The Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay are already on your list. But Paris is filled with wonderful, smaller museums that are not to be missed. They’re not exactly hidden, but they certainly are gems.
I love this funky, old museum housed in two beautiful, adjoining mansions, but if you don’t start at the beginning (in the basement), you could wander around in a daze. This place is a 3D-version of the story of Paris; like walking through a history book. It takes you step-by-step through the city’s development from prehistory, when it was the villageof Lutèce, through Roman times, the Renaissance, the French Revolution, the Belle Epoque, and on to today. After you’ve traveled through time, relax in the beautiful, courtyard gardens.
Details: Musée Carnavalet (23 rue de Sevignée; tel. 01/44-59-58-58; www.carnavalet.paris.fr; 3rd arrondissement, Metro: Chemin Vert orSaint Paul) Free; closed Mondays.
This sumptuously-decorated, 19th-century mansion is as much a work of art as the masterpieces it houses. Edouard André, from a prominent banking family, and his wife, artist Nélie Jacquemart, had a passion for art. They traveled extensively collecting paintings, sculpture, tapestries, furniture and objects d’art. Their collection includes works by Botticelli, Chardin, Fragonard, Mantegna, Rembrandt, and Van Dyck. There’s even a room devoted entirely to Renaissance paintings. Visiting this museum gives you a glimpse into the elegant lifestyle of the Belle Epoque.
Details: Musée Jacquemart-André (158 Blvd Haussmann; tel. 01/45-62-11-59; www.musee-jacquemart-andre.com; 8th arrondissement, Metro: Miromesnil or Saint Philippe du Roule) Open daily.
Antoine Bourdelle’s colossal sculptures are on display in his former home, studio and garden, tucked away on a side street in the bustling Montparnassedistrict. Bourdelle studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Parisand in 1893 became an assistant to Rodin. The lovely garden is a great spot to repose after hours of sightseeing; bring a book and a snack.
Details: Musée Bourdelle (18 rue Antoine Bourdelle; tel. 01/49-54-73-73; www.bourdelle.paris.fr; 15th arrondissement, Metro: Montparnasse-Bienvenüe) Closed Mondays.
Near the Jardin de Luxembourg, a little garden and the former atelier of sculpture Ossip Zadkine are hidden away. The Russian artist, who came to Parisin the early 1900s, lived and worked in this tranquil spot from 1928 to 1967. The collection features his abstract sculptures along with paintings, drawings and photos documenting the work.
Details: Musée Zadkine (100 bis, rue d’Assas; tel. 01/43-26-91-90; www.zadkine.paris.fr; 6th arrondissement, Metro: Vavin or Notre Dame des Champs) Closed Mondays.
Le Corbusier Buildings
If you love architecture or just modern design, it’s worth a trip to this cul-de-sac off Rue du Docteur Blanche. There are two houses, built in 1924, by the famous architect Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris): Maison La Roche (tel. 01/42-88-75-72; open to visitors) is a wonderfully-preserved example of Le Corbusier’s work. It was commissioned by Raoul La Roche, who wanted a house with a gallery to display his painting collection. Maison Jeanneret (library visits by appointment only) houses the Foundation.
Visit Le Corbusier’s apartment and studio on the top floors of Immeuble Molitor. He lived here from about 1934 until his death in 1965. This light-filled, vaulted space is still decorated with his personal belongings; a treat for Le Corbusier aficionados.
Details: Fondation Le Corbusier (8-10 Square du Docteur Blanche; tel. 01/42-88-41-53; www.fondationlecorbusier.fr; 16th arrondissement, Metro: Jasmin or Michel-Ange-Auteuil) Closed Sundays & Monday mornings. Appartement de Le Corbusier (24 rue Nungesser et Coli; tel. 01/42-88-75-72; 16th arrondissement, Metro: Michel-Ange-Molitor or Porte d’Auteuil) Open Saturdays only, one metro stop or a 20min. walk from the Foundation.
The best way to experience Paris is to stay in a boutique hotel or rent an apartment if staying a week or more. Contact me for ideas and complete travel planning assistance.