This Saturday is Nuit Européenne des Musées, and most of Paris’s museums will be rolling out the red carpet, offering free entry and, in some case, entertainment too — such as the acrobatic dancer Yoann Bourgeois performing at the Grand Palais. Click here for all the information.
But did you know that many Parisians museums open late, on certain nights, all year round? If you save your museum vists for the evening, after the tourist buses have hit the road, you’ll enjoy a calmer kind of cultural experience. Plus, it makes for genius dinner conversation. Think of the feast for the eyes as your appetiser — an amuse-oeil, perhaps?
Here are five to keep in mind:
A masterpiece of a museum, as much as a museum of masterpieces, the Louvre requires not just an appreciative eye, but also the ability to nimbly navigate heaving crowds. To give yourself some breathing space, book for around 6pm on a Wednesday or Friday, when the museum stays open until 9.45pm, and the crowds have thinned out. You won’t be able to fit everything in, of course — and anyway, the Louvre is so vast that even a day feels inadequate. So use an evening to focus on a particular period you love, or devote to one wing of the former palace. Just be aware that some rooms close at night; check the official website for the schedule of room closures.
Musée des Arts Décoratifs
Nestled in the Louvre complex is the Museum of Decorative Arts, which offers a stellar collection of furniture tracing the evolution of French design from Renaissance times. The Rococo and Art Nouveau sections are particularly delightful, and the reassembled private apartments of designer Jeanne Lanvin, an Art Déco dream in cornflower blue, are not to be missed. The museum is open until 9pm every Thursday.
If you’re front of queue by opening time (9.30am), you’ll score yourself a breezy half an hour or so, before the masses fill up this cavernous space — this place gets as busy as it must have been in its former life as a bustling city train station. Solution: go on a Thursday evening, when the museum stays open until 9.45pm. Towards the end of the night you’ll have Manet and Monet and co, in the entrancing Impressionism rooms up on Level 5, almost all to yourself.
The contemporary art museum is open every day, from 11am to 10pm (except for Tuesdays and May 1st). Also good to know: the rooftop is one of the best spots to enjoy a Parisian sunset — ideally accompanied by a cocktail at Brasserie Georges.
Palais de Tokyo
When this modern art space is in exhibition mode there’s no excuse for missing out, because the Palais de Tokyo stays open until midnight. Make the most of your trek by also splurging on dinner at one of the glamorous restaurants here — Les Grands Verres and Monsieur Bleu — and then nipping over the riverfront to watch the Eiffel Tower twinkle on the hour.