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The Main Hall Gallery - Musee D'Orsay, Paris

France: Paris – Musee D’Orsay

Set in the old Gare D'Orsay on the banks of the River Seine in Paris, the Musee D'Orsay in home to a collection of amazing impressionist art

Housed in a train station built for the 1900 World’s Fair, the Musée d’Orsay is known throughout the world for its rich collection of Impressionist paintings including masterpieces as iconic as the Bal au Moulin de la galette from Renoir or The room at Arles de Van Gogh. Its collections include works of architecture, decorative arts and photography in addition to traditional artistic fields (painting, sculpture, graphic arts). They thus draw a broad panorama of French and European art from 1848 to 1914.

On the River Seine, right across from the Louvre Museum, the Musee D’Orsay is simply one of our favourite places to visit when in Paris. The art itself is impressive but is made even more special by the setting inside the old railway station which retains some of its original features (and plenty of its old charm!)

The museum has plenty to offer including permanent and temporary exhibits. The building and its architecture are almost enough reason to visit alone!

The sculptures

The main hall of the Musee D’Orsay would have once been a throng of people, today the humans have largely been replaced by sculptures (with the exception of the visitors). 

The 19th Century was a boon for sculptures with many rich people commissioning works. From 1945 people moved away from sculpture as an art form.

The opening of the Musee D’Orsay gave a new lease of life to sculptures from the late 19th Century. The new museum offered an ideal space for displaying sculpture: the great central nave lit by the changing daylight streaming through the glass roof. 

When it opened in December 1986, the Musée d’Orsay had assembled some 1,200 sculptures, mostly from the former collections of the Musée du Luxembourg, the Louvre, and state loans.

Charles Henri Joseph Cordier works at the Musee D'Orsay
The main hall gallery
François Pompon - Ours blanc
La Porte de l'Enfer - by Auguste Rodin

The paintings

Undoubtedly, the main draw of the museum is the impressionist paintings. In the Musee  D’Orsay, you will find works by the great French impressionists including paintings by Claude Monet, Édouard Manet, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Henri Matisse. As well as French impressionists you’ll find work by painters from other countries, including Vincent Van Gogh and James Whistler.

James Whistler's Mother - painting by James Whistler
Bedroom in Arles - Vincent Van Gogh
Starry Night - Vincent Van Gogh
Les Joueurs de cartes - Paul Cézanne
In the Norvegienne Boat at Giverny - Claude Monet

The Architecture

One of the biggest stars of the Musee D’Orsay is the building itself. Many of the original features of the former station. 

The walkways above the main nave of the Musee D'Orsay
The spectacular ballroom at the Musee D'Orsay
The rafters in the roof of the Musee D'Orsay
The clock looking out from the Musee D'Orsay
The clock in the main hall

The temporary exhibitions

Like many museums, the Musee D’Orsay has rotating exhibitions. When we visited there was an exhibition on the architectural works of Antoni Gaudí.

A set of screens designed by Gaudi

Planning your visit to the Musee D’Orsay

Needless to say, the Musee D’Orsay is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Paris. It gets very busy, so if you want to avoid the crowds go as early as possible in the morning. Also, plan what exhibits you want to see and rush to get there first!  

Where to eat

Of course, there is a huge selection of places to eat in Paris, but if you want to eat at the museum it has a couple of great options.

The restaurant is a beautiful space, complete with a classic painted ceiling, gilded decorations and chandeliers to which has been added furniture with a modem twist.

The beautiful restaurant at the Musee D'Orsay

If you are looking for something a little less formal, then you should check out Café Campana. Located high up in the loft space of the museum, next to the Impressionist Gallery, this cafe was designed by the Campana brothers. Its design was directly inspired by Emile Gallé and is also a tribute to Art Nouveau.

Cafe Campana high up in the lofts of the Musee D'Orsay

Getting there
By Metro: line 12, Solférino station
By RER: line C, Musée d’Orsay station
By bus: 63, 68, 69, 73, 83, 84, 87, 94
Taxi: drop off and pick up by taxi or specialized vehicles Quai Anatole-France

Address:1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007 Paris,
Website:https://www.musee-orsay.fr/en
Telephone:T: +33 (0)1 40 49 48 14
Hours:

Tuesday through Sunday 09:00 to 18:00. Late night opening on Thursdays.

Fees

General Admission: €16
Late Opening: €12
Under 18 and people with disabilities: Free

If purchased online the tickets will cost you €2 less than shown above

Best time to visit Paris

You’ll experience crowds from May to September, but encounter the most people in July (followed closely by June and August). We’d recommend visiting between October and April if your main objective is to avoid crowds. For the warmest temperatures, October and April are the best times to visit Paris sans crowds.

Other places to visit while in Paris

1. BANKS OF THE RIVER SEINE

The banks of the River Seine through the heart of Paris are listed as UNESCO world heritage site due to the incredible architecture of buildings such as Notre Dame, the Louvre and the Grand Palais and the examples of outstanding town planning, in particular, the large squares and avenues built by Haussmann at the time of Napoleon III have influenced town planning throughout the world.

2. VERSAILLES

The Palace of Versailles was the principal residence of the French kings from the time of Louis XIV to Louis XVI. Embellished by several generations of architects, sculptors, decorators and landscape architects, it provided Europe with a model of the ideal royal residence for over a century.

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