With almost 250 museums in Paris, if you are only going to be in town for a week or two, this is just too many to choose from. It would take about a week or two to just look into them all! To help you out, I have put together a “must see” list of Paris museums; museums that are just too important to miss.
For most people, these museums are the ones that, if not visited, have the highest risk of having you say, “I wish I’d had a chance to see that one!” A trip to Paris without seeing these museums, would be a little like going to Bordeaux without drinking any wine. They‘re an integral part of the Paris travel experience.
To best avoid any “post-vacation hindsight” regrets, I would highly suggest checking out the museums on this list first, and then taking a look at what other ones you can fit into your schedule based on your individual tastes and the time you’ve got.
Musee du Louvre and Musee d’Orsay:
I guess the first two museums on this “must-see” list are kind of obvious...The Musee du Louvre and the Musée d Orsay are probably the two most famous museums in the world. Be prepared to deal with crowds of people and be prepared to be on your feet all day. (Unless you make a point, of course, of just going in for a few hours....you won’t see everything, but you won’t be as tired afterward either.)
Particularly for the Musee du Louvre, you might want to go to their website ahead of time and map out the exhibitions you feel you need to see. This way, you can save time when you are there and make sure you don’t miss anything that is important for you to see. I’m sure you’ve heard “the stats” before: that it would take seven days to see everything in the Louvre......I’ve also heard a month. Either could be true if you wanted to look carefully, there really is THAT much to see. But when I was a teenager (and therefore perhaps a little quicker on my feet), I went into the Louvre one morning and walked every hall and room of that building that day......I vaguely remember it was sometime in the afternoon when I was done. SO it is technically possible to cover all the ground at the Louvre museum in one day, but, at that rate, you won’t exactly be soaking the sights in.
The Musee d Orsay is quite a bit smaller by comparison, but it can still take a while to get though. I would suggest allotting at least a half day if you can.
I also put the Picasso Museum on this list. Picasso is probably the most famous artist of modern history, so he is a good one to learn more about, since you will continue to hear reference to him the rest of your life.
The very fact that Picasso is so famous means that we all know a little about him and/or his art already. It is much more interesting going through a museum when we know a little about what we are looking at. (Of course, this can be remedied anyway by sifting through Paris Culture Guide’s art pages!)
If you are at all interested in sculpture, then the Musee Rodin is a great “must see” Paris museum for you. Rodin was a realist sculptor whose sculptures were so realistic that some critics accused that they were cast from moulds of real people!
Rodin’s sculptures are very good, quite famous, and are presented in a beautiful smallish building that doesn’t take too long to tour through.
Last but not least, the last Paris museum on Paris Culture Guide’s “must see” list, is not an art museum, but an ossuary: The Paris catacombs.
The Catacombs of Paris museum is an underground network of tunnels in Paris that used to be stone quarries. At the end of the 18th century, Paris needed to find a solution to the overflowing and unsanitary inner-city cemeteries, so they lined the walls of the quarries with the bones of approximately 6 million people.
There is much history to the catacomb tunnels, from the Franco-Prussian war to the Second World War. But aside from being educational, this municipal ossuary is a pretty fascinating display in itself.
Although somewhat macabre sounding, a tour of the Paris catacombs is a real treat from the ordinary kind of museum. It is probably unlike anything you’ve seen before or will again.
So there you go. The Paris 5 “must see” museums. You won’t be disappointed!