The Best Small Paris Museums

The Best Small Paris Museums

Print out the Pocket List and take it with you!

Musée Nissim de Camondo

A fabulous museum, for the most part arranged just as it was while the Camondo family lived there. Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain at the end of the 15th century, the Camondos first went to Venice, and later to Istanbul, where they founded what became the largest bank in the Ottoman Empire. Their Paris mansion was patterned on the Petit Trianon at Versailles.

63 rue de Monceau, 8th, Closed Mon and Tue. website

Musée Cognacq-Jay

8 rue Elzévir, 3rd, Closed Mon. website

Théodore-Ernest Cognacq and his wife Marie-Louise Jay were the entrepreneurial founders of La Samaritaine department store, where they made their fortune, and their collection is remarkable. You’ll find paintings by Fragonard, Boucher, Watteau, Nattier, Greuze and Quentin La Tour, among others, along with porcelain, snuff boxes, Aubusson tapestries and, not least, a canopy bed that once belonged to Louis XVI’s aunt, Madame Adélaïde.

Musée National Jean-Jacques Henner

43 ave de Villiers, 17th, Closed Tue. website

Henner (1829-1905) was one of the most appreciated painters of his generation. The museum’s mansion was bought by Marie Henner, the widow of Henner’s nephew, and donated to the state to house the artist’s work. Although Henner never lived here, he sometimes dined with the original proprietor, Guillaume Dubufe, a fellow society painter who would have shared the same lifestyle and eclectic taste.

Galérie-Musée Baccarat

11 pl des Etats-Unis, 16th, Closed Sun and Tue. website

This museum is intended to dazzle. Set up in the former home of the socialite Vicomtesse Marie-Laure de Noailles, this is the flagship of the Baccarat crystal manufacturer, also housing three boutiques and an upscale restaurant. One section of the museum showcases special commissions for Baccarat’s most prestigious clients—the Prince of Wales, the Emperor of Japan, the Shah of Iran, King Farouk of Egypt, Josephine Baker, Coco Chanel, Aristotle Onassis, even Pope John Paul II.

Musée de la Poupée

Impasse Berthaud, 22 rue Beaubourg, 3rd, Closed Mon. website

Hidden away in a charming, flowery dead-end alley between the Centre Pompidou and the Marais, opposite the recently opened Anne Frank Garden, the museum has some 500 antique dolls, dating from 1800 to 1919—mostly French, some German, a few from Japan.

Musée Dapper

35 bis rue Paul Valéry, 16th, Closed Tue. website

A must for aficionados of African arts. There is no permanent collection, only thematic temporary exhibits that run over long periods, but between exhibitions the museum closes and it is wise to check beforehand.

Musée de la Poste

34 blvd de Vaugirard, 15th, Closed Sun. website

This museum is much more exciting than it sounds—in this age of instant communications, traveling back through the history of postal services becomes a poetic experience.

Thirza Vallois is the author of Around and About Paris, Romantic Paris and Aveyron, A Bridge to French Arcadia.


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