Our Guide to the Top 5 Free Museums in Paris

You don't have to spend a Euro at these fascinating free museums. One of the greatest innovations instituted by former mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoe was making all the museums in Paris owned by the city free! — just another example of why we love Paris — things are always getting better. For instance, not only are the city museums in Paris free, but so are the modernistic, high-tech toilets dotted around on the sidewalks.

Although these museums in Paris are free, there is usually a small fee for special exhibits.

Then there's the system of almost-free bicycle rentals, the Velibs. Pay a modest fee and you can use the bikes for up to half an hour at a time at no additional cost. Getting back to the museums in Paris, here are our five favourite free Paris museums to add to your planning list. Most can be visited in a hour or two, leaving plenty of free time to explore the neighborhood.

Le Petit Palais – Museum of Fine Arts

Le Petit Palais

This elegant building built for the Exhibition of 1900 is today the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts.

Highlights include 19th-century paintings by Monet, Sisley, Cézanne, and Modigliani and medieval and Renaissance paintings. There is also a charming café set in the interior garden court.

  • Musée Des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris
  • Avenue Winston Churchill, 75008
  • Metro: Clémenceau
  • Open Tues to Sun, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm

Musée Carnavalet – Museum of the History of Paris

Musée Carnavalet

Set in two rambling mansions (one was originally home to Madame Sévigny, the famous 17th-century diarist) Musée Carnavalet is a great place to discover the history of Paris.

It's rarely crowded and has many fascinating permanent exhibits as well as a pretty garden to relax in. We love wandering its hallways and discovering hidden corners and unusual objects from the past of Paris. There's also a very good historic photo collection.

  • Museum of the History of Paris
  • 23 rue de Sévigné, 75003
  • Metro: St Paul
  • Open Tues to Sun, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm

Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris

This spacious museum is dedicated to the art of the 20th and 21st centuries.

It's located in the Palais de Tokyo, which was built for a 1937 exhibition in Paris, and it's choc-a-bloc with the best known painters of the modern era — Picasso, Matisse and an entire generation of similar painters.

The museum was the site of a burglary in May 2010 when five modern masterpieces were stolen, including Picasso's Le Pigeon Aux Petit Pois. Both the thieves and the painting are still at large. So, if you find a Picasso or Matisse for sale cheap on eBay, you know where they probably came from.

  • Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris
  • 11 avenue du Président Wilson, 75116
  • Metro: Alma-Marceau or Iéna
  • Open Tues to Sun, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm

Musée Cognacq-Jay – 18th Century Arts & Furniture

Cognacq-Jay

Ernest Cognacq, a business magnate of the Belle Époque era, and his wife Théodore-Ernest, founded La Samarataine, one of Paris' grands magasins, back in 1869.

When they died in the 1920s, they bequeathed their possessions to the city of Paris. It is a beautiful collection of fine art and decorative items focusing on 18th century France. The museum is housed in a hôtel built in the Marais in 1575.

  • Musée Cognacq-Jay
  • 18 Rue Elzevir, 75003
  • Metro: St-Paul, Chemin Vert, Rambuteau
  • Open Tues to Sun, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm

Musée Jean Moulin – French Resistance and WWII

& Mémorial du Maréchal Leclerc

Musee Jean Moulin

The Second World War was one of the darkest periods in the history of Paris. But, there were some bright spots.

Discover the poignant stories of the iconic French World War II leaders: Marshal Leclerc and resistance leader Jean Moulin.

The museum was built in 1994 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Liberation of Paris. Jean Moulin remains the most famous member of the French resistance in World War II. He was arrested in 1943, tortured and murdered by the Nazis. His ashes were moved to the Panthéon in 1964.

Marshal Leclerc was a French general who fought in many theaters of World War II and was instrumental in the liberation of Paris on August 25, 1944. He died in a plane crash in 1947

  • Musée Jean Moulin
  • Above the Montparnasse train station
  • 23, Allee de la 2e DB, Jardin Atlantique, 75015
  • Metro: Montparnasse Bienvenue
  • Open Tues to Sun, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm

Musée Bourdelle

Musée Bourdelle

A student of Rodin, sculptor Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929) created stunning bronze and marble sculptures.

Now — in the 15th Arrondissement, very near the Montparnasse train station and the Musée Jean Moulin — you can visit the gardens of the house as well as studio where he lived and worked.

  • Musée Bourdelle
  • 18 Rue Antoine Bourdelle, 75015
  • Metro: St-Paul, Chemin Vert, Rambuteau
  • Open Tues to Sun, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm

Musée de la Vie Romantique

la Vie Romantique

"The Museum of the Romantic Life." Just the name puts you in a good mood, doesn't it?

The museum is housed in two 10th-century mansions. The front mansion holds a tribute to the poet George Sand with artifacts from her amazing life. You may also see temporary exhibits in the main building. Take your time, then sit in the pretty garden and enjoy tea. It's a perfect location to set off to explore Montmartre.

  • Museum of the Romantic Life
  • 16 Rue Chaptal, 75009
  • Metro: Pigalle
  • Open Tues to Sun, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm

Other Free Museums

The City of Paris owns and operates seven or eight other museums, and all of them are free to enter. Here are a few of the others —

Maison de Balzac. The home of the celebrated French author has been turned into a museum examining his life.

Maison Victor Hugo. The home of another famous French author turned into a museum. Located on beautiful Place de Vosges.
Website…

Musée Galliera – Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris. The 19th-century mansion of the Duchess of Galliera houses the city's history of fashion museum.
10, Avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie, 75116

Musée Cernuschi – Musée d'Art Asiatique de la Ville de Paris.
The Museum of Asian Arts
Website…

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