Petit Palais, Champs-Élysées (8e)

Built in 1900 in the beaux arts style, this museum was architect Charles Girault’s ode to the creativity of the early 20th century. Its mural-decorated lobbies, galleries and ornate cupolas now house a permanent collection of art, spanning sculptures from ancient Greece to photography of the 19th century. You’ll find paintings and sculptures by Pissarro, Cézanne, Rodin and Delacroix overseen by a series of busts of Parisian art luminaries set into the walls. And unlike many of the city’s other art institutions, you won’t have to battle it out with crowds of tourists to get a look at them. 

It’s the temporary exhibitions that really make this a must-visit. Recent displays have ranged from the fashion of Yves Saint Laurent to the macabre drawings and etchings of Goya and the wood-block prints of Japanese artist Kuniyoshi. There’s also a lovely café in the mosaic-tiled courtyard where you can have a coffee once you’re done perusing the collections.

Avenue Winston Churchill,
75008 +33 (0)1 5343 4000

Le Bal, Pigalle (18e)

This cutting-edge exhibition space, near the bustling Avenue de Clichy, is a leading independent venue in which to catch some contemporary art. But to refer to Le Bal simply as a gallery would do it a disservice. It was once home to a risqué club and betting shop but in 2006 the City of Paris bought the decrepit building in the 18th arrondissement and transformed it into a cultural space with the help of the young architects at Agence Search. 

Le Bal focuses on documentary and the different interpretations of “reality”. It does this through an impressive education arm – Bal Lab – that holds talks, workshops and theatre performances, as well as exhibitions in the two gallery spaces. There is also an excellent bookshop and a café opens onto a communal garden where chic Parisians converge.

6 Impasse de la Défense, 75018
+33 (0)1 4470 7550

Musée des Arts Forains, Bercy (12e)

Evoke your inner child at this whimsical museum dedicated to fairgrounds and their associated paraphernalia dating from 1850 to 1950. This magical and lovingly restored world is the private collection of antiques dealer and actor Jean Paul Favand, which he opens up to the public by appointment. Ride a colourful wooden carousel, watch an Italian opera performed by mechanical puppets and be transformed into otherworldly shapes by magic mirrors in pavilions. This place has to be seen to be believed.

53 Avenue des Terroirs de France, 75012
+33 (0)1 4340 1622

Images: Pascal Martinez, François Cavelier

Go back: Paris


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Monocle 24

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  • The Pacific Shift