Paris is the world’s undeniable capital of art, fashion, and gastronomy. Now, we all know the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay are the big shots when it comes to art in the City of Light, but what if I told you that you can also get a heaping dose of culture without even opening your wallet? I’m talking about free museums in Paris that are often overshadowed by their blockbuster siblings but are nothing short of cultural powerhouses themselves.
Imagine walking through historic mansions filled with avant-garde art or stumbling upon hidden gems that detail the city’s storied past–all for the fantastic price of nada. Forget that overpriced café au lait at some tourist trap; it’s time to get your culture fix on a budget that even your frugal Aunt Susan would approve of.
Famous Free Museums in Paris
Let’s start with the Louvre, arguably the most famous museum in Paris. Although it’s not always free, you can visit this iconic art-haven free of charge on the first Friday of the month from September-June (sorry July and August!) after 6 p.m. Don’t miss out on seeing treasures like the Mona Lisa and the Winged Victory of Samothrace totally gratis.
Next, we have the Orsay Museum. You can enjoy free admission on the first Sunday of every month. (Reservations are required.) This former train station turned gallery is home to a fantastic collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artworks, featuring Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh.
The Centre Pompidou is a must-visit for fans of modern and contemporary art. This futuristic building houses an impressive collection, including works by Picasso, Duchamp and Kandinsky. You can gain free entry to the Galerie des enfants and permanent collection on the first Sunday of every month. (Reservations strongly encouraged.)
The Cernuschi Museum is perfect for those interested in Asian art. The 19th-century mansion showcases an eclectic collection of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean pieces. Best of all, the permanent collection is a totally free showcase that you can wander into whenever you like.
Get a taste of Parisian history at the Carnavalet Museum. This fascinating spot is dedicated to the history of Paris, and best of all, its permanent collection is free! Stroll through the exhibits showcasing the changes of the city from Roman times to the present day.
Museum of Modern Art
For more modern art goodness, visit the Museum of Modern Art. As part of the Palais de Tokyo, the museum offers free permanent exhibitions. Works from famous artists like Matisse, Braque, and Picasso are on display, so what are you waiting for?
Museum of Romantic Life
Ready for some romance? The Museum of Romantic Life is your free ticket to step back into 19th-century Parisian society. The museum is situated in a charming house where George Sand once lived and holds memorabilia from her life, as well as temporary exhibitions related to the Romantic period.
The temporary exhibits require an entry fee, but the permanent collection is free.
The Bourdelle Museum
Consider visiting The Bourdelle Museum. This lesser-known gem showcases the sculptural works of Antoine Bourdelle in his former studio. Take advantage of the free admission to admire his masterpieces in a serene and intimate setting.
Permanent Collections in Paris’ Free Museums
If you’re looking for a fantastic free museum experience in Paris, the Petit Palais should be on your list. This architectural gem, nestled in the heart of the city, houses an impressive permanent collection that you can access all year round without spending a dime.
The permanent collections at the Petit Palais are a mix of fine art, decorative art, and archeological pieces. You’ll find works by famous painters like Rembrandt, Rubens, and Delacroix, as well as intricate sculptures, ancient artifacts, and beautiful ceramics. The diverse range of art in their collection will definitely keep you intrigued.
What makes the Petit Palais even better is the breathtaking architecture and stunning inner courtyard. As you wander through the galleries, be sure to take in the gorgeous glass ceiling and mosaic floors, and stop for a moment at the lovely little café, complete with a terrace for you to unwind after taking in the art. Just remember that temporary exhibitions may require a paid ticket, so it will be an add-on if you’re interested.
The Petit Palais has an extensive and varied permanent collection sure to satisfy your cultural cravings.
Art in Free Paris Museums
If you’re a fan of modern art, you must visit the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. This museum is part of the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts, offering free access to their permanent collections year-round. The museum showcases a wide range of masterpieces spanning from the 20th century all the way to present-day, so you’re sure to find something that will blow you away.
For a taste of contemporary art, head over to the Palais de Tokyo. While it’s not always free, this art museum offers special dates with free entry, so make sure you keep an eye on their schedule! Palais de Tokyo is known for its cutting-edge exhibitions, featuring some of the most innovative artwork from international artists.
Drawings and Sculptures
Now, if drawings and sculptures are more your jam, then the Musée Bourdelle should be on your must-visit list. It’s dedicated to the works of Antoine Bourdelle, a renowned French sculptor, and also includes some of his paintings. Good news – this museum allows free entry all year round!
Another option is the Petit Palais, home to the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts. It boasts a fantastic collection of paintings, drawings, and sculptures spanning multiple periods.
The Musée Cognacq-Jay, nestled in the heart of Paris’s Marais district, is a gem that transports visitors to the elegance and charm of 18th-century France. Its permanent collection, showcasing masterpieces from artists like Rembrandt and Canaletto, can be admired for free, making it an inviting destination for art enthusiasts and curious visitors alike.
History Exhibits at Paris’ Free Museums
The Shoah Memorial
When you want to learn about a darker period in history, make time to visit The Shoah Memorial. This significant museum honors the memory of those who suffered during the Holocaust. Admission is always free, so take your time to reflect and pay tribute to the victims while learning about this momentous chapter in history.
While she may not be a literary figure like the others, Marie Curie definitely deserves a place on your journey. Visit the Musée Curie, a free museum located in the Latin Quarter, to delve into the life and achievements of this Nobel Prize-winning scientist. As a pioneering expert in the field of radioactivity, Curie made an indelible mark on the world of science. From her groundbreaking work in physics and chemistry to her influential research on radioactivity, the museum offers a comprehensive look into Curie’s fascinating life and accomplishments.
Paris Museums’ Specialized Collections
Paris is known for its outstanding museums, which showcase some of the best collections in the world. We’ve got some specialized collections in various Paris museums, focusing on Asian art, furniture and jewelry, and Cubism you should check out.
The French capital boasts a fantastic selection of Asian art museums. One example you should definitely check out is the Museum of Fine Arts, also known as Musée des Beaux-Arts. Here, you’ll find a fascinating mix of Asian sculptures, paintings, and antiques. Another fantastic spot is the Museum of Asian Arts, which offers a wide range of exhibitions highlighting the richness and diversity of Asian cultures. Take your time and immerse yourself in the incredible artistry at these museums.
Furniture and Jewelry
For those interested in furniture and jewelry, a visit to the dreamy Maison de Victor Hugo is a must. Victor Hugo’s house serves as a museum dedicated to this renowned writer’s life and work. While you’re there, make sure to appreciate the amazing antique furniture and jewelry on display.
Another gem is the Musée de la Vie Romantique, which was once the residence and studio of the painter Ary Scheffer. This charming museum features period furniture, antiques, and personal mementos of the Romantic era.
Parisian cubism has its roots in the Atelier Brancusi, the workshop of the famous Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi. Today, the workshop, now operated by the Centre Pompidou, is a museum that allows you to experience his revolutionary cubist creations.
Other prominent artists associated with cubism, such as Auguste Rodin and Henri Matisse, have their works displayed in various museums around the city. For instance, the Musée Rodin showcases Rodin’s monumental sculptures, and the Centre Pompidou houses plenty of Matisse’s extraordinary creations.
A Literary Journey in Paris Museums
Set off on a unique literary adventure starting from the Maison De Victor Hugo on the charming Pl. des Vosges. Victor Hugo, best known for his masterpieces Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, was a man of many talents. As you explore the rooms of his former home, you’ll discover his different facets as a poet, playwright, statesman, and human rights activist. This free museum (permanent collection) is an absolute must-visit for all literature buffs.
Another fascinating stop on your literary journey is the Musée de la Vie Romantique. This museum is dedicated to the Romantic period in France, and one of its most famous inhabitants was the prolific author George Sand. With her scandalous love affairs and her unconventional lifestyle, Sand was a true literary icon of her time. As you browse through the permanent collections in this museum, you’ll get a glimpse into the life of this remarkable woman and the era she thrived in. The museum offers free admission, making it a wallet-friendly destination on your trip.