Favorite Museums in Paris: Our Experts Share Recommendations

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Favorite Museums in Paris: Our Experts Share Recommendations
As a world culture capital, Paris is packed with renowned art institutions. But even beyond the Louvre, the Orsay, and the Pompidou Center, the City of Light is home to smaller, less visited museums that are treasures themselves. Did you know there’s one dedicated to famed photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson? Another devoted to sculptor Ossipe Zadkine? And a UNESCO-listed modernist house by Le Corbusier? In fact, there’s a portfolio of 14 museums operated by the city called Paris Musées, and some of these are opulent historic mansions worth visiting for their architecture alone. (Pssst. Many of them are free!) Here we’re happy to share some favorite Paris museum recommendations, as selected by our expert team of contributors. Maison de Victor Hugo One of my favorite museums in Paris is the Victor Hugo museum in the Marais. Many visitors might overlook this museum on their first or second visits to Paris, but it is well worth experiencing it, particularly if you are a fan of Hugo’s Les Misérables or The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. The museum – a hôtel particulier where Hugo lived for sixteen years (1832–1848) – feels like stepping into a literary time capsule. Hugo’s personal belongings and letters are on display, as is furniture from the era. This museum is one of many reminders of the rich artistic history found in – nearly – every nook and cranny in Paris. — Anne McCarthy is a freelancer writer who regularly contributes to Bonjour Paris. Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature Only in Paris. This quirky little museum is housed inside a gorgeous Marais mansion called the Hôtel de Guénégaud, built in 1651 by François Mansart. It’s the only surviving hôtel particulier (nobleman’s mansion) to be designed by this renowned architect. The “hunting and nature museum” has an eclectic collection of paintings, sculpture, and game trophies. — Mary Winston Nicklin is the Editor of Bonjour Paris. Musée de la Vie Romantique Trekking to Paris? Mad about historic houses? Well then, I’ve got the place for you. Deep in the heart of the Nouvelle Athènes ’hood, you’ll find the Musée de la Vie Romantique. Back in action this June after a supreme makeover, here’s where I live my best literary life and find décor inspo—winter, spring, summer, and fall. Formerly the cozy digs of painter Ary Scheffer, it now showcases works from the Romantic Movement in art and literature. Back in the day, here is where George Sand, Chopin, Delacroix, Liszt, and Rossini would gather and gab up in the salon. Scheffer’s paintings are displayed on the second floor, while his plucky neighbor George Sand’s art, bling, and personal artifacts occupy the first floor. Pack a hankie because electric candlelight and piped-in Chopin lend it a truly romantic ambiance. There’s also a café in the garden. At twilight, surrounded by fellow incurable romantics, tourists, and local commuters relaxing after work, I like to watch the sun work its 24-karat magic on the surrounding ancient buildings here. With a glass of white wine and flaky sweet palmier in hand, it’s the perfect setting to slay the end of the day. Did I tell you this was a wonderful place? The Musée de la Vie Romantique, located at 16 Rue Chaptal in the 9th arrondissement, re-opens in June 2018. Check the website for updates. — Theadora Brack is a Paris-based writer who has a regular column, called “My Life in Paris,” in France Today magazine. Musée de l’Immigration What makes the Musée de l’Immigration fascinating is the ghost that resides in the shell. The Palais de la Porte Dorée looks like an imposing, Art Deco Roman temple, except that its enormous façade (designed by Alfred Auguste Janniot) is covered with bas-relief carvings of African scenes: teeming Bwana Mikumbe in your face. It was created for the International Colonial Exposition of 1931, when the French Empire was at its peak, and housed the Museum of African and Oceanic Art until its contents were moved to the new Musée du Quai Branly. Across the way from the museum, in a grassy spot separating the roadway, is a stone stele etched with a frieze of the French expedition up the Congo. Very Kiplingesque, a guilty pleasure to some, offensively imperialistic and racist to others. It was vandalized with graffiti a while back in an incident that recalled attacks on Confederate monuments in the U.S. But both façade and frieze are bluntly truthful about the past, and evocative in a troubling way. It’s an ambiguous mix of Kipling and Joseph Conrad. The forms give a stark counterpoint to the social pedagogy of the museum, to say the least. — Dimitri Keramitas is a writer (film critic, fiction) and the director of the creative writing program at WICE, a Paris-based organization. Musée des arts et métiers Although it probably isn’t first on anyone’s list of museums in Paris, including mine, the Musée des Arts et Métiers had me unexpectedly captivated when I visited. Located in the third arrondissement, the museum not only offers a fascinating look at science and technology through its impressive…

Lead photo credit : Maison de Victor Hugo. Photo: BernieCB, Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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BP's expert editorial team includes some of the city's top English-language journalists.


  • Bonjour Paris Editors
    2018-05-13 14:02:51
    Bonjour Paris Editors
    Paris Musées operates 14 museums in the city, and some of them are free (the permanent collection, not temporary exhibitions) including the Museum of Modern Art, Balzac's House, Cernuschi Museum - Museum of Asian Art, Cognacq-Jay Museum, etc. Website is here: http://www.parismusees.paris.fr/en