If you’re visiting Paris and planning on cramming in as many museums and monuments as possible, the Paris Museum Pass is a good way to save both money and time. The pass offers direct access to 60 of Paris's most iconic sights, and allows you to skip past the long ticket queues. There are three available options: a 2-day pass for €48, 4 days for €62 or 6 days for €74; so whether you plan to visit the iconic Louvre, Musée d'Orsay and Pompidou Centre, or to take your time exploring the city's sites, there's an option for everyone. Passes can be purchased online, or at visitor centres, museums and shops all over the city.
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The best museums participating in the Paris Museum Pass scheme
The Louvre is a city within the city, a vast, multi-level maze of galleries, passageways, staircases and escalators. Some 35,000 works of art and artefacts are on show, split into eight departments and housed in three wings: Denon, Sully and Richelieu. You'll find treasures from the Egyptians, Etruscans, Greeks and Romans as well as Middle Eastern and Islamic art, and European decorative arts from the Middle Ages up to the 19th century.
The Arc de Triomphe is the city's second most iconic monument after the Eiffel Tower - older, shorter, but far more symbolically important: indeed, the island on which it stands, in the centre of the vast traffic junction of l'Etoile, is the nearest thing to sacred ground in all of secular France, indelibly associated as it is with two of French history's greatest men, Napoleon and Charles de Gaulles.
Centuries of makeovers have made Versailles the most sumptuously clad château in the world – a brilliant, unmissable cocktail of extravagance. Architect Louis Le Vau first embellished the original building – a hunting lodge built during Louis XIII's reign – after Louis XIV saw the impressive residence of his finance minister Nicolas Fouquet. André Le Nôtre turned the boggy marshland into terraces, parterres, lush groves and a spectacular series of fountains.
The Musée d'Orsay, originally a train station designed by Victor Laloux in 1900, houses a huge collection spanning the period between 1848 and 1914, and is home to a profusion of works by Delacroix, Corot, Manet, Renoir, Pissarro, Gauguin, Monet, Caillebotte, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and others. Impressionism, Naturalism and Symbolism all take pride of place here.
The Rodin museum occupies the hôtel particulier where the sculptor lived in the final years of his life. The Kiss, the Cathedral, the Walking Man, portrait busts and early terracottas are exhibited indoors, as are many of the individual figures or small groups that also appear on the Gates of Hell. Most visitors have greatest affection for the gardens: look out for the Burghers of Calais, the Gates of Hell, and the Thinker.
The reopening of this Monet showcase a few years ago means the Orangerie is now firmly back on the tourist radar: expect long queues. The look is utilitarian and fuss-free, with the museum's eight, tapestry-sized Nymphéas (water lilies) paintings housed in two plain oval rooms. They provide a simple backdrop for the astonishing, ethereal romanticism of Monet's works, painted late in his life.
The primary colours, exposed pipes and air ducts make the Centre Pompidou one of the best-known sights in Paris. The then-unknown Italo-British architectural duo of Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers won the competition with their 'inside-out' boilerhouse approach, which put air-conditioning, pipes, lifts and the escalators on the outside, leaving an adaptable space within.
Set in the great 17th century Hôtel Salé in the heart of the historic Marais area, Picasso’s masterpieces hang on the walls of bright, spacious exhibition rooms. This museum holds the largest collection in the world of Picasso’s masterpieces, and yet there's a lack of historical and political analyses, depriving visitors of a useful framework in which to grasp the agenda of the 20th century avant-garde artist.
Soufflot's neo-classical megastructure was the architectural grand projet of its day, commissioned by a grateful Louis XV to thank Sainte Geneviève for his recovery from illness. But by the time it was ready in 1790, a lot had changed; during the Revolution, the Panthéon was rededicated as a 'temple of reason' and the resting place of the nation's great men. The austere barrel-vaulted crypt now houses Voltaire, Rousseau, Hugo and Zola.
The Conciergerie looks every inch the forbidding medieval fortress. However, much of the façade was added in the 1850s, long after Marie-Antoinette, Danton and Robespierre had been imprisoned here. The 13th-century Bonbec tower, built during the reign of St Louis, the 14th-century twin towers, César and Argent, and the Tour de l'Horloge all survive from the Capetian palace.