An American in Paris part 4: The diversity of Paris museums

FIGO's President, Dr Jeanne Conry, lives in Paris, France, six months of every year. An American in Paris is a special blog series from Dr Conry that explores the highlights of Paris as a destination for the FIGO 2023 World Congress. The fourth blog of the series offers an overview of Dr Conry’s top recommendations for museums around the City of Light.

American in Paris - Part 4

There are so many sites to see, museums to visit, shopping to do and of course—just enjoying the café life as people walk by.

I thought this time I would discuss museums, but with two caveats. Pick just one, maybe two, or you will be overwhelmed.  There is so much to see and to enjoy, that museum visits are only one element of things to do. The second caveat is to go online one month before your visit to see what special exhibits there are that month - and book then. There may be a special art or fashion exhibit, or a special treat that grabs your attention.

Paris museums: the Louvre and its surroundings

Of course, the Louvre is the most famous museum in Paris, one to be enjoyed and appreciated—if not overwhelmed with its expansive collections! It is the largest museum in the world, with over 60,000 square meters and almost 400,000 pieces of art.  It is certainly the most incredible museum in Paris to visit, known for its spectacular pyramid entrance and Mona Lisa. Arranging a guide can be helpful, or choose a few pieces of art and sections of the museum that you wish to enjoy and plan a self-tour. I was fortunate to be in Paris as it opened partially post-pandemic and had the museum almost to myself! That is not often the case, so be prepared for crowds and lines.

My two favorite museums are close to the Louvre: Musée d’Orsay and Musée de l’Orangerie. L’Orangerie is known for impressionist art but is most famous for Monet’s Water Lilies, an exhibit so extraordinary it is overwhelming in the beauty and natural world that is captured. Musée d’Orsay is housed in a most spectacular Beaux-Arts train station with the largest collection of impressionist art in the world. Both of these museums are close together and can be appreciated in the same half day. And they are close to the beautiful Tuileries gardens—so enjoy the entire feeling captured by this part of Paris.

Museums in the Marais

I live near the Picasso Museum, and it is a real treat. It is small, shows the breadth and depth of his art and can be accompanied by a great day investigating the shops and the cafes in the Marais. There are over 5,000 works of art, including painted, sketched, sculpted, etched, books and photos. It is a real catalogue of Picasso. There are also walking tours of the Marais, so consider signing up for one, as the Marais is such a special part of Paris!

The Pompidou Center in the Marais is a Paris favorite, known for special exhibits, its unusual and colorful architecture that represents a heart. The glass and metal structure is bathed in light--featuring bright primary colours.  It is built in one of the capital’s oldest districts, and the “beating heart” of Paris since Medieval times. The visual characteristic of the building is embodied by the huge mechanical escalator, known as the “caterpillar”, designed to serve as a vertical outdoor path. 

Not to be missed on the left bank

The Musée du Quai Branly is close to the convention center on the banks of the Seine and close to the Eiffel Tower. It is one of those spectacular museums that allows the visitor to travel the world: collections of African masks, tunics from India, pre-Colombian artifacts and exhibits from Australia.  It actually strikes home with me for a museum to visit because much like FIGO, it highlights four zones: Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Americas. The museum features exhibits that will resonate with all your senses.

The Rodin museum is another that features the  work of Auguste Rodin,  the most famous French sculptor. You’ve likely seen his most famous sculpture named The Thinker, located at this museum. It is a lovely museum, and one to be enjoyed for its grounds and the museum itself.

Right bank gems

I just went to the Petit Palais Museum a few weeks ago and saw a great exhibit about Sarah Bernhardt. The advantage of these exhibits is that you see a beautiful museum and a special exhibit that is in Paris for a limited time.  The Petit Palais was built for the Universal Exhibition (World Fair) of 1900 and is one of 14 museums managed by the city of Paris. This gem features works from antiquity through to the early 20th century.

It sits across from the Grand Palais Museum which is known for the variety of exhibits throughout the year, and of course the French fashion events held frequently.  Unfortunately for us The Grand Palais is undergoing restoration—in time for the 2024 Olympics but not our 2023 Congress!  During our Congress, you can visit the Grand-Palais Éphémère, a temporary exhibition space in the 7th arrondissement designed by architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte and spanning 10,000 square metres on the Joffre plateau in Champ-de-Mars.

The Musée Marmottan Monet is in the 16th arrondissement and hosts over 300 paintings by Monet. Very much worth a visit for those who enjoy his work. 

I have touched on only a small list of the museums, but it is not complete without mentioning the Louis Vuitton Foundation for Creation is a French art museum run by LVMH and subsidiaries. It is a two-story structure with a glass building reminiscent of sailboat and sails filled with wind. It is a cultural space located in the Bois de Boulogne, dedicated to contemporary arts but known as much for unique exhibits. This one takes some ticket planning on your behalf!

I have touched on only a smattering of museums that you can visit. Exploring Paris is a treat for each of us, and we certainly have options—so it is just up to you to decide what suits your interests the most. I look forward to meeting you in Paris this October.

PPT slide registration FIGO Paris 2023