This is one of the most beautiful places in the City of Light. The Musée d’Orsay used to be an antique train station built by the Paris-Orléans railway company, it was finished just in time for the 1900 Exposition Universelle. Due to its location and the work it would require to update the railways it became “obsolete”, it was left abandoned for some years until it was declared a national monument in 1973 and, thanks to an initiative of President Georges Pompidou, it became the home of stunning artwork by impressionist artists such as: Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cézane, and even Van Gogh. Orsay is much smaller and easier to visit than the Louvre, but the beauty of its paintings has nothing to envy it. Don´t forget to admire the beautiful clocks found in the main lobby and on the east and west ends. As we like to do here in Descubre París, we have created a small guide to help you explore this museum. Of course, it all depends on how curious or passionate you are about art, but we believe this is a place worth visiting, which is why we give you the basic information and some step-by-step tricks to make the most of your visit.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 9:30 a.m. to 18:00 (6 p.m.) and Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. to 21:45 (9:45 p.m.). It is closed every Monday, on May 1st, and on December 25th.
Best days to visit:
- Thursdays during the night shift: 18:00 (6 p.m.) to 21:45 (9:45 p.m.)
- Wednesdays and Fridays
The full ticket costs 14€. Entry is free: the first Sunday of the month, for people under 18 years of age, for EU residents between 18 and 25 years of age.
Buying tickets beforehand will raise the ticket price, approximately, to 15,40€.
Making every cent count:
If you will be spending more than one day in Paris and are very interested in seeing other museums we recommend buying tickets in packages:
- You can buy ticket bundles (jumelé) with the l’Orangerie Museum, for 18€ (unbundled: 23€).
- You can buy ticket bundles (jumelé) with the Rodin Museum, for 21€ (unbundled: 26€).
- If you save your ticket you can use it during the following 8 days from day-of-purchase to visit, at a reduced rate, the Garnier Opera, the Gustave Moreau National Museum and the Jean-Jaques Henner National Museum.
The museum has several dining options and although in our Detailed Travel Guides we recommend another restaurant outside the museum, we also consider it important that you know of the available options.
- Café de l’Ourse (The Bear Café): gets its name from the sculpture of a polar bear right next to it. It is a small cafeteria with small plates like chips, salads, and ready to eat sandwiches. Prices start at 5,9€ for a sandwich. There are also breads, pastries, and drinks.
- The Bell Café: a restaurant located behind the impressionists gallery, on the fifth floor. Dishes here are a little more elaborate, and the prices a little higher; it’s more like a casual restaurant. Appetizers start at 9€, entrées between 14€ and 16€, and desserts between 6€ and 16€.
- Le Restaurant: located on the French First Floor (that is a second floor to everybody else) and it’s from the year 1900. It has fixed “Appetizer and Entrée” or “Appetizer and Dessert” menus for 24,5€ and a “Appetizer, Entrée, and Dessert” menu for 31€. If that is not what you want, appetizers go from 12€ to 20€, main dishes from 17€ and 28€, and desserts from 8€ to 15€. Prices are pretty good for the type of restaurant. If you have the time and possibility there is a package that includes museum entry tickets and dinner at the restaurant for 63€ (reservation only).
How to visit the d’Orsay Museum
This is our suggested step-by-step guide:
- Once you get to the museum, if you already have your ticket, you should go to door C. If not, you should go to the ticket booth and buy your tickets. Remember that you can also purchase audio guides.
- Once you pass the security checkpoint you will have to validate your ticket (or buy it and then validate it) with the people at the access point.
- If you would like to put a back-pack or any bags in storage you can do it for free, turn immediately to your right after the ticket checkpoints. We suggest you go into to the museum with as little extra weight as possible so you avoid exhaustion.
- After that, go to the main lobby. You will find maps in Spanish or English to your right. If you need it, we suggest you take one to find your way more easily. If you bought the audio guide you should turn to your left.
- Return to the main lobby and you will be standing under one of the famous clocks inside this wonderful museum.
- We suggest you cross the Central Hall with the sculptures, taking them in, off course, but go straight to the end and look for the escalators. Go all the way to the fifth floor and begin your visit top to bottom.
- Before you reach the escalators you will pass a space dedicated to the Garnier Opera where there is a scaled model of the neighborhood this amazing building is located in. Take your time looking through it.
On the fifth floor:
- When you get to the 5th floor you will find another one of the famous clocks within the building. It is a well known spot in the museum, you can see the Louvre across the Seine and Montmartre in the back. Once you´ve enjoyed the view (and taken a picture), you can start your stroll on this floor.
- This floor has the Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism gallery: Cézanne, Degas, Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley, Seurat and many more.
- You can see each room in a circle and then move on to the next one.
- Right now there are some rooms recently renovated. Right now there are some rooms recently renovated. These are the rooms that housed the pieces by Van Gogh and Gauguin.
- At the end you can find the Bell Café, and the second clock.
On the 4th and 3d Floor:
- The fourth floor has a gallery of decorative arts of Great Britain and Austria, (right on the side where you arrive on the floor).
- The third floor is for Scandinavia and Germany.
- We recommend focusing on the 5th, 2nd, and 0 floors.
Keep Going Down to the 2nd Floor:
- On the second floor you will find a long hallway and, between the rooms, sculptures (from 1880 to 1900) by artists such as Rodin and Claudel, among others.
- There is a whole exhibition of Art Nouveau (from Belgium, Spain, France, and Italy).
- There is a hall for Post-Impressionism, Symbolism, and the different currents of Post-Impressionism.
- You can go turn around to see the other side and visit the gallery in front.
Now Keep Going Down to Floor 0:
- It is likely that after going to the Floor 0 or RDC in French (Rez-de-chaussée) you will find yourself once again under the clock. If that is the case, with the clock behind you, start in your right, following the map and starting in the room for Academic Art. If not, you can start with rooms 24 and 23 and keep going down according to the order shown in the map; there is an order to everything according to art history and/or styles. It is likely that you will be doing some back and forth. Let yourself be guided by the order of the rooms, that way you can rest a little between galleries.
- On this floor you will find decorative art from the Second Empire: Cézanne, Manet, Courbert among others.
- On this floor you will also find temporary exhibitions, you will have to pay a separate ticket to access them.
- You exit through the gift shop and get a little souvenir if you wish to.
- Don´t forget to pass by the lockers (vestiaire) to retrieve your coats and belongings, if you left anything on your way in.
- On your way out, don’t forget to appreciate the animal sculptures found on the entrance plaza of the museum. They are very beautiful.
Whether you have one of our Detailed Travel Guides or not, we suggest taking a break (weather permitting), on the stairs in front of the museum which have a view to the Seine.
If you have one of our Detailed Travel Guides you can take some time to see what is next in your itinerary (probably where to eat if your museum visit was in the morning).
We hope this mini guide was useful and that you can make the most out of your visit to one of the most beautiful museums in the city.
Paris is waiting for you.