Paris has a lot to offer in the way of culture, with over 140 museums covering almost any topic you can think of. One needs time to see just a handful of them, not to mention money to cover all of the entrance fees. The good news is that there are many that open their doors free to the public, everyday, year-round. Below we’ve provided an extensive list of 23 excellent cultural attractions you can visit without breaking your budget.
Along with the Thermes de Cluny, the Arènes de Lutèce are the only vestige left of the early Romans of Lutèce. This former amphitheater, likely first constructed in the first century AD, and reconstructed again in the 6th century, could contain more than 15000 people. The ruins were discovered at the end of the 18th century, and thanks to its classification as a Historical Monument, the Arènes de Lutèce can now be visited everyday for free.
Located in the fifth arrondissement police headquarters, the Le musée de la préfecture de police traces the history of the Paris police from the the epoch of L’ancien régime to today. 2000 unique objects are presented that evoke the history of Paris.
Set within a Napolean III townhouse from 1860, Musée du Parfum was created by the Fragonard perfume company in the early 80s. Within this unique setting visitors will find exhibits including antique perfume bottles, toiletry sets, perfume-manufacturing equipment for extracting fragrances, and more. Learn how perfumes are made, then and now. Don’t miss the orgue à parfum (perfume organ) with its rows of ingredient bottles and scale, used to mix fragrances.
First opened in 1900, the Théâtre musée des Capucines takes you on a trip through the history of perfume making. You’ll find here a 19th century copper distilling apparatus which demonstrates how to extract raw materials for the perfume fabrication process. From the techniques of the ancient Egyptians to the those of the 19th century, a world of scent to explore and learn about.
The Curie Museum is on the ground floor of the Curie Pavilion, in one of the oldest buildings of the Curie Institute. This laboratory, erected a few streets away from the “shed” where Pierre and Marie Curie discovered polonium and radium in 1898, was specially built for Marie Curie by the University of Paris and the Institut Pasteur between 1911 and 1914. Here she pursued her work for nigh on twenty years, and here too her daughter and son-in-law discovered artificial radioactivity, for which they received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1935. (source: wikipedia.org)
A reconstitution of the Paris workshop where one of the masters of modern sculpture lived and worked. (source: centrepompidou.fr)
The Musée Bible et Terre Sainte – established in 1969 – is a small museum operated by the Institut Catholique de Paris. It contains over 500 objects representing quotidian life in Palestine from 5000 BC to 600 AD, arranged in chronological order.
Le Plateau highlights contemporary artists in residence in Paris through exhibitions and an experimental space. 50 meters away at 22 cours du 7e-Art. L’Antenne organizes educational meetings about contemporary creation with regular activities for children, teenagers and adults.
The Musée national de la Légion d’honneur houses a permanent collection of decorations awarded to both military officers and civilians from France and other countries, more than 300 portraits, and various objects dating back to the Middle Ages. Learn the protocol that dictates when decorations such as medallions, ribbons and crosses are to be worn. Not to be missed is the Grand Collar of the Legion of Honor with Napoléon I’s crest.
The Musée – Librairie du Compagnonnage traces the history of French trade guilds from the Middle Ages to today. It houses tools, photographs, documents and other artifacts belonging to diverse associations of skilled craftsmen in fields such as carpentry, cabinetmaking, masonry, plumbing, ironworks, pastry, cooking, etc. Skilled craftsmen have toured France since medieval times acquiring knowledge from their predecessors, and to become a master themselves they must create a “chef d’œuvre” which is judged by a college of masters; the museum houses some remarkable pieces from each field.
Free permanent collections
The Musée Bourdelle preserves the studio of sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, and provides an example of Parisian ateliers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today the museum contains more than 500 works including marble, plaster, and bronze statues, paintings, pastels, fresco sketches, and Bourdelle’s personal collection of works by artists including Eugène Carrière, Eugène Delacroix, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Adolphe Joseph Thomas Monticelli, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, and Auguste Rodin. (source: wikipedia.org)
* free visit to the collection outside of temporary exhibition periods
After fleeing from his creditors, novelist Honoré de Balzac set his base here at what is now the Maison de Balzac. He wrote some of his most renowned novels here including La Rabouilleuse, Une Ténébreuse Affaire and La Cousine Bette. The museum contains a library and some original Balzac memorabilia including his desk, chair and turquoise-studded cane.
These two museums also act as research and resource centers, and were designed by specialist World War II historians. They trace the history of three holders of the honorary order of Compagnon de la Liberation: General Leclerc de Hauteclocque, Jean Moulin and the City of Paris. The museum is designed with significant space devoted to audiovisual displays, enabling visitors to experience a critical moment in the history of the 20th century.
Opened in 1961, The Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (MAM), hosts exhibitions by cutting edge contemporary artists, and houses a permanent collection featuring: The Dance by Matisse; Nude in the bath and The Garden by Bonnard; The Cardiff Team by Robert Delaunay; The River by Derain; Discs by Léger; The Stopover by Lhote; The Blue Bird by de Metzinger; four Artists’ Portraits by Vuillard; furniture by Pierre Chareau, André Arbus, Jacques Emile Ruhlmann, which still number among the museum’s masterpieces; and large murals by Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Albert Gleizes and Jacques Villon.
The Musée Carnavalet traces the history of Paris, and contains many fascinating relics from bygone years. It is housed in a building that in itself is worth a visit: a stone-facaded 17th-century townhouse with courtyard and lovely manicured garden with a statue of Louis IV, the Sun King, prominently positioned. Find inside a model of the Bastille, memorabilia from Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI such as furniture, games their children played with in prison, dishes and more.
In 1896, the financier Henri Cernushi bequeathed his mansion overlooking Parc Monceau to the city of Paris, and with it his collection of art from the Far East aquired during his world travels. Completely renovated in 2005, it contains a remarkable collection of ancient Chineses art including neolithic earthenware, archaic bronzes, funeral statues and 20th century Chinese classical and modern paintings.
Formerly a private mansion and studio built in the 19th century, the museum is dedicated to the work of Jean-Jacques Henner (1829-1905) considered at the beginning of the 20th century to be one of the most important painters of his time. (source: musee-henner.fr)
The Maison de Victor Hugo, on the second floor at number 6 Place de Vosges, is now a museum displaying rooms where the author of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” wrote his masterpiece, “Les Miserables”. Also on display this house, where Hugo lived for 16 years, are memorabilia including books and drawings arranged in chronological order from his early years to his exile between 1852 and 1870.
Located in a handsome listed townhouse in the heart of the Marais district, dating from the 16th to 18th centuries, the museum displays the art collections of Ernest Cognacq, founder of the Samaritaine department stores and his wife and Marie-Louise Jay. Bequeathed to the city of Paris in 1928, most of the works displayed date back to the 18th century (with the notable exception of two paintings by Rembrandt). Exhibited are paintings by Canaletto, Teopolo, Boucher, Fragonard, Greuze and Reynolds; pastels by de La Tour and Perronneau; sculptures by Houdo, Le Moyne and Clodion; Dresden porvecloai; gold and silverware, and furniture by renowned cabinetmakers.
The Musée de la Vie Romantique once held salons graced by the presence of 18th century intellectuals including George Sand, Frédéric Chopin, Eugène Delacroix, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingrès, Alphonse de Lamartine, Pauline Viardot and some decades later Charles Dickens, Ivan Turgueniev and Charles Gounod. Today it is dedicated to George Sand, and displays memorabilia related to her, drawings by Delecroix and Ingrès, and even a mold of the hand of Chopin.
Near the Jardins du Luxembourg is the Musée Zadkine, nestled in a lush garden ornamented by sculptures. Russian-born sculptor Ossip Zadkine (1890-1967), a major figure of the Paris School, lived and worked in the house and studios here from 1928-1927. Characterized by boundless freedom and vitality, the museum displays work from each of his major creative periods: from the primitivism of his early wood and stone sculptures, to the rigid geometry of cubism, to the fluid lines of his take on the neoclassical revival.
* free visit to the collection outside of temporary exhibition periods
Displaying a notable collection of sculptures and paintings, the Petit Palais is a museum that was originally built along with the Grand Palais for the Universal Exposition of 1900. It now houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, and displays works of art by Rembrandt, Rubens, Nicolas Poussin, Claude Gellée, Fragonard, Hubert Robert, Greuze, Ingres, Géricault, Delacroix, Courbet, Monet, Sisley, Pissarro, Cezanne, Modigliani, Carpeaux, Maillol, Rodin and others.
Tags: free museums