Paris is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating cultural cities in the world. Historians say that there have been inhabitants in the area since at least 8000 BC, the Romans established a town here and it became the capital of Clovis, King of the Franks in 508 AD. In the middle ages Paris became one of the most important cities in Europe, universities were established, beautiful churches were built, it was the centre of power for the French Kings and Queens. The creation of beautiful buildings continued through the centuries. The Rennaissance was a strong influence, and in the 18th and 19th centuries stunning mansions and public buildings were erected, Haussmann left his mark and even now contemporary buildings continue to impress.
It’s not surprising then that culture has long been important in Paris and it’s no different today. We all know of the big hitters like the Louvre, the world’s most visited museum and the Eiffel Tower, the world’s most visited monument. But there are loads of smaller, less well known and fabulous cultural venues in Paris.
Le Centre-Quatre – 104
This quirky cultural venue in located in a former funeral parlour. No, I’m not kidding, it really is. There are resident artists, a cinema, theatre, regular exhibitions and concerts. There’s a cool café and shops too. This is definitely one of the most hip cultural spots for Parisians. Details: www.104.fr
The Palais de Tokyo
One of the most trendy spaces in Paris for modern art and the largest contemporary art centre in Europe with a vast exhibition area. The Palais de Tokyo stays open until midnight so you can get your late night art fix. There are two restaurants, Grand Verres is chic and has an excellent menu, Monsieur Blue is fabulous, especially when the terrace is open with great views of the Eiffel Tower (May to September). And, there’s even a night club at the museum called The YoYo.
Set in a Baroque 17th-century hotel in the heart of the Marais district, this is home to the largest collection of Picasso’s masterpieces anywhere in the world. Read our review: Picasso Museum
Meet celebrities and historical characters from Katy Perry to Queen Marie-Antoinette! Of course they’re made from wax as the Musée Grevin is the Paris equivalent of London’s Madame Tussauds. It’s also where you’ll discover the Hall of Mirrors, created for the 1900 Universal Exhibition, it has real wow factor.
Art with a heart
Parisians love to visit the city’s smaller museums like L’Orangerie where you’ll find Monet’s famous Nymphéas (water lilies) murals. The greenhouse-like Orangerie was built in 1852 to provide shelter for the orange trees in the Tuileries gardens.
Also popular is the little-known to visitors Musée Marmottan, which has more Monet paintings than any other museum. The building is a former hunting lodge built for a duke in the early 19th century and is architecturally gorgeous.
A permanent collection by the great sculpture and artist Rodin is on display in this stunning private mansion. Dating from the 18th century, Rodin lived and worked here for several years. As well as the sculptor’s masterpieces, several works by his mistress and troubled muse Camille Claudel are also on display. You can see some of his major works here including The Thinker. Not too far away Camille Claudel also has a museum dedicated to her work (opened 2017). Details: MuseeRodin
Musee de la Vie Romantique
The Musée de la Vie Romantique is located in the former home of the painter Ary Scheffer in the Pigalle area, built in 1830. The ground floor is devoted to George Sand, the writer who lived in Paris. Portraits, furniture and jewellery from the 18th and 19th centuries are on display. On the first floor, Ary Scheffer’s paintings are surrounded by contemporary works. Two annual temporary exhibitions are organized as well as concerts, readings and activities for children. In the museum’s garden, the seasonal tearoom, a real haven of peace open from March to October, is a great place to relax and recharge with a drink and snack. Read our review: The Museum of Romantic Life in Paris
Get your skates on any Friday night and head to the Tour Montparnasse and head to the viewing deck, 200m high for stunning 360 degree views over the city. If you’re feeling adventurous, join Parisians on a 27-kilometer-long path which starts at the base and takes you on roads that are closed to traffic through the city. It’s an unusual way to sightsee and very Paris!
More cultural stuff on Paris
Promenade Plantée – the most unusual park in Paris
3 Brilliant English language book nooks in Paris that you’ll absolutely fall in love with
A very French Evolution in Paris’ 13th arrondissement where the modern architecture is absolutely eye-poppingly fantastic
5 Free museums in Paris you shouldn’t miss
Off the beaten track things to see in Paris including an ancient alchemist house whose owner appeared in a Harry Potter book!