Free museums on the first Sunday of the month

Head to Paris's national museums for a lifetime's worth of free art

© fmpgoh

Mark a star in your diaries for every first Sunday of the month in Paris – since 2000, the city's national museums (with the exception of the Grand Palais, but including such behemoths as the Louvre and the Orsay and offbeat treasures like the Musée Albert Kahn) have opened their doors to the public for absolutely no charge. As you can imagine, the intiative has been enormously popular, and it's wise to start queueing early. All the museums below participate in the free opening scheme, so you can plan endless hours of cultural viewing without spending a single euro. 

Musée des Années 30

The Musée des Années 30 is a must for lovers of the Art Déco period, with a small but interesting collection of art and sculpture from the 1930s.  Look out for modernist sculptures by the Martel brothers, graphic designs, and Juan Gris still lifes and drawings. The highlights are the designs by avant-garde architects Perret, Le Corbusier and Fischer. If your French is up to scratch sign up (with the museum) for an Art Déco themed tour around Boulogne... 

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West of the centre

Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine

Opened in 2007, this architecture and heritage museum impresses principally by its scale. The expansive ground floor is filled with life-size mock-ups of cathedral façades and heritage buildings, and interactive screens place the models in context. Upstairs, darkened rooms house full-scale copies of medieval and Renaissance murals and stained-glass windows... 

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Champs Élysées and western Paris

Musée National des Arts Asiatiques

Founded by industrialist Emile Guimet in 1889 to house his collection of Chinese and Japanese religious art, and later incorporating oriental collections from the Louvre, the museum has 45,000 objects from neolithic times onwards. Lower galleries focus on India and South-east Asia, centred on stunning Hindu and Buddhist Khmer sculpture from Cambodia. Don't miss the Giant's Way... 

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Champs Élysées and western Paris

Musée des Arts et Métiers

The 'arts and trades' museum is, in fact, Europe's oldest science museum, founded in 1794 by the constitutional bishop Henri Grégoire, initially as a way to educate France's manufacturing industry in useful scientific techniques. Housed in the former Benedictine priory of St-Martin-des-Champs, it became a museum proper in 1819; it's a fascinating, attractively laid out and vast collection of treasures...

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The Marais

Musée de l'Assistance Publique

The history of Paris hospitals, from the days when they were receptacles for abandoned babies to the dawn of modern medicine, is shown through paintings, prints, and a mock ward and pharmacy...

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Latin Quarter and south Paris

Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature

A two-year overhaul turned the three-floor hunting museum from a musty old-timer into something really rather special. When it reopened in 2007, it had kept the basic layout and proportions of the two adjoining 17th-century mansions it occupies, but many of its new exhibits and settings seem more suited to an art gallery than a museum. The history of hunting... 

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The Marais

Musée National Delacroix

Eugène Delacroix moved to this apartment and studio in 1857 in order to be near the Eglise St-Sulpice, where he was painting murals. This collection includes small oil paintings, free pastel studies of skies, sketches and lithographs, as well as his palette...

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St Germain des Prés

Musée National Gustave Moreau

This wonderful museum combines the small private apartment of Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau (1826-98) with the vast gallery he built to display his work - set out as a museum by the painter himself, and opened in 1903. Downstairs shows his obsessive collector's nature with family portraits, Grand Tour souvenirs and a boudoir devoted to the object of his unrequited love, Alexandrine Dureux.Upstairs is Moreau's fantasy realm, which plunders Greek mythology and biblical scenes...

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Pigalle

Musée National Jean-Jacques Henner

During his lifetime, Jean-Jacques Henner (1829-1905) was one of France's most respected artists, winning multiple prizes and official state honours. While the Impressionists were revolutionising the rules of painting in the late 19th century, Henner was carving himself out a sturdy reputation as a talented landscape painter and exceptional portraitist. Reopened in 2009... 

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Champs Élysées and western Paris

Cité Nationale de l'Histoire de l'Immigration

Set in the stunning, colonial-themed Palais de la Porte Dorée (built in 1931 for the World Colonial Fair), the permanent collections here trace over 200 years of immigration history. There are thought-provoking images (film and photography), everyday objects (suitcases, accordions, sewing machines and so on) and artworks that symbolise the struggles immigrants had to face when integrating into French society... 

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12th arrondissement
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