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Paris Hidden Gems - must-visit museums & exhibitions

Everyone has heard about the most famous and most visited Paris museum: the Musee du Louvre, with the famous Mona Lisa. However, there are numerous other museums and exhibitions in Paris that are most certainly worth visiting as well! 

Not only do many of these lesser know museums also boast the works of art of world famed artists, but they also are less crowded and have their own charm. Some of the museums we’ll introduce are well-known but still skipped by many visitors. Others are off the beaten path or they just recently opened.
Paris hidden gems – must-see museums & exhibitions Musee Gustave Moreau

Paris visitors who are particularly interested in museums and monuments might want to consider purchasing the Paris Museum Pass. It is available for 2, 4 and 6 days. Which museums and monuments are included in the Paris Museum Pass can be found in the pass description on the official website and the ticket itself. Depending how many museums and monuments you’re planning to visit the pass might offer great savings. Also, with the ticket there is usually either a separate (shorter) line or even access to the “skip-the-line” entry. When we used the pass in spring, we never had to wait more than 5 -10 minutes and most of the time not at all. 

The best part about some of these hidden gems however is that they are free! Yes, free! And not just on the first Sunday of the month or to Europeans under 25 – they’re free all the time. Only temporary exhibitions might require purchasing a ticket. But more on this as well as locations and opening times of the museums and exhibitions below. 

Petit Palais Paris France Beaux-Arts Art Nouveau

The Petit Palais

The Petit Palais is across the street from the Grand Palais, not as imposing but with a beautiful one-of-a-kind Art Nouveau door. It looks much larger once inside as one would imagine seeing the museum from the outside. Also hidden from sight is the interior garden complete with a fountain and outdoor patio with access to the Café. 

The permanent collections as well as the courtyard are always free to visit and only the smaller temporary exhibitions require a ticket (prices vary by exhibition). The permanent collection is home to the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts. 

Official website (and ticket shop): https://www.petitpalais.paris.fr

The Beaux-Arts architecture of the Petit Palais is stunning, particularly the wrought iron banisters of the staircases in the rotundas, designed by Charles Girault in the Art Nouveau style of the time. The Petit Palais was built for the 1900 Universal Exhibition and became a museum in 1902. 

Musée national Gustave Moreau

Off the beaten path - Musée national Gustave Moreau

This little museum reached Instagram fame because of its super picturesque staircase. However, it is still not crowded and is a bit of a secret hidden gem. It is located in the 9th Arrondissement and easily reachable by metro lines 2 and 12. The entrance fee is 7€ / 9€ (depending on the exhibition) and entry is free every first Sunday of the month. It is mandatory to make a reservation online. 

Official website (with ticket shop): https://musee-moreau.fr

The museum is dedicated to the works of Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau (1826–1898) and Moreau used to live here. He turned the ground floor into his studio and a museum in 1885 and continued to live on the first floor. Here visitors can see his apartment including his bedroom, the family dining room, and the den as well as an office/library. The second floor was used as his studio and is now together with the third floor the main art gallery. The complete collection of the museum is extensive and includes drawings, sculptures, watercolors, and paintings. Most noticeably works of art: “Jupiter and Semele” (1895), “Chimera” (1884), and “The Return of the Argonauts” (1891–97). 

Musée de la Vie Romantique

Musée de la Vie Romantique - more than just a museum

This is hands down our favorite little museum. It is literally a hidden gem as the entrance is very unassuming in a small street in the 9th Arrondissement. It is only an 8-minute walk away from Musée national Gustave Moreau and it’s great to combine these two. 

The hôtel particulier (mansion) where the main museum is located is flanked by a greenhouse which is now a wonderful tea house, a courtyard, and a rose garden as well as two studios that house the temporary exhibitions. Build in 1830, the mansion was home to Dutch-born painter Ary Scheffer (1795–1858) and stayed in the family until the 1980s when it became one of the City of Paris Museums. 

The museum kept its original charm and furnishings, and on the first floor the mementos from the romantic literary figure George Sand – the pen name of Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, French novelist, and journalist – can be admired. She is known as one of the most notable writers of the European Romantic era. On the second floor, a number of Romantic canvases, art objects, and sculptures can be admired. 

We would highly recommend visiting right at opening time and first stopping at the enchanting little tea house in the old greenhouse for a delicious cup of coffee and homemade cake or pastries for breakfast. The tea selection is of course also excellent. On a warm day, take a seat in the courtyard surrounded by roses. As the mansion isn’t very large, you won’t need more than 1 hour (or less) to see everything. Unfortunately, the house is not suitable for wheelchairs as there is a small spiral staircase. 

Entry to the museum is always free, only the temporary exhibitions are 5€. 

Official website: https://museevieromantique.paris.fr/fr

Musée Rodin

The Musée Rodin Paris

The Musée Rodin in Paris was opened in 1919 and is primarily dedicated to the works of the sculptor Auguste Rodin. One of his most famous sculptures, “The Thinker”, can be found in the lovely rose garden of the Museé Rodin. 

The Paris location at Hôtel Biron was built between 1727 and 1732 and was used by Rodin as his workshop starting in 1908, and under the condition that the buildings would be turned into a museum, dedicated to his works, he donated Hôtel Biron to the French State together with his entire collection which also included paintings from fellow artists Vincent van Gogh, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Claude Monet. 

The Museum is centrally located close to the metro station Varenne (line 13). In addition to the permanent exhibition, temporary exhibitions are also organized. As the museum also has a wonderful large garden with additional sculptures and a Café, we would recommend planning at least 1 – 2 hours for your visit. Admission is 13€ and tickets to skip the line are available online at the official website: https://www.musee-rodin.fr/en

Musée de l’Orangerie Paris

Musée de l’Orangerie Paris

This little gem is also one of our favorites. This art gallery is located in the Tuileries Garden next to Place de la Concorde and across the Seine from Museé de Orsay. It is best known as the home of Claude Monet’s large water lilies murals. The focus of the art gallery is on impressionist and post-impressionist paintings and therefore works by Henri Matisse, Paul Cézanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Pablo Picasso, and others can be found here as well. 

In 1852, Napoleon III ordered the building of the Orangerie to store the citrus trees of the Tuileries garden there during the winter. After the fall of the second empire, the Orangerie became the property of the State and continued to be used in its original function as well as for events. Claude Monet (1840 – 1926) was commissioned by the State to paint the Water Lilies series and eventually, they came to an agreement that the paintings will be placed in the Orangerie. Monet assisted the architect in properly designing the space for the optimal display of his paintings. 

The large murals and oval-shaped rooms are extraordinary and I could sit there forever and take it in. While the Museé de l’Orangerie is quite famous, and during peak time in summer it can get a bit crowded, many skip it still. It is covered with the Paris Museum Pass and combination tickets with the Museé de Orsay are also available. Regular admission is 12,50€ and rickets are available online at the official website: https://www.musee-orangerie.fr/en

Bourse de Commerce - Pinault Collection

Bourse de Commerce - Pinault Collection

The Bouse de Commerce – Pinault Collection opened in the fall of 2021 and is a „must-see“ for us when visiting Paris. The gorgeous building was originally used as the trade center for grain and other commodities, and later it was used by the Paris Chamber of Commerce. In 2016, the major of Paris offered the Bourse de Commerce to François Pinault for a 50-year lease! He renovated the historic monument for $195 million! 

Since its opening, exhibitions so far have featured the works of Charles Ray, Bertrand Lavier, Kerry James, Marshall, and Marlene Dumas amongst others as well as in-situ works by several artists, installed inside and outside the Bourse de Commerce to create a dialogue between architecture and exhibits (one example is the little mouse). It’s an absolutely incredible experience! For art enthusiasts, there are also workshops and guided tours. Admission is 16€ and tickets can be purchased directly via the official website: https://www.pinaultcollection.com/en/boursedecommerce

Musée des Arts décoratifs Paris

Musée des Arts décoratifs Paris

This museum has a prime location on Rue de Rivoli in the northwest wing of the Louvre Palace and is dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of the decorative arts. Founded in 1905, the museum is home to furniture, religious paintings, altarpieces, objets d’arts, interior design, tapestries, ceramics and other items dating back to the 13th century. The museum has permanent and temporary exhibitions, information regarding the current exhibition as well as tickets (14€) are available on the official website: https://madparis.fr/en

L’Atelier des Lumières Exhibition Paris

L’Atelier des Lumières Exhibition Paris

L’Atelier des Lumières opened its doors in 2018 and is a digital art center with a unique concept. The immersive exhibitions found a home in a building that was previously used as a steel foundry, and with this architecture perfectly suited for large-scale digitized artworks and images. The images are turned into animated videos that tell a story, supported by a great soundtrack and sound system, and visitors see the artworks come to life. It’s an exceptional experience for visitors of any age! The exhibitions change every couple of months and so far have covered, amongst others, Klimt, Cezanne, Van Gogh, and Dali. Tickets can be purchased directly via the official website: https://www.atelier-lumieres.com/en/home and are 16€.

We’re happy to assist with further recommendations for museum visits and other activities in Paris. There are over 130 museums, numerous monuments, and endless activities in Paris, and of course, our list wasn’t exhaustive. 

Hopefully, we were able to inspire you to add these museums and exhibitions to your next Paris itinerary!

If you need more tips for off-the-beaten-path activities in Paris, head over to our blog about the famous Marchè aux Puces.

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