Must-Do in Paris: All Museums, Free All Night!

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Museum Night (Saturday, May 18) is a thing everyone must do in Paris. This wonderful event is pan-European, but no other capital has so much to show. From seven until midnight, almost every museum in Paris opens for free (this includes the exhibitions). All sorts of ingenious special events are thrown in, plus many buildings feature beautiful light shows. If you’re traveling on a budget, this event is a dream. But whatever your taste, you’ll be spoiled for choice.

Must-do in Paris: the Musée d'Orsay

Musée d’Orsay, 2012. Photo: Sophie Boegly/courtesy Mairie de Paris/Musée d’Orsay/Nuit des musées 2012.

The biggest treat is often just prowling landmarks after dark. But it’s no small thing to see great shows for free. If you pay careful attention to the program, you can also create your own “theme evening.” For instance, if you love spooky romance and vampires, head to the Musée d’Orsay to see “Dark Romanticism.” Then add a visit to the eerie Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature. There, to live violin and cello music, Dracula and Nosferatu haunt the premises.

Make final decisions after you check the Museum Night website. (Look under “Programme,” then search “Paris.”) To get you in the mood, here are a few recommendations.

Must-do in Paris: la Monnaie

La Monnaie, facade projection. Photo: C. Cassilde/courtesy Mairie de Paris/Nuit des musées 2012.

Enhance a Great Work
If you enjoy dance as well as Impressionism, see choreographer Myriam Gourfink’s four-person tribute to Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies,” performed on-site in the Musée de l’Orangerie (in the 1st Arrondissement). It’s between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Afterward, the same dancers will perform in the nave at the Musée d’Orsay (in the 7th Arrondissement) until 11 p.m.

See a Rare Exposition
The Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme is showing “lost” work from famous war photographers Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and Chim (David Seymour). There is also free access to museum collections and live music celebrates the Jewish festival calendar.
From 7 p.m. to midnight. Hôtel de Saint-Aignan.
71, rue du Temple, in the 3rd Arrondissement.

Must-do in Paris: Invalides

Invalides. Photo: courtesy Mairie de Paris/Nuit des musées 2012.

Visit a Secret Space
The Musée Bourdelle was built around the 1895 studio of sculptor Antoine Bourdelle. Its wonderful gardens make it a hidden Parisian favorite. On show are dark and dramatic drawings by the young, romantic Bourdelle—who worked under Rodin and drew Isadora Duncan. This is also the opening night of “Sculpture at Your Fingertips,” a new interactive salon.
18, rue Antoine Bourdelle
, in the 15th Arrondissement.

Attend a Party!
Many museums are offering romantic or classical music. But at le Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, funky jazz accompanies the Keith Haring retrospective (“The Political Line”) from 7 p.m. until 11:30 pm. At the Grand Palais, enjoy the “Dynamo!” expo and/or a party featuring Paris student art, music and film from 9 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris
11, avenue du Président Wilson, in the 16th Arrondissement
Grand Palais
3, avenue du Général Eisenhower, in the 8th Arrondissement.

Must-do in Paris: concert at the Musée d’Orsay

Musée d’Orsay, 2012 concert; pic courtesy Mairie de Paris/Musée d’Orsay/Nuit des musées 2012.

Love Moving Image Art?
The Musée Rodin (Hôtel Biron) has been closed for renovation. But, in the garden, there are sound-and-sculpture installations of artist Erik Samakh. Also dance, Katarzyna Kozyra’s video installation “Rite of Spring,” and video art in the museum auditorium. See Rodin’s work measured against modern artists like Douglas Gordon.
From 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., with last entries at midnight.
79, rue de Varenne, in the 7th Arrondissement.

Must-do in Paris: Installation of sculpture by Erik Samakh at Musée Rodin

Installation of sculpture by Erik Samakh. Photo: J. Manoukian/courtesy Musée Rodin.

Discover Something Totally New
Visit some Paris gem you haven’t seen before. For aficionados of romance and extravagance, there’s Musée Gustave Moreau (in the 9th Arrondissement). For 18th-century magic, try the Musée Nissim de Camondo (in the 8th Arrondissement). There, if you have a smartphone, the birds in the museum’s porcelain collection will be “singing.” At Musée Zadkine (in the 6th Arrondissement), the orchestra of Conservatoire Rameau will play their tribute to the sculptor.

Must-do in Paris: Archives nationales projections on the facade by Skertzo

Archives nationales, 2012 projections on the facade by Skertzò. Photo: courtesy Archives Nationales/Nuit des musées 2012.

Two things you must do in Paris, for any big night event:
1. Remember that the busiest time is from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. If you have a must-see spot, aim for before or after that.
2. Since public transport in the city center is crowded, finish up somewhere not too far from home.

Related Links

Museum Night

Musée d’Orsay

Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature

Musée de l’Orangerie

Museé d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme

Musée Bourdelle

Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris

Grand Palais

Musée Rodin

Musée Gustave Moreau

Musée Nissim de Camondo

Musée Zadkine

Editor’s note: GG2P suggests a number of unique and interesting tour guides in Paris. We’ve picked the best of the best—and many give our members special discounts, such as 10–50 percent off, special VIP treatment or gifts with purchase. We have more than 30 companies that conduct very special Paris tours, including some that focus on museums, monuments, art and culture. Stroll through our choices and find the tour guide that suits you. We never, ever select large companies that do big-package, impersonal tours. Visit our partners page and explore your options in the “Tours & To Do’s” section.

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