The Best Paris Museums & Monuments
Our Complete Guide to the Best Paris Museums & Monuments
For a trip full of culture, history, or a bit of both, Paris is the perfect destination with more than 2000 monuments and 120 museums within the city walls.
Everyone knows that the French capital boasts several world-class art institutions and iconic landmarks, but its science museums and more understated historical sites often go overlooked. There’s too much to try to see everything, so we’re sharing our local recommendations to help guide you to the best of Paris sightseeing.
- The Most Famous Monuments
- The Best Little-Known Monuments
- The Most Famous Museums
- The Best Little-Known Museums in Paris
- The Museums to Visit with Children
- What Should You See in Paris?
The Most Famous Monuments in Paris
These spots are known around the world for a reason. It just doesn’t quite feel like you’ve been to Paris if you haven’t seen these sights. They don’t need much introduction, so we’ll skip straight to giving you a list of the 10 famous monuments in Paris that you really must see:
- Eiffel Tower
- Arc de Triomphe
- Notre Dame
- Sacré Coeur
- Les Invalides
- Palais Royal
- La Conciergerie
- La Sainte-Chapelle
- Opéra Garnier
The Little-Known Monuments in Paris
In a city full of attention-grabbing landmarks, many smaller monuments go unnoticed, and that’s a shame if you ask us. We often find it’s in these quieter places where we can best contemplate Paris’s long and rich history.
Our preferred thought-provoking spots include the roman ruins of the Arènes de Lutèce, the Chapelle Expiatoire built on the original burial site of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, the Paris Holocaust Memorial, the magnificent Bibliothèque Richelieu library, and the royal necropolis at the Basilica of Saint-Denis just north of Paris (the current resting place of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette).
The Most Famous Museums in Paris
Paris isn’t called a cultural capital for nothing. The City of Light is home to multiple internationally-renowned art museums, including the world’s largest and most famous art museum, the Louvre, where visitors will find everything including Egyptian and Greek antiquities to 19th-century paintings, and of course, the Mona Lisa.
The second most-visited museum in Paris, the Musée d’Orsay, is best-known for its collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings featuring artworks by Manet, Cézanne, Monet, and Renoir.
Nearly as famous as d’Orsay, the Centre Pompidou is known as much for its striking modern architecture as for the modern art on exhibition inside its glass walls. This is one art museum you literally can’t miss — it stands out quite strikingly among Paris’s rooftops.
The Best Little-Known Museums in Paris
The famous tourist attractions are indeed must-sees, but France’s capital has much more to offer off the beaten path. With so many museums in the city limits, there are plenty of places to take in culture in Paris without the crowds.
We’ll admit, it isn’t easy to narrow it down to a few favorites, but these are our top picks for the 10 best little-known museums in Paris, covering everything from decorative arts to science.
- Musée Nissim de Camondo
- Musée de Montmartre
- Musée des Arts et Métiers
- Institut Giacometti
- Musée Bourdelle
- Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature
- Cité des Sciences
- Musée Jean-Jacques Henner
- Musée Gustave Moreau
- Musée des Arts Forains
For more intimate art museum recommendations, see our Top 5 Best Small Art Museums in Paris.
The Best Children’s Museums in Paris
A family trip to Paris can be full of fun, learning, and culture too. Little ones in the French capital are sure to love playing and learning the Cité des Enfants and the Musée en Herbe, two of the best children’s museums in Paris. If your kids are older, try taking them to the National Museum of Natural History, the Palais de la Découverte, or the Fairground Arts Museum, all of which are kid-friendly and fun for adults too.
See more of our top recommendations for what to do in Paris with kids according to a Parisian parent.
What Should You See in Paris?
There simply isn’t enough time to visit every monument and museum in Paris. It’s hard enough to see all of the main tourist attractions during a short stay, let alone the hundreds of lesser-known sights in the city. But these hidden gems are worth taking your time to discover. Not sure which places to hit? Here’s a quick guide to the best of Paris sightseeing to get you started, based on common interests:
- Anthropology & World Cultures: Visit Quai Branly, Musée de l’Homme, and the Arab World Institute.
- History: Visit the Army Museum in the Hôtel des Invalides, Musée Carnavalet, Paris Holocaust Memorial, Museum of the Martyrs of the Deportation.
- Science: Visit the Cité des Sciences, Musée des Arts et Métiers, and the Palais de la Découverte.
- Animals: Visit France’s National Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Hunting and Nature.
- Literature: Visit the writer’s home museums of Victor Hugo and Honoré de Balzac along with the Pantheon.
- Classical Art: Visit the Louvre, National Middle Ages Museum the Musée de Cluny, and Musée du Luxembourg.
- Impressionism: Visit the Musée d’Orsay, Musée du Marmottan Monet, and the Orangerie.
- Modern Art: Visit the Centre Pompidou, Espace Dalí, and Institut Giacometti.
- Contemporary Art: Visit the Palais de Tokyo, the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art, and the Bourse du Commerce.
- Asian Art: Visit the Musée Guimet and the Musée Cernuschi.
- Sculpture: Visit the Musée Rodin, Musée Bourdelle, and Institut Giacometti
- Architecture: Visit the Sainte-Chapelle, Pantheon, Bibliothèque Richelieu, Opéra Garnier, Hôtel de Sully, and Saint Paul.
- Interior Design & Decorating: Visit the Musée Nissim de Camondo, the Musée des Art Décoratifs, and the Musée Jacquemart-André.
- Fashion: Visit the Musée Yves Saint-Laurent and the Palais Galliera.