A melting pot of style, sophistication, romance, iconic landmarks, architectural beauty and culture in absolute abundance, Paris is without question one of the star turns on the short break stage. One of its main draws is the sheer diversity and variety of its museums and monuments; of course, everyone knows the unique pyramids of the Louvre, home to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and the Musée d’Orsay with its impressive collection of Impressionist paintings, yet there are countless treasures just waiting to be explored in some of the city’s lesser-known collections; we’ve brought together our top five, all well worthy of your time.
Situated on Boulevard Haussmann, this grand 19th-century mansion was built by Edouard André who with his wife, the society painter, Nélie Jacquemart, devoted their considerable fortune to buying works of art. Bequeathed to the Institut de France, the museum opened in 1913 and now comprises the Private, State and Informal Apartments, the Winter Garden and, most famously, the Italian museum displaying masterpieces from the Renaissance by renowned painters such as Botticelli and Mantegna. The museum also houses an impressive collection of works by French, Dutch and Flemish Masters including David and Rembrandt, as well as furniture and other objets d’art.
Musée Marmottan Monet
In 1966, Michel Monet, the painter’s second son, bequeathed his personal collection of pictures inherited from his father to the Marmottan – a former hunting lodge of the Duke of Valmy – thus giving the museum the world’s largest collection of works by Claude Monet, including a plethora of paintings originating from his years at Giverny. Today, the Marmottan’s collection comprises more than 300 paintings, pastels, watercolours and sculptures by the crème de la crème of the Impressionist art movement including works by Degas, Gauguin, Manet, Morisot, Pissarro, Renoir, Rodin and Sisley. There is also an impressive collection of miniature mediaeval illuminations.
Musée de la Musique
The permanent collection of the Music Museum brings together almost 1,000 instruments, paintings, sculptures and furniture. Frequent musical interludes with guest performers also bring the collections to life. Visitors journey through the history of music and instrument making in Europe from the beginning of the 17th century to the end of the 19th century. The collection is divided into nine sections, each illustrating a main period of musical history, from Baroque Italy to the music of Versailles, from romantic orchestra to grand opera.
The Carnavalet is devoted to the history of Paris from the Middle Ages to the present day. Split between the 16th-century Hôtel Carnavalet and neighbouring, 17th-century Hôtel le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau, some 140 rooms are open to the public and exhibits include mementoes from Voltaire and Rousseau, the French Revolution and Napoléon’s cradle. And best of all, entrance to the permanent exhibits is free!
Musée du Quai Branly
A relatively new museum by Parisian standards, the Musée du Quai Branly was opened in 2006 by Jacques Chirac and occupies an exceptional location on the banks of the River Seine at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. The museum displays some 3500 works of art including costumes, masks and musical instruments from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas, presented so as to highlight the historical depth of the civilisations and cultures that produced them.