Here’s How You Can Virtually Visit 300,000 Works of Art in Paris Right Now

Stuck at home? You can still visit thousands (and thousands) of the greatest artworks in Paris for free with an online art escape to the City of Light.

Paris has a love affair with art; everywhere you look are palaces, historic homes, iconic museums, and hidden galleries all filled with some of the most monumental masterpieces in the world. If you were visiting in person, it would be hard to see even of a fraction of these masterworks on a single vacation. But now that you have time while you’re sheltering at home, you can visit more than 300,000 (the number is actually 324,932) of Paris’ most memorable works with just the click of a button thanks to Paris Musées online collections portal.

What it is

To help pass the time during the global COVID-19 Stay at Home initiative, the cultural board of Paris’ free city museums sorted through 14 of the city’s top public museums to share must-see paintings, sculptures, manuscripts, and under-the-radar gems the public rarely gets to see. Extra bonus: If you spot something you want to study closer, all of the works on the Paris Musées site can be downloaded for free. Note that these museums are the ones run by the city of Paris and don’t include the Louvre, but that’s OK, since that iconic museum is one of the 17 museums and concerts you can now see online.

The museums

Garden and semi-circular courtyard of Petit Palais, now housing City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts.Bruce Yuanyue Bi/Getty Images

These 14 city-run cultural centers offer a fascinating mix of history and art; two are great writer’s homes—Balzac and Victor Hugo—filled with period details as well as art. Then two are underground, the Catacombs and the Crypts, with macabre collections of sculptures made out of bones and ancient architectural highlights (being able to see them online is a boon for anyone who’s claustrophobic and would have missed this on a trip to Paris). The best known is likely the Petit Palais, Museum of Fine Arts, originally built for the 1900 World Expo. Its collection holds a treasure trove of well-known works, including Claude Monet’s Sunset on the Seine. We bet you’ve never heard these mind-blowing facts about the Eiffel Tower.

The artists you’ll want to see

Masterpieces by renowned artists such as Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, Rembrandt, Gustave Courbet, Eugène Delacroix, and Anthony van Dyck, are among many other familiar names you’ll find on the art site. You can try searching for the ones you’re most interested in, or just start scrolling, which is a great way to find fascinating works by lesser-known, but no less talented, artists such as George Desvallieres or Georges Croegert.

Works you’ll want to ogle

Girls on the banks of the Seine (Les Damoiselles des bords de la Seine, ete), 1856-1857, by Gustave Courbet (1819-1877). (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)DEA PICTURE LIBRARY/Getty Images
If you need a jumping-off point before you launch into the treasure trove of art, search for Paul Cézanne’s romantic allegorical paintings of women portraying the Four Seasons or Gustave Courbet’s Les demoiselles des bords de la Seine, depicting two young women lounging on the banks of the Seine (it was considered very risque when it first debuted).

Try this moment of art Zen

Feeling overwhelmed by the vast wealth of art in the collection? Take a virtual stroll over to the Musee de l’Orangerie. While not part of the collection of city museums, it still has many of its most famous artworks online through the Google Art Project. Click through to the pastel wonders of Monet’s Waterlilies. The impressionist floral canvases circumvent the entire oval gallery at the Paris museum and are usually packed with visitors. The virtual version lets you spin in 360-degree circles to take it all in, with no crowds blocking your view. C’est magnifique!

Take a virtual trip around the globe with these panoramic webcams.

Popular Videos

Melissa Klurman
Melissa Klurman is a freelance travel writer and editor with more than 27 years experience who reports on travel trends around the planet for Reader's Digest. Winner of a Lowell Thomas Gold Award for excellence in travel writing, she started her career as an editor at both Frommer’s and Fodor’s travel guides, then went on to write about travel for many publications including Family Traveller, Parents, and Working Mother magazines. More recently she has been a contributing editor at Saveur, Islands, and Caribbean Travel and Life and a senior contributor at Travelocity. A New Jersey native, ice cream addict, and a lifelong Bruce Springsteen fan, Klurman lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband, son, and rescue dog.