August 14, 2023

Top 5 Always FREE Paris Museums

Paris turned me into a museum lover! It took me living there nearly two years before I set foot into the Louvre, and it ended up being the start of a wonderful journey through art and history all over the city. One thing that definitely helped my appreciation process was starting with the free museums. This meant that even if I did not enjoy my experience, I had not lost any money over it. Let's just say my job was not exactly on a high-level museum budget at the time.

One key interesting point is that if you are a student up to the age of twenty-five, you can get into most of Paris' fabulous museum offerings for totally free the entire time. This article is more geared to those of us over the quarter-of-a-century mark who would like to enjoy some high society French culture without the price tag. 

Here are my favorite Top 5 Always FREE Paris Museums! 

1. Musée Carnavalet

I cannot get enough of this place. It's sprawling, it's quirky, it's full of artefacts you would find in a grandparent's attic. And that's essentially what Carnavalet does as the self-proclaimed "History of Paris Museum." It takes you through so many different versions of the city, it is about as close to time travel through Paris as you can get. Also, each room is so beautiful and unique, you can tell the curators have paid close attention and care to every single detail to show the best of what Carnavalet and Paris have to offer.

2. Musée de la Vie de Romantique

This is the most darling museum in Paris. It's akin to sneaking into a famous person's private cottage and getting to spend as much time as you want looking at all of their stuff and pretending you get to live there, too. It is especially a treat for lovers of the writer George Sand and the artist Ary Scheffer. Do spend some quiet contemplative time in the tea house garden, imagining yourself there in the company of the 19th century literary elite.

3. Petit Palais

For a more grandiose experience, head over to the Petit Palais in the ritzy Champs-Elysées area. But for all the outward pretension, the Petit Palais is a very welcoming and sweet exhibition space. The high ceilings provide for a lot of natural light and the café seating in the courtyard is worth the quick coffee break. It is a gorgeous way to spend a free hour on your way to other sights in Paris (Arc de Triomphe, Les Invalides, or the Eiffel Tower, to name a few).

4. Maison de Victor Hugo

Aside from the fact that Victor Hugo got to live in one of the most beautiful squares in Paris, Place des Vosges, it is a very realistic glimpse into what his daily life was like. This space is most appreciated by fans of Victor Hugo's work, of course, namely The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Misérables. This is another literary-focused museum, and rightly so, as the French do love a good read.

5. Musée Cognacq-Jay 

You can put on your favorite fancy look for this museum, as you will be strolling through the private collections of the married founders of La Samaritaine department store, Théodore-Ernest Cognacq and Marie-Louise Jaÿ. The museum has dubbed itself "the taste of the 18th century" (le goût du XVIIIe) and the insight into how the nouveau riche would have collected paintings, sculptures, and interior design from that time is unmatched.

Another great thing about these free museums? You can easily visit all of them in the span of just one day! Make each as short or as long of a visit as you want to, and enjoy the reflections of art and culture as time has progressed. I hope you find as much beauty and magic in each of these spots as I have!


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