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Late Nights And Free Days: Our Paris Museum Guide
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Late Nights And Free Days: Our Paris Museum Guide

Picture of Katrina E. Bastian
Updated: 18 December 2016
Paris is home to a multitude of museums, housing vast collections of the world’s most breathtaking art and making a tour of the galleries one of the most popular things to do in Paris. This, of course, means crowds – the Louvre alone gets over 9.3 million visitors per year. Our advice? Skip the crowds and skip the ticket line. Here’s our guide to Paris’ museum late nights and free days.
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Musée du Louvre

The Musée du Louvre is arguably the most famous of Paris’ museums and for good reason. Its iconic pyramid has been rivaling the Eiffel Tower and Champs Elysées for photo-ops since 1989. The Louvre was originally built in the 12th century as a fortress for Paris on the banks of the Seine, and by the 14th century was transformed into the main residence of the kings of France. In 1793 (a notable year by some standards), the first artistic exhibitions were displayed in the Louvre and at the time admission was free. Even today, visitors can observe seasoned and student artists sketching the museum’s masterpieces. The queues here can be outrageous, but the museum dies down in the evening hours, so come late.

Open – 9am to 6pm, closed Tuesdays.

Late Nights – until 9:45pm on Wednesdays and Fridays

Free Entry – First Sunday of every month.

Price – €15 General Admission

Musée du Louvre, 75001, Paris, France

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Musée d’Orsay

This museum and former rail station, constructed for the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1900, is a work of architectural and artistic beauty. The d’Orsay houses a collection of art from 1848 to 1914 and is especially worth noting for its Impressionist pieces which include works by Manet, Van Gogh, Millet, Renoir, Degas, Camille Claudel, Camille Pissarro, Paul Cézanne, Edvard Munch and Gustav Klimt. Artistic mediums on display range from painting, sculpture, photography, decorative arts, graphic arts, and architecture. Our tip: the most spectacular pieces are on the top floor, so start at the top and work your way down.

Open – 9:30am to 6pm, closed Monday.

Late Nights – until 9:45pm on Thursdays.

Free Entry – First Sunday of every month.

Price – €11 General Admission

Musée d’Orsay, 1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007 Paris, France

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Centre Pompidou

The Centre Pompidou is much more than a museum – it is a multidisciplinary cultural center with a major public reading library, shows, concerts, a cinema, children’s activities, exhibits and an extensive permanent collection. The architecture of the building itself created a huge controversy throughout the 1970s as its outside facade emulates an oil refinery and was designed as an ‘evolving spatial diagram.’ The permanent collection is one of the largest in Europe of modern and contemporary art and covers the 20th and 21st centuries. Come after sunset and head up to the 6th floor for spectacular nighttime views of the city of light.

Open – 11am to 9pm, closed Tuesdays.

Late Nights – until 11pm on Monday and Thursdays.

Free Entry – First Sunday of every month.

Price – €14

Centre Pompidou, Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 Paris, France

*these are the hours for the permanent collection and the temporary exhibit space. The building itself, library and cinema have different opening hours.

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Musée de l’Orangerie

The Musée de l’Orangerie is a veritable treasure trove of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. It is the site of Claude Monet’s famous Water Lillies (Nymphéas), to this day organized in the manner outlined by the artist himself. Some other painters displayed in the museum’s permanent collection include Cézanne, Matisse, Modigliani, Picasso, and Renoir. The building is located in the heart of the Jardin de Tuileries and (unlike some other Paris museums) is unique in its ability to give the viewer space to breath and move while exploring its incredible collection.

Open – 9am to 6pm, closed Tuesdays.

Free Entry – First Sunday of every month.

Price – €9 General Admission

Musée de l’Orangerie, Jardin Tuileries, 75001 Paris, France

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Palais de Tokyo

Opened in 2002, the Palais de Tokyo considers itself an ‘anti-museum.’ Although it does not have a permanent collection it nevertheless acts as a site for contemporary art exhibitions and creation. As this museum remains open until midnight, an evening or night-time visit is highly suggested. This art space is located in a massive building constructed for the Paris Exhibition of 1937 and functions as a network of cavernous spaces where monumental contemporary installations are brought to life. Young, up-and-coming artists are given creative residencies at this museum and as such the Palais de Tokyo remains at the forefront of contemporary art creation in the city.

Open – 12 noon to 12 midnight, closed Tuesdays.

Price – €10 General Admission

Palais de Tokyo, 13 avenue du Président Wilson, 75016 Paris, France

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Musée du Quai Branly

The Musée du Quai Branly is a monument to indigenous art and culture located in the center of Paris. It includes work from Africa, Asia, the Americas and Oceania with over 450,000 objects. It was opened in 2006 and is the newest of the major Paris museums. The building is meant to reflect the spirit of openness that the museum itself exemplifies. As such there are no barriers or railings – it is an open space both physically and artistically. Even the garden of this museum is designed to be the antithesis of a French formal garden: it has neither lawn nor gate but instead seems almost jungle-like in its deliberately overgrown facade.

Open – 9am to 7pm Tues/Wed/Sun, closed Mondays.

Late Nights – until 9pm on Thurs/Fri/Sat

Free Entry – First Sunday of every month.

Price – €9 General Admission

Musée du Quai Branly, 27 Quai Branly, 75007 Paris, France

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Musée de Cluny

The Musée de Cluny is a must-see for any enthusiast of the medieval period. Located in Paris’ Latin Quarter in a 13th-century abbey townhouse, the building is an excellent example of medieval architecture in Paris. At any one time, visitors can see 2300 paintings covering the Gallic period until the 16th century. The collection includes Romanesque and Gothic sculptures as well as stained glass windows from the Saint Chapelle.

Open – 9:15am to 5:45pm, closed Tuesdays.

Free Entry – First Sunday of every month.

Price – €8 General Admission

Musée de Cluny, 6 place Paul Painlevé 75005 Paris, France

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Musée Picasso

The Musée Picasso is located in a private mansion, the Hôtel Salé, in the heart of the Marais. It was founded in 1974 after the artist’s death and houses over 5,000 works and tens of thousands of archived pieces. It is a testament to Pablo Picasso’s love for Paris that he and his family have left such an extensive collection to the city. Furthermore, the artist himself once said: ‘I am the greatest collector of Picasso’s in the world.’ The paintings include such masterworks as the Self-portrait, La Celestina, Man with Guitar, and Memento Mori.

Open – 11:30am to 6pm, closed Mondays.

Early Days – opens at 9:30am on Saturdays and Sundays.

Price – €12.5 General Admission

Musée Picasso, 5 rue de Thorigny, 75003 Paris, France

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Maison Européenne de la Photographie

The Maison Européene de la Photographie is also located in the Marais. It boasts an extensive library of contemporary photographic art, an auditorium, a library and a café located in an 18th-century vault. The exhibitions have included works by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andy Warhol, and Annie Leibovitz. This museum is a must-visit for anyone interested in contemporary photography.

Open – 11am to 7:45pm, closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

Price – €9 General Admission

Musée Européene de la Photographie, 5/7 Rue de Fourcy, 75004 Paris, France

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Fondation Cartier Pour l’Art Contemporain

Unlike other corporately-sponsored exhibition spaces, the Fondation Cartier is an unique example of corporate philanthropy gone right. Exhibitions here are not only expertly curated but also cover a range of interests from Patti Smith (2008) to the most recent Beauté Congo (2015). Each exhibition creates a striking melange of different artistic media; music, dance, photography, and art are successfully organized in order to create a complete image of whatever subject is on display at that moment. This center for contemporary art is on a fast track to great success, as evidenced by the enthusiasm of the Paris public for its most recent exhibits.

Open – 11am to 8pm, closed Mondays.

Late Nights – until 10pm on Tuesdays.

Price – €10.5 General Admission

Fondation Cartier Pour l’Art Contemporaine, 261 blvd Raspail, 75014 Paris, France

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Grande Galerie de l’Évolution

The Grande Galerie de l’Evolution is a must see for anyone traveling with children. Created in 1889 and re-opened in 1994 this museum is a modern testament to our pre-historic roots. It includes simulated rain and thunder-storms, interactive lessons and a breathtakingly life-like inventory of the animal kingdom. Any visit to the Galerie must also include some time in the Jardin des Plantes: a veritable splendor of botany and landscaping. This garden also has a little playground and benches to enjoy lunch or a snack. Furthermore, just across the street is the Grande Mosquée de Paris where for two euros patrons can sip authentic mint tea and enjoy some heartwarmingly splendid baklava.

Open – 10am to 6pm, closed Tuesdays.

Price – €9 General Admission

Grande Galerie de l’Évolution, 36 rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 75005 Paris, France