On discovering a space so good I had to see it twice (i.e., you must visit too!)
After reading that the Petit Palais was one of the best art museums in Paris, I decided to have a look for myself. Just off the Champs-Élysées near the scenic Pont Alexandre III bridge, the space was built for the Exposition Universelle world’s fair in 1900. It’s simply stunning.
But don’t let the name fool you: the Petit Palais isn’t all that small except when compared with the Grand Palais across the street. And maybe it’s my stature but I often enjoy things on a smaller scale because they’re less overwhelming and easier to take in. (Don’t ask me how I lived in NYC for almost a decade, it defies all logic—and I wouldn’t have it any other way).
If the captivating collection of Rodin sculptures and paintings by the likes of Rembrandt, Monet, and Cézanne aren’t enough to pull you in, here are three good reasons to add the Petit Palais to your travels:
1. The space. It’s airy and much less crowded than other museums in Paris. Often overlooked because of the many other world-renowned museums in the city, the Petit Palais has an impressive collection with natural light flooding the space. I imagine it would be a great place to meditate.
2. The interior cafe. Le Jardin du Petit Palais is absolutely gorgeous and makes an ideal spot for an impromptu happy hour, lunch, or coffee break. The day we visited, we sipped Heinekens and sat outside soaking in the late afternoon sun while chatting with our neighbors at nearby tables and watching our daughter watch birds. Beers were around €5, far less than other options within range of the Champs-Élysées.
3. The price. It’s free! (That is, it’s free for permanent exhibits, which includes most of the space in the Palais). This also means they have free bathrooms if you’re in the area and in need of one; however, if you make a point to reach the restroom downstairs, it’s well worth your time to browse the artwork upstairs.
The day I visited the Petit Palais, Sean and I went our separate ways to enjoy some time on our own. Eliza went with Sean, so I was truly solo. I liked the museum so much that when we all met up nearby a few hours later, I recommended we stop by together—and only partly because I needed to use the restroom.
Instead of feeling repetitive, I found myself appreciating the museum’s qualities and its collection even more the second time around. Even after the exhibits closed, we sat outside in the cafe for a wonderful happy hour. Sean seemed stunned by the openness of the space and the fantastic art too. Had our apartment been closer, I might have even gone a third or fourth time to visit. And if I lived in Paris, I’d become a regular.
So I’m left wondering, is a museum alone reason enough to inspire us to move to Paris?