The Coolest Free Museums to Visit in Paris

Test your nose in a perfumer's workshop or lose yourself in the Louvre. Admission is free if you know when to go.

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Le Petit Palais

Look for artworks from ancient Greece to the first World War in Le Petit Palais, the "small palace" on the Champs-Elysee. Constructed in 1900 as another venue for the Universal Exhibition, it feels like a real palace, with decorative murals, mosaic floors, plaster busts and other design elements. The Musee des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris is housed inside and displays masterpieces by Monet, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec and other artists alongside ancient and medieval works. Permanent collections are free.

Musee du Parfum Fragonard

Learn the secrets of fine French perfumes at the Fragonard perfume museum, where admission and guided tours are free. Don't miss the collection of perfume containers, which range from Egyptian kohl pots to fabulous Faberge bottles, and test your sense of smell in the olfaction room. Found a scent you love? Take it home with you. A museum shop sells soaps, perfumes, candles, diffusers and more.

Louvre Museum

There’s no charge to explore the treasures of the Louvre on the first Sunday of each month from Oct. 1-Mar. 31. And it is a treasure trove, filled with collections dating from antiquity to the mid-19th century. Don’t miss the masterpieces: the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and the Victory of Samothrace, among others. Get there early; the Louvre is said to be the most visited art museum in the world.

Musee d'Orsay

You could mistake the Musée d’Orsay for a train station — because it was one, built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. Today, it’s known internationally for its fine collection of Impressionist art and a collection spanning from 1848 to 1914. The works include photos, sculptures, architectural and decorative drawings, paintings by Gauguin and Renoir and more. Entry is free on the first Sunday of the month.

Musee de L'Orangerie

Artist Claude Monet donated eight of his water lily paintings to the Musée de l'Orangerie, where they're exhibited in adjacent rooms lit by natural light. The artist wanted his works displayed side-by-side, he said, so visitors could lose themselves in the art and forget the cares of the world. The museum, which has been called "the Sistine Chapel of Impressionism," also contains works by Renoir, Picasso, Matisse, Gauguin, and others. Visit on the first Sunday of each month for free admission.

Musee de la Vie Romantique

You'd expect Paris, the city of love, to have a Museum of Romantic Life. The Musée de la Vie Romantique is a small house once owned by Romantic artist Ary Scheffer. Scheffer entertained novelist George Sand here, along with Chopin, Charles Dickens and other notables of the 1800s. Scheffer’s paintings and other works from the Romantic period are on exhibit. Admission to the permanent collections is free. The museum has been undergoing renovations, so verify that it's open before you go.

Musee Bourdelle

Admission is free to the permanent collections at Musée Bourdelle. It was once the home and studio of French sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, a student of Rodin’s. Some of his huge plaster casts are displayed in the museum's Great Hall, which has been called a "modern temple." Take time to admire the pieces in the space and see how ancient Greek mythology inspired Bourdelle's work. Collections of his photos, watercolors, charcoals and other drawings are also housed here, along with those of other artists.

Musee de Cluny: Le Monde Medieval

Travel back in time at Musée de Cluny, where the ruins of Gallo-Roman baths can still be seen outside. Inside the museum, formerly the National Museum of the Middle Ages, you’ll find art from antiquity to the Renaissance era. This is the home of the six exquisite Medieval tapestries known as "The Lady and the Unicorn" (on temporary loan to an Australian gallery). Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month, but verify that the museum is open before you go. It’s expected to be closed for construction until July 2018.

Musee des Arts et Metiers

Explore your passion here: science, communications, transportation, materials, construction, energy or mechanics. The Museum of Arts and Crafts, founded in 1794, contains over 80,000 objects and 15,000 drawings in its technical and industrial collections, some of the oldest in the world. Visits are free on the first Sunday of any month or after 6 p.m. on Thursdays. Don't miss the original model of Foucault’s Pendulum.

Musee d'Art Moderne

Entry is free to the National Museum of Modern Art in the Pompidou Centre, a state-owned museum, on the first Sunday of every month. It exhibits works by Warhol, Ernst and other 20th- and 21st-century artists. Fans of modern art will also appreciate another notable destination, the city of Paris Museum of Modern Art, located between the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Elysée. It contains one of the largest collections of modern and contemporary art in France, including works by Picasso, Matisse, and an array of international contemporary artists. Admission to the city museum's permanent collections is free year-round.

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