If you only have a few days in Paris and have never been there, why spend all your time with hordes of other tourists trying to get your moment in front of the Mona Lisa? There is so much to see and do in Paris, it is truly impossible to decide a “Must See” from a “Save for Next Time.”

I do understand why a first time visitor would want that photo in front of the Eiffel Tower or to say they had been to the Louvre. However, if you sprinkle in a few smaller, lesser known museums you will get a flavor of a neighborhood and a taste of Paris that you won’t find at the famous hotspots.

My all time favorite is the Rodin Museum. Located where the Master once lived and worked, it is a respite from the hustle and bustle of Paris life. When I was a student I used to go to the gardens to study. I loved to wander, grab a coffee and be surrounded by the sculptures. One gray day, there was a small boy with a toy fishing pole, fishing into a puddle, with stunning works of art in the background. I took a picture of the moment and wish I could find it now for this post.

At the time, visits fed my growing fascination with the tortured life of Camille Claudel, the lover, muse and many would say the woman responsible for a number of Auguste Rodin’s masterpieces. If you plan to visit the special spot I recommend renting the 1988 film Camille Claudel starring Isabelle Adjani and Gerard Depardieu.

A visit to the Picasso Museum in the Marais District reignited my interest in the artist. It is in a multistory mansion and the collection chronicles the life and artistic periods of the famous Spanish painter, sculptor and Don Juan who called Paris home for much of his life.

Another favorite of mine is the Museum of Montmartre. I was drawn to it because it was within walking distance of my friend’s apartment and in part because of a fascination with the culture of Absinthe. In Paris, the charm of small museums is often the edifice itself. This 17th century building oozes with history: the rickety stairs and garrets, the pre-historic bathroom setup in the basement and the picturesque garden. The rooms are truly alive and full of colorful characters who tell the tale of this famous/infamous quarter. Make sure to take the audio tour, normally I hate those things but this one really illuminates the experience.

My favorite part of the museum, (besides the great collection of documents, art, furniture and memorabilia from the storied neighborhood) is the grape vineyard that is adjacent to the museum and visible from the windows and garden. It is so anachronistic to see an ancient vineyard in the middle of the pulsing city. Apparently, each year the wine is bottled and auctioned for charity so it would be hard to get a taste.

Filed Under Feature, Films, France, Museums, Paris, Travel Tips, Wine Tours


7 Responses to “Small Museums of Paris”

  1. Alison Wallace on February 11th, 2009 2:56 pm

    Yes, there’s also the Musee Dapper and the Maison de la chasse and de la nature, I found some other really small but great museums (free entry) at http://www.myweekin.net. The Petite Palais is also free and beautiful.

  2. Darya on February 11th, 2009 5:32 pm

    There are so many…. at the foot of Montmartre is a great ‘Outsider Art’ Museum. I saw a fascinating exhibit there. Gustave Moreau Museum is quaint (make sure you know the hours–I think they close from 12-2)and I love the Palais de Tokyo for contemporary exhibits. Here’s a listing of museums http://www.parisnotes.com/museums/parismuseums.html
    I love to buy an Officiel de Spectacle and just look up interesting Museums or exhibits and explore a different quartier.

  3. DeliciousBaby on February 13th, 2009 7:22 pm

    Great tips! I love the Rodin Museum too - plus it’s in such a lovely neighborhood - a visit makes for a really nice afternoon.

    My favorite (though perhaps it is not “lesser known” now that it has been renovated) is the Orangerie. I skip the main collection and just hang out with Monet’s waterlilies for a while. You can book a timed entry through FNAC to avoid waiting in line.

  4. Darya on February 13th, 2009 7:32 pm

    Yes –the Orangerie is great, although I consider that one of the biggies these days. It is lovely to just hang out at a museum and revisit your favorite pieces…

  5. Ellen Scobie on February 28th, 2009 11:13 pm

    I love the Musée Guimet. Maybe you consider it a biggie too but when I was there it was not crowded and visitors had a chance to view the Asian Art collection in a intimate setting. The museum’s interior has been beautifully remodelled in a contemporary architectural aesthetic. A lovely space.


  6. Darya on March 1st, 2009 1:45 pm

    I don’t know the Musée Guimet, but will check it out next time I’m in Paris …sounds lovely and not crowded is always a bonus!

  7. Euro Paris on February 24th, 2010 2:54 pm

    This is a wonderful post, I love visiting museums. My family and I often go to Paris because we have family there and we usually take a day out to sightsee. Next time we go we will have to bear this article in mind and go visit some of the less renowned museums.


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