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8 Lesser-Known (and Totally Awesome) Art Museums in Paris

©istockphoto/Brosa

©istockphoto/Brosa

The city of Paris is home to some of the world’s most famous art museums. Those who visit the City of Lights can choose to patronize the Louvre (arguably the world’s most famous art museum), the Orsay (one of the most extensive galleries of impressionist works) and private museums dedicated to the likes of Picasso, Renoir, Rodin and Monet. But for those who prefer to venture off the beaten path, here are a few more obscure institutions that boast some truly impressive collections.

Museé Carnavalet

This expansive history museum is housed in two adjacent mansions on the famous Rue de Sévigné. In addition to artifacts dating back to the Middle Ages and the French Revolution, Carnavalet hosts a stirring gallery of paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other artistic works that also serve as a window into French history.

Cent Quartre

There are art museums, and then there is the Cent Quartre—a rentable space dedicated to art in all its various forms, from painting and sculpture to theatre, dance and even cooking. The proprietors hope to provide a facility for cultural ambassadors to hone their crafts and create works for the public to enjoy. Officially opened six years ago, the Cent Quartre currently serves as the homebase for more than 200 artists-in-residence.

Gaîté Lyrique

Opened in 2010, this art and music center is located in the same building that once housed the  Théâtre de la Gaîté, a Parisian cultural hotspot dating back to the mid-19th century that closed down in 1989. The current facility boasts three performance venues, as well as a library with thousands of volumes. Anyone with a keen eye (or ear) for contemporary media will definitely dig Le Gaîté Lyrique.

Jeu de Paume

Named for a popular Parisian variation on tennis, Jeu de Paume is considered France’s first national gallery of contemporary art (the expansive on-site courts gave the gallery its name). In addition to a voluminous collection of artwork that was once plundered by the Third Reich (today stored in the ‘Nazi Looting House’), the museum is home to paintings and sculptures by modern masters like Robert Gober and Eva Hesse.

Maison Europenneé de la Photographie

Arguably the finest gallery of modern photography in all of Paris, the Maison Europeénnee is housed in the famed Hotel Henault de Cantobre, which dates back to the early 18th century. In addition to roughly 20,000 installation pieces, the gallery has hosted exhibitions from the likes of Annie Liebovitz, Andy Warhol and Bernard Faucon. More than 150,000 visitors stop by the museum each year, but the expansive space never feels too crowded.

Museé du Luxembourg

The Palais de Luxembourg is so large that this art museum only occupies the eastern wing. The building has hosted some of art’s most enduring masterpieces over the years, from Rubens’ Marie’ de Medici Cycle to Whistler’s Mother. The museum boasts few permanent installations, and is best known today for temporary exhibitions.

Quai Branly Museum

Let’s say French/European art isn’t your cup of tea. Not sure why you’re in Paris, but nonetheless the Quai Branly Museum is a hotbed of art and cultural artifacts from Africa, Asia and the Americas. Clothing, housewares and other trinkets from indigenous cultures are on permanent display, while some of the most recent temporary exhibitions have taken a look at tattoos, movie posters and tiki bars. There’s something for everyone at this museum that manages to be fun and informative in equal measure.

Finally, please note that normally the Museé Bourdelle would ordinarily make this list. However, this establishment is currently closed due to remodeling and is slated to reopen sometime in early 2015.

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