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By Gayatri Bhaumik | June 21st, 2018
  • Europe, France, Paris

Paris’ many museums are lavish temples to the city’s incredible history of art and culture. Unfortunately, they’re usually filled with hoards of tourists, too. You could gird your loins and brave the masses, or you could immerse yourself in the city’s cultural je ne sais quoi at these five smaller – and less crowded – Parisian museums.

A hallway full of curios at the Musee Carnavalet, one of the most historically comprehensive Parisian museums.
A hallway full of curios at the Musee Carnavalet.

Musee Carnavalet

Parisian museums don’t come more historically comprehensive than this. The city’s first municipal museum is a microcosm of Paris itself, filled with items that are at once incredibly historic and hopelessly ordinary. Housed in a stunning building, the collection takes you on a journey through time, from pre-Roman Gaul to modern-day Paris. Rousseau’s inkwell, Proust’s bedroom, and Marie Antoinette’s hair are just some of the gems here.

Editor’s Note: The museum is closed for renovations through 2019, but is still hosting activities and events.

16 Rue des Francs Bourgeois, (+33) 1 4459 5858.


The charming exterior of the Musee de la Vie Romantique, the most idyllic of Parisian museums.
The charming exterior of the Musee de la Vie Romantique.

Musee de la Vie Romantique

In the early 1800s, painter Ary Scheffer entertained the who’s who of Paris’ artistic society in this sweet green-shuttered mansion. These intellectual salons – attended by luminaries like George Sand, Frederic Chopin and Charles Dickens – live on in this museum with personal memorabilia and reminders of these erudite personalities. All the Parisian museums can’t compete with this unique collection which includes a ground-floor homage to Sand, portraits, furniture, and jewellery, as well as evocative memories of genius long gone like casts of Chopin’s hands and Scheffer’s paintings.

Editor’s note: The museum is undergoing renovations and will reopen on June 22.

16 Rue Chaptal, (+33) 1 5531 9567.

A private bedroom at the Musee Jacquemart-Andre, a one-time family home turned one of the most eclectic Parisian museums.
A private bedroom at the Musee Jacquemart-Andre.

Musee Jacquemart-Andre

The globetrotting legacy of banking heir Edouard Andre and painter Nelie Jacquemart lives on in their majestic mansion on Boulevard Haussmann. Inside, the couple’s private apartments are testament to a gorgeous bygone era, but the real draw is the incredible art collection brought together from the furthest flung corners of the world. Few Parisian museums bring together the feeling of a lived-in home with Canalettos and Berninis tucked between Sevres porcelain and Versailles-inspired furniture.

158 Boulevard Haussmann, (+33) 1 4562 1159.

One of the sumptuous gallery rooms of the Musee Cognacq-Jay, a Parisian museum quite unlike the others.
One of the sumptuous gallery rooms of the Musee Cognacq-Jay.

Musee Cognacq-Jay

This lovely of-the-era mansion tucked into a quiet corner of Le Marais is practically a mini Louvre – all the art, minus the maddening crowds. Known for founding La Samaritaine, once Paris’ largest, most glamorous department store, Ernest Cognacq and Marie-Louise Jay quietly amassed a stunning, if eclectic, collection that includes Rembrandts and Canalettos, impressively sparkly jewellery – and, unexpectedly – sterling silver snuffboxes.

8 Rue Elzevi, (+33) 1 4027 0721. 

The preserved studio of artist Gustave Moreau at the Musee Gustave Moreau, a painter's studio turned insightful Parisian museum.
The preserved studio of artist Gustave Moreau at the Musee Gustave Moreau.

Musee Gustave Moreau

Dedicated to the Symbolist painter for which it’s named, this Parisian museum is a quiet oasis at the foot of Montmartre. Sneak around Moreau’s lovingly-preserved private apartments to get a taste of a real artist’s life, then ascend the Insta-famous spiral staircase to the studios on the second floor. It was in these rooms that Moreau produced more than 8,000 works of art, much of which are now displayed – somewhat haphazardly – in these galleries.

14 Rue de la Rochefoucauld, (+33) 1 4874 3850.


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