Paris is certainly the city for art lovers, with such a wealth of museums, galleries and sites of artistic importance that it is impossible to do it all and can be difficult to decide where to visit. While the main events of galleries, such as the Louvre, should not be discounted, there is more to Paris than these tourist attractions. Aside from the fancy boutique hotels, Paris is home to some of the most magnificent pieces of art ever to exist, and below is our guide to top things to do in Paris, France to check out if you’re an art lover.
The impressive Orsay Museum, situated on the River Seine, is a treat for the senses. Not only does it house an impressive collection of impressionist masterpieces, but the building itself is an architectural gem. A former railway station, the striking Beaux-Arts building, the Gare d’Orsay, was completed in 1900 until it was scheduled for demolition in 1970. Thankfully, the building was saved and the museum was officially opened in 1986.
The bulk of the collections housed here are French pieces, paintings, furniture, sculpture and even photography from between 1848 and 1915. The museum also boasts masterpieces by artists such as Degas, Monet, Renoir, Manet, Sisley, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Seurat.
The Museé de Cluny is a national museum featuring pieces from the middles ages, in particular, the six famous fifteenth-century La Dame a la Licorne tapestries, which are considered to be one of Europe’s greatest medieval treasures.
Housed in an outstanding example of medieval Parisian architecture from 1334, the Hotel de Cluny was part-built on the third century Gallo-Roman remains of thermal baths, parts of which are open to visitors.
The museum also houses seventh-century medieval sculpture, magnificent illuminated manuscripts, antique furnishings, Sainte-Chappelle stained glass and intricate works of ivory and gold. The heads from the statues that once resided in the Gallery of the Kings of Judea, beheaded by French revolutionaries, are also displayed here.
It is not always necessary for a site to be a gallery in order to be of artistic and historic importance. For a little more life in your historical view of Paris, why not take in drinks and a cabaret at the famous Lapin Agile, in Montmatre?
The nightclub obtained its permanent name 20 years after opening when locals started calling it “Gill’s Rabbit” because of the sign of a rabbit leaping from a saucepan, by Andre Gill. The club was made world-famous when it was immortalized by Picasso in his 1905 work “at the Lapin Agile”.
The cabaret was a much-loved hangout for writers and artists, such as Picasso, Utrillo (who also painted the club), Modigliani and Apollinaire, not to mention other nefarious characters such as pimps, anarchists and other eccentrics. It is a real piece of art history.
Museé Rodin is a collection of the works of the world famous sculptor Auguste Rodin, all housed in the Hotel Biron, which he used from 1908 as a workshop. The museum also organizes contemporary exhibitions and works by Wim Delvoye, Henry Moore and video performances by a series of artists that have been screened.
The collection includes many of his most significant pieces, including The Gates of Hell, The Kiss, and The Thinker. It also houses his own collection, which he donated to the state on his death and he was quite a collector in his own right.
The house and grounds are beautiful and the museum is very accessible, being located close to a metro station, Varenne. In fact, there are even some sculptures by Rodin featured on the Varenne metro stop’s platform.
If you are willing to look beyond the traditional galleries and museums and keep an open mind, there are treasures to be found. The neighbourhood of Belleville is currently the artistic home to emerging artists, where savvy collectors pick up pieces before plaudits from art houses push prices up.
Once a year, Belleville artists hold a weekend where more than 250 artists, sculptors and photographers open their studios to the public and sell their work. If you take a stroll around the area and knock on a few doors, you may just find what you are after.
Currently, La Generale is the liveliest of the squats and has been developed into rehearsal rooms and galleries by writers, artists, photographers and architects. La Forge is the place for discussion and talking politics; and Point Ephemere is a hub of residences, gig hall and studios.