When I studied abroad in Paris last semester, I made a long list of things I wanted to do, parks I wanted to see and museums I wanted to visit. By the end of the semester, I marked off every single box on my forty-plus item list except for one! I am so glad that I held myself accountable to discovering what my city had to offer – including many things that people often miss when they spend a very short time in Paris.
I love museums, and a large part of my to-do list consisted of smaller museums around the city, where a lot of tourists do not visit. My experiences with these less visited museums were amazing; not only were they smaller and less overwhelming, but they weren’t filled with people. Here are my top choices:
6. Musée Rodin.
This museum is as much of a museum as it is a beautiful garden. Inside the building are found many of Auguste Rodin’s most famous pieces, including the the Thinker, while outside is a garden designed to display some of his larger works. I spent a gorgeous spring morning writing in my journal on one of the benches.
5. Musée Cognacq-Jay
This museum was formerly the home of a rich family with an extensive art collection. Along the walls in many of the rooms are works of art in the rococo style, in which the artists use many pastel colors and portray the sitter with a half smile.
4. Musée Gustave Moreau
Moreau was an artist living in Paris in the 19th century. The second floor is Moreau’s apartment, while his studio is located on the third and fourth levels. Over one hundred of his works are displayed through this museum and include the portrayals of mythological figures. I think that the staircase is beautiful!
3. Musée Nissim de Camando
This museum was one of my favorites. The Camondo family reigned as wealthy bankers and this museum gives an adequate representation and preservation of how the family lived at the turn of the 20th century. The mansion was built in 1911 and donated to become a museum in 1935. Coming here reminded me of watching Downton Abbey, only a French version. Who knew mansions this grand can be found right in the middle of the city?
2. Musée de l’Orangerie
While the Orangerie is more well known than the museums previously mentioned, there are still many people who have not heard of it. This museum, located on the north bank of the Seine across from the Musee d’Orsay, is home to two oval rooms of Monet’s waterlily panels. My first time here, I spent two hours in these two rooms alone! Monet painted these panels towards the end of his life in the 1920s and donated them to the French government so that the public could enjoy them. I did.
This museum is my favorite because Claude Monet’s biggest collection of paintings are located here, and so very few people know about it, so there were very few tourists the both times that I went. This museum also hosted a temporary exhibition called “The Art and the Child,” which traced how French artists have portrayed children through the centuries. There were many magnificent pieces that were brought in from private collections and other museums all over the world. In addition to this special exhibit, the entire downstairs showcases over forty of Monet’s works, from Parisian scenes to larger works of his waterlily series. I exhausted myself trying to take in every single one of his unbelievable works.
On a quick side note: Most visitors are unaware that students who study abroad in France for over three months are required to have a visa. This temporary student visa gives the individual temporary “citizenship” of the European Union. At almost every tourist place or museum in France, the EU allows citizens under the age of 26 free admission to nearly all of the museums located in Paris. I can think of two museums in all of Paris that I paid to get into.
The next time you are in Paris, consider seeing one or two of these instead of the customary Louvre or Orsay. Not only will you get to experience a charming and smaller museum, you will get to explore a new part of the city where maybe you wouldn’t have gone before. I loved studying in Paris because living in this city made it so easy to find things to do and places to visit.