Ah, Paris! The City of Lights!
What should you do while visiting this fabled city? Climb the Eiffel Tower, peruse great art at the Louvre, stroll along the Seine? Absolutely.
But in addition to the above, there is one more place you shouldn’t miss, the Musée d’Orsay.
What is The Musée d’Orsay?
The Musée d’Orsay was voted the best museum in the world by Trip Advisor’s Traveler’s Choice Award in 2018.
It is a marvel of Beaux-Arts beauty that houses the world’s largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art.
With works from 1848-1914, the Musée d’Orsay bridges the gap between the works of the Louvre which span a mind-boggling 25 centuries, from the 6th century BC to the end of the 19th century, and the Museum of Modern Art, whose works span from 1905 to the present day.
From Train Station to Art Museum
The building was originally a train station called Gare d’Orsay. It was designed to get visitors to the site of the Universal Exhibition of 1900.
The Gare d’Orsay sat on the left bank of the Seine, across from the Tuileries and kitty-corner from the Louvre. Because of this auspicious location, the exterior was designed to blend in with the existing architecture.
By 1939 the station had become obsolete because of changes in train design. The building was used for various functions including as a mail center during WWII, a theater, and an auction house. Eventually, it was decided that it would become an art museum.
The museum was inaugurated on Dec 1, 1986. Thankfully the beautiful Beaux-Arts style was preserved.
The Louvre vs. Musée d’Orsay
I have been fortunate to visit the Louvre three times and hope to visit it again. I believe that anyone visiting Paris should experience the Louvre at least once. As the world’s largest art museum with a collection that spans many centuries, you are sure to find something that interests you. But as much as I love visiting the Louvre, I enjoy the Musée d’Orsay more. This is why:
1. It is not intimidating. You can find your way around quite easily and take in a large part of the collection in one day.
Musée d’Orsay has 181,000 sq ft. (almost 17,000 sq. m.) of exhibition space while the Louvre has over 4 times as much. Because of its size, I have always felt a little lost at the Louvre.
To see all 35,000 items on display in the Louvre you would have to walk 9 miles. The Musée d’Orsay displays about 3,000 items at a time.
2. It is not as crowded as the Louvre even though it has over 3 million visitors per year, pandemics notwithstanding. The Louvre has over 10 million visitors per year. We visited Musée d’Orsay on a free day and we didn’t experience the cattle car feeling of the Louvre.
3. I can’t get enough of that gorgeous building.
A Few Pieces From the Collection
This is not the most well-known Starry Night, the one with 2/3 of the canvas filled with flowing and swirling stars and sky. That one can be seen in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Here is more information about these two paintings and the song Vincent by Don McLean.
You can listen to Vincent here.
One of my favorites, and not because it features shirtless men (really). I love this because of its unique subject.
Another one of my many favorites. Julie was the daughter of artists Berthe Morisot and Eugene Manet, and the niece of Édouard Manet.
Where is The Musée d’Orsay?
The museum is on the left bank at 1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007 Paris, France in the 7th arrondissement. The nearest Metro stop is Solférino – Musée d’Orsay.
Click Here are 10 pieces of must-see art in the Musée d’Orsay by Paris Pass.
And click here to plan your trip to the Musée d’Orsay.
Safe and happy traveling,
Featured photo by Pierre Blaché on Pexels.com