Housed in the former Gare d’Orsay (Orsay train station), Musée d’Orsay is easily one of Paris’ best museums. Located on the left bank of the Seine River, Musée d’Orsay overlooks the Tuileries Garden, the Louvre Museum and Sacré Cœur church. In addition to the incredible views provided by its superb location, the museum hosts one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of impressionist paintings. Visit Musée d’Orsay also for its diverse collection of sculpture and decorative objects, as well as for its unique architectural features. In between exhibitions, take a break at one of the three restaurants located inside. Art lovers, historians, and foodies will equally regale at this gem.
Appreciate the paintings
Musée d’Orsay is best known for its collection of impressionist works. With over 440 impressionist paintings, Musée d’Orsay possesses the world’s biggest collection. The impressionist movement was strongest during the latter half of the 19th century and into the early 20th century. During this period of exponential industrial growth, impressionist painters attempted to capture changes in the modern world.
Most of these paintings use visible brush strokes and unique light use to depict rather banal scenes (still lifes, landscapes, Parisian cafes) in an attempt to give a glimpse into the milieu of the era. Paintings from all of the movement’s most prominent members, including Monet, Cézanne, and Degas, can be found at Musée d’Orsay. The beautiful paintings and calm scenes make it quite easy to get lost wandering through the many galleries.
Investigate the museum’s other collections
Just because Musée d’Orsay is best known for its impressionist collection doesn’t mean that other art mediums were ignored when curating the collection. Find also extensive collections of drawings, photographs, and decorative objects at the museum. For example there are oriental objects vases, Art Nouveau furniture, and original sketches for Parisian monuments on display. Notably, the museum possesses several pieces by acclaimed sculptor Rodin.
Examine the unique architectural features
While viewing the art collection should be the main motivation for a visit to Musée d’Orsay, the building itself should not be ignored. Inaugurated for the 1900 World’s Fair, Gare d’Orsay served as the terminal station for visitors coming from southwest France to Paris for the expositions. The building also served a luxurious hotel with 370 rooms and reception hall for the wealthiest visitors.
With the modernization of trains during the first half of the 20th century, the station was used less and less until finally it was abandoned in 1939. The hotel was closed in 1973. Luckily, the building was spared from demolition in the 1970s. It was converted into the beautiful museum that exists today in 1986.
Great care was taken to ensure that the architectural integrity. This means that museum, while housing magnificent works of art, is also a piece of art itself. Several features of the former station and hotel can be seen within the museum. Large clocks that used to inform passengers of the time now serve as decorative pieces in the museum.
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Grab a bite to eat in between exhibitions
An added bonus to Musée d’Orsay’s size is that it is able to house three eating establishments. This is an incredible feature of the museum, as it invites visitors to stay longer and relax during their visit. The most basic spot to eat is Café de l’ours (Bear Café). Here find light lunch options like salads and sandwiches and an assortment of beverages. The Café Campana serves up traditional Parisian brasserie cuisine in an Art Nouveau-inspired atmosphere. The third, and most formal establishment, Restaurant, offers traditional French cuisine as well as a menu of rotating dishes inspired by the museum’s temporary exhibitions.
Mark Musée d’Orsay among you "must-visits" in Paris
Musée d’Orsay is truly a museum that offers everything; beautiful, world-renowned works of art, a fascinating location, and delicious food, all in one location. The museum can be reached via subway line 12, stop Solférino, or Regional Express Railway (RER) C, stop Musée d’Orsay. It is open Tuesday-Sunday 9.30 AM to 6.30 PM and is open until 9.45 PM on Thursdays. Admission is 11 EUR (11,50 USD) and is free for Europeans under 25 and all visitors under 18.
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