The Musée d’Orsay is not your every day, dusty museum. It’s one of the most popular and exciting museums in the world with impressive art collections and impressionist masterpieces from artists like Monet, Van Gogh and Renoir. Formerly a railway station, the museum opened in 1986 and still holds original elements from its railway days. Natural light spills through the glass windows, which surround the building and ceiling, giving an eternal brightness to the interior – as long as the sun is out! With its elegant architectural style and host of mesmerising collections inside, it’s no wonder that over three million people visit the museum every year.
Tickets and opening times
General admission tickets are €14 per person, but, if you come after 4.30pm, the cost of tickets drops to €11. You’ll get lucky with free admission on the first Sunday of each month, however, if you’re under 26 years old and from a country within the European Union, you can enter for free any day of the week. The museum is open from 9.30am to 6pm most days but stays open later on Thursdays, when it closes at 9.45pm.
You can get to the museum by taxi, metro bus or on foot. Since you’re going to be standing and walking for a large portion of your visit to the museum, we recommend getting the Metro. Line 12 at the Solferino station will take you very close to the entrance, however, the museum is central and situated just across from the Louvre, so, if you find yourself nearby, you could just walk over and save yourself some money on public transport.
The main draw to the Musée d’Orsay is its impressive painting collection. The museum is known for its impressionism and post-impressionism pieces from 1848 to 1914, but, you’ll find more than just art hanging on its walls. You’ll also discover handmade sculptures, photography and even furniture on display. Pieces from famous artists such as Monet, Degas, Manet and more are instantly recognised to be from the impressionist period due to their spontaneous and loose brushstrokes, pure colours and the more realistic perception of light.
When strolling around the museum, keep an eye out for famous pieces including Vincent van Goth’s ‘Starry Night Over the Rhone Aries’, which dates back to 1888. Other popular works of art to view are ‘The Luncheon on the Grass’ by Edouard Manet, ‘The Artist’s Studio’ by Gustave Courbet and ‘Race Horses in front of the Tribunes’ by Edgar Degas.
Enjoy a meal in the restaurant
Swooning over world-class art can really work up an appetite. If you’re feeling peckish, head to the restaurant in the Orsay Museum, where you can enjoy a bite to eat before finishing off your tour. The restaurant first opened in 1900 but has since been ‘modernised’ with new furniture and glistening chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. The main chef is Yann Landureau, who cooks up a great selection of traditional French cuisine. Take a look at the menu and try something different such as egg in a broth with snails of Burgundy, or, play it safe and go for some fish and chips topped with tartar sauce.
Book a guided tour
To save time and money, book your tickets online. When you arrive at the museum, you can skip the lengthy queue for tickets and take the priority entrance. If you’ve never visited the museum before and you’re interested in learning more about the different collections inside, book yourself a tour. You could go for the shorter Orsay Masterpiece Tour, which will take you around the more permanent collections. This tour lasts around one hour and 30 minutes.
For a more in-depth tour of modern pieces, go for the 19th Century Art Tour, where you’ll gain a lot more knowledge about the various art pieces. Don’t forget to make time to check out the temporary exhibits, which will give you more to see during your visit.
Tips for visiting the museum
Make the most out of your visit by arriving early, beating the rush hour crowds and seeing more of the museum while it’s quiet. The best time to visit is from 9.30am to noon, but, with millions of visitors per year, it’ll still be relatively busy compared to the museums back home. However, by choosing your visiting times wisely, you might be able to come at a time when it’s less crowded.
You can shop for souvenirs to remember your visit in the museum shop, which includes books, Van Goth posters, mini sculptures, jewellery, postcards and lots more.