Museums & Estates

Le Musée Picasso
(Hôtel Salé, 5 rue de Thorigny, M: St-Sébastien, St-Paul)
This museum, in the heart of le Marais, holds the works of Picasso that were left to the French government at the time of his death. The wide collection follows the development of Picasso as an artist, including his Blue, Pink, and Cubist periods, as well as his use of many different materials.


"Located in an impressive 17th century mansion (Hôtel Salé), the Musée Picasso houses one of the world’s largest collections of Pablo Picasso’s works. Through the numerous paintings and sculptures (and the aid of our tour guide), I felt that I was able to get a better understanding of one of the most complex minds in the history of art. The museum organized the pieces in chronological order, making it easy to see the evolution of Picasso’s art. Our tour guide offered a very extensive analysis of Picasso’s work, and although it was lengthy, it never became boring. The guide was able to take this seemingly abstract mass of artwork and reveal the meaning behind it. She did however have a condescending attitude, which stole some of the museum’s charm. My favorite works included La Celestina, andVieil homme assis, Mougins." (OJ)



Le Musée Rodin
(77 rue de Varenne, M: Varenne)
Auguste Rodin, regarded as the best French sculptor of the 19th-century, lived and worked in the Hôtel Biron for the last nine years of his life. In return for a place to live and work, Rodin left his work to the nation. Some of his most celebrated sculptures are on display in the garden, including The ThinkerBalzac, and The Gates of Hell. The museum is arranged in chronological order, with highlights such as The Kiss and Eve.


"The first museum we visited in Paris was the Musée Rodin, housed in the Hôtel Biron, right below Les Invalides. In our exploration of this nice museum we were accompanied by a Spanish guide, who did a terrific job, although his tour ran a little bit long: instead of one hour and a half, our visit lasted no less than three hours!

"During this visit, I was impressed by Rodin's innovative work, which revolutionized the art of sculpture at the beginning of the twentieth century. I particularly liked the way that he recombined various elements to create a variety of different sculptures, reminding us of the importance of the context in which the subject is placed. Also, I appreciated his purposely unfinished works, which are a strong stimulus for the imagination and which can offer a glimpse into the act of creation itself. Finally, I prized the more abstract works like The Cathedral orThe Hand of God, which prefigured the symbolism of Brancusi, another sculptor that I love." (CC)


"I had never seen much of Rodin's work besides the famous Le Penseur ("The Thinker"), which greeted us in the garden as we entered the museum. However, he had many more masterpieces, which we learned A LOT about, since our Spanish guide, Ernesto, talked for way too long. As a result of his long-windedness, we didn't have any time to spend in the garden, where many of Rodin's pieces lie. I was really disappointed, so I returned on our last day in Paris and walked through the garden in the rain. One of his sculptures, Le Baiser ("The Kiss") ended up being one of my favorite pieces of artwork that we saw on the entire trip. The emotion and intimacy that Rodin managed to convey from a block of stone was beautiful." (SC)



Le Musée du Louvre
(M: Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre)
Containing one of the most important and rich art collections in the world, this museum, formerly a lavish palace, is today a fitting backdrop for the artwork it displays. A few of its masterpieces include the mysterious Mona LisaVenus de Milo, and Victoire de Samothrace (Winged Victory of Samothrace). Its collections are vast, and cannot be covered in just one day.


"Welcome to art at its finest. The Louvre is the largest and most impressive art museum in the world. Consequently, the only fair visit to the Louvre requires at least an entire day. But I guarantee that it is a great investment of your time. I spent close to 6 hours at the museum, and they were some of my most memorable. While 6 hours is insufficient to even walk the entire museum, it allowed for enough time to see some of the famous sculptures, the Egyptian artifacts, the Medieval Collection, Renaissance Art, the French School, the Spanish School, and the Dutch School. Of course, these included the favorites: the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and the Winged Victory of Samothrace. I highly recommend the Dutch School and the French School." (OJ)


"Before even setting foot inside the glass pyramidal entrance, designed by MIT alumnus I.M. Pei, I was impressed by the beauty and grandeur of the Louvre’s façade alone. Built and then expanded by generations of French kings, it is a fitting if not overwhelming home for one of the world’s most impressive art collections. You could spend days wandering the halls and still not have enough time to examine everything. However, I feel that I packed quite a bit into the one afternoon at my disposal, from ancient Egyptian artifacts to Italian sculpture to my personal favorite, a pair of Vermeer paintings. Don’t forget to grab a snack on your way out; the food in the museum is excellent (even if the service is not)." (TK)



Le Musée d'Orsay
(1 rue de Bellechasse, M:Solférino)
Housed in an old railroad station, this young museum was set up to present artwork dating from 1848 to 1914. Most famous for its collection of Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist works, such as those of Monet, Renoir, Degas, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Seurat, and Toulouse-Lautrec, the Musée D'Orsay also displays extensive collections of Art Nouveau and Sculpture works.


"First we made the mistake of trying to come on a Monday, when the museum is closed but the doors are open and there are guards who stand around and tell you the museum is closed. When we came back on Tuesday, we were somewhat more successful: the impressionist gallaries were open, but the rest of the museum was off limits to the public because of filming for a television program. Once we found our way up escalators and stairs to the top floor, we had to walk back across the length of the museum in order to start at the chronological beginning of the period. The gallaries were especially crowded because the rest of the museum was closed, and there were lots of school groups. But I probably enjoyed these paintings more than any other art we saw on the trip: Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Sisley... the thick brushstrokes, the spectacular lighting. Impressionism really does something for me, and the Musée d'Orsay has a fantastic collection." (JM)


"This museum houses pre-impressionist to post-impressionist French works. When we were there, a large camera crew was preparing for a televised broadcast that night. Most of us bought our tickets before reading the fine print, and were disappointed to discover that most of the museum, including the entire sculpture section, was blocked off for filming. The museum, which used to be a train station, is immense, but well laid out. The topmost two floors house the important works, famous paintings from mid-19th to early 20th century. I was elated to have finally found there Manet's Déjeuner sur l'Herbe (Lunch on the Grass). This painting contains an undressed woman, staring out of the canvas, lying lazily near two fully-clothed men. It was scandalous and revolutionary for its time. Be sure to look at the Van Goghs, Monets, and Seurats from a distance, and don't miss the rare sculptures by Gaugin. My favorite piece in this museum isLe Bouddha (The Buddha), a pastel by Odilon Redon. I had never seen it before and I was blown away. It exudes serenity, and the colors are soft but rich. You can get a reproduction for nine euros at the gift shop." (CG)





Le Musée de la Musique
(30 Ave Corentin-Cariou, M: Porte de la Villette)
The Musée de la Musique, part of the Cité de la Musique in the Parc de la Villette, brings together a collection of over 4,500 instruments, objects, and artworks covering the history of music since the Renaissance. The permanent collection is displayed chronologically and can be traced using infrared audio headphones.


"The Musée de la Musique was one of our last visits. I was looking forward to this visit for a while because I am interested in the history of French music. In fact, I went to the local music stores (FNAC) several times to search for contemporary French music. Altogether, this was a good museum. I really liked their collection of historical instruments, especially stringed instruments such as the guitar, lute, and mandolin. You could also listen to the music through wireless headphones. Even though the classical collection was thorough, the contemporary collection was rather scanty and failed to recognize the movements of the modern era. Here is my personal commentary of a few musée visitors." (AN)



L'Institut du Monde Arabe
(1 rue des Fossées St-Bernard, M: Jussieu, Cardinal-Lemoine)
This cultural institute was founded in 1980 by France and a collaboration of twenty Arab countries with the intention of fostering cultural links between the Islamic world and the West. It is housed in a modern building that combines modern materials with the spirit of traditional Arab architecture. There is a library and media archive, as well as a small museum housing a display of Islamic art and artifacts from the 9th to 19th centuries.


"To start, the Institut du Monde Arabe has a ninth-floor terrace with an exceptional view of the city. It was cold (especially since our coats were checked in the vestiare downstairs), but the view of Notre Dame from the side was exquisite. The building's architecture is a self-proclaimed mélange of new and old: steel and glass juxtaposed with traditional structures like moucharabiyahs (a modern, electronically-controlled interpretation of a circular window shutter that dilates and contracts in response to ambient light.)

We followed a public tour at three p.m., but were lucky enough to be almost the only ones in the group. Our guide told us that the museum's collection is unusual because at any given time more than half of the items being displayed are on loan from the Institute's member countries.The most interesting thing I learned on the tour: Aramaic (precursor to Arabic and Hebrew) is written from right to left because in early times, much writing was done by chisel on large rocks. (It's decidedly more natural for a right-handed artisan to swing a mallot in the right-to-left direction.)" (JM)




Le Château de Malmaison
(Ave du Château, RER: La Défence, then bus 258)
This 17th-century château was bought in 1799 by Josephine, wife of Napoleon I. Treasured by Josephine, it became her main residence after their divorce. Today, it is an important Napoleonic museum, with furniture, portraits, artifacts, and mementos of the imperial family on display in rooms reconstructed in the style of the First Empire.


"After visiting the grandiose Versailles palace, I found the simplicity and modernity of Malmaison to be a good complement. The chateau of Malmaison was bought by Josephine, Napoleon's first wife and empress, in 1799 without Napoleon's consent. After their divorce in 1809, Josephine took up permanent residence in Malmaison, and continued to improve the chateau. 

An interesting part of our visit was the opportunity of talking to the curator of Malmaison, from whom we found out many interesting details related to the administration of a chateau-museum like Malmaison. In addition, we found out a funny story related to the clock located in one of the rooms of Malmaison: a few years ago, when the personel of the museum opened the clock for cleaning, they found an interesting inscription inside it, which said, Merde à mon patron..." (CC)




L'Institut Pasteur
(25 Rue du Docteur Roux, M: Pasteur)
This is France's leading medical research center and was founded by the scientist Louis Pasteur in 1888-1889. Pasteur discovered the process of milk pasteurization as well as vaccines against rabies and anthrax. The center houses a museum that reconstructs Pasteur's apartment and laboratory. His tomb is in a lavish basement crypt.


"If you thought everything French was good, think again! The museum of the Institut Pasteur, dedicated to the scientific genius of Louis Pasteur, is certainly an exception. In my opinion, it was right down there with the Maison Victor Hugo as worst museum in Paris. The experience began with what seemed like an incarceration into this small room that contained some of Pasteur’s equipment. After being locked into the room, a recorded voice began to speak (in French) in a very monotonic tone. This first and torturous phase lasted for about 40 minutes and put most of us in a coma-like state. The only highlight of the museum was Pasteur’s crypt, which is located in the basement of the apartment. It was the nicest tomb I had ever seen. If you decide to visit the museum, I suggest you skip everything but the crypt. And if you can’t, it’s just not worth your time." (OJ)


Le Centre Georges Pompidou
The Centre Pompidou is like a building turned inside out, with escalators, air and water ducts, and the steel making up the skeleton of the building all placed on the outside. The colors of the piping serve to distinguish the pipes's various functions. Inside, along with a movie theatre and a library, is the Musée National d'Art Moderne, which has works of Fauvism, Cubism, and Surrealism. 

"This is the famous colored external-piping building. Although it is labeled as a museum of modern art, the fifth floor is entirely contemporary art. Our excellent guided tour was an in-depth account and analysis of about ten contemporary art works. If you can afford it, I highly recommend the guided tour, with headphones the next best thing. Unless you are an art scholar or well-read, it is practically impossible to understand these art works without a guide. I say art works because contemporary art is in no way restricted to the canvas. One memorable piece did contain a wall tableau, but it couldn't be seen because it was blocked off by a huge cube. I love the absurdity that is contemporary art. The contemporary artist, whose predecessors have already mastered every medium, has nowhere to go, and so revels in the absurd. There are some well-known works by Oldenburg, Klein, and others. I could have spent many more hours here but we had to go. I'm not sure what's on the middle floors, but the first floor has a cinema, gift-shop, and kiddie section. What is important to realize is that the Centre Pompidou is not just a museum, but an art work itself. It was designed to suck art to it, and many concerts and art performances are held in the surrounding square. The Centre Pompidou is a reminder that art is not dead, not confined to stuffy galleries displaying hundred year-old paintings." (CG)




L'Hôtel des Invalides
(M: Latour-Maubourg, Varenne)
Once a home for the wounded and homeless veterans of Louis XIV, this imposing building now houses a military history museum, a museum honoring the heros of World War II, and the famous Dôme Church where Napoléon is buried.

"Originally intended to be a hospital for wounded soldiers, les Invalides is now a museum depicting the grandeur and demise of Napoléon Bonaparte. Napoléon was truly an egoistic maniac, deranged by a supremacy complex, bent on ruling the world - a very cool guy to study! It astounds me to imagine that with a single word uttered from his lips or by his mere presence, people would follow him. With that supreme power of persuasion, he tried to reincarnate a new and improved Roman Empire with Paris as its capital. The portraits and artifacts in the museum told the story of this French hero." (AN)



Le Palais de Versailles
(Versailles, RER: Versailles Rive Gauche)
This magnificent estate and its extensive gardens were the glory of the Sun King's reign. Inside the Château, the richly decorated private quarters of the king and queen can be seen, along with the gorgeous Chapelle Royale, the Hall of Mirrors, and l'Opéra. Visitors can also tour the Grand and Petit Trianons, smaller châteauxseparated from the main one by the formal gardens and the Grand Canal.

La Maison de Victor Hugo
(6 Place des Vosges, M: Bastille)
The French poet, dramatist, and novelist lived here from 1832 to 1848. It was here that he wrote most of Les Misérables. On display are some reconstructions of the rooms in which he lived, along with pen-and-ink drawings, books, and mementos.

"I was the only member of our group who liked this place. The museum is located in Hugo's old house next to Place des Vosges. Victor Hugo wrote some wonderful novels, but if the works in the museum, mostly done by others, are any indication of his personality, he must have been a disturbed man. Be prepared to see some bizarre (sick) works, including a series of electric chair photos and the torture device from Kafka's The Penal Colony. It gets worse than that but I won't describe how. In retrospect, I should have tried to understand why this sort of artwork was in Victor Hugo's museum. If you're intrigued, like I was, and you don't mind some extreme art, check it out. Of course you can also find what you would expect from a Hugo museum, such as portraits, personal items, novel-related artifacts, and so on. The top floor, which housed his daughter, is decorated from wall to wall with Hugo's woodwork and is worth seeing. The other group members believe this museum should not have been on the schedule, but it's not too bad for insane people." (CG)


Le Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (Le Palais de Tokyo)
(11 Ave du Président-Wilson, M: Iéna)
This lively museum covers the significant trends in 20th-century art and is located in the east wing of the Palais de Tokyo. The Fauves are particularly well represented, with many paintings by Georges Rouault.



"The Palais de Tokyo is an exhibition center for contemporary art. It is worth seeing even if you don't care at all for contemporary art. Right across from the museum of modern art and near the Iéna stop on the Métro, it is only a year old but très hip. Once you enter, you realize you're not in a traditional museum. It is a large warehouse, with an intentionally broken-down appearance. In addition to the gallery, there's an excellent cafe in the basement, a small but packed book shop, and a small store of amusing collectibles. You can enter the gallery for free if you claim you're an art student. In any case, it's cheap and the art, if nothing else, will befuddle you. I went to the Palais twice while I was in Paris. What I liked best is the atmosphere; it really seems to be a hangout for the young hipster crowd." (CG)