Which museums are free in Paris and why to visit them

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There are plenty of Parisian museums to see but what are the free museums in Paris and why visit them?
The artistic and cultural heritage of Paris is immense and it’s practically impossible to see everything on a single trip so you have to make choices and decide what budget you want to put aside for museum admission.

If you want to see Paris and its wonders but don’t want to spend a lot of money, you might want to know that there are plenty of museums you can see for free. Here’s a list of the must-see museums.

Free museums in Paris


Some museums in Paris are only free of charge on the first Sunday of the month, others open at night, others only on certain special days (such as the Journées du Patrimoine) other museums offer free admission every day of the year for all visitors, regardless of age and nationality.

Free admission almost always concerns the museum’s permanent collection and not temporary exhibitions, but I assure you that these are spectacular museums with incredible masterpieces that will not disappoint.


Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux Arts de la Ville de Paris – The Petit Palais building was built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900 together with the Grand Palais and the Pont Alexandre III. It now houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts de la ville de Paris, completely renovated in 2005.
The permanent collection consists of works ranging from antiquity to the 20th century with works from the Italian and French Renaissance, as well as Flemish and Dutch paintings, the icon collection and works from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Worth seeing because: you will find masterpieces by Rembrandt, Delacroix, Courbet, Monet, Cézanne and interesting Art Nouveau creations.

Paris Museum of Modern Art – The museum is located in the eastern wing of the Palais de Tokyo, built for the Universal Exhibition of 1937, and is considered the continuation of the Petit Palais.
The permanent collection is dedicated to modern and contemporary art and exhibits many works from the most important artistic movements of the 20th century, from Cubism to Abstractionism, from Nouveau Réalisme to Arte Povera, with masterpieces by artists such as Marc Chagall, Francis Picabia, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso and many others.
Worth seeing because: the museum houses a gigantic painting entitled ‘La Fée Electricité’, consisting of some 250 panels covering 600 square metres, created by Raoul Dufy for the ‘Pavilion of Light’ of the 1937 Exhibition. In addition, the ‘Matisse Room’ exhibits 22 works by Herni Matisse including paintings, graphic works, illustrated books and a sculpture.

Maison de Balzac – The Paris home of the famous writer Honoré de Balzac is the writer’s only surviving residence and therefore considered a building of national and European historical-literary value.
The writer lived in this house from October 1840 until 1847, three years before his death, and lived here under the pseudonym ‘M. de Breugnol’ to escape his creditors.
In the five rooms on the top floor of a garden building, Balzac’s chair, a portrait of Balzac’s family, a portrait of the writer himself by caricaturist Paul Gavarni and various objects from the writer’s daily life are exhibited. Also part of the collection on display are various artistic works, such as a portrait of Balzac’s family and a portrait of the writer himself by caricaturist Paul Gavarni.
Worth seeing because: Balzac’s house was acquired by the city of Paris in 1949 and converted into a library, with more than 15,000 documents about the writer, and an adjoining museum. Letters, manuscripts and objects related to Balzac’s life can be viewed here. Here, the writer was inspired to write some of his masterpieces such as ‘La Comedie humaine’ (a collection of works consisting of 137 short stories) ‘La Cousine Bette’, ‘La Rabouilleuse’ and ‘Misères des courtisanes’. Also part of the works written in the Maison de Balzac are ‘Une Ténébreuse Affaire’, ‘Splendeurs’ and ‘Le Cousin Pons’.

Bourdelle Museum – Not far from Montparnasse is this interesting place that houses a collection of the works of Émile-Antoine Bourdelle, with more than 500 works created in bronze, plaster and marble, as well as sketches for frescoes, pastels and paintings.
It was the French sculptor Bourdelle who wanted to turn his house into a museum and so he has given us an absolutely unique place.
Worth seeing because: Bourdelle was a pupil and assistant of the famous Auguste Rodin and this place is not only to be visited by art lovers but by those who want to immerse themselves in the charm of Paris. In fact, the Bourdelle museum is located in the magnificent garden that housed the artist’s workshops, where he found inspiration by isolating himself from the chaos of the city.

Carnavalet Museum – is the Museum of the History of Paris, from its origins to the present day and the exhibits are housed within two noble residences from the 16th and 17th centuries, the Hôtel Carnavalet and the Hôtel Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau.
Designed as a museum to embark on a journey into the past and present of Paris, it exhibits paintings, sculptures, furniture, upholstery, objets d’art, historical objects, photographs, drawings, prints, posters, models, medals, coins and archaeological collections that trace the history of Paris in a unique way.
Worth seeing because: inside is the famous bedroom of Marcel Proust, the Portrait of Madame de Sévigné by Claude Lefèbvre and the Fouquet jewellery store designed and built in 1901 by Alfonse Mucha.

Musée Cernuschi – is the museum that came into being thanks to a donation by businessman and art collector Henri Cernuschi to the city of Paris made in 1896.
The man donated his collection of Chinese and Japanese art objects, collected during his travels around the world, and with his gift enabled the creation of a museum of Oriental art in the heart of Paris.
The museum, located on the edge of the Parc Monceau, houses an extraordinary collection that has grown over time and is one of the most beautiful oriental art museums in Europe.
It is worth seeing because: the collection includes works ranging from ancient bronzes to funerary statues, from Neolithic terracottas to ceramics, from traditional Chinese painting to contemporary. Among the most interesting works is the immense and famous Japanese bronze of the Meguro Buddha, dating from the late 18th century.

Musée Cognacq-Jay – the private collection of 18th century European art bequeathed to the city of Paris by Ernest Cognacq and his wife Louise Jay, the founders of the Samaritaine department store, can be found here.
The museum is located at the Hôtel Donon, in the heart of the Marais, and exhibits some 1,200 art objects, ranging from Sèvres porcelain to Enlightenment-era paintings.
It is worth seeing because: you can admire the works of French artists such as Watteau, Chardin, Fragonard, Cézanne and Degas, as well as works by Tiepolo, Guardi, Reynolds, Rembrandt and Canaletto. The museum reopened after a long restoration in 2015 with a new layout designed by Christian Lacroix.

Maison de Victor Hugo – this is the place where the writer gave life to his greatest masterpieces and where he lived for sixteen years, from 1832 to 1848.
The house, located on the beautiful Place des Vosges in the heart of the Marais district, is, together with the Maison de Balzac and the Museum of Romantic Life, one of three literary museums in Paris.
Worth seeing because: it allows you to retrace the three main stages of the writer’s life, before, during and after his exile, through the exhibition of furniture and objects that belonged to him, as well as portraits and drawings he made himself.

Musée de la Vie Romantique – located at the foot of Montmartre, in what was once the home of the Dutch painter Ary Scheffer, and which since 1830 has been home to leading figures of the Parisian Romantic scene such as Delacroix and Chopin. The museum is located at the end of a beautiful tree-lined avenue and is surrounded by a rose garden that makes for a charming atmosphere.
Worth seeing because: the interior houses many relics of the Romantic era, including mementos, jewellery and portraits by George Sand, some sculptures and paintings by Ary Scheffer and works by artists of his time.

Musée national de la Légion d’honneur et des ordres de chevalerie – is a national museum of art and history dedicated to the orders of chivalry and merit, decorations and medals, both French and from foreign countries. It is located in the Hôtel de Salm, in the 7th arrondissement of Paris.
Worth seeing because: it is the only museum in the world totally dedicated to faleristics, i.e. to the discipline of collecting and studying honours, medals and any other sign of civil or military distinction.

Musée – Librairie du Compagnonnage – is located in the heart of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district, on the left bank of Paris, and traces the history of the Compagnons Charpentiers du Devoir de Liberté, who were involved in training in traditional French trades.
The visit includes a guide who presents the history, tools and exhibits.
Worth seeing because: it offers an alternative point of view to the classic visit to Paris and allows you to immerse yourself in the real history of Paris.

Curie Museum (Institut du radium) – on the ground floor of the Curie Institute is the museum celebrating the famous Marie Curie and her family, tracing the history of her life, work and studies on radioactivity in what was once her laboratory.
She was the first woman to teach at the Sorbonne Faculty of Science, the first woman to be buried on her own merit in the Pantheon in Paris, the first woman to receive two Nobel Prizes (Nobel Prize in Physics and Nobel Prize in Chemistry).
Worth seeing because: Marie’s laboratory, and that of her husband Pierre, has been left intact, except for those elements damaged by radiation or considered harmful because they are radioactive. It traces her studies on radioactivity, through instruments, notes and documents that also allow us to understand the current applications of her discoveries, especially in oncological medicine, where radioactivity has made a decisive breakthrough in the fight against cancer.

New Fragonard Perfume Museum – is a private museum belonging to the Fragonard maison, located a few steps from the Opéra Garnier in a building constructed in 1860, which traces the approximately three thousand year history of perfume, from the ancient Egyptians to the present day.
The museum provides an insight into how the use of perfume is rooted in human history and how the use of natural products is a fundamental element.
A must-see because: in the exhibition you can admire the Orgue à parfums, an organ-shaped shelf with bottles of ingredients used by the perfumer to balance the different fragrances.

Musée de la Préfecture de Police – traces the history of the Paris police force from the 17th century to the present day through the presentation of more than 2,000 works.
The museum was inaugurated in 1909 at the behest of Louis Lépine with the objects collected for the Universal Exhibition of 1900 with the aim of making the population understand the great work of the city’s police force.
In June 1975, the museum was moved to 4 rue de la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève (5th arrondissement), where it remains today.
It is worth seeing because: the collection has grown steadily since 1909 and has been enriched by two important donations: the Macé donation, which focuses on crime, and the Péchard donation, with weapons, police equipment and tools for theft found in its crime scenes in Paris.

Lutèce Arena – an ancient Roman amphitheatre only brought to light in the second half of the 19th century after centuries of oblivion. This arena is located in the vicinity of the Latin Quarter and was once used for gladiator games and shows, later used only for theatrical performances, while today it is a unique tourist attraction in the heart of the city that bears witness to the city’s ancient history.
Worth seeing because: originally, this huge amphitheatre had 35 rows of seats, which faced a stage facing east to allow better visibility of the actors at all times. The rows of seats were positioned along the hill of the Montagne St.Geneviève, taking advantage of its natural slope.

Atelier Brancusi – Constantin Brâncuși, born in 1876 in Romania, made Paris his home and workplace from 1904 until his death in 1957.
In a will, Brancusi left his atelier to the French state to be rebuilt, identical to the original, in the square of the famous Centre Georges Pompidou.
Today, the Atelier Brancusi contains around 137 sculptures and 87 original pedestals, 41 drawings, 2 paintings and more than 1600 glass plates and original photographs of the artist.
Worth seeing because: by the 1920s, the artist’s atelier had already become a place for presenting his work and had practically become a work in itself. To view the works in his atelier is to immerse oneself in his art completely because Constantin Brancusi paid special attention to the relationship between his sculptures and their surroundings. Therefore, the works are located exactly where the artist wanted them to be.

Musée Zadkine – is dedicated to the work of Ossip Zadkine (1890-1967), a naturalised French Russian sculptor who first joined the Cubist movement and later developed his own style influenced by African art.
Located near the Jardin du Luxembourg, the museum is housed in the house where the artist lived and worked for over 40 years and contains around 300 sculptures, as well as drawings, watercolours, photographs and tapestries.
It is worth seeing because: the exhibition traces Zadkine’s entire artistic career and, in 2012, on the occasion of its 30th anniversary, it reopened to the public with a new layout and many multimedia tools to view the most fragile works in complete safety.

Mémorial de la Shoah – is a museum space dedicated to the history of the Jews during the Second World War. Located in the Marais district, it was inaugurated in 2005 and describes the Shoah and the events that made it possible.
It is worth seeing because: at the entrance you are greeted by the Mur des Noms where the names of the 76,000 French Jews deported are listed and is worth a thousand words.

Musée d’Ennery – is a museum dedicated to the Far East as it appeared in Europe at the end of the 19th century and offers an important insight into the history of the encounter between Western and Eastern culture.
Worth seeing because: only here is it possible to understand the influence of Eastern culture on the Western world. Beware though, at the time this post is published (August 2022) the museum is closed and it is not possible to know when it will reopen.

Musée national de l’Air et de l’Espace – is one of the world’s leading aviation and space museums, due to its age and the wealth of its collections. Founded in 1919, it traces the human adventure of the pioneers of flight and space endeavours thanks to the collaboration of the Ministry of the Armed Forces.
Worth seeing because: it is located at Paris-Le Bourget airport, Europe’s main business airport, and offers visitors a true experience through the history of the conquest of the skies and space.

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