The Louvre and the D’Orsay Museum are the two most popular museums in Paris, drawing record numbers of visitors in recent years. If you don’t want to deal with the crowds or have already been to the Louvre and the D’Orsay and want an alternative, there are over 100 other museums in Paris to choose from.

Here’s a list of five off-the-beaten-path museums we recommend.

Musée Carnavalet

16 Rue des Francs Bourgeois, Paris 75003

An historic mansion from 1548, once lived in by Madame Sevigne, the celebrated letter writer, was converted into the Carnavalet Museum in 1880, under the order of Eugene Haussmann. The Musée Carnavalet is actually a conglomeration of two former mansions and takes up almost an entire block in the center of the Marais district.

Musée Carnavalet focuses on the history of the city of Paris and contains an immense and rich collection of thousands of paintings, sculptures, photos, engravings, drawings, pieces of furniture, and various other items. It covers the most significant periods in Parisian history including the earliest settlement by the Romans in 52AD, then called Lutetia, the medieval period, the Renaissance, the French Revolution, the sweeping reconstruction in the 1800s, and finally the 20th century. One gallery is dedicated to the antique shop signs from the 16th to the 20th century. In addition, the museum frequently presents temporary exhibitions. Three lush gardens including a formal garden and herb and vegetable garden are open to the public.

Admission is free for the permanent collection.

Musée Cognacq-Jay

8 Rue Elzevir, Paris 75003

Just around the corner from the Musée Carnavalet, is a small gem of a museum, Musée Cognacq-Jay. Ernest Cognacq, was the owner of a chain of luxury department stores, Samaritaine, and he and his wife, Mary-Louise Jay were avid collectors of fine antiques, amassing an extensive collection between 1900 and 1927. When Cognacq died in 1929, he bequeathed his collection to the city of Paris, so that it was available for public viewing and for historical purposes.

The museum was originally located on a site next door to the Samaritaine store on Boulevard des Capucines, close to the Paris Opera Garnier. In 1990 the collection was moved to a former, large-scale townhouse constructed in 1575 for an aristocratic family. Today the museum has meticulously recreated many of the former rooms of the Cognacq-Jay family, filled with antiques, furniture, objets, lamps, chandeliers, carpets, tapestries, and artifacts, mostly from the 18th century.

Admission is free for the permanent collection.

Fondation Louis Vuitton

Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi, Paris 75116

A modern-day behemoth made of glass and steel, is dedicated to one of the great art collections in the world. Billionaire Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton the largest, luxury-goods company in the world, commissioned super-star, American architect Frank Gehry, to design Fondation Louis Vuitton, a museum to house his vast and varied, private art collection. Opened in 2014, Fondation Louis Vuitton, is located in the Bois de Boulogne park on the perimeter of the city of Paris. Gehry’s design concept was to create a massive building with a series of 12 panels with 3600 glass to simulate large boat sails and his inspiration came from the Grand Palais, another massive glass structure, which was built for the 1900 World’s Fair.

The 13,000 square foot interior is divided into eleven galleries, which rotates Arnault’s collection of mostly 20th century, contemporary artists. The striking architecture of the building sometimes distracts the viewer from seeing the art but makes a statement of its own. Jean-Michel Basquiat, Ellsworth Kelly, Jeff Koons, Taryn Simon, Gilbert and George, and Sarah Morris are just a handful of the stellar artists whose work is in the collection. The museum has a gourmet restaurant serving lunch and dinner with an outdoor terrace, a gift boutique, and book shop.

Musée de la Vie Romantique

16 Rue Chaptal, Paris 75009

Literally meaning the romantic life museum, Musée de la Vie Romantique is a delightful treasure that whisks you back to a home filled with the company of artists and writers of the late 1800s. Musée de la Vie Romantique, located below Montmartre, was the home of Dutch born portrait painter Ary Scheffer. He and his daughter became noted for their Friday night salons held in their house, inviting artists, musicians, and writers from the neighborhood such as Chopin, George Sands, Liszt, Charles Dickens, Eugene Delacroix, and Franz Liszt.

Walking down a long, cobblestone path from the street, you enter into a courtyard containing three structures, two of them used as Scheffer’s ateliers, the other, his home. The ateliers host temporary exhibitions and selected works of Scheffer, and the house is decorated in period furniture and antiques, with showcases filled with George Sands jewelry collection and more of Scheffer’s paintings. There’s a lovely outdoor tea salon in the garden.

Admission is free for the permanent collection.

Musée Marmottan Monet

2 Rue Louis Boilly, Paris 75016

In an unassuming building across from a small park, in a quiet, upscale, residential area of Paris, is a museum that has the world’s largest collection of Monet paintings. Musée Marmottan Monet was built as a home for businessman and art collector Paul Marmottan in the early 1900s. The museum was the beneficiary of a large collection of Monet paintings in 1966, which were donated by Claude Monet’s son Michel and it now contains over 100 Monet paintings on permanent display.


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