When it comes to Paris museums, the big daddies (Louvre, Orsay, Centre Pompidou) get a lot of love. (The Louvre, the most, with 30,000 people a day.) But this culturally-rich city has such a high density of museums—some tiny, some sprawling, some romantic (Musée de la Vie Romantique), some creepy (like the CATACOMBS!)—that even life-long residents haven’t seen them all. I’m always amazed when I stumble upon another treasure, and I still haven’t seen the Musée des Égouts de Paris, which focuses on the city’s underground sewers. Here are a few of my favorites.
Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine: Housed in a wing of the Palais de Chaillot on the Trocadéro, this museum provides a lesson in French architectural history as you walk through the immense galleries. There are even reconstructions of gothic cathedral facades, and a replica of an apartment from Le Corbusier’s famous Cité Radieuse in Marseille. The best part of all? Eiffel Tower views through floor-to-ceiling windows.
Musée Marmottan Monet: An old hunting lodge at the edge of the Bois de Bologne in the 16th has an impressive collection of Claude Monet paintings, presented on an intimate scale (with obviously less foot traffic than the Orsay, the city’s bastion of Impressionist works).
Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain: With a living wall and cool architecture by Jean Nouvel, the Cartier Foundation showcases cutting-edge contemporary exhibits like the recent blockbuster: Ron Mueck’s painstakingly detailed statues that are eerily human-like. (The Mueck exhibit was the most popular in the museum's history.)
Maison Européene de la Photographie: A mansion in the Marais which features extraordinary photography exhibits.
Musée Carnavalet: A free museum in the Marais dedicated to the history of Paris over the millennia. The space itself is worth the trip; it’s a former aristocrat’s mansion with original 16th century rooms and a gem of a garden.
Tip: Purchase a Paris Museum Pass and you’ll get unlimited access to more than 60 museums and monuments over a specified period. Plus you also get to cut the line.
Photo of the Carnavalet Museum's garden via Wikimedia/thesupermat