10 Museums in France

Here are our travel tips for museums in France, outside the capital city of Paris.

Matisse Museum, Nice

French artist Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse (1869- 1954) lived in Nice from 1918 until he died, and his great work is on display at death Musée Matisse. Located on 164, av. des Arènes de Cimiez 06000, the museum is open all year (with the exception of Tuesdays and some public holidays) and free to visit. It’s open from 10am till 6pm. The museum allows group tours that don’t have more than 20 people. However guided tours cost €20 for school groups and  €80 for adult groups. Getting to the museum is also convenient. You just need to take one of these buses: 15, 17, 20, 22, 25.

France museums

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Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’archéologie, Besançon

Interestingly enough, France’s oldest public museum was at first the private collection of an abbot, although he wanted the public to be able to visit it two days a week starting from 1694. Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’archéologie de Besançon’s collections consist of 3 different areas: paintings, drawings and archaeology, though I find the archaeological aspect the most impressive. Some of the archaeology pieces are the complete sarcophagus of an ancient Egyptian (21 Dynasty) royal scribe named Seramon and several Roman pavements of mosaic as well as various artifacts from different sites of the area. The painting collection includes works from European artists like Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse Matisse, Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, Pieter Bruegel (Brueghel) the Elder, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Tiziano Vecelli  and Sir Peter Paul Rubens – covering several centuries. The museum is also famous for the vast number of drawings it displays, which also covers several centuries and different countries. The museum is located in the France-Comte area, in the east of France, close to the Swiss border.

France museums

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Chateau de Compiegne

Château de Compiègne was used as a royal residence by the French monarchs, including  Napoleon from the  mid 1300s. Since the castle was severely damaged during the revolution and restored by Napoleon, the castle features First French Empire (1808-1810) and Second French Empire styles of decoration. The castle now houses 3 museums :  ‘Les Appartements Historiques‘, where you get to see the royal apartments of the 18th century, the Musée du Second Empire, which exhibits the national collection of paintings, sculptures and other objects from Napoleon’s reign, and Musée de la Voiture et du Tourisme that features a large collection of bicycles, animal drawn carriages and early cars.It’ll take less than an hour to get here by train from  Paris’ Gare du Nord.

France museums

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The Metz Pompidou

Modern art museum, The Metz Pompidou was established in 1947 in Palais de Tokyo but was later moved to its current place Centre Pompidou 30 years later. The Metz Pompidou features temporary exhibitions from the large collection of the French National Museum of Modern Art – pieces belonging to the 20&21st centuries. The museum has vast space for its three galleries, and its own exterior design (mainly the roof) is a work of art itself. Other Metz attractions include the gothic Cathédrale Saint-Étienne and the nearby Vosges Mountains.

France museums

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Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, Albi

Southern-France city Albi’s history goes all the way to Bronze Age, so it’s no wonder it was added to the World Heritage List. The city houses many attractions including Palais de la Berbie, Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile, St-Madeleine Church, Old Bridge and more. But I’m most intrigued by the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum (located in the Palais de la Berbie) that houses the works of the French artist Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa. It has the largest collection of the artist’s work as it was donated to the museum by his mother after he died. The admission fee is €8 for adults and free for kids under 14. However groups with over 15 people get a discount. The museum’s opening hours change a lot depending on the month, so you should check out its website before making any plans.

France museums

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The Museum of the Resistance, Lyon

Lyon is famous for its efforts to resist the occupation of France during the 2nd World War. So it is only natural that the Musée de la Résistance, a.k.a. Centre d’Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation, was established here. The museum features wonderful temporary exhibits as well as a permanent exhibit (consisting of three parts dedicated to commitment, information and propaganda, space and time.) If you don’t speak French, however, you’re recommended to take the audio guides as they are a lot more detailed than the captions. The museum can be visited from from Wednesday to Friday, from 9 am to 5.30 pm, and from Saturday to Sunday  from 9.30 am to 6 pm. The admission fees are 0 for children under the age of 18,  €2 for students and  €4 for adults.

France museums

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Carrée d’Art, Nimes

Nimes is a well-known tourist favorite in Southern France. It has an impressive Roman amphitheater,a Roman Temple called the Maison Carrée , Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nîmes and Carrée d’Art. Openend in 1993, Carrée d’Art (Musée d’Art Contemporain) serves as a contemporary art museum (featuring a collection of both French and European artists) displaying works from the 1960s and onwards. The museum is open all days except for Monday, from 10am  to 6pm. After checking out the exhibits, why not enjoy a coffee on the roof-top café, from where you’ll be able to check out another popular Nimes attraction, the temple Maison Carrée.

France museums

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Palais de Beaux Arts Lille

Palais des Beaux Arts de Lille (Lille Palace of Fine Arts) is one of the biggest museums in France. The museum showcases artwork from the 12th to the 20th century, including ceramics, sculptures, scale models, paintings, drawings and a lot more by many legends including Goya, Raphael, Monet, Rodin and more. While you are in Lille, don’t forget to check other classic spots such as Lille Cathedral and Lille Grand Place. For more Lille tips, check out Andy’s post on this pretty northern France city.

France museums

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Musée de la Mode, Marseille

Marseille is France’s oldest city. Founded by the Greeks in about 600 BC, Marseille gave birth to many developments both in itself and around France. Speaking of its cultural drive, Marseille contains over 20 museums, one of the most colorful and interesting ones being Musée de la Mode – the fashion museum. Located on 11 La Canebière 1er, it draws many fashion enthusiasts with its thousands of garments and accessories it permanently displays. Entrance is €3 for adults and €1.50 for children. However keep in mind that many of the museums might be closed during the city’s preparation to be a European City of Culture of 2013.

France museums

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Museum Tomi Ungerer. Strasbourg

Strasbourg is an eastern French city, the German name is due to the fact that the area has always been a German speaking area. Strasbourg is also the hometown of the acknowledged French author and illustrator Jean-Thomas “Tomi” Ungerer (1931-  ) who has produces a highly diverse range of books in different languages and whose illustrations were published in many respectable magazines including Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times, Esquire, The Village Voice and Life. He has donated  a massive portion of his art to the museum dedicated to him and located in Villa Grenier, 2, avenue de la Marseillaise. The admission fee is €6.

France museums

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Your Tips for French Museums

Please leave your recommendations for the best museums in France to visit in the comments.