In the Parisian air it is said you can taste art, culture seems to blossom in every shop, building and person. Creativity seems to be very contagious, so don’t be surprised if your soul becomes more imaginative after you visit the City of Lights, even if just for a while, like to attend Maison et Objet 2019. If you have the chance, here are some incredible museums you will never forget once you explore. The memories of greatness and wonder will be forever marked within you.
Le Louvre is the world’s largest museum and the most visited one, with an incredible 8.1 million visitors in 2017. It is a whole universe within the city, a never-ending labyrinth of galleries, corridors and staircases. It’s famous for the artistic master pieces it contains within (like the Mona Lisa), but the museum is also an art creation in itself. Around 35,000 works of art and artefacts are showcased there, however, its main focus is painting and sculpture.
Alongside with the Musée de la Mode et du Textile and Musée de la Publicité, Musée des Arts Décoratifs is one of the world’s major collections of design and the decorative arts. Located in the west wing of the Louvre since its opening a century ago, the venue reopened in 2006 after a decade-long restoration of the building and with 6,000 of the 150,000 items donated mainly by private collectors. The major focus here is French furniture and tableware. From extravagant carpets to delicate crystal and porcelain, there is much to admire.
Musée des Arts et Métier or “Arts and Trades” museum is, in fact, Europe’s oldest science museum, founded in 1794 by the constitutional bishop Henri Grégoire, initially as a way to educate France’s manufacturing industry in useful scientific techniques. Housed in the former Benedictine priory of St-Martin-des-Champs, it became a proper museum in 1819. Its fascinating, attractively vast collection of treasures is surprising. There we can find beautiful astrolabes, celestial spheres, barometers, clocks, weighing devices, some of Pascal‘s calculating devices, amazing scale models of buildings and machines that must have demanded at least as much engineering skill as the originals. The Lumière brothers’ cinematograph, an enormous 1938 TV set, and larger exhibits like Cugnot’s 1770 Fardier (the first ever powered vehicle) and Clément Ader‘s bat-like, steam-powered Avion 3 are also shown in front of our eyes.
The use of primary colors, exposed pipes and air ducts makes the Centre Pompidou one of the best-known sights in Paris. Pompidou holds the largest collection of modern art in Europe, rivalled only in its range and quality by MoMA in New York. The multi-disciplinary concept of the modern art museum (the most important in Europe), library, exhibition, performance spaces, and repertory cinema was revolutionary.
The old Belle Époque Orsay train station was converted into the Musée D’Orsay in 1986 to be the home of one of the world’s largest collections of Impressionist and Post-impressionist art. Aside from works by Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec, you’ll find an elegant collection of decorative arts from the Art Nouveau era and a wide range of 19th-century sculpture.
The huge, sprawling galleries at Grand Palais were originally constructed for the World’s Fair of 1900. Built to showcase international exhibitions from several nations, this place is the archetypal definition of majestic. The exterior is in the style of Beaux-Arts architecture and the cherry on top is the steel-framed glass roof. Almost a century after it was built, in 1994, the Grand Palais was closed for some much-needed restoration, but it reopened in 2005 and has since boasted large artworks by Irving Penn, Marc Chagall and Cartier jewelers.
Opposite, on the other side of the road from the Grand Palais, you’ll find Petit Palais. Although it was also built for the 1900 World’s Fair, its warmly known as Grand Palais’ younger sibling. Behind its Belle Époque exterior, visitors can lay their eyes on some of the city’s most wonderful fine art and sculptures, including works by Poussin, Doré, Courbet and the Impressionists. Art Nouveau fans are in for a treat downstairs, where you’ll find jewelry and oddments by Belle Epoque biggies Lalique and Gallé.
Open since 2007, Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine , an architecture and heritage museum impresses specially by its scale. The expansive ground floor is filled with life-size cathedral frontages and ancient buildings, and interactive screens place the models in context. Upstairs, darkened rooms show full-scale copies of medieval and Renaissance murals and stained-glass windows. The highlight of the modern architecture section is the walk-in replica of an apartment from Le Corbusier’s Cité Radieuse in Marseille.
Surrounded by trees on the banks of the Seine, Musée du Quai Branly, is an extraordinary building by Jean Nouvel, with a vast showcase for non-European cultures. Dedicated to the ethnic art of Africa, Oceania, Asia and the Americas, it joins together the collections of the Musée des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie and the Laboratoire d’Ethnologie du Musée de l’Homme, as well as contemporary indigenous art. Treasures include a tenth-century anthropomorphic Dogon statue from Mali, Vietnamese costumes, Gabonese masks, Aztec statues, Peruvian feather tunics, and rare frescoes from Ethiopia.
Musée National du Moyen Age – Thermes de Cluny, the national museum of medieval art is emblematic for the beautiful, allegorical Lady and the Unicorn tapestry cycle, but it also has important collections of medieval sculpture and enamels. There is also a worthy program of medieval concerts in which bards reflect the museum’s collection and occasional 45 min musicales in a similar style. The building itself, commonly known as Cluny, is a rare example of 15th-century secular Gothic architecture, with Gothic doorways, hexagonal staircase and domed chapel. It was built from 1485 to 1498 – on top of a Gallo-Roman baths complex. The baths, built in characteristic Roman bands of stone and brick masonry, are the finest Roman remains in Paris.
Long terrace steps and a pair of stone lions escort visitors into this grand 19th-century mansion, Musée Jacquemart-André, home to a collection of objets d’art and fine paintings. The collection was assembled by Edouard André and his artist wife Nélie Jacquemart, using money inherited from his rich banking family. The mansion was built to order to keep their art supply, which includes Rembrandts, Tiepolo frescoes and various paintings by Italian masters Uccello, Mantegna and Carpaccio. The adjacent tearoom, with its fabulous tottering cakes, is a favorite.
We hope to find you someday wondering in the streets of the City of Lights absorbing all the marvels around.
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