When hashing out the details of our trip to Paris, it came as no surprise to my friend that my must-see, non-negotiable picks revolved around art (Versailles included, which you can read about here). While every street corner in this beautiful city is like a piece of artwork in its own right either in the form of an ornately carved filigree door, Art Nouveau-style metro entrance, or the creamy neoclassical facades of Haussmann designed buildings, no visit to Paris would be complete without witnessing some of Europe's greatest masterpieces in their native domain.
Most tourists begin and end their Parisian art experience at the Louvre to see the iconic Mona Lisa, which certainly does live up to the hype in spite of the inevitable hordes of people and bulletproof glass separating it from the viewer. Unfortunately, most of our time was spent trying to navigate our way out of a maize of Egyptian art, although we somehow ended up in the beautifully restored apartments of Napoleon III that still have me in awe. As one of the largest art museums in Europe let alone the world, the Louvre pretty much has it all with over 35,000 pieces of art spanning from antiquity to the mid-nineteenth century; however, there are two smaller art museums a stones throw away also worth a gander.
The Musée d'Orsay has some of the finest collections of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and Art Nouveau masterpieces including Van Gogh's Self Portrait, Renoir's Ball At the Moulin de la Galette, Manet's Olympia, and Degas' The Ballet Rehearsal on Stage. It is also home to the Instagram-famous clock every visiting Millennial is likely to snap a photo with. In contrast, you will find one artist's work most prominently displayed at the Musée de l'Orangerie, a former winter shelter for Napoleon III's citrus tress at the Tuileries Gardens. Eight of Monet's Water Lilies paintings hug the curved oval walls of the intimate museum, each showing a different perspective of the gardens at his Giverny estate. It is no wonder really that Paris has over fifty museums solely dedicated to art. If my stay had permitted it, I would have gone to them all.
Musée de l'Orangerie
When: I highly recommend going to the Louvre early in the morning to avoid any lines.
What: The Louvre has art ranging from antiquity to the mid-nineteenth century while the Musée d'Orsay and Musée de l'Orangerie have art focused on Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.
Why: Paris was and still is one of the art capitals of the world.
Tyro Tidbit: Have a hot chocolate and pastry in the Louvre at Angelina's, one of the most famous tea houses in Paris.