1. Home
  2. >
  3. Paris Travel Guide
  4. >
  5. Art in Paris
  6. >
  7. Visit the Musée d'Orsay

Visit the Musée d'Orsay

If there is an unmissable museum in Paris after the Louvre, then the Musée d’Orsay wins hands down. The Museum’s late 19th century collections follow on chronologically where the Louvre ends, housing a complete panorama of painting, sculpture, and drawing dating from the mid-19th century and terminating just before World War I — and the first work on display is the museum itself.

A Former Train Station

You will notice straight away as you enter the vast cavernous hall built from iron and stone, that the museum resembles a train station, and you would be correct. The Gare d’Orsay was once the principal terminus for trains coming from the south of France. Its steel skeleton represents an impressive feat of engineering for its age, and succeeds equally in being a stunning example of decorative fin-de-siècle architecture. This combination proved controversial at the time of its inception, just like the Eiffel tower before it. The barrel-shaped roof will astound by its monumental size and the radiant Paris daylight that flows through its glass, lighting the vault, which is decorated with delicate sculptured flowers. Take time out to admire the gold clock, the ostentatious lighting, and the spectacular view from the clock towers that sit on either end of the roof.

The Collections at the Musée d’Orsay

The museum displays a variety of different schools, from the purely academic work of the mid-19th century, to works from the important avant-gardist movements that would radically determine the aesthetic direction of art history in the century to come. The sculptures are superbly displayed on the grand central walkway and on the balconies and terraces that rise incrementally away from it, towards the impressive roof. Some of the highlights are: La Dance by Carpeaux, works by Rodin, Maillol, Pompon and Bourdelle.

In the painting section, one will find the realists of the 19th century, such as Gustave Courbet and Millet, the symbolists, side by side with one of the largest collections of pre-impressionist, impressionists, and post-impressionist art in the world: Manet, Renoir, Degas, Monet, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Seurat all feature prominently. You will see that the Musée d’Orsay fits in so many world-renowned masterpieces that listing them in this article just won’t be possible. The sections dedicated to decorative arts, art nouveau furniture, and graphic arts, are less visited, but are well worth the detour if you have time.

Finish your visit by taking a coffee at the newly opened clock-tower café, designed by contemporary Brazilian designers, the Campana brothers.

The Must-See Paintings

Manet's Le Déjeuner sur L'Herbe,1863
Manet’s Olympia,1863
Caillebotte's Les Raboteurs de Parquets, 1875
Toulouse-Lautrec's The Bed,1892
Monet's The Magpie,1868
Courbet¹s L'Atelier, 1855
Cézanne's Apples and Oranges, 1895-1900
Seurat's The Circus,1891
Cézanne's Apples and Oranges,1895-1900
Van Gogh’s Portrait de l'artiste, 1889
Gauguin’s Arearea 1892

What our clients say S
How it works

Browse our homemade tours run by local experts


Book your tours online


Receive your online confirmation


Discover Europe like an insider