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13 Best Small Museums in Paris for Art, History and Culture in 2024

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Looking for small museums in Paris? Or for a less-crowded or more local experience? If you are interested in history, art, or literature these museums fit the bill.

I have traveled all around Paris on numerous visits, and after so many trips, you start to think, “I’ve seen the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay, but now I want to discover more.”

In fact, my favorite museum in Paris is the often overlooked Rodin Museum with its magical gardens, which I have put at the top of our small museums list. I consider it one of Paris’ hidden gems.

And there are many more! There are actually more than 130 Paris museums.

Top 13 Small Museums in Paris

Parisians are known for their love of art and culture. Visiting museums is an integral part of Parisian and french culture for the whole family. Most museums in Paris have free entrance one day per month, usually Sunday.

👉 Check this list of free museum entry days for more info.

If you have visited the big-ticket museums and are looking for a new or a less-crowded and more intimate experiences, here are 13 Paris museums to add to your Paris itinerary.

1. Rodin Museum – art and sculpture

Rodin Musuem in Paris, one of the best small museums.  The Thinker.

Oh, the Rodin Museum is a quiet and marvellous joy!

For an hour’s visit you will see Rodin’s wonderful sculptures housed in a small, yet magnificent mansion and the garden is a museum experience in its own right.

In the gardens are beautiful sculptures along tree-lined paths and around rose-filled corners.  

It’s best to visit when it is not raining.

  • Location: 77 Rue de Varenne, 75007 
  • MetroVarenne
  • Hours: 10 am-6:30 pm. Closed. Mondays
  • Cost: 13 Euro
  • Note: large bags/backpacks not allowed inside

2. Gustave Moreau Museum– art and culture

Small museum in Paris - Gustav Moreau Museum
Spiral staircase and main room at the Gustav Moreau Museum in Paris

The Gustav Moreau museum is unique and fascinating. You will have the experience of the artist’s life and works right in his own home. This is a museum within a museum and another one of Paris’ best kept secrets.

Three floors here, the upper two were his studio and you see not only finished works but those in process. Matisse was his student and Manet and Degas were friends.

His style mythical and atypical, including surreal fairies, scary beasts, biblical angels. 

The spiral staircase is a work of art in itself

  • Location: 14 rue de la Rochefoucauld
  • Hours: 10-6 every day except Tuesday
  • Cost: 7 Euro. Free the first Sunday of every month.

3. Montmartre Museum – art and history

Paris small museum - Montmartre Museum and Renoir's Gardens
Montmartre Museum and Renoir’s Gardens in Paris

Near Sacre Coeur but away from crowds is the Montmartre Museum and its peaceful gardens. 

Paintings, posters and drawings by Toulouse Lautrec, Modigliani and many others are on display, and you also learn the fascinating history of Montmartre.  

The famous impressionist artists set up their studios in Montmartre.

The museum was once a house and studio for Renoir and is one of the smaller impressionism museums in Paris. The gardens have been designed with inspiration from works he created on site.

Refreshments are available at the small cafe and you can enjoy them in the beautiful garden.

  • Location: 12 Rue Cortot  75018
  • Hours: Daily 10 am-6 pm
  • Cost: 15 Euro

4. Museum of Romantic Life – literary museum

Musée de la Vie Romantique is a really lovely smaller museum in Paris. It’s tucked away in a 19th-century mansion painted with beautifully green shutters.

The museum itself takes you through the 19th-century Romantic era of literature and art. And I love that it’s a free thing to do in Paris.

You’ll see paintings, sculptures, and mementos of famous artists and writers – largely Ary Scheffer (who used to live in this house) and one floor entirely dedicated to writer George Sand.

It’s one of only 3 literary museums in Paris and it’s right at the bottom of Montmartre in the 9th arrondissement.

  • Location: 16 Rue Chaptal, 75009
  • Hours: 10 AM – 6 PM, closed on Mondays
  • Price: Free for permanent collection

5. Musée National Picasso-Paris – art and sculpture

Picasso in Paris? Sure! He actually spent most of his adult life in France after settling in Paris in 1904.

Picasso may be Spanish but he created so much of his art here, and so it’s only fitting that there’s an entire Picasso Museum in Paris. 

The museum is located in a very opulent-looking French building in Les Archives and has more than 5,000 works by Picasso – sketches, musings, notebooks, complete paintings, etc.

It’s also a short and pretty walk from Notre Dame, and they also occasionally do “nights at the museum” events where you can visit in the evenings for a really low price. So, check the calendar before you visit.

  • Location: 5 Rue de Thorigny, 75003
  • Hours: 10:30  AM – 6 PM TWTF, 9:30 – 6 PM Saturdays & Sundays, closed on Mondays
  • Price: €14 general admission

6. Musée de la Légion d’honneur – history

You’ll see this fairly small museum in Paris right across from the front entrance to the Musee d’Orsay – about as central as you can get.

Inside, there are paintings and sculptures but the main theme is France’s honors, medals, and chivalric orders. It’s also set in a historic 18th-century hotel.

It’s free to enter and is a nice museum to visit after you’ve checked off the better-known Paris attractions.

  • Location: 2 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007
  • Hours: 1 PM – 6 PM, closed Mondays & Tuesdays
  • Price: Free

7. Musée Cognacq-Jay – immersive art/history

Musee Cognacq-jay Paris

Full of 18th-century art and decorative objects in a townhouse setting, this is a great way to see art in Paris as well as the layout of a regal French apartment.

The collections date back to the early 1900s and the whole place gives off a very French aristocracy feel. And it’s just around the corner from the Picasso Museum.

If you’re looking to escape the crowds and discover a lesser-known small museum in Paris, Musée Cognacq-Jay is a gorgeous pick.

  • Location: 8 Rue Elzevir, 75003
  • Hours: 10 AM – 6 PM, Closed on Mondays
  • Price: Free for permanent collections, €8 for temporary exhibits

8. Musée Jacquemart-André – art in private mansion

Musée Jacquemart-André is an art museum in the 8th arrondissement, set in a private mansion.

I love this lesser-known place to visit in Paris for its marble walls, gorgeous staircases, and picturesque rooms filled with statues and paintings. It’s a really beautiful place.

It’s pricier than some other Paris museums but I say it’s worth it.

  • Location: 158 Bd Haussmann, 75008
  • Hours: 10 AM – 6 PM daily
  • Price: €17 for full price

9. Musée de Cluny – medieval art and history

Famous unicorn tapestry at Cluny Museum in Paris
Famous unicorn tapestry at the Cluny Museum in Paris

For medieval lovers, this one’s for you. Musée de Cluny, or the National Museum of the Middle Ages, is a centrally located smaller museum in Paris that displays loads of medieval art. 

It’s also famous for its unicorn tapestries, which are so intricate and definitely worth seeing.

Beyond that, there is a stained glass gallery, tombstone art, the remnants of Roman baths and their sculptures, and so much more.This is one of the most interesting smaller museums in Paris. Check the activities page for special exhibitions.

  • Location: 28 Rue du Sommerard, 75005
  • Hours: 9:30 AM – 6: 15 PM, closed on Mondays
  • Price: €12 full price

10. Bourdelle Museum – sculpture

To check out some amazing sculptures, Bourdelle Museum is a popular but free Paris museum. It’s dedicated to the life/work of sculptor Antoine Bourdelle.

You can find it in the Montparnasse district. What’s cool is that it’s actually set in Bourdelle’s former studio that was used in the late 1800s to the early 1900s.

The whole studio set-up is really well arranged and because it’s a City of Paris Museum it’s free to enter.

  • Location: 18 Rue Antoine Bourdelle, 75015
  • Hours: 10 AM – 6 PM, closed on Mondays
  • Price: Free

11. Musée Carnavalet – history of Paris

You can learn more about Paris’s history at Musée Carnavalet. It’s set in 2 mansions and it’s actually the oldest museum in Paris.

You’ll see tons of remnants of old Paris – everything from signage to historic storefronts. There is even a 6,000-year-old canoe that was discovered in the Seine.

Other than the canoe, this museum covers 450 years of Paris’s rich history. It’s a lot of fun to see and somewhat travel back in time.

  • Location: 23 Rue de Sévigné, 75003
  • Hours: 10 AM – 6 PM, closed on Mondays
  • Price: Free for permanent collections, €5 for a guided visit

12. Jeu de Paume – photography and cinema

Jeu de Paume is in a great location in the Tuileries Garden and houses some of the best collections of modern and postmodern photography and cinema

The exhibitions are always changing, so it’s a place you can visit time and time again in Paris. And so it’s one of the best small museums in Paris.

I also love that there’s also a garden-esque bookstore under the Jeu de Paume terrace. It’s really charming.

  • Location: 1 Pl. de la Concorde, 75008
  • Hours: 11 AM – 7 PM Wednesday to Sunday, closed Mondays, 11 AM – 9 PM Tuesdays
  • Price: €8 general admission

13. Musée Jean-Jacques Henner – portraits and nudes

Jean-Jacques Henner was a famous French painter from the 1800s known for painting nudes and portraits. His work feels distinct with his subjects usually quite shadowed.

Musée Jean-Jacques Henner is dedicated to him and his creations, and it’s done incredibly well. Plus, it’s set in a former mansion, so the architecture combined with his art makes it one of my favorite small museums in Paris.

You can also find unique activies there, like yoga classes, night-time visits, various painting workshops, lectures, and concerts. Check the museum’s website here for current offerings.

  • Location: 43 Av. de Villiers, 75017
  • Hours: 11 AM – 6 PM, closed on Mondays
  • Price: €12 general admission

BONUS: The lovely Gallerie Dior is one of the Paris fashion museums and worth a visit for fashion and/or history lovers.

MAP of Smaller Museums in Paris

Where To Stay In Paris

I have been to Paris many times and have stayed in several parts of the city; I chose these high-quality hotels for charm and authenticity.

📍Luxury Option: Hôtel Particulier Montmartre – Small luxury hotel with 5 suites, rich Parisian history, surrounded by a vibrant protected garden, restaurant open from breakfast to dinner, chic bar, near the metro.

📍Mid-Range Option: Hôtel Le Presbytère  (Pompidou Center) Small boutique hotel, with exposed beams, located in Presbytere, with attentive staff, Gothic architecture, and warm and cozy rooms. . 

📍Budget Option: Port Royal Hotel  (near Latin Quarter) Great location, complimentary WiFi, close to the metro, offers two types of rooms (one with shared bathroom and one with private bathroom), breakfast for an additional cost.

FAQs – Museums in Paris

Here are some of the most common questions about Paris museums.

What is the most beautiful museum in Paris?

The Louvre is often credited as the most beautiful museum in Paris thanks to the massive glass pyramid at its entrance plus its marble interiors and range of artwork.

Is Petit Palais worth visiting?

Yes, the gallery itself is beautiful and it’s filled with paintings by everyone from Delacroix to Cézanne and Monet. It is one of the best impressionist museums in Paris.

What museum in France do tourists visit most?

The Louvre is the most visited museum in the world, and the most famous museums in Paris.

What museums in Paris are not art?

There are many! For example, The Army Museum, Musée Carnavalet (the City of Paris History Museum), and Conciergerie – a former courthouse and prison – all have little to no art. Also there are several museums devoted to fashion in Paris, like the Gallerie Dior.

Final Thoughts on the Small Museums in Paris

If you have seen and done all the must-do things and famous sights of Paris and are looking for unique things to do in Paris, these smaller museums in Paris do the trick.

Any of these small museums in Paris would fit nicely into a weekend itinerary. And with so many of them being free to visit, it’s a great way to see the city on a budget and save money for delicious French dinners or day trips to vineyards.

Happy travels!

Related Reading:

Top 5 Impressionist Museums in Paris

The 7 BEST Paris Fashion Museums: Guide for 2024

Parisian Culture Guide: 23 Things To Know Before You Go 2024

What is Paris Famous For