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Museums & Art Galleries In Paris & Île-de-France

With over 130 museums in the greater Paris region, choosing which ones to visit takes a bit of planning. Generic lists of ‘must see museums’, or X’s top 30 recommendations often only have a limited value as they are created for broad appeal. Our list of museums and art galleries in Paris attempts to order and rank the various institutions thematically. Any attempt to group disparate museums is going to be problematic, but the following thematic groupings do have some value in showing what is there for you to visit.

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World Cultures, Anthropology & Ethnography Museums

Cité Nationale de l'Histoire de l'Immigration

Like all major metropolitan centres, Paris has a long history of immigration, having attracted people from all over the world. The story of these migrants can be explored at the National City of Immigration History, opened in 2007, which brings together historic artefacts, archival collections, and contemporary artworks. Focusing on the period from the late 17th century to the present, it looks at the experiences of migrants to France, examining their economic and cultural contributions to French society as well as the prejudice and discrimination they have faced.

Musée de l'Homme

Established in 1937, the Museum of Man is an anthropological institution devoted to exploring questions about the emergence of the human species and where it is headed. Artefacts and objects on display range from human fossils and prehistoric art to wax anatomical models, in fact a vast array of representations of the human body throughout history. Its founder, Paul Rivet, was an ethnologist who specialised in the study of South America and later became involved in the French Resistance.

Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac

The Jacques Chirac Museum of Branly Quay opened in 2006 in a purpose-built structure designed by the architect Jean Nouvel. An anthropological museum named for the French president who established it, it assembles together a substantial body of material from Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Oceania, objects formerly displayed in two older museums. Many of its artefacts were collected at a time when the French Empire was a major colonial power, meaning that today it faces calls to return parts of its collection to their places of origin.

Musée Guimet

Also known as the Musée national des arts asiatiques (National Museum of Asian Arts), the Musée Guimet contains one of the finest collections of Asian material outside Asia itself. Named for its founder, the wealthy industrialist Émile Étienne Guimet, the museum opened in Lyon in 1879 before transferring to the French capital a decade later. Guimet’s museum originally comprised a mix of Asian and ancient Egyptian artefacts, although the latter material was later donated to the Louvre, allowing the Guimet to focus on regions like Afghanistan, Tibet, China, and Japan.

Archaeology Museums in Paris

Musée Carnavalet

Originally built in the 16th century as a home for Jacques de Ligneris, the president of the Parliament of Paris, the Musée Carnavalet has undergone various changes over the years, resulting in its present combination of Renaissance and Neo-Classical styles. In 1866 the Parisian authorities purchased the building and in 1880 opened it as a museum devoted to the city’s heritage. Today it contains a wealth of material, from archaeological artefacts exploring the region’s prehistoric and Gallo-Roman past through to artworks by some of France’s greatest painters.

Musée d'art et d'histoire Paul Eluard

Established in 1981, the Paul Eluard Museum of Art and History won the European Prize for Museum of the Year shortly after its opening. Its collections are diverse, from material belonging to the French Surrealist poet Paul Eluard (after whom it is named), to displays on the Paris Commune of 1871, Parisian industrial heritage, and the building’s own monastic past. The museum occupies an old Carmelite nunnery that was created in 1625 but which, after losing its ecclesiastical function, ended up becoming a magistrate’s court late in the 19th century.

Musée de Cluny

Devoted primarily to the art of the Middle Ages, the Musée de Cluny occupies one of Paris’ oldest surviving buildings, a late 15th-century Gothic mansion built for the Abbot of Cluny. It was in the 19th century that this lavish structure became home to a museum, and today its most important treasure is probably The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, created around 1500. Accompanying its medieval heritage, the museum also encompasses the frigidarium of a Gallo-Roman bathhouse and displays important Roman-era artefacts like the Pillar of the Boatmen.

Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac

The Jacques Chirac Museum of Branly Quay opened in 2006 in a purpose-built structure designed by the architect Jean Nouvel. An anthropological museum named for the French president who established it, it assembles together a substantial body of material from Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Oceania, objects formerly displayed in two older museums. Many of its artefacts were collected at a time when the French Empire was a major colonial power, meaning that today it faces calls to return parts of its collection to their places of origin.

National Archaeology Museum

The Musée d’Archéologie Nationale is housed in what was once a royal palace – the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, on the outskirts of Paris. In the 1860s Napoleon III had the castle restored to house the nation’s archaeology collections. Today, the museum has a vast collection of artefacts from all over the country, from the earliest Palaeolithic to the early Medieval. Highlights include cave art, Bronze Age gold and Roman mosaics.

Petit Palais

Designed in the Beaux-Arts architectural style, the Petit Palais was built for the city’s Universal Exposition in 1900, now home to the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts. One of Paris’ finest art galleries, from its origins it showcased artworks that the city authorities had been collecting since 1870, and over the years its collection has expanded through donations. Seeking to present a broad history of European art, its collection includes artefacts from the Classical world as well as works by some of the continent’s most important artists, from medieval engravings by Albrecht Dürer through to Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings by Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin, and Paul Cézanne.

History Museums in Paris

Cité Nationale de l'Histoire de l'Immigration

Like all major metropolitan centres, Paris has a long history of immigration, having attracted people from all over the world. The story of these migrants can be explored at the National City of Immigration History, opened in 2007, which brings together historic artefacts, archival collections, and contemporary artworks. Focusing on the period from the late 17th century to the present, it looks at the experiences of migrants to France, examining their economic and cultural contributions to French society as well as the prejudice and discrimination they have faced.

Musée Carnavalet

Originally built in the 16th century as a home for Jacques de Ligneris, the president of the Parliament of Paris, the Musée Carnavalet has undergone various changes over the years, resulting in its present combination of Renaissance and Neo-Classical styles. In 1866 the Parisian authorities purchased the building and in 1880 opened it as a museum devoted to the city’s heritage. Today it contains a wealth of material, from archaeological artefacts exploring the region’s prehistoric and Gallo-Roman past through to artworks by some of France’s greatest painters.

Musée de la Préfecture de Police

Located within a working police station, the Museum of the Prefecture of Police explores the history of the Parisian police force from the 17th century through to the present day. It has over 2000 objects in its collection, ranging from posters and paintings through to weapons and uniforms. As well as examining the formation and administrative changes that the city’s police have gone through over the centuries, it also deals with several of Paris’ most famous crimes, including the Poisons Affair and the murders of serial killer Henri-Désiré Landru.

Museums for Children in Paris

Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie

Claiming to be the biggest science museum in Europe, the City of Science and Industry was established in the 1980s. Its educational displays focus on a wide range of scientific areas, from the human body and brain through to mathematics and sound. Alongside these displays, a planetarium offers visitors the chance to learn more about the wider universe. More heritage-minded visitors may appreciate the opportunity to explore the Argonaute, a Aréthuse-class submarine used by the French Navy between 1957 and 1982, in the midst of the Cold War.

Le Musée en Herbe

A small museum that opened in 1975, the Museum of the Buds showcases temporary exhibitions of artworks aimed at entertaining and educating children. To this end, its exhibitions have often focused on characters from comic book strips, cartoons, and video games, with previous displays dealing with Tintin, Asterix, and the Mr Men and Little Miss series. Other exhibitions have explored the work of artists like Salvador Dalí, Hundertwasser, and Keith Haring. The museum also offers a range of special events intended to help get kids involved in the arts.

Musée des Arts et Métiers

Devoted to technological innovation, the Museum of Arts and Crafts displays over 2,400 inventions. This is part of the collection belonging to the Conservatoire national des arts et métiers (National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts), an institution established by Henri Grégoire in 1794, amidst the dramatic changes wrought by the French Revolution. Among the museum’s most important displays is the original Foucault pendulum, created in the mid-19th century to demonstrate the Earth’s rotation. Unsurprisingly, the museum therefore features heavily in Umberto Eco’s famous 1989 novel, Foucault’s Pendulum.

Medicine & Medical History Museums in Paris

Musée Curie

One of the most important scientists of the modern era, the Polish-born Marie Curie later settled in France, becoming the first female professor at the University of Paris. It was there that she established the Radium Institute, conducting experiments that advanced understandings of chemistry and physics. The original Institute building today contains the Musée Curie (Curie Museum), which preserves both Curie’s office and her chemistry laboratory. Displays help visitors learn more about Curie’s pioneering research as well as the lives of her and her family – who collectively received five Nobel Prizes.

Musée d'histoire de la médecine

Part of the Université Paris Cité (Paris City University), the Museum of the History of Medicine can be found in the former Faculty of Medicine building. Much of the collection was assembled by a professor of medicine, Dean Lafaye, during the 18th century. Included within it are medical instruments used by the doctors caring for Louis XIV, France’s famed ‘Sun King.’ The museum was established in the 1950s but for many decades was solely accessible to students and staff of the Faculty of Medicine; only in 1994 did it open to the general public.

Musée du Service de Santé des Armées

Housed in the cloister of the former royal abbey at Val-de-Grâce, the Army Medical Service Museum showcases the heritage and ongoing activities of the medical wing of the French armed forces. As well as material pertaining to developments in the surgical treatment of wounded soldiers, it delves into the military’s humanitarian efforts abroad. Also on display are the medical collections of two doctors, Jacques and François Debat, which include historic examples of French and Italian earthenware and medical equipment dating as far back as ancient Egypt.

Musée Pasteur

Known for his contribution to the development of vaccinations, the French scientist Louis Pasteur has been credited with saving millions of lives. Today, the Parisian apartment where he spent the last seven years of his life, from 1888 to 1895, is preserved as the Pasteur Museum, located within the larger Institut Pasteur (Pasteur Institute). Also preserved here is a large selection of scientific equipment that Pasteur himself used in his experiments as well as the Neo-Byzantine style chapel where the bodies of Pasteur and his wife Marie are interred.

Science, technology & Natural History Museums in Paris

Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie

Claiming to be the biggest science museum in Europe, the City of Science and Industry was established in the 1980s. Its educational displays focus on a wide range of scientific areas, from the human body and brain through to mathematics and sound. Alongside these displays, a planetarium offers visitors the chance to learn more about the wider universe. More heritage-minded visitors may appreciate the opportunity to explore the Argonaute, a Aréthuse-class submarine used by the French Navy between 1957 and 1982, in the midst of the Cold War.