Planning on visiting Musée d’Orsay? Great choice. While it is smaller than the Louvre it houses the most famous impressionist artwork on our little planet.
This guide will prepare you for your visit. When to go, ticket costs, how long to budget, the history of the museum and more!
Pro Tip: You can bookmark this article in your browser and circle back to it before your visit to Paris and Musée d’Orsay. Create a “Paris” folder in your browser and bookmark helpful articles. Also, the best way to see Paris is with a local guide. Check out our Paris tours.
In This Article You’ll Find
- Opening Hours & Tickets
- How long to budget for your visit
- Musée d’Orsay Facts
- Most Famous Paintings
- History of the Musée d’Orsay
- Tour options
- Places to eat inside and nearby
- How to get there
Musée d’Orsay Opening Hours & Tickets
Before you plan anything else, you need to know the Musée d’Orsay hours. Luckily for you, the Musée d’Orsay is open nearly every day of the year from 9:30 A.M. to 6:00 P.M., except on Mondays – when the museum is closed. The museum also has a night opening on Thursdays where the museum stays open until 9:45 P.M.
- Monday: Closed
- Tuesday: 9:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m
- Wednesday: 9:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m
- Thursday: 9:30 a.m. – 9:45 p.m
- Friday: 9:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m
- Saturday: 9:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m
- Sunday: 9:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m
Keep in mind that the Musée d’Orsay is closed on May 1 and December 25.
Pro Tip: The time when you will find the museum most crowded are on Tuesdays and Sundays so avoid those two days if possible. If you must on these two days, then I recommend going around lunchtime ( 12pm), this way to avoid the majority of the crowds.
Ticket Price- 14€
Reduced Price – 11€ ( This is for an adult who is accompanying someone under 18 years old
Free- anyone under 18 years old or under 26 years old if an EU resident
We recommend booking your ticket in advance and can easily be purchased on their website.
How long to budget for your visit
Short Answer: 2 hours
Like any museum, the amount of time you really need is a personal choice with the most important factor being how much you like the work. The Museum is quite big, so my recommendation would be a two hour visit. More than two hours without a break will result in your eyes glazing over and you going into art overload!
The Musée d’Orsay houses artwork on 3 different floors, so I will go through each one of them and explain what you will see, so you can decide for yourself which floors you want to dedicate the most time to.
- Right Hand Side Galleries– You will find here artists such as Ingres, Delacroix, Moreau, and early works of Edgar Degas, who would later become an important figure in impressionist painting.
- Left Hand Side Galleries- Here you will find artwork based on Naturalism, Realism and Pre-impressionism. Artists that you will find here are Courbet, Corot, Millet,and Manet. The masterpieces you will see are Millet’s The Angelus (1857-1859) and Manet’s infamous Le dejeuner sur l’herbe (Lunch on the Grass) which depicts a nude woman picnicking with two clothed men.
1st floor or Middle Level
The main artists on this level are non-French artists such as Klimt and Munch. As for French artists on this level you can see works by Maurice Denis, Ker-Xavier Roussel, and Pierre Bonnard.
This level holds an important collection of Pastels, decorative objects, and late 19th century paintings.
Major artists you can find here are Paul Gaugin, Georges Seurat, Paul Signac, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
As you enter this floor, you will notice the experimentation of new methods which will eventually lead to impressionism. There is a small dedicated gallery to small format painting.
I would say that this is the floor with the most famous paintings and probably the reason why most people come to visit this museum. The artists you will find on this floor are the kings of Impressionism as we know it today: Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, and Gustave Caillebotte. There are entire galleries dedicated to Monet and Renoir after 1880.
On the same floor there is the Gachet Collection where you will find the amazing paintings of Van Gogh and Paul Cezanne. You will also find sculptures here by Edgar Degas.
On this last floor, if you have any energy left, you will see has been dedicated to sculpture of the 19th century and of course an entire wing has been dedicated to France’s most illustrious sculptor, Auguste Rodin.
Musée d’Orsay Facts
- The building was originally a train station- Gare d’Orsay
- The main hall of the museum is an amazing 452ft long (138m) (574 feet) 131ft wide (40m) and 104ft(32m) high
- 12,000 tons of metal was used to construct the building- That’s almost twice as much as the Eiffel Tower
- 35,000 square meters of glass- equivalent to about 3 Manhattan City Blocks
- largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist artwork,
- The 3 massive clocks in the museum are originals from the train station
- 3.6 million visitors in 2019
- 1million cubic meters of air is treated each hour for air conditioning
Musée d’Orsay’s Most Famous Paintings
- Cezanne – Card Players
- Renoir – Bal Moulin Galette
- Manet – Luncheon Grass
- Van Gogh – Starry Night
- Van Gogh – Self Portrait
- Gauguin – Arearea
- Caillebotte – Floor scrapers
- Monet- Camille sur son lit de mort
- Monet- Poppy Field
- Edgar Degas- Women Ironing
Make sure that you definitely read this article on The top 10 things to see in the Musée d’Orsay for more in-depth descriptions, location, maps and photos of each of the above listed artwork.
History of the Musée d’Orsay
The Train Station
The current Musée d’Orsay was previously a train station ( Called Gare in French) and hotel which was built in time in only 2 years and inaugurated in time for the Worlds Fair on July 14th, 1900. In order to ensure that such a massive structure didn’t look out of place, the particular stone chosen was coming from Charente and Poitou regions.
The amenities were extremely modern for their time with ramps and lifts for luggage, elevators for the passengers, a reception area on the ground floor, electric traction, and 16 underground rail tracks.
It immediately became the head of the Southwestern French railroad network. The hotel became a popular venue for various gatherings of associations and political parties.
During the War
By 1939 the Gare d’Orsay was limited to traveling to the suburbs of Paris since its platforms were too short for the more modern and longer trains that were being built.
As the World War II began, the train station was used as a mailing center to send packages to prisoners of war and was also the final destination point for those prisoners returning after the liberation of the war.
The hotel finally closed its doors on January 1st, 1973. Among the many occasions and events that took place at the hotel, one of the most famous was when General De Gaulle announced his return to power in the ballroom.
The Birth of a Museum
At this point, the train station needed a new reason for being. There were plans to demolish the area and build a huge hotel on the spot, but the Direction des Musées de France had decided that the area would be better suited as a Museum that could represent artwork from the 2nd half of the 19th century and was made official on October 20th, 1977.
On December 1st, 1986 then president François Mitterand inaugurated the Museum and it opened its doors to the public on December 9th of the same year. The collections were brought in from 3 main sources:
- Louvre Museum– The works of artists born after 1820 or coming to prominence during the Second Republic
- Musée du Jeu de Paume- since 1947 this museum had been dedicated to the works of Impressionism
- National Museum of Modern Art- When moving over to the Centre Georges Pompidou, it only kept artwork from artists born after 1870
Since we are a Tour Operator we are obviously a bit biased on taking tours. The reason being is that, we realize the majority of people only have an attention span of max two hours inside a museum. Therefore it’s important to absorb as much as possible in those 2 hours. With a tour guide, you are sure to see all the main sights while your stamina is still strong and can therefore get the most out of your experience.
Guided Tour- For an awesome guided tour, we recommend our Private Musée d’Orsay Tour. Your private guide will take enlighten you with interesting anecdotes about not only the paintings, but the authors as well.
Audioguide– The museum does offer an audioguide in multiple languages for 5€ that you can get at the front desk.
Places to Eat Inside and Nearby
The Musée d’Orsay has one restaurant inside the museum itself, called Cafe Campana. The Cafe, designed by the Brazilian Campana brothers, is a tribute to Art Nouveau and is meant to transport you into a dreamlike aquatic environment.
The menu is casual with a Caffeteria style vibe, meaning you will get your meal fast. They cafe prides itself on seasonal, fresh ingredients and also has large salads and icecream.
The Musée d’Orsay is conveniently located near St Germain des Prés, which is a very happening district and therefore full of restaurants and cafes. For a comprehensive list of where to eat close by, click on this article about Where to eat near the Musée d’Orsay. ( Coming Soon)
- Where to eat near the Musée d’Orsay.
Where is Musée D’Orsay?
By Foot: It is literally right in front of the Louvre museum on the other side of the river
- RER Line C- stop Musée d’Orsay
- Metro Line 12 – stop Solferino
By Bus: The following buses all have stops by the Musée d’Orsay:
- 63, 68, 69, 73, 83, 84, 87, 94
Handicap access? Yes.
All the floors of the museum are accessible via lifts or ramps. Wheelchairs and folding seats are available on deposit of an identity document at the cloakroom.