Not long ago, I went to the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition at the Petit Palais. Seeing more than 300 of YSL’s stunning creations would have been enough, but there was an added bonus that made the evening even more special: the doors stayed open until midnight.
There’s something magical and mysterious about museums late at night, the privileged access to the usually forbidden. Though the YSL show has ended, there are still plenty of Paris museums with extended evening hours. Here’s a list of just a few, plus some dinner suggestions to make it a full night on the town. The City of Light is at its best when the sun goes down.
The most intimidating of the big museums, the Louvre is a great one to tackle at night. The day’s long lines are a mere memory, letting you explore at a more leisurely pace. Of course, that doesn’t solve the problem of how to see everything in this expansive museum. You can’t, so target one section before heading for dinner or drinks.
Hours for night owls: Until 10 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Dinner destination: If you want to splurge and can actually snag a reservation, the much-lauded Spring is nearby. Otherwise, try Le Fumoir for a sophisticated cocktail spot. The library in back is particularly cozy.
6, rue Bailleul, in the 1st Arrondissement.
01 45 96 05 72. Tues–Sat, dinner;
6, rue de L’Amiral Coligny.
01 42 92 00 24. Daily, 11 a.m.–2 a.m.
The Musée d’Orsay
Across the river, the Musée d’Orsay is a friendlier option than the Louvre. Take an evening trip to this former railroad station and you won’t be disappointed. In addition to works by Van Gogh and Matisse, the museum boasts an Impressionist collection that is second to none.
Hours for night owls: Until 9:45 p.m. on Thursdays.
Dinner destination: The restaurant in the Musée d’Orsay is as classy as its collection. Order a bottle of Sancerre and stare at the beautiful surroundings.
If modern art is more your thing, the Pompidou is a major must-see. With the permanent collection open until 9 p.m. even on regular days, the museum always offers art in the evening, as well as one of the best views of Paris. Extended hours until 11 p.m. often accompany special exhibitions.
Hours for night owls: Until 9 p.m. Wednesdays to Mondays.
Dinner destination: You can always try the chic Georges at the top of the museum, but go back down to ground level and head out for crêpes to save some cash. Crêperie Beaubourg is right next door, but if you’re willing to take a short walk through the Marais, Breizh Café is an even better bet.
Place Georges Pompidou (6th floor of Centre Pompidou), in the 4th.
01 44 78 47 99.
2, rue Brisemiche, in the 4th.
01 42 77 63 62.
109, rue Vieille du Temple, in the 3rd.
01 42 72 13 77. Wed–Sat, noon–11 p.m. Sun, noon–10 p.m.
The Musée d’Art Moderne and the Palais de Tokyo
For the super ambitious, there are two museums that showcase contemporary work sitting side by side. Plan a double bill on a Thursday night, when the free Musée d’Art Moderne stays open until 10 p.m. (exhibitions only); the Palais de Tokyo is always open noon to midnight. Expect abstract art, cutting-edge media installations and the best from today’s contemporary scene.
Hours for night owls: Musée d’Art Moderne: until 10 p.m. Thursdays. Palais de Tokyo: until midnight Tuesdays to Sundays.
Dinner destination: No need to stray far, since the Palais de Tokyo houses three eating options: La Caféteria Tokyo Self; the funky restaurant Tokyo Eat; and Nomiya, an art project unto itself. Nomiya is a glass-and-steel installation on the rooftop of the museum, offering exceptional panoramic views of Paris and the Eiffel Tower. Because it seats only 12 diners at a time, make an online reservation early!
Tokyo Eat and La Caféteria Tokyo Self
01 47 20 00 29.
Reservations online only via Electrolux.
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Sion Dayson is an American writer living in Paris. She blogs about the quirkier side of the City of Light at paris (im)perfect.