Beyond the Louvre: Four Paris museums whose names you may not know but whose collections you will never forgetAnne Schwartz, an American expat in Paris, shares with us four less-explored museums in the city of light.
Forget the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay, and the Pompidou Centre. You’ve already seen the Mona Lisa, you can’t stand the thought of long lines, and you’d rather not shell out 10 euros for the experience. Good news: there are dozens of other incredible museums in Paris, practically empty, and with admission fees that are either half the price of the big three or free for visits to their permanent collections. Here are a few suggestions: Musée Carnavalet Admission: free
If your grandmother was the city of Paris and you had to clean out her attic after she passed away, you might end up with a museum like the Musée Carnavalet. It’s a higgledy, piggledy mess of a place (if you can call anything housed in a 17th century mansion in the Marais a mess), not particularly well curated, but wow are there some amazing things to be seen here. Personal favorites include the shop signs from a long gone Paris, mementos from the time that Marie Antoinette and her family spent locked up in prison, and a complete Art Nouveau jewelry shop (well minus the jewels but the woodwork and cases will have you swooning anyway). Musée D'Art Moderne Admission : free
There are 8,000 works of 20th and 21st century art in this museum and all the greats are represented, starting with the Fauves and running through all the major artistic movements – Cubism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, New Realism – up to contemporary works. Don’t miss the monumental works by Matisse or the salle Dufy, created for the 1937 World’s Fair, which traces the origins of electricity. Musée National Gustave-Moreau Admission: 5 euros
Tucked away in the 9th arrondissement, this little gem of a museum was both the home and atelier of a somewhat obscure but nonetheless interesting 19th century artist. Moreau never left the home he shared with his parents (which tells you something right there) and he managed to both absorb and completely ignore the prevailing artistic trends of his age. In sweeping canvases and tiny detailed drawings, his art may have you thinking he was either an incredible genius or a complete nutjob. But it's never dull and you can easily spend an hour or two perusing his work and touring the private apartments, left as if Monsieur Moreau had just gone out for a coffee and never came back. Musée Nissim de Camondo Admission: 5 euros
This elegant 19th century mansion overlooking Parc Monceau in the 17th arrondissement is tinged with sadness. It was given to the French state by Moïse de Camondo in the name of his only son who died fighting in World War I. (Camondo’s daughter and her family subsequently died in Auschwitz.) All that remains of this prominent French banking family is an amazing collection of 18th century decorative arts, housed in a building with all the conveniences of a more modern era. Don’t miss the ground floor kitchen or the bathrooms on the upper floors. Anne Schwartz left behind a public policy career in Washington, DC when her husband got a new job assignment in Paris in 2007. She blogs about her adventures in the City of Light at Just Another American in Paris and provides practical information to Anglophone expats at Posted in Paris.