Even though it has only been in existence since 1986, the Musée d’Orsay is one of the most visited museums in the world, with more than 3 million guests annually. The building was originally a railroad station and a hotel, called the Gare d’Orsay. It was built for the 1900 Exposition and was the first electrified urban railroad terminal in the world. It served as the main terminal for southwestern France’s railroad network, but by 1939 it had become outdated – it was too short for modern trains. The station was used for some commuter trains, and later as a movie set. The hotel finally closed in 1973.
Plans were in place for a new hotel complex, but that would have necessitated the demolition of the magnificent Baroque building. Instead, the French government decided to turn it into a museum. Renovations began in 1980, and the museum opened to the public on December 9, 1986. The museum mainly houses French paintings from 1848 to 1915, though sculpture and architecture are also on display. Despite the limited scope, its collection is spectacular (especially of impressionists and post-impressionists). Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Renoir, and a host of others are represented.
Walking through the old railroad station is almost worth the price of admission on its own. Throw in one of the world’s best art collections, and Musée de Orsay is a must-visit. Keep in mind that this is one of the few museums in Paris that does not allow photography. Also, the museum is currently being renovated though autumn 2011. Until then, expect disruption to the collection.
Address: 62, rue de Lille, 75343 Paris
Telephone: +33 01 40 49 48 14
Metro: Musée de Orsay (RER C)
Hours: 09:30-18:00 (21:45 on Thursdays)
€10.00 for Exhibitions