In 2018, over 10 million people battled the crowds and long lines to enter Paris’s Louvre Museum. And while visitors may have been able to catch small glimpses of stunning masterpieces (including the iconic Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo), it hardly makes for a pleasant museum experience.
If you’re looking to explore all the artwork and culture that Paris has to offer without having to shove past large crowds and rush through exhibits, check out some of these under-the-radar museums and art hotspots.
Venture west of the city center and you’ll come across the Frank Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton — the namesake luxury brand’s philanthropic venture. Its impressive exterior is a sight in itself (think soaring curved glass, open atriums, cascading waterfalls, and soothing waterways). The museum's collection features mostly contemporary art, and focuses primarily on four categories: music and sound, contemplative, pop, and expressionist. Fondation Louis Vuitton also showcases an array of specially-commissioned works. 8 Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi, closed Tuesdays. Admission is €9/$10 USD.
You’ll find Musée Jacquemart-André just a few blocks from the tourist-heavy Champs-Élysées. The private estate-turned-museum features the extensive art collection of its former owners, Édouard André and his wife, Nélie Jacquemart. Wander through the opulent home and take in the beautifully preserved architecture and décor. There are five major sections opened to the public, including the Italian Museum and the State Apartments. The Italian Museum section features the paintings and sculptures of many Italian Renaissance masters, such as Donatello, Sandro Botticelli, and Pietro Perugino. The State Apartments house masterpieces from French artists like Jean-Marc Nattier and Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Be sure to explore the rest of the estate, where you'll find even more stunning works to peruse. 158 Boulevard Haussmann, open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is €14.5/$16 USD.
Located in a former smelting plant in the city’s 11th arrondissement, Atelier des Lumières is one of Paris’s newest and most innovative museums. It features over 120 video projectors and 50 discrete audio speakers, both of which produce a wholly immersive experience in picture and sound. The inaugural exhibit showcased over a century's worth of Viennese paintings through the works of Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Presently, you'll find three programs on display: Van Gough: The Starry Night; Japan Dreamed; and Verse by Thomas Vanz (the museum's contemporary collection). Each of the exhibits provide visitors with unique visual experiences, whether it be through the vibrant works of Van Gogh, or walking through the Japanese art that influenced the famed painter. (38 Rue Saint Maur, open daily, online ticketing highly recommended. Admission is €14.5/$16 USD).
Artist and former Parisian resident Salvador Dali has an entire museum dedicated to his mind-bending, thought-provoking works. Located in the art enclave of Montmartre, Dali Paris showcases more than 300 works from the eccentric Spanish artist, which range from puzzling bronze sculptures to otherworldly paintings and sketches to downright bizarre furniture. And although its location may be packed with tourists on their way to and from Sacré-Cœur Basilica, few of them actually venture down the quiet residential street that's home to this fascinating museum. Here, expect short lines, fewer crowds, and more time to ponder the inner workings of Dali’s gifted mind. 11 Rue Poulbot, open daily. Admission is €12/$14 USD.
Art enthusiasts who are particularly fond of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works should take a spin around the Musée de l’Orangerie, which is located across the street from the Louvre in the Jardin des Tuileries. The museum is home to Claude Monet’s eight water lily murals, collectively known as the Nymphéas, which were donated to commemorate the end of World War I. You'll also find a stunning array of paintings by Amedeo Modigliani, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri Rousseau, Alfred Sisley, and Pablo Picasso, among many others. Jardin des Tuileries, closed Tuesdays. Admission is €9/$10 USD.
If you love modern-day street art, make sure to visit 59 Rivoli — a formerly abandoned building that started the squat-art (or "squart") movement in France. In total, the space houses 30 art studios that are open to the public. 15 of these studios are dedicated to residencies that range between three to six months in length. In addition to the 30 studios, 59 Rivoli also has a main gallery space designed for other artists not featured in the studios. 59 Rue de Rivoli, closed Tuesdays. Free admission.
Located in the 17th arrondissement, Art42 showcases all things street art and graffiti. The museum was created in hopes of inspiring people to learn more about this unique style of art. Here, expect to see original works created by internationally renowned street artists including Banksy, Shepard Fairey, and Speedy Graphito. The guided tours last an hour-and-a-half, and you'll get to see around 150 unique works. Although admission is free, it's recommended that you reserve your tour online at least a few weeks in advance. 96 Boulevard Bessières, open for guided tours only from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays (French), English guided tour offered at 7 p.m.
Although it’s not exactly an art museum, Belvédère — a quiet pavilion within the Parc de Belleville — is beautifully decorated with vibrant street art and murals. Its location on the outskirts of Paris makes it all but secluded for your personal enjoyment. Before you head over to admire the art, be sure to explore the rest of the parks and gardens, and perhaps pack your own picnic lunch to enjoy. Also, while you're here, take in the sweeping views of the city skyline. 47 Rue des Couronnes, open daily. Free admission.