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3 Parisian Art Museums for Kids

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Paris may be known as the City of Love but it can also be a fun city for a family vacation. Kids are thrilled to see famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. Luxembourg and Tuileries Gardens have carousels, ponds for sailing boats, pony rides and puppet shows. Delicious French pastries will bring a smile to any child’s face and, if you have girls of the right age, the fabulous shopping may be a selling point. Paris is also known for it’s world-class museums, which leads parents to wonder: is it possible to see the fabulous art collections with kids? Mais, oui! Check out these three Parisian art museums for kids.

Louvre with kids

Outside the Louvre in Paris (Photo credit: Lisa Goodmurphy)

My 15-year-old daughter, Katie, loathes art museums and my 9-year-old daughter, Emma, loves them so planning an itinerary is always a balancing act—Paris was no exception. On a 10-day visit we decided to limit ourselves to three museums—the Louvre, the Musée Rodin, and the Musée d’Orsay. We all enjoyed each of them for different reasons.

Mona Lisa at Louvre with kids

In the same room as the Mona Lisa! (Photo credit: Lisa Goodmurphy)

The Louvre

I know that many people recommend that families skip the Louvre due too long lines, heavy crowds and the museum’s massive size, but I believe there are certain attractions in any city, one simply must visit. For me, the Louvre is a Paris must-see.

The Louvre has been a landmark in Paris for centuries and is now one of the world’s best-known and largest museums. I have heard it estimated that it would take nine months to see everything in this museum so it is imperative for a family to plan their visit well if they want to make it out intact.

My family decided which works of art were priorities and planned to see just those and then beat a quick retreat to the Tuileries Garden before anyone had a chance to get overwhelmed. This approach worked well for us. Emma was so excited to see the Mona Lisa in person that she practically sprinted from the front entrance to the painting and sustained that level of enthusiasm for the balance of our visit. Katie was content to see a couple of famous works and then she amused herself by photographing me taking photos.

We limited our Louvre visit to about two hours and the kids thought it was cool to see some of the world’s most famous works of art and to judge for themselves whether or not the art was worthy of the fuss. We also learned that school art teachers will be very impressed when you return home and tell them that you saw the Mona Lisa.

Musee d'orsay Paris

The Musee d’Orsay, housed within the impressive Orsay former railway station (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

The Musée d’Orsay

In contrast to the centuries-old Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay housed in the former Orsay train station, has only been an art museum since 1986. The collection consists mainly of French art from 1848 to 1915 and is known for the extensive number of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces.

This has been my favorite art museum since I first visited in 1995 and I think I passed on my preference to my kids. Emma loves the impressionists and although her big sister professes to hate art galleries, Katie does actually enjoy Monet, Degas and Van Gogh. I’m sure many people might disagree with me but I think this more whimsical style of art appeals more to kids than the darker, sombre paintings of earlier eras.

The Musée d’Orsay is a more kid-friendly art museum than the Louvre primarily because of its more manageable size. A couple of hours is all it takes to casually browse the entire collection and spend some time contemplating favorites. The grandeur of the Beaux-Arts-style railway station impressed both of my children as did the museum’s appearance in a Doctor Who episode.

Musee Rodin with kids

The statue-filled gardens at the Musée Rodin (Photo credit: Lisa Goodmurphy)

Musée Rodin

When my family visited the Musée Rodin, the mansion was closed for renovations so our visit was restricted to the museum grounds. The grounds stretch over 3 hectares (nearly 7.5 acres) and include a rose garden, an ornamental garden, thematic walks, and a large pond. It was early spring when we visited and, as we strolled the lovely gardens, I could imagine how beautiful they would be in season.

The gardens of the Musée Rodin are by far the easiest (and least expensive) museum in Paris to visit with kids. Outside in the fresh air, kids forget that they are viewing art and parents can relax and enjoy the sculptures without worrying that the kids are too loud. One of Rodin’s most famous works, The Thinker, can be found in this garden and kids thoroughly enjoy mimicking the famous pose.

With a little planning and careful time management, your kids just may shout, “Encore!” after visiting these Parisian art museums.

What tips do you have for visiting an art museum with kids? Let us know in the comments!

About Lisa Goodmurphy, The Spunky Travel Mama

Lisa Goodmurphy is a lawyer turned family travel writer and a mom of two daughters. She grew up in small town Northern Ontario and now resides near Toronto, Canada. Badly bitten by the travel bug years ago, she considers herself fortunate that her family is equally enthusiastic about her mission to explore the world—one trip at a time. Lisa shares her travel adventures on the blog that she founded in 2011 and now contributes to many online media publications as well. You can read about her family’s travels on her blog, Gone with the Family, on Google+ or on Twitter as @GoneWithFamily.

  1. I’ve got three who all profess to dislike museums, so I sense that I’m in for quite the battle in Paris, but there’s no way we’re skipping over the Louvre while we’re there, so it’s encouraging to note that it entertained Katie for at least a few minutes. Gives a guy a glimmer of hope.

  2. Lisa, the Spunky Travel Mama says

    Definitely don’t skip the Louvre! It’s just an hour or two in order to be able to say that they saw the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo in person. Katie lost interest after seeing those two pieces but amused herself taking pics of me (and mocking me for taking so many photos) – but it kept her entertained while the rest of us saw what we wanted so it was fine by me. If all else fails, there’s a decent cafeteria near the entrance and you can bribe them with food.

  3. Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

    Lisa – I just LOVE that photo of Emma so ecstatic to see the Mona Lisa! There is something so magical about seeing in-person something you have heard about and seen in photographs your whole life. I felt like this about the Eiffel Tower when I first saw it at age 15.

  4. Great post (I also believe some museums are must-do). May I recommand my friend Judith’s company : She is organizing visits for kids in their language in Paris (of which few museums)

  5. Lisa, the Spunky Travel Mama says

    Emma was very excited beforehand, Colleen, and I was very concerned that she was going to feel let down when she actually saw the painting. Turns out that I had nothing to worry about because seeing it was pure magic for her. I think her excitement may even have got a smile out of her teenage sister. 🙂

  6. Sandra Foyt says

    One of my favorite travel memories is reading “Linnea in Monet’s Garden” with my daughter, and following in the main character’s footsteps in Paris. My children loved picnicking in Monet’s Garden and sketching sculptures at the Rodin Museum (which wasn’t mentioned in the children’s book, but I couldn’t resist.)

  7. I love Linnea in Monet’s Garden – we were very sad that Giverny was still closed for the winter when we visited in March so we weren’t able to see the garden in person. Another great book that would be perfect for your daughter is Katie Meets the Impressionists by James Mayhew. Katie visits the museum with her grandmother and ends up inside some famous paintings – it’s a nice introduction to Renoir, Monet and Degas.

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