Over a period of five days we visited 5 museums in Paris. ‘Only 5?’ I hear you ask, or is it ‘OMG, that’s a lot to cover!’
There are so many to choose museums in Paris that you could spend your entire trip doing nothing but museum visiting, and miss out on seeing the sights, walking through markets and simply enjoying being in Paris. You need to have a balance between the two, especially with the added challenge of having the little BGs with us. The museum has to be engaging with adults and children alike, and easy to navigate so we can get to see what we want to see. These were the five museums we visited, all very different experiences, with the one thing in common that they were all free for kids- hurray!
One of my favourite all-time museums, and one which I had visited the last time I was in Paris- it’s like visiting an old friend. We arrive there not long after it has opened and there’s no queue. There’s a Degas exhibition of his nudes as a added bonus at the time we visit, much to Master BG’s amusement (bottoms and body parts attract much mirth and snickers from a 7 year old boy). We also point out the building and explain how it used to be a railway station, and look at the glass ceiling, the huge clock faces (very reminiscent of Hugo) and the models of the building, which elicit a lot of interest from the kids. We visit the Impressionist and post-Impressionist rooms and simply look and marvel. As we’re staying around Montmartre, it’s a bit of a buzz to see the paintings that were created there here on the walls.
Miss BG loves the ballet paintings of Degas and his ballerina sculpture, while Master BG is quite taken with Vincent van Gogh, or the farmer as he calls him, because he lives in the country. They both get quite taken with Seurat and how he used lots of dots to create his paintings. The bookshop and giftshops are excellent, and Miss BG emerges with a picture book about Degas and Master BG has a Rubik’s cube of van Gogh images.
Verdict- a good time was had by most- Miss BG did chuck a wobbly in a crowded room, but we had pushed our time there by that stage. As it’s a museum with a targeted period and collection, it’s much more manageable to see what you want to see.
Musee du Louvre-Friday
I had never visited it on previous visits, mainly because I thought it would be insanely busy, tacky and full of people wanting to see the Mona Lisa.
My preconceptions were pretty spot on, but there were some surprises. Seeing the foundations of the original medieval Louvre were pretty awe-inspiring, and the rooms themselves as a palace were a marvel in themselves. The basic guide of the Louvre was also very good and showed you where the key works of art were located. It was insanely busy, and full of people wanting to see the Mona Lisa- I felt sorry for the painting as it was literally being papped out of existence.
The museum was also full of Japanese tourists making peace signs in front of Botticelli frescoes or the Venus de Milo while their friends took a photo of them on their phone. At this point I slapped them and told them this was not the place nor painting in which to be so inane and self-absorbed (not really, but I truly wanted to do that). It was hot and hellish, and not really a great artistic experience. People were there because it was a tourist attraction and to say they had seen the Mona Lisa and it was all right, a bit smaller than I had expected, rather than to see art. We escaped and headed for the Tuileries Gardens where we had a wonderful time at the playground (ie the kids played on a cool playground, while the parents recovered on one of the heaps of chairs and benches surrounding the play area), and had an icecream.
Verdict- If you avoid the crush around the Mona Lisa and just wander around looking at the ceilings, and other collections, you would probably have a better experience. It is a vast collection of art in a vast space, and a bit unwieldy.
Musee de Montmartre- Sunday
This is a little museum about the social history and artiditic legacy of Montmartre. It is located in the former building in which Renoir lived and painted, has a garden and two resident black cats. In here you could learn about the artists who lived and painted in the area, the cabarets, the Commune of 1870, and the building of Sacre Coeur, all in relatively quiet surroundings. There was a free audioguide available and the staff were quite friendly.
Verdict It’s small so you can get in and see it in under an hour, it was reasonably priced and in a beautiful setting. A lovely outing!
Espace de Dali- Sunday
This was a five minute walk from the Musee de Montmartre and the only place in Montmartre where you could see art (not counting the myriad of artists who flock to the Place du Terre to sell their paintings). It was where you could see over 300 works of art from this artist. The works of art are largely prints, sculptures and several letters, and primarily come from the latter part of Dali’s career. I saw a Dali exhibition a couple of years ago in Melbourne which was comprehensive and contained everything you would want to see. This didn’t really match up to that experience, and a bit disappointing – a bit overpriced too!
Verdict -don’t bother, and save your money for crepes au chocolat.
Centre Pompidou- Monday
It was wet and rainy, and we had just left the Eiffel Tower, so now was as good a time as any to visit. The architecture and the setting is quite appealing to children, but it was a bit too wet to stand and look at then inside out building. It was pretty quiet and we were sharing it with art students, school groups ( how cool would that be to come in for an excursion and see Picasso and Matisse!), and a few other tourists braving the weather. We weren’t disappointed. We could move around and stand in front of paintings and sculptures and talk about them without getting jostled. There were big glass windows that Miss BG could stand in front of and look out onto the street below. The bookshop is quite extensive too.
Verdict-really great for children, but having lunch here is an expensive experience.