Let us cut straight to the point – we are presenting you a list of the most visited museums in Paris.
Why, you ask?
Well, because Paris in its long history of kings, merchants, and artistic talents, has gathered a veritable bounty of masterpieces!
If you don’t have a lot of time in Paris but would like to browse the most spellbinding collections, this list is definitely for you!
You can refer to the official website for Paris’ Convention and Visitors Bureau for more information, but here we summarize the highlights of each museum and why it is worth a visit.
From national museums to art-focal collections with international acclaim, Paris treats visitors with stunning art work that date back centuries. Many were private acquisitions by royalty and nobility, later donated to or acquired by museums.
The buildings themselves are often historical monuments so spare some attention for their lavish interiors or iconic designs too.
Of course don’t forget to bring along your camera or sketch pad if you’re artistically inclined and make the most of your museum tour.
Let’s dive in!
I- The Most Visited Museums in Paris
According to the Paris Tourist Office, these are the 15 most visited museums in the city.
With the Louvre topping the list with 10 million visitors and the last one, Palais de la découverte, capping off at almost 500,000 visitors, you can imagine just how loved these attractions are.
1. Musée Du Louvre
Musée du Louvre, Rue De Rivoli, 75001 Paris
Located in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, the Louvre is one of the most famous museums in the world and a world-class icon easily scouted out by the glass pyramid out front.
The building itself is also a historical monument; the 12th century fortress turned royal residence has become a lavish display of 16th century opulence.
Easily placing at the top of this most visited list with some 10,105,962 visitors in 2019, the Louvre also reigns as the largest museum in the world.
Much of the Louvre’s outstanding collection was private acquisitions by previous monarchs, including Napoleon’s active contributions to the museum.
Coveting works from ancient periods, medieval to the Renaissance, the museum offers eight departments: paintings, Egyptian antiquities, Greek and Etruscan and Roman antiquities, Near Eastern antiquities, sculptures, decorative arts, Islamic art, and prints and drawings.
Most notably, it hosts the famous Mona Lisa alongside prolific work by Michelangelo, Raphael, Rosso and da Vinci.
2. Centre Pompidou . Musée National D’Art Moderne
Centre Pompidou, Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 Paris
Designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, Centre Pompidou’s “inside-out” amalgamation of piping, steel beams, lifts, escalators and exposed-everything just screams “modern”.
A whooping 3,551,544 visitors filtered past this astounding exterior, taking the escalators up to the largest collection of modern art in Europe.
You can browse the complete collection of over 50,000 works on the website; the museum displays 600 works at any one time and rotates it each year.
Start with a sweep of modern art history on level five, which examines the movements of Primitivism, Cubism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism and more.
Level four fast forwards past 1905 to art produced after the 60s, alongside temporary exhibition spaces.
Between the ground floor and the sixth level, dive into the featured collections by Duchamp, Malevich, Giacometti, Dali, Miro, Rothko, Pollock and more.
Tribal art and folk art also have their place within this massive gallery.
3. Musée D’Orsay
Musée d’Orsay, 1 rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007 Paris
Following closely is the Musée d’Orsay, which welcomed 3,286,224 visitors in 2019.
As with many historical monuments, the Parisian museum emerged from the renewal project surrounding this 1900 train station.
Construction works took place between 1973 and 1986, transforming its interior into gallery space while maintaining the building’s iconic giant clocks.
Musée d’Orsay’s most important features are the Courbet and Van Gogh exhibitions, which came about in 2011 alongside the museum’s expanding collection.
Its growth is significant because its collection slots neatly between that of the Louvre and Centre Pompidou.
Musée d’Orsay offers works between 1848 and 1914, covering the schools of Realism, Impressionism, Pointillism and other period styles.
Definitely linger at Monet’s La Gare Saint-Lazare and Renoir’s Bal du moulin de la Galette.
Matisse’s fauvist paintings are also a highlight. And of course, the evocative L’Origine du monde by Courbet is a scene-stealer.
4. National Museum of Natural History
Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle, 57 Rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris
Turn your attention to the Grand Galleries Evolution collection at Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle; the theme now is natural history. Once a Gallery of Zoology in 1889, it rebranded and reopened in 1994 after a series of repair work.
Visited by 2,049,739 people, this museum is top choice among a diverse crowd.
You’ll walk into an open-balcony design, central display glowing under the building’s tinted glass roof.
A total of 9500 specimens are spread out over four floors, offering displays of life-sized taxidermied animals and skeletons.
To complement, informational displays discuss efforts in conservation and how evolution has affected the natural order.
Families with children can visit the gallery for young kids and introduce them to all sorts of animals.
5. Quai Branly Jacques Chirac Museum
Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, 37 Quai Branly, 75007 Paris
One of the newest Parisian museums city center, the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac opened only in 2006. With “openness” as the theme of the building, its exterior takes on a space with no boundaries.
Opposed to the neat, cultured lines of a formal French garden, the museum’s façade carries jutting blocks of color interspersed with overgrown nature. It is this artistic and jungle-like exterior as well as the museum’s 450,000 item collection that drew in the notable 1,261,817-strong crowd.
Dedicated to indigenous art and culture, the museum brings together non-European exhibitions. African ethnic art, Asian and American cultural works, Oceania’s distinctive pieces all come together in a mixed-media collection.
Marvel at Aztec and other anthropomorphic statues, traditional costumes and feathered masks, wooden carvings and Ethiopia’s unique frescoes.
The vibrant roster is a fun break from the lavish artworks of European origin.
6. Army Museum
Musée de l’Armée, 129 Rue de Grenelle, 75007 Paris
A leading military history museum on global scale, the Musée de l’Armée was created in 1905 after the World Fair.
Combining the Musée d’Artillerie founded in 1796 with its prior version, Musée de l’Armée consists of a complex spanning 8,000 square-meters and two church extensions. It is located in the grand Hotel National des Invalides, welcoming 1,208,199 visitors, right next to Alexandre III bridge, one of the most beautiful bridges in Paris.
Follow the historical trajectory that the collection is arranged in; over 500,000 items are presented in sequence from Antiquity to post-World War II.
Paintings, military decorations, armory and more antique objects demonstrate France’s colorful military history. The Dome Church is also a highlight, featuring a massive fresco by Charles de la Fosse, and a gold leaf-pressed coating.
You can also visit the tombs of Emperor Napoleon and his extended family, Roman kings and generals and the remains of Turenne.
7. Petit Palais
Petit Palais, Avenue Winston Churchill, 75008 Paris
Sitting across from the Grand Palais is the Petit Palais, although it’s not petite by any means 😀
Constructed alongside its bigger counterpart for the 1900 Exposition Universelle, it later transformed into one of Paris’ top-tier fine art museums.
The building itself is also stunning, its Belle Époque exterior gifting us with lovely layered arches, ornate carvings atop the pillars and angelic figureheads. Is it a wonder that some 1,200,000 visitors made it a point to visit?
Still, the mish-mash collection within is the true gem.
Admire the paintings and sculptures that date from Antiquity to 1900s, featuring works by prominent Impressionists and the names of Poussin, Dore and Courbet. Art Nouveau jewelry and miscellaneous items are on display on lower floors, alongside wooden furniture and Jean Carries’ supernatural ceramic creations.
There are many unexpected sights that transcend traditional definitions of beauty; let yourself be surprised!
8. Grand Palais
Grand Palais, 3 Avenue du Général Eisenhower, 75008 Paris
Yet another museum that entertained over a million visitors, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais has welcomed exactly 1,106,868 curious pair of eyes.
Sitting along the grand Champs-Elysees is the equally grand building constructed for the Exposition Universelle of 1900. Where the base and supporting pillars are massive slabs of stone, the Beaux-Arts exterior did up the roof in steel-framed glass panels.
Wander inside for almost green-tinted exposed beams and a rather steam-punk like glass dome. Displays range from the typical museum goodies (think paintings, sculptures and traditionalist art mediums) to more experimental installations. Modern and contemporary artists dominate both permanent and temporary exhibits, including Irving Penn, Paul Gauguin and Marc Chagall.
There’s no better place to break the monotony of shopping than this hulking museum.
9. Musée De L’Orangerie
Musée de l’Orangerie, Jardin de Tuileries, Place de la Concorde (côté Seine), 75001 Paris
Whether you’re already at the Jardin de Tuileries or dedicated to making the trip, drop by the Musée de l’Orangerie for an altogether different museum experience.
The expansive estate it is based it means visitors are afforded space and no time constraint, advantages that 1,004,287 visitors had enjoyed the past year.
Do note that the museum is closed on Tuesdays, so schedule your garden-museum combo for another day!
Fans of Impressionist and post-Impressionist art will fall in love with the period collection. Classic works such as Claude Monet’s Water Lilies (Nympheas) are carefully arranged; sometimes according to the artist’s wishes.
You can also enjoy a variety of works by Picasso, Renoir, Cezanne, Modigliani and Matisse.
If you’re an artist yourself, do try your own take at these masterpieces.
Panthéon, Place du Panthéon, 75005 Paris
Drop by Paris’ iconic Panthéon located within the Latin Quarter, a monumental silhouette atop Montagne Saint-Genevieve.
Once dedicated to the patron saint of Paris, this former church has housed a necropolis since the French Revolution; you’ll find the tombs of Victor Hugo, Marie Curie and more famous French figures here.
A total of 859,800 visitors have perused its elaborate halls, a neoclassical design of arching hallways, intricate stone carvings, marbled floors and incredible motif work.
Flit through the halls to find illustrations of Saint Genevieve and the rise of Christianity in France. Stunning paintings cover the walls and ceilings to tell the origins of French monarchy. There is also a permanent exhibition detailing the lives and contributions of various buried figures, including Voltaire and Rousseau.
11. Palais De Tokyo
Palais de Tokyo, 13 Avenue du Président Wilson, 75116 Paris
Another recent establishment, Palais de Tokyo opened in 2002 as an “anti-museum”.
Hosted in a 1937 building that was constructed for the Paris Exhibition of the same year, its stripped down interior is the perfect space for mammoth installations.
The 720,615 visitors count of the previous year has staunchly established its popularity among the contemporary crowd.
Its “anti-museum” stance unveils in a lack of permanent collection. Rather, it leads contemporary art with constant reimaging of exhibition subjects and space, inviting various creative residences to mingle and present their creations at this museum.
Visit at night to minimize crowded viewings and enjoy the museum’s free-spirited vibe. You’ll find a younger audience than most thanks to extended hours and a roster of impressive names.
12. Grévin Museum
Musée Grévin, 10 Boulevard Montmartre, 75009 Paris
What drew these 681,042 visitors to the Musée Grévin?
Why, an unusual medium of art of course.
One of the most fun museums in Paris, Musée Grévin is a wax museum that houses incredible life-sized copies of historical figures and famous celebrities today.
Mingle with the likes of Napoleon and King Louis XIV, or pose alongside Marilyn Monroe and Angelina Jolie.
With over 200 wax figures, you’re bound to find one of interest!
There’s also a café and theatre for brief sit downs, although the latter’s classical music concerts may yield a longer stay.
This museum is a good choice for those with children as a substitute for ancient statues.
13. Rodin Museum
Musée Rodin, 77 Rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris
Nothing speaks museum like the former residence of a renowned artist.
A whopping 559,813 visitors toured Musée Rodin to catch a glimpse of what inspired the well-known Auguste Rodin – former Hotel Biron’s gorgeous landscaped gardens.
Surrounded by carefully trimmed hedges and neat lawns, the mansion is perfect for creating art.
The museum has been made public since 1919, inviting scours of visitors into intimate and quietly elegant rooms. High ceilings frame Rodin’s detailed drawings and sculpture work; some pieces are arranged within the gardens.
Do seek out his most famous bronze sculptures!
Iconic The Thinker is a pose to aspire to.
14. Paris Museum of Modern Art
Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 11 Avenue du Président Wilson, 75116 Paris
Like its name suggests, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris is dedicated to 20th and 21st century art.
A nicely rounded number of 537,000 visitors made their rounds of the 13,000 works on display within this historical building.
A 1937 design for the International Art and Technical Exhibition, the building is of distinct Art Nouveau style. It became a museum in 1961.
Color and innovation marks the collection as you’ll find a range of paintings and sculptures by artists with distinctive style.
Some artists featured include Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Bonnard, and Vuillard, all part of the permanent galleries. Temporary exhibitions are held to keep things fresh so feel free to drop by throughout the year for new content.
15. Universcience . Palais De La Découverte
Palais de la découverte, Avenue Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 75008 Paris
To round off the list is Palais de la découverte, which welcomed a whopping 479,062 visitors.
Part of Universcience, this museum calls out to all those who are interested in learning science via interactive fun.
Visitors can get hands-on at the Acoustics Room, investigating sound through experiments and demonstrations. Other permanent spaces include the Light Room and Hydrogen Area, which explores how light is formed and manipulated, and how hydrogen is applied to create energy. The museum’s Planetarium is another highlight where visitors can marvel at our universe and stars.
If you’re science-curious, make sure to sign up for workshops on your topics of interest!
Check out this short video to have a glimpse of what you can find inside:
II- Museums in Paris: Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Museums Are in Paris?
There are 130 museums in Paris if we include suburban ones within the “Grand” Paris region.
There are 16 recognized “Museums of the City of Paris”, which include Les Catacombes, Petit Palais and Musée Bourdelle; the Air and Space Museum however, is considered a peripheral attraction.
You’ll find that these museums are categorized under culture, archaeological, art, biographical, numismatic, scientific and more.
Some historical houses such as the Masion d’Auguste Comte is considered a museum in its own right, as it displays restored period rooms or was the abode of a famous historical figure.
When Are the Museums Free in Paris?
Paris is pretty generous with entry to its plethora of museums, offering both free for all museums and no-pay days for others. The museums run by the City of Paris are generally free for everyone, although you may have to obtain a ticket from the ticket office to mark your entry. This includes the fine art collection of Petit Palais, the 19th and 20th art collection of the City of Paris Museum of Modern Art, historical Maison de Balzac, Musée Carnavalet and Musée Cognacq-Jay.
Note that some museums are free on the first Sunday of each month, such as the Louvre, Musée Rodin, Musée d’Orsay, and Musée Picasso. National museums are also free for students and anyone under 26 year-olds but you have to be an EU citizen to enjoy this perk. Make sure to bring your passport or ID as proof. International visitors under 26 can occasionally enjoy free entry into the Louvre; visit on Friday evenings between 6 PM to 9:45 PM.
Alternatively, you can get the Paris Pass. While this doesn’t guarantee free entry into all museums, it does give you a massive discount on entry fee.
In Which Arrondissement is the Louvre Museum Located in Paris?
Located in the 1st arrondissement, the Louvre Museum sits along the right bank of River Seine. Originally intended to be a military fortress, its location was largely strategic. Now, the Louvre’s location is more considered more aesthetically pleasing than defensive, as the open bank allows visitors to appreciate the baroque-style palace both up close and at a distance.
On a side note, those who have time and curiosity may want to visit the Louvre’s satellite museum. Located in a northern French town, Lens, the 2012 project was designed by Japanese architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa.
When Did the Louvre Become a Museum?
We can argue that the Louvre was museum potential since its conception, thanks to the elaborate styling on both its exterior walls and interior rooms. But the seedling of Louvre Museum was founded only in 1793, when the National Assembly opened the Louvre with 537 paintings. It closed after three years due to structural issues and reopened as Musée Napoléon in 1801. From there, the museum would go on to expand its collection and undergo a series of rebranding until its present iteration.
These 15 most visited museums in Paris are on the list for various reasons, none the least because they contribute to France’s rich cultural scene. With collections dating back to Antiquity and ancient periods, they are historical classrooms in which we can learn not just French history but that of its European neighbors.
Of course, it’s important to celebrate movement and innovation too. Palais de Tokyo is a good example of how art should be approached – alongside preservation, there has to be active encouragement of new ideas and experimental set-ups. Fortunately, this list demonstrates that the art community highly supports both approaches to art.
If you have the time, try to make it to as many of these museums as possible. Their collections are of incredible value, capturing history in the moment and with staggering talent. There is much we can learn even if normal audiences don’t understand every stroke of art; things and scenes that existed in times far before our own.