dreamed of entering your favorite painting? At Atelier des Lumiéres, you’ll get the impression that you went down the rabbit hole and arrived in a universe created by the world’s most famous masters. Paintings by Cezanne, Kandinsky, Van Gogh, Monet, Klimt, Renoir, Chagall, and countless more are being projected on the walls, floor, and ceiling of this digital art museum. Located in a former foundry, the museum creates an immersive audiovisual experience made possible with the help of 140 video projectors and state-of-the-art speakers. Let yourself be engulfed in this magical space of gently moving renderings of famous paintings, set to the music of Wagner, Strauss, or Beethoven. Journey into endless kaleidoscopic worlds and allow yourself to be swept away into the core of art.
The museum is open from 10 am to 10 pm daily, except for Sundays, when it is open from 10 am to 7 pm.
5. Artists’ Studios at 59 Rivoli
59 Rivoli is an art collective in a former squat with 30 artist’s studios and an exhibition space. This building with a fascinating story attracts as many as 4000 visitors a week coming to experience concerts, exhibitions, and artists’ workshops. The space has a powerful pull, presenting visitors with an alternative approach to art and culture. Its philosophy is to create democratic access to art and culture for both artists and the public. The entrance is free and the atmosphere is always lively.
This is how 59 Rivoli came to be: in 1999, a beautiful abandoned building in the center of Paris was reclaimed by a group of artists who transformed it into an artist’s squat. The added cultural value brought by the artist’s presence was recognized by the city of Paris in 2006. The building was purchased by the city and renovated to current safety standards, leaving the artist’s workshops and exhibition space intact. Today, 59 Rivoli houses studios for 30 artists and is well-known for its parties, exhibitions, and performances.
59 Rivoli is open Tuesdays to Sundays, from 1 pm to 8 pm.