10 Lesser Known Museums in Paris

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10 Lesser Known Museums in Paris
Musée Carnavale

Musée Carnavalet by Corey Frye

While Paris boasts a staggering 173 museums, it’s rare that the average visitor ventures much farther than the usual suspects. If you’ve had your fill of the Louvre and Orsay, these 10 lesser-known addresses will take you deeper into the cultural richness of the capital while also bypassing the crowds and commotion of the larger tourist sites.

Nissim de Camondo: Although alive in the 20th century, Count Moïse de Camondo built a mansion inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles and filled it with an impressive stock of antique furniture and decorative objects from the Louis XIV, XV, and XVI periods. Today bedrooms, drawing rooms, and an illustrious kitchen complete a transporting experience across several centuries.

Musée Nissim de Camondo, Paris

Musée Nissim de Camondo by Corey Frye

Musée Jacquemart-André: This sumptuous estate was inhabited by savvy power couple Édouard André and Nélie Jacquemart who amassed one of Europe’s most impressive private art collections. Their luxurious living quarters now serve as galleries for paintings by Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Fragonard and more. The museum’s dining area is considered one of Paris’ best tea rooms.

Musée de la Vie Romantique: Nestled amid a verdant garden oasis, this quaint residence hosted fashionable dinner parties that welcomed Chopin, Ingres, Delacroix and Dickens. Today it offers a 19th century period room and small exhibits of art objects, including plaster casts of Chopin’s left hand and the arm of his tumultuous lover Georges Sand. The garden’s outdoor tea salon is a fittingly romantic pit stop.

Musée de Cluny

Musée de Cluny by Corey Frye

Musée de Cluny: Gallop back to the Middle Ages through a fine collection of medieval stained glass, decorative art, and the famous Unicorn Tapestries. Examine the original stone heads that were lopped off Notre Dame’s royal statues by revolutionary fervor. Descend even further back in time inside a Roman bath house from 2nd century Paris, and relax in a medieval herb garden.

Deyrolle: Perhaps not a museum by definition, this quirky cabinet of curiosities is a true moment of discovery. Don’t be fooled by the unassuming ground floor—climb the staircase free of charge to uncover a Jumanji-esque universe bursting with stuffed and mounted animals from around the globe. Go on an imaginary safari as zebras, lions, snakes, tropical insects and more seem to “roam” through the upper-class interiors of this former aristocratic home.

Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris

Musée de l’Orangerie by Corey Frye

Musée de l’Orangerie: This manageably-sized collection is well worth a visit for Impressionism lovers. Two oval rooms display 360-degree murals of Monet’s Water Lilies—masterpieces of light and color rendered even more impressive by the fact that the artist completed them while almost entirely blind. Head downstairs for rooms of Picasso, Matisse, Cezanne, and Renoir.

Musée Carnavalet: This historic Marais mansion is dedicated to the history of Paris, with 100 rooms of noteworthy objects dating from prehistory to the 20th century. Relive the Belle Époque inside a reconstructed Art Nouveau boutique, see the original sign of the Chat Noir cabaret, or admire the toiletries and personal effects of Marie Antoinette before she was sent to the guillotine. Please note that the Carnavalet is currently closed for an extensive restoration.

Musée Rodin: Get to the heart of Rodin’s genius with exhibits housed in the chateau he once lived and worked in. If pressed for time, pay just 2€ for access to the museum’s exteriors which are full of lush rose bushes, a sprawling French garden, and Rodin’s most popular creation: The Thinker.

Tea Museum in Paris

Paris Tea Museum by Corey Frye

Mariage Frères: Tea fans will enjoy the tiny hidden displays of tea paraphernalia in two addresses of the Mariage Frères shops: upstairs at 30 Rue du Bourg Tibourg, and in the basement of 13 Rue des Grands Augustins.

Maison de Victor Hugo: Riding the success of his hunchback fame, Hugo relocated to this upscale Place des Vosges apartment in 1832 where he wrote portions of Les Misérables and periodically slipped out the discreet back entrance for liaisons with various mistresses. Reconstituted rooms set the scene of the author’s home life, including the bedroom where he spent his final days.


Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris

Musée Jacquemart-André my Corey Frye

Lead photo credit : Musée Carnavalet by Corey Frye

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Corey is a highly sought-after tour guide and travel writer based in Paris. It all started on an NYC subway platform: he was strumming his guitar and singing a tune, she was a young Parisienne waiting for the train…and the rest is history. Corey also shares his discoveries on his blog A French Frye in Paris, as well as his Facebook page where he live-streams free weekly tours of the city. Private tours can be booked through his blog or by contacting him at [email protected]

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  • Robyn Wilson
    2020-02-07 20:39:42
    Robyn Wilson
    Such an amazing collection .... an absolute highlight of our time in Paris. The history of hunting...


  • Martinn Key2paris
    2020-02-07 05:48:24
    Martinn Key2paris
    I like "les 2 Magots" but I would not say Cluny is a waste of time, far from it. You should look for more than the Unicorn tapestry. Artisan work and arts in the Medieval times are so refine and the base for many later works of art. Go back and then sip your drink. One should not exclude the other. You have so many roads leading to pleasant things to enjoy. Also the article is about not so well known. I would not say Rodin belongs to this list. It is one of the famous Paris Museums.


  • Mary Jo Kolb
    2019-08-24 15:33:00
    Mary Jo Kolb
    Good to know ahead of time: For some unfathomable reason, Deyrolle forbids taking photographs in their shop, announcing it on a placard by the stairs. Although I respected their wishes, the camera around my neck drew many glares from monitors stationed among the exhibits. If you travel as I do, always ready to capture a memorable or beautiful scene, leave your camera in your hotel or apartment when you visit this shop if you wish to feel welcome.


  • Martin Sandler
    2019-08-22 21:23:14
    Martin Sandler
    You are a soulmate. The D’ennery and all the museums you listed are some of my favorites. I love the 2 aquariums! Thanks


  • Robert Frank
    2019-08-22 21:14:27
    Robert Frank
    Overall, I'd agree.


  • Michael James
    2018-04-13 04:05:08
    Michael James
    The MQB is devoted to "the indigenous art and cultures of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas". (Once upon a time this would have been known as "primitive arts"). And one of the pieces--an Aboriginal "painting" on the roof I believe--is best observed from the nearby Eiffel Tower. (Though I can't find anything about it now.)


  • Lauren Golden
    2018-04-12 23:27:50
    Lauren Golden
    Oh my goodness Mr Lee shouldn't display his ignorance.


  • Brian Lee
    2018-04-12 17:03:13
    Brian Lee
    Musee Rodin is our favourite Parisian museum; it has a lot to offer, inside & out. All of Auguste Rodin's works are on display, including Le Penseur (The Thinker), one of the world's most famous sculptures. Musee de Cluny, on the other hand, we found downright boring. Once you've seen one gigantic, drab tapestry, you've seen them all, unless of course you're looking for the deep hidden messages portrayed--knock yourself out! Your time would be better spent sitting at Les Deux Magots, sipping an over-priced cafe creme or glass of wine.


    2018-04-12 16:54:36
    We love the Marmottan too. Two weeks ago we were in Paris for a two weeks yearly vacation. A dear friend recommended to visit the Musee Maillol and we loved it. We enjoyed the exhibit of FOUJITA. This Museum is now in our list of favorites places to visit. We're Americans and live in the USA.


  • Dennis
    2017-11-04 11:07:46
    Musée de le Chasse et de la Nature-you don't need to be a fan of hunting or nature(I'm not) to enjoy this amazing hidden gem. AND, perfect for a hot summer day because it is one of the few air conditioned places in Paris!!!!


  • Celeste Manley
    2017-11-02 15:54:28
    Celeste Manley
    Musee Delacroix , Musee de Luxembourg, Petit Palais among those mentioned above.


  • Tomese
    2017-04-16 08:39:40
    A little treasure we discovered on our last trip in Dec, 2016. In the basement of the Uniglo store in the Marais is a foundry museum. Apparently the original use of the building. It's quite charming to see this among all the modern retail, and it's free.


  • David
    2017-04-15 14:07:48
    And my newest favorite: Musee de la Quai Branly.


  • Martinn Key2paris
    2016-08-25 10:24:56
    Martinn Key2paris
    and Gustave Moreau, and Bourdelle, and D'ennery linked to Guimet, and Dapper, and Cognacq Jay, Cité Patrimoine and Architecture, Marine, Maison Clémenceau, and and and ... So many, difficult to name them all and not forgetting some... Every one wants to visit Montmartre but few go to the great Museum showing S. Valadon, (and her workshop), M. Utrillo,Toulouse Lautrec... Good as not so tourist trap and not so crowded... I am sure you will publish other articles..; Actually do we want to advertise that much and have to wait on line as we do for the major ones ? ?


  • E.J. Emerson
    2016-08-25 10:22:36
    E.J. Emerson
    And don't forget the Memorial des Deportes at the tip of the Ile de la Cite, behind Notre Dame cathedral.


  • Oleh Butchatsky
    2015-06-08 23:52:18
    Oleh Butchatsky
    Lovely list....and I could add another 10 to it.....but best to read Paris Tragics to find out!


  • Patou
    2015-05-28 22:59:14
    You've mentioned many of my favs-Jacquemart-Andre, L'Orangerie, the Musee Rodin...but how about the Marmottan, and the Musee Maillol? Those are two of my favorites in my yearly stays in Paris...