Cafe Marly at the Louvre in Paris

Cafe Marly at the Louvre in Paris
Relax with a glass of wine at Cafe Marly overlooking the pyramid entrance to the Louvre.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Paris: A Day of Free Museums and Sights

Two of the best free museums in Paris are located near each other. You can easily visit both of them in a day. Note that all the museums on this day plan are closed on Monday.

Many of the museums in Paris are free (and crowded) the first Sunday of the month, including the Louvre and the Picasso Museum.

Take the métro to the St-Paul stop. This stop is where rue de Rivoli ends and rue St-Antoine begins. All along these streets are typical cafés where you can have coffee or breakfast before you begin visiting the museums. If you’re looking to save money, standing at the counter in a café (or bar) is cheaper than sitting down.

Now let’s head to our first free museum: The Musée Carnavalet-Histoire de Paris (pictured above). In the 1700s, the Hôtel Carnavalet was presided over by Madame de Sévigné who chronicled French society in hundreds of letters written to her daughter. I went kicking and screaming into this museum as it sounded so very boring. I was wrong. You’ll find antiques, portraits, and artifacts dating back to the late 1700s. The section on the French Revolution with its guillotines is especially interesting, as is the royal bedroom. There are exhibits across the courtyard at the Hôtel le Peletier de St-Fargeau. Truly an interesting museum of the history of Paris. Info: 3rd/Métro St-Paul. 23 rue de Sévigné. Tel. 01/ Open Tue-Sun 10am-6pm. Closed Mon. Admission: Permanent collection is free. €7 for exhibits.

Just a street away is another free museum. The Musée Cognacq-Jay, located in the Hôtel Donon, an elegant mansion, houses the 18th-century art and furniture owned by Ernest Cognacq, the founder of La Samaritaine department store. Cognacq once bragged that he was not a lover of art and that he had never visited the Louvre. Perhaps it was his wife, Louise Jay, who had the sense to compile such an amazing art collection, including works by Rembrandt, Fragonard and Boucher. Info: 3rd/Métro St-Paul. 8 rue Elzévir. Tel. 01/ Open Tue-Sun 10am-6pm. Closed Mon. Admission: Free.

If you’re up to another free museum, head to métro Monceau.

On the edge of beautiful Parc Monceau (photo above) is the Musée Cernuschi. Cernuschi was a banker from Milan who bequeathed his lovely home and incredible collection of Asian art to the city. A must for Asian-art aficionados. There’s also a collection of Persian bronze objects. Explanatory map and notes are in English. Info: 8th/Métro Monceau. 7 avenue Vélasquez. Tel. 01/ Open 10am-6pm. Closed Mon. Admission: Free.

End your day by heading to the Seine River. Walk along the river, taking in the elegantly lit Notre-Dame and the stunning beauty of this amazing city. And, the view is free!

For more information, maps and photos in Open Road's Best of Paris by Andy Herbach available at