Paris Beyond the Louvre, Unveiling the Artistic Heart of Paris: A Guide to the City's Lesser-Known Museums

Phelipe wearing glasses, a suit and a hat while smiling and standing outside in front of a city street.
Curated By

Phelipe Cardoso Sekai

Icon Share

SHARE

  • France

  • Paris

  • Arts & Culture

  • Food & Wine

  • Romantic

  • Sightseeing

  • Local Food

brown-spiral-staircase-with-brown-steel-railings
Curator’s statement

Paris, often synonymous with the grandeur of the Louvre and the artistic splendor of Musée d'Orsay, holds within its vibrant streets a world beyond these famed institutions. Smaller museums provide a more intimate, often overlooked exploration of art, history and culture in France. In this guide, we journey through these hidden gems, uncovering the soul of Paris in the quiet corners and the lesser-known galleries that are just as integral to its artistic heartbeat as the famous landmarks.

The Fora Difference

Book with Phelipe to access exclusive perks and experiences on your trip.

[object Object]
Killer perks

Free upgrades, spa credits and more—we got you

[object Object]
Personalized recs

Customized travel planning for your style

[object Object]
Insider knowledge

Expert advice from people who’ve actually been there

Where to stay in Paris

Previous slide

Kimpton St Honoré Paris

Chic luxury hotel in Paris with elegant interiors, a California-inspired restaurant, a cutting-edge spa complete with an indoor heated swimming pool and unrivaled 360-degree views from its rooftop bar and garden.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Hôtel Vernet

A stylish, contemporary design hotel steps away from the Champs-Elysées.

Fora Perks
  • $100 food / beverage credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • VIP Amenity

  • Upgrade whenever possible.

Hôtel Grand Powers

Glamorous property in a building from 1920 in the heart of Paris with posh rooms and suites.

Fora Perks
  • $100 food / beverage credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Next slide
Phelipe wearing glasses, a suit and a hat while smiling and standing outside in front of a city street.

Unlock perks by contacting Phelipe to book your trip.

Things to do in Paris

Streets of Paris

Embark on a captivating journey through Paris, a city renowned not just for its iconic landmarks but also for its rich art and culture venues. This guide takes you beyond the well-trodden paths, introducing you to lesser-known museums, each offering a unique glimpse into diverse facets of art, history and innovation.

From the serene impressionist canvases in the Musée de l'Orangerie to the mystical works of Gustave Moreau, and from the technological marvels in the Musée des Arts et Métiers to the enchanting world of the Musée de la Magie, Paris unfolds as a city with endless layers of discovery.

These hidden gems, nestled in the heart of one of the world’s most celebrated cities, invite you to explore the lesser-known, yet equally mesmerizing, aspects of Parisian culture.

Musée de Cluny (National Museum of the Middle Ages)

Situated in the Latin Quarter, my favorite, the Musée de Cluny is a hidden gem that offers a deep dive into the Middle Ages. Housed in a stunning 15th-century Gothic mansion with remnants of Gallo-Roman baths, the museum presents an eclectic mix of medieval art and artifacts. One of the museum's most celebrated highlights is the "The Lady and the Unicorn" tapestry series, a masterpiece of medieval art that mesmerizes visitors with its intricate details and enigmatic symbolism. Apart from the tapestries, the museum's collection includes a wide array of medieval artifacts such as sculptures, stained glass, illuminated manuscripts and goldsmith works. Notably, there's an impressive assortment of statues originally from the façade of Notre-Dame Cathedral. The Musée de Cluny also gives a unique glimpse into daily life during the Middle Ages through its collection of everyday objects, from combs and toys to jewelry and tableware. The museum's setting itself, combining a medieval mansion and ancient Roman baths, adds to the immersive experience, transporting visitors back in time.

Musée de l'Orangerie

The Musée de l'Orangerie, located in the charming Jardin des Tuileries, is a sanctuary for lovers of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. Its most famous feature is the series of Claude Monet's "Water Lilies" murals, presented in two oval rooms bathed in natural light, designed to Monet's specifications to create an immersive experience. The museum also houses the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume Collection, showcasing masterpieces by Renoir, Cézanne, Modigliani, Picasso and Matisse, among others. The intimate scale of the museum allows for a personal and contemplative art experience.

Musée Marmottan Monet

Located in a former hunting lodge in the 16th arrondissement, the Musée Marmottan Monet offers the world's largest collection of Claude Monet's paintings. The museum's highlights include "Impression, Sunrise," the painting that gave Impressionism its name, and a rich array of his other works, including "Blue Water Lilies." Beyond Monet, the museum also features works by Berthe Morisot, Edgar Degas, and Édouard Manet, among others. The intimate setting allows visitors to engage closely with the artworks, providing a unique perspective on Monet's evolution as an artist.

Musée Jacquemart-André

Situated in an opulent 19th-century mansion, the Musée Jacquemart-André offers a glimpse into the lives of art collectors Édouard André and Nélie Jacquemart. The museum's collection includes Italian Renaissance paintings, Dutch masterpieces and exquisite French furniture. Each room of the mansion has been meticulously preserved, offering visitors insight into the luxurious lifestyle of the Parisian bourgeoisie. The museum's café, set in the former dining room, provides a charming setting for a meal or tea.

Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature

This unusual museum, located in a historic mansion in the Marais, combines art, artifacts and taxidermy to explore the relationship between humans and the natural world. Exhibits include fine art depicting hunting scenes, antique firearms and a variety of taxidermied animals. The museum's unique approach presents a nuanced view of hunting and nature, inviting visitors to reflect on the historical and cultural contexts of these practices.

Musée des Arts et Métiers

The Musée des Arts et Métiers, housed in the former priory of Saint-Martin-des-Champs, is a fascinating exploration of scientific and technological progress. The museum's extensive collection includes historical inventions and scientific instruments, such as the original model of Foucault’s pendulum, early airplanes and the first calculators. Each exhibit is contextualized within the broader narrative of human discovery and innovation, making it a captivating destination for those interested in science, engineering and history.

Musée National Gustave Moreau

The Musée National Gustave Moreau, in the artist's former home and studio, presents a unique look into the life and work of the symbolist painter. Spread across three floors, the museum contains Moreau's paintings and personal collections. The top floor, once Moreau’s studio, retains its original atmosphere and provides insight into his creative process. The museum offers an intimate experience, showcasing Moreau's intricate and often mystical works.

Musée Nissim de Camondo

Set in a lavish early 20th-century mansion near Parc Monceau, the Musée Nissim de Camondo houses a stunning collection of French decorative arts. The museum's rooms are preserved exactly as they were during the lifetime of the Camondo family, featuring exquisite furniture, porcelain, tapestries and silverware. The museum not only showcases the elegance of French design but also tells the poignant story of the Camondo family and their contribution to French culture.

Musée du Parfum Fragonard

Near the Opéra Garnier, the Musée du Parfum Fragonard is a fragrant journey into the world of perfume. The museum details the history and science of perfume making, with exhibits on distillation, extraction and the evolution of scent creation. Visitors can see a collection of antique perfume bottles and participate in olfactory workshops, making it an interactive and sensory-rich experience.

Musée de la Magie (great with kids)

In the heart of the historic Marais district, the Musée de la Magie offers a whimsical exploration of the world of magic. This subterranean museum is filled with magic artifacts, optical illusions and interactive exhibits. Regular magic shows and demonstrations make it an engaging experience for all ages, offering a glimpse into the history and art of illusion.

Places to eat & drink in Paris

Savor a french charcuterie at Les Deux Magots.

Eating at the museums in Paris can be as much a part of the cultural experience as viewing the exhibits. Many of these lesser-known museums offer charming cafés or restaurants that complement your visit with delightful culinary experiences:

Café Musée Rodin

The museum's café, 'L'Augustine,' is located in the sculpture garden. It's a perfect spot to enjoy a light meal or a coffee surrounded by Rodin's masterpieces and the serene beauty of the gardens.

Musée Marmottan Monet

This museum doesn't have an in-house café or restaurant, but its location in the 16th arrondissement is close to many chic cafés and bistros, offering a range of dining options from quick bites to sit-down meals.

Musée des Arts et Métiers

The museum features a small cafeteria where visitors can grab a quick snack or a drink. For more substantial meals, the surrounding area in the 3rd arrondissement is filled with diverse dining options.

Café Jacquemart-André

The museum's elegant café is a highlight itself. Set in the former dining room of the mansion, it offers a selection of teas, pastries and light lunch options in a truly exquisite setting.

Musée de Cluny

While Musée de Cluny does not have a café within its walls, its Latin Quarter location is a culinary hotspot, offering everything from quaint cafes to fine dining establishments.

Need to Know

For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Christina Gales's guide, Three Days in Paris - Getting the Most Out of a Short Parisian Adventure.

Phelipe wearing glasses, a suit and a hat while smiling and standing outside in front of a city street.

Travel Advisor

Phelipe Cardoso Sekai

Get in touch with Phelipe

Did you like this guide? Reach out to customize and book your own experience. Or, just to chat about travel in general.

You can normally expect a response from Phelipe within a business day or so. You’ll also be subscribed to our travel newsletter (you can unsubscribe at any time).

This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Paris.