Visiting Musee d’Orsay should definitely be at the top of every traveler’s Paris Attractions To-Do List! Right up there with the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, the train station turned museum is an amazing attraction for any traveler. Centrally located, the museum is an absolutely beautiful building. The Musee d’Orsay has something for everyone to enjoy– art, architecture, beautiful views, and even food! This guide will answer any questions you may have about visiting the museum. You’ll find out more about the history, why you should visit, how and when to go, and more!
If you want to know about visiting more museums in Paris, read our Paris Museums Guide!
3 Reasons for Visiting Musee d’Orsay in Paris
1. It is One of the Most Iconic Places in Paris
Located on the Left Bank, across from the Tuileries Gardens, the Musee d’Orsay was previously a train station that linked Paris to Orleans. Previously called Gare d’Orsay, the building was erected for the World’s Fair in 1900. It’s hard to believe that this historic site was once about to be demolished! Thankfully, a better plan was suggested thus paving way for the museum to be inaugurated in December of 1986!
2. It is Home to Some of the World’s Best Pieces of Art
The museum’s conversion from train station to museum meant that 20,000 square meters (220,000 sq ft) and four floors and terrace was now available to house artwork! The museum doesn’t only hold the world’s greatest pieces of Impressionist art but also sculptures, photography, and furniture which brings the number of works to about 80,000 pieces. Notable paintings include: Starry Night Over the Rhine by Van Gogh, The Saint- Lazare Station by Monet, and Olympia by Manet.
You can find the complete list of masterpieces online.
3. It Hosts the Best Temporary Exhibits in Paris
Art lovers from all over the world know Musee d’Orsay not just for its iconic design structure and permanent exhibitions but also for its ability to curate unique exhibitions. Some of its most notable ones include ‘Degas, Danse, Dessin‘ which was a tribute to French painter Edouard Degas, and ‘Black Models: from Gericault to Matisse‘ which explored the representation of black subjects in paintings, sculptures and photographs.
Musee d’Orsay also has some of the best temporary exhibits in Paris! The museum is currently hosting Huysmans Art Critic: From Degas to Grünewald, in the Eye of Francesco Vezzoli. Organized by Vezzoli, an Italian artist, the exhibition aims to show the works of art that struck Huysmans, a critic of naturalist art. The temporary exhibition is open until the 1st of March 2020. In addition, Musee d’Orsay has already announced its line-up of exhibitions for 2020 and so make sure to head to the official website to learn more about them!
Visiting Musee d’Orsay: Top Spots to See
1. Sculptures Hall
The collection of the Musee d’Orsay is presented chronologically and according to artistic movement. Therefore the best place to start is the sculptures hall! The sculpture hall is an open space that displays not only some of the most beautiful sculptures but also the beauty of the building’s structure.
Location: on the ground floor, in the center of the hall
What to look for: works by Dubois, Cavelier, and Guillaume
2. French Realism Masterpieces
On the ground floor, in the rooms surrounding the sculptures hall, you will also find French realism masterpieces. If you are visiting Paris, you have to stop and see some of these masterpieces by French painters. While all of the rooms located on the ground floor are worth visiting, here are a few of the rooms with notable works!
Location of notable works:
Salle 4: works by Honoré Daumier
Salle 6: Gustave Courbet
Salle 11: Paul Cézanne
Salle 12: Manet, Renoir, Monet
Salle 13: multiple works by Degas
Salle 14: ten works by Edouard Manet including Olympia
Salle 18: Fréderic Bazille, Paul Guigou, Claude Monet
3. Impressionists Gallery
The top floor of the Musee d’Orsay arguably houses the most breathtaking galleries in the museum. Here, you can find countless great works from the impressionist and expressionist movements. Some of the highlights include works by impressionist Degas, Monet, Renoir, Pissaro, Caillebotte, and Sisley. With all these amazing works of art to see, it is important to plan ahead!
Location of notable works:
Salle 33: Degas
Salle 34: Monet
Salle 35: Paul Cezanne and Auguste Renoir
Musee d’Orsay also has an interactive map of the museum that serves as a directory for where certain pieces are located within the museum. You can also read about the works in focus in certain rooms! Check it out online.
Visiting Musee d’Orsay: Practical Tips
1. Buying Tickets
Here are some quick facts to know about purchasing your ticket to Musee d’Orsay
– An admission ticket costs 14€ when you purchase it on-site at the museum. However, expect to pay a small transaction fee for purchases made online. Fnac facilitates the official online ticket sales for Musee d’Orsay.
– A concession rate at 11€ applies to several people. For example: adults who are accompanying minors under 18 years old, persons with disability, and EU residents under 26 years old.
– Visitors can also enjoy free admission into the museum if they are under 18 years old or when it is the first Sunday of the month!
– Unlike tickets at other museums, Musee d’Orsay tickets are not dated. Instead, each museum ticket is valid for 3 months. This makes it very convenient in case of a last-minute change of plans.
– For an even better value, we recommend travellers to purchase combined tickets to Musee d’Orsay and Musee de l’Orangerie or to Musee d’Orsay and to Musee Rodin . For just a few euros more, you’ll get to visit 2 very special museums in Paris!
2. Best Time to Go
There’s plenty of opportunity to visit Musee d’Orsay as it is open daily unlike several museums in Paris. However, for the best experience, it’s important to strategize when to go! Lucky for you, we’ve made some pretty good observations throughout the years.
– Days to avoid: Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday. The Louvre is closed on Tuesday therefore crowds often head to Orsay instead.
– Best times to come: before 12pm on any day or after 6pm on Thursdays as the museum is open until 9:45pm.
– Low tourist season: from November to March
3. Where to Plan for a Break During Your Visit
Lots people have already written about how huge and extensive the collections at the museum are. It’s true that visiting Musee d’Orsay can take at least one full day if you’re being thorough. On the plus side, there are 3 restaurants on-site where you can take breaks and enjoy refreshments or even full meals. For some light snacks like sandwiches and pastries, head to Café de l’Opéra on the ground floor. If you’re in the mood for a full meal, we recommend Le Restaurant as a set lunch menu is available for 24,50€ that includes a starter + main or a main + dessert. But if you’re particular about design, the trendy Café Campana offers a view of one of the museum’s giant clocks—perfect for Instagram!
Just remember that you’re not allowed to re-enter after you’ve exited the museum.
|INSIDR Tip: It can be a romantic experience to have dinner at Café Campana on a Thursday evening when the museum is open until 9:45pm.|
4. What to Visit Next
As we’ve mentioned above, combining your visit to Musee d’Orsay with a visit to either the Orangerie museum or Rodin museum makes for better value. You can save money and it’ll also help you with planning your travel itinerary in Paris. You definitely shouldn’t miss the Orangerie museum if you’re a fan of Monet as it dedicates a room that displays his beautiful Water Lilies murals. And if sculptures are more your taste, the Rodin Museum will definitely fascinate you.
Musée de l’Orangerie, located in the Tuileries Garden is a scenic 10-minute walk from Musee d’Orsay. On the other hand, Musée Rodin is only a 15-minute walk the opposite direction. And don’t worry about visiting the museums on the same day. Combined tickets are valid for 3 months.
Musée de l’Orangerie practical information:
Address: Jardin de Tuileries, Place de la Concorde, 75001
Schedule: open daily from 9am – 6pm
Musée Rodin practical information:
Address: 77 Rue de Varenne, 75007
Schedule: open daily from 10am – 6:30pm; closed on Mondays