Musée d’Orsay (museum in Paris)

The Musee d’Orsay is located in Paris on the Rue de la Legion of Honor (in French – rue de la Legion-d’Honneur), near the Solferino Metro or RER Musee d’Orsay.

Museum Orsay Paris - sightseeing tours

Museum Orsay Paris from river trip

The museum is located directly on the left bank of the Seine in a former railway station (Gare D’Orsay), built between 1898 and 1900. The museum displays a large collection of French art from 1848-1914, including paintings, sculpture, furniture and photography. Today it is considered one of the largest art museums in Europe and the world, a favorite among tourists in Paris and containing the world’s largest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces, many of which were previously housed in the Jeu de Paume National Gallery before the opening of the Orsay Museum in 1986 . The building was originally the Gare D’Orsay railway station, built for the French railway company “Chemin de Fer de Paris à Orléans” (railway from Paris to Orléans). The structure combined a beautiful Beaux Arts aesthetic with the cutting-edge technology of the time, featuring elevators and escalators, baggage ramps, and electrified tracks. Until 1939, it was the terminus of the railways in the southwestern direction of France, opened for the 1900 Paris exhibition “Universelle”. This world’s fair was held to showcase the innovations and inventions that transformed the world at the turn of the century. Following this important event, the Gare D’Orsay served as an important terminal for the railways of South-West France in Paris for four decades. By 1939 the station’s short platforms were no longer suitable for longer trains and after 1939 the terminal was used for commuter services, and part of it became a postal center during the Second World War. During the war and post-war times, this building was also used for the filming of several films, as a shelter, theater and hotel. In 1970, a decision was made to liquidate it, but the Minister of Culture, Jacques Duhamel, decided to save the historical building and refused to build a hotel on this site. The building was included in the list of historical monuments in 1978 and a proposal was received from the Directorate of French Museums to turn the station into a museum. The idea was to build a museum that would bridge the gap between the Louvre and the National Museum of Modern Art at the Georges Pompidou Centre. In 1974 the plan was approved by Georges Pompidou and in 1978 a competition was organized to design a new museum. The ACT Architecture team of three young architects (Pierre Colboc, Renaud Bardon and Jean-Paul Philippon) was awarded the contract, which included the creation of 20,000 square meters of space over four floors. In 1981, Italian architect Gae Aulenti developed the interior design, including the interior layout, decoration, furniture and fittings of the museum. Finally, in July 1986, the museum was ready to accept its exhibits. The installation of the exhibitions took 6 months to accommodate approximately 2,000 paintings, 600 sculptures and other works. In December 1986, President François Mitterrand officially and inaugurated the museum. Since that time, the museum has built a renowned art collection that includes painting, sculpture, photography and decorative arts. The exhibition space is creatively distributed around the unusual structure and consists of several levels.

Paris map

Eiffel Tower, Invalides Army Museum, Military School, Order of the Legion of Honor

Museum Orsay Paris - Musée d'Orsay

Musée d’Orsay – Museum Orsay in Paris

In total, the museum’s collection includes more than 4 thousand works of art: paintings, graphics and sculpture. The most valuable exhibits: paintings by Delacroix, Ingres, Moreau, Renoir, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh and even works by Russian masters – paintings by Serov, furniture in the Art Nouveau style from the estate of Princess E. Tenishev in the Smolensk province. To display more art, the Museum rotates exhibits every 2-3 years.

The Orsay Museum is a great place for all tourists, art lovers and sightseeing tours, but there are special categories of visitors.

Military history buffs, collectors, re-enactors and battlefield tours. The Orsay Museum has a large collection of paintings of battles, dedicated to events from the Roman Empire to the Third Republic, the Franco-Prussian War and the Revolution.
Battlefields painting in Orsay museum, Paris
Architecture, engineering and scale models. The Musée d’Orsay contains a large number of sketches of buildings, churches, villas, but the most interesting is the section of the Opera Garnier in Paris. A giant scale model of the center of Paris, where the Opera is located, which you can study for hours through the transparent floor. Large scale cutaway models of the Opera Garnier, where all rooms are clearly visible, including stages, passages and staircases. The quality of the models is amazing, has great historical cultural value and serves as an example for fans of large-scale hand modeling. This large section of the museum is also of interest to ordinary visitors, before or after a sightseeing tour around Paris.

Opera Garnier and Paris Center scale model

Lying on a transparent glass floor, tourists study and photograph a scale model of the historical center of Paris around the Opera Garnier.

Museum Orsay Mini Guide and Map

Level 0 or Ground Floor, description of permanent and temporary exhibitions (for 2019).
Works of art from 1850 to 1880, ground floor. Much of the sculpture collection is on display in the central hall, while pre-Impressionist works, including paintings by Gustave Courbet, and furnishings are displayed in adjacent galleries. The paintings on this floor date from the pre-Impressionist era, and works by Delacroix, Bari, Degas, as well as some works by Claude Monet are on display. This level consists of two main parts: a central alley of sculptures and external rooms in which the paintings are located (see ground floor plan). The sculptures form two long rows, as if reminiscent of railway tracks, and are among the best works from the mid-19th century.

Orsay Museum Paris map

Map of Level 0 of the Orsay Museum, entrance and transitions to other levels

The largest and most beautiful part of the museum building is the central alley, where the sculptures are displayed. The glass vault ensures uniform illumination of the hall, and the huge size of the nave itself makes this exhibition even more monumental. Here are the famous sculptures: James Pradier “Sappho”; Ernest Barrias, “The Crocodile Hunters” (Louis Ernest Barrias, “Les Nubiens ou Les Chasseurs d’alligators”); Auguste Rodin’s monumental composition “The Gates of Hell” (Auguste Rodin, “La Porte de l’Enfer”) Jules Cavelier “Pénélope”, as well as the creations of other masters of this genre, such as: Alexandre Falguière, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, David d’Angers and Auguste Clésinger. Adjacent to the central alley are halls where works of painting and decorative art are exhibited.

Level 2.
— Sculpture Terrace, Rodin Terrace, Francoise Cashin Gallery.
— Contemporary art: Belgium, Spain, France and Italy.
— Collection of Max and Rosa Kaganovich
— Temporary exhibitions: for 2018-2019 “Renoir father and son. Painting and cinema”
— Banquet hall and restaurant

Orsay Museum Paris map

Orsay Museum Level 2 map,, sculptures, paintings, restaurant and banquet hall

Photo gallery of some of the works on this floor.

Level 3: Decorative arts Scandinavia, Germany.

Level 4:. Decorative arts. UK, Austria.

Level 5. From Impressionism to Neo-Impressionism.

Series of paintings “From impressionism to neo-impressionism”:
In rooms 29-37 there are paintings by artists: Cezanne, Degas, Monet, Pissarro, Renoire, Sisey..
Cross, Seurat, Signac and others.

Orsay Museum Paris map

Map of Level 5 of the Orsay Museum, impressionist paintings, cafe and summer terrace

On the fifth level there is also a summer terrace and the Campana café.
The Museum has an observation deck. During the visit, you can see the surroundings in the heart of the city, the Louvre and the Seine.

Open hours:
summer: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday-Sunday 9.30-18.00, Thursday until 21.45
? winter: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday 10.00-18.00, Thursday until 21.45, Sunday 9.00-18.00
the museum is closed: January 1, May 1, December 25
Ticket price: 14 euros (adult), 11 euros (reduced) and free for under 18s.

Private tour of the Orsay Museum with a guide in English

Most visitors, even history buffs, visit the Musée d’Orsay by themselves and rather briefly, in order to obtain general information about the collection according to exhibit labels and information from the Internet. Some tourists want to receive more advanced information and book a professional English-speaking art guide in advance. A sightseeing or thematic private tour usually lasts 2 hours. Please note that according to French laws and traditions, visiting the museum with a licensed guide is without a queue, which is very important for the Orsay Museum..

My personal experience of visiting the Orsay Museum and useful tips.
Visiting the Orsay Museum is very similar to visiting the Louvre. It is impossible to see and study everything at once, in one visit, there are too many exhibits. It is better to divide the collections by topic and visit the museum 2-3 times, if time permits. I visit Paris often, so I use this system, each visit is 3-3.5 hours with breaks for coffee or a traditional French glass of wine. On the fifth level there is a cozy and inexpensive restaurant, as well as a magnificent observation deck overlooking the center of Paris. The unpleasant thing: long queues for checking in and receiving hand luggage (bags, backpacks…) in special lockers. You have to stand for a long time. The second time I came without a backpack. Right at the entrance to Orsay there is also the excellent Museum of the Legion of Honor. Both I and all my friends are fond of military history, so I visited this museum as well (see My personal experience of visiting the Museum of the Legion of Honor). In summer, Orsay is open to visitors until 18.00, and on Thursdays until 21.45, which must be taken into account for your plans for the day. Nearby is the Saint-Germain quarter, where there are excellent restaurants serving French cuisine. You can just take a walk in the center of Paris at night..What did I like and remember most? I think a giant scale model of the Opera Garnier and the center of Paris. If your clothing allows, feel free to kneel down or lie down on the transparent glass floor to get a bird’s eye view of this model of the city center. The mirror glare of shop windows and flickering light, which causes the camera to become out of focus, do not allow you to take good, sharp photographs. But a simple phone takes pretty good pictures for memory. (M.B.)

Interesting places nearby: Museum of the Legion of Honor – located directly in front of the entrance to the Orsay Museum. A unique and interesting collection of orders and awards from all countries of the world and all periods. French Revolution, First World War, Second World War. England, Germany, Russia and others. The visit is free, but the museum is open only on certain days, check in advance. Only good reviews, we recommend it.
The Louvre is a 10-15 minute walk to the main entrance, on the other side of the Seine.
The Tuileries Garden and Place de la Concorde are also a 15-minute walk away.
Notre-Dame Cathedral (Notre Dame) and Ile de la Cité – the walk takes a little longer, but it’s interesting.