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Musee du Quai Branly

Musée du Quai Branly

As a dazzling showcase for art from the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Oceania, the slick Jean Nouvel–designed Musée du Quai Branly, almost at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, is implicitly intended to rectify the cultural arrogance at the heart of France’s colonial expansion during the 19th century. During this imperial adventure, the country accumulated a rich hoard of what was once known as “primitive art.” Though Nouvel’s design has had mixed reviews architecturally, there’s no denying that the museum houses one of the richest, most interesting, and best-displayed collections of African, Asian, North and South American, and Pacific-island art in the world.

37 quai Branly; 7th; 01-56-61-70-00
Marmottan Monet

Musée Marmottan Monet

The Musée Marmottan Monet is not only one of Paris’s greatest small museums but an international star for its spectacular collection of some 165 paintings by Claude Monet. Formerly the hunting lodge of the Duc de Valmy, it was purchased by Jules Marmottan, a wealthy 19th-century industrialist. Two subsequent donations—a stunning collection of paintings from Victorine Monop de Monchy, daughter of Docteur de Bellio, whose patients included Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, and Renoir, and the private collection of Michel Monet, Monet’s second son—transformed the museum into the little gem that it is today.

2 rue Louis-Boilly; 16th; 33-1-44-96-50-33
Arts et Metiers

Musée des Arts et Metiers

Founded in 1794 and today occupying the former priory of Saint-Martin-des-Champs, the offbeat Musée des Arts et Metiers is devoted to scientific discovery and mechanical and industrial inventions, which are organized according to seven themes: scientific instruments, materials, construction, communication, mechanics, energy, and transport. Perhaps the most famous instrument in its collection of some 80,000 objects is Foucault’s pendulum, which was popularized by a novel by Italian writer Umberto Eco.

60 rue Réaumur; 3rd; 01-53-01-82-00
Musee de la Musique

Musée de la Musique

At the Musée de la Musique, in the Parc de la Villette, instruments from the unequaled collection of the Paris Conservatoire—from early horns and Stradivarius violins to modern synthesizers and Gibson electric guitars—come alive through headphones with commentary (in English) on instrumental developments over the past five centuries. The audio program also includes Conservatoire faculty members answering questions and demonstrating, say, the right way to play Javanese temple bells. Finish your visit with lunch at the Café de la Musique, an outpost of the Costes empire.

221 avenue Jean-Jaurès; 19th; 01-44-84-44-84; www.cite-musique.fr
Nissim de Camondo

Musée Nissim de Camondo

Facing the Parc Monceau, the Musée Nissim de Camondo is one of the most engaging and poignant of the city’s small museums. Built just before World War I by Moïse de Camondo, scion of a family known as the Rothschilds of the East, the house was designed to showcase his antiques. And after admiring the dazzling silver tureens made for Catherine the Great, wander through the spacious, bright kitchens. Restored to an as-built state, the fittings include remarkably modern water purifiers and a copper sink with a steam jacket to keep dishwashing water hot. And the vast stove, with separate ovens and a rotisserie, still inspires envy.

63 rue de Monceau, 8th; 01-53-89-06-40; www.lesartsdecoratifs.fr
Musee Carnavalet

Musée Carnavalet

Housed in two adjacent hôtels particuliers in the Marais, the Musée Carnavalet tells the story of Paris from prehistory to the early 20th century through archaeological finds, paintings, furniture, and objets d’art. There are rooms from the ancien régime, a Revolutionary collection that spans 12 rooms, and a section devoted to French literature that includes letters written by Madame de Sévigné (who lived here from 1677 to 1696) and a replica of Proust’s cork-lined bedroom. The museum’s shop has a fantastic selection of books about the city. (Buy an English-language guidebook here before you enter the museum—the information inside is all in French.)

23 rue de Sévigné; 3rd; 01-44-59-58-58

Musée Cognacq-Jay

This charming museum, housed in the carefully restored 16th-century Hôtel Donon, in the Marais, paints an interesting portrait of a slightly fussy, early-20th-century bourgeois collector. Ernest Cognacq, founder of the Samaritaine department store, and his wife, Louise Jay, amassed a surprisingly rich and varied collection that includes French Rococo artists like Fragonard, Watteau, Boucher, and Greuze, plus a smattering of Guardis and Canalettos, and a few more “highbrow” works by Rubens and Ruisdael. The paintings are complemented by the couple’s furniture, porcelain, tapestries, and sculpture.

8 rue Elzévir; 3rd; 01-40-27-07-21
Musee de la Vie Romantique

Musée de la Vie Romantique

Housed in an elegant little villa that was once home to the artist Ary Scheffer, the Musée de la Vie Romantique recalls the days when the surrounding neighborhood (between Pigalle and the Gare Saint-Lazare) was known as the “new Athens” because of the many artists, writers, and composers who lived there. Writer George Sand, the focus of the museum, was at the center of this creative community, which included Chopin, Delacroix, the poet Alfred de Musset, and other Romantic figures. The portraits, books, and letters here evoke that passionate age with charm.

16 rue Chaptal; 9th; 01-55-31-95-67