Besides the sacred triptych Louvre / Orsay / Pompidou, there’s a dense network of charming lesser-known museums in Paris.
Often forgotten from sightseeing tours, they’re filled with masterpieces but not with tourists. That means you won’t have to wait for hours to get in nor stand in line to get a glance at each oeuvre on exhibit… A much more pleasant way to experience art if you ask us!
Picking just five museums is obviously heart-breaking since there are so many lovable places to visit in Paris. We’ve set aside the most famous among them, like the Musée Rodin and Musée Picasso, as well as the smallest ones like the Atelier Brancusi or the Musée Zadkine, favoring instead the most immersive and oh-so Parisian experiences.
Here’s our list of stunning hôtels particuliers and picturesque ateliers d’artistes for you to enjoy art in Paris in a different way!
Our picks for the best small art museums in Paris:
Located in the heart of the Montparnasse neighborhood—the bohemian district of Paris and center of the art world for decades—the Musée Bourdelle offers a rare example of a 19th-century artist’s studio.
The highlight of the museum is the atelier itself, which remains in its original state: brown walls, a wooden mezzanine, a wobbly floor, and an extraordinary accumulation of artworks all under a high glass roof which bathes the room in northern light.
The artist’s house has been significantly extended, and in addition to the theatrical presentation of Antoine Bourdelle’s sculptures, it’s recognized for the quality of the temporary exhibitions hosted in the modern part of the museum. Visit their website to see what’s currently on view!
Visiting a museum devoted to hunting might not be the most obvious choice when traveling to Paris, the city of art and fashion… we strongly recommend you to reconsider it though! This unclassifiable museum is a local favorite for many reasons.
Situated in one of Paris’s most fashionable districts, the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (the Museum of Hunting and Nature), is a sumptuous and eccentric hôtel particulier. Its collections include taxidermied animals, classy-yet-kitsch paintings of pets, and stunning contemporary artworks. Don’t hesitate to open every drawer and look in every corner… The museum is filled with surprises, ranging from boar poop to Jeff Koons sculptures!
A very kid-friendly and Instagram-worthy visit.
The Musée Jacquemart-André is a magnificent Second Empire mansion, built by successful bourgeois couple Nélie Jacquemart and Edouard André back in the late 1800s. Designed to host the most refined parties, the mansion’s elegant interiors are unforgettable and make a sublime setting for one of the most impressive art collections in France.
Methodical collectors who gathered artworks from all over Europe, the Jacquemart-Andrés aimed at offering a comprehensive overview of Art History. On view amongst other masterpieces: Flemish wonders like Rembrandt’s Supper at Emmaus, an impressive collection of Italian Renaissance paintings, and some delicious 18th-century French paintings by Boucher and Fragonard.
The museum also hosts some blockbuster temporary exhibitions. Be sure to check the programming on the Museum’s Official Website and buy your tickets in advance—there can be a long line to get in for some shows.
Gustave Moreau, the leader of the symbolist movement, bequeathed his house to the State in 1897 and it’s remained untouched since then. As such, a trip to the Musée Gustave Moreau lets you penetrate not only into his mystical artistic universe, but also into his everyday life.
During your visit, you’ll walk through the artist’s family apartments—it’s always fascinating to see how people used to live—, but the climax of the visit is the artist’s monumental two-story studio. Its magnificent spiral staircase alone is worth a trip to Paris!
Aside from this architectural gem, there’s plenty to admire in the artist’s studio. Moreau’s masterpieces cover the walls, hanging in the 19th-century fashion—one above the other, from floor to ceiling. Exotic, esoteric and decadent, populated with dangerous women and rife with mysterious symbols, his works will surely enchant you.
This museum is probably the biggest secret on our list. It’s a hidden gem that most Parisians have never heard of!
Inside a beautiful hôtel particulier, The Musée National Jean-Jacques Henner seems untouched by time, an atmosphere favorable to daydreaming and unexpected rushes of inspiration. The eclectic décor reflects the tastes at the end of the 19th century. On display, the oeuvre of Jean-Jacques Henner, a painter from the same period, most known for his obsession with mysterious red-headed women.
If you’re lucky (or check the cultural agenda on the museum website), you may even be able to listen to a concert in the winter garden before exploring the multitude of rooms, searching for the oriental touches scattered here and there and admiring the audacious color combinations.
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