Since many of our travelers are interested in learning more about history, art, culture and gastronomy while they’re on their self-drive tour of France, we like to recommend museums we think they’ll find interesting. In this post, we recommend many different types of cultural experiences and some of the best museums to visit in France.
Some of them you’ll surely have heard of - others, perhaps not! We hope you’ll find some museums to add to your France bucket list!
There are so many museums we could mention in the French capital, but these are some of our favorites:
One of the world's largest and most famous museums, the Louvre houses more than 35,000 works of art spanning centuries of history. From the iconic Mona Lisa to ancient Egyptian artifacts, there's something for everyone here.
It would probably take you a full day to see the whole museum. For this reason, we recommend a whistle-stop tour of the most famous pieces to our travelers who book a self-guided tour of Paris with us. We can also arrange for a private guide to show you around and explain each of the pieces, if you like.
The Musée d'Orsay is home to an impressive collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art, with masterpieces by Monet, Van Gogh, and Renoir, among others. Housed in a beautiful former train station, the museum itself is a work of art. Be sure to check out the stunning clock face overlooking the Seine River.
If you’re interested in seeing more of Monet’s work, we can recommend The Marmottan Museum or the Orangerie Museum (see below) in Paris too. Or if you’re exploring beyond Paris, be sure to visit Monet’s garden in Giverny. We can include a visit to Giverny in any of our Normandy itineraries.
Musée de l'Orangerie
The Musée de l'Orangerie is home to Monet's famous Water Lilies series. The huge canvases stretch across two oval-shaped rooms and immerse visitors in the beauty of Monet’s garden. The museum also features works by other notable artists such as Picasso and Renoir, and at the time of writing, there’s a Matisse exhibition on show (until May 29th, 2023).
The Centre Pompidou is Paris’s contemporary art museum. The building itself is a work of art, with its unique inside-out design and colorful pipes that run up the external walls. Take the escalator up to the top floor for panoramic views of the city.
Inside the museum, you’ll be able to see works by Vassily Kandinsky, Robert Delaunay, Frida Kahlo, and Marc Chagall, among others.
The Rodin Museum is a hidden gem in the heart of Paris, featuring the works of sculptor Auguste Rodin. The museum is housed in a beautiful mansion and also has a lovely sculpture garden; the perfect picnic spot on a sunny day!
Musée du Chocolat
Travelers with a sweet tooth will love the Musée du Chocolat! This museum takes visitors on a journey through the history of chocolate, from its origins in ancient civilizations to the present day. And of course, there are plenty of opportunities to sample some delicious chocolate along the way!
Atelier des Lumières
This digital art space features immersive exhibitions that surround visitors with floor-to-ceiling moving images of some of the world's greatest masterpieces. Past exhibitions have featured Gustav Klimt, Vincent Van Gogh, and Salvador Dali. In 2023, the exhibitions feature Marc Chagall, Tin Tin, and Paul Klee.
It's a must-visit if you love art and are looking for something a bit different. There are sister sites at les Carrières des Lumières in an old quarry in Les Baux-de-Provence and Les Bassins des Lumières in a former submarine base in Bordeaux.
Peruse our self guided tours of Paris. We can include Paris in any of our self drive itineraries. If you've already been to Paris, we'll help you discover the city like you've never seen it before!
Lyon is particularly well-known for its fantastic gastronomy and its interesting architecture. Some of our favorite museums include:
Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie de Lyon
Food lovers won't want to miss the Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie de Lyon, a museum dedicated to the art of food and wine. The museum takes visitors on a culinary journey through history, with interactive exhibits and tastings along the way.
You'll learn about Lyon's rich culinary traditions and how they've influenced French cuisine as a whole. You may like to grab a bite to eat at the on-site restaurant, which showcases the best of Lyon's gastronomy.
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon
Lyon’s fine arts museum is one of France's largest outside of Paris. Its collection includes 70,000 works by famous artists such as Rubens, Rembrandt, and Monet.
Musée des Confluences
The Musée des Confluences is a unique museum that explores the history of science, nature, and societies. Its striking modern architecture is a must-see in itself, and the exhibits inside are just as interesting. From prehistoric fossils to modern-day technology, there's something for everyone here.
Browse our Lyon Tours. We can customize any of our sample tours to suit your interests and preferences.
The French Riviera is known for its glamor and beautiful beaches, but it's also home to some great museums. Here are some of our top picks:
The Picasso Museum, Antibes
You’ll find the Picasso Museum in Antibes in a beautiful 14th-century castle. Visitors can admire over 200 paintings, sculptures, and ceramics that showcase Picasso's evolution throughout his career. The museum also has a lovely garden and terrace with stunning views of the Mediterranean.
Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain (MAMAC), Nice
The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nice is a must-visit for modern art lovers. With over 1,300 works of art from the 20th and 21st centuries, including pieces by Yves Klein and Niki de Saint Phalle, it’s a great way to spend a couple of hours. Be sure to head up to the roof terrace for panoramic views of Nice.
Musée National Marc Chagall, Nice
This museum is dedicated to the works of painter Marc Chagall. The museum's permanent collection includes 17 large-scale canvases that depict scenes from the Bible. There’s also a beautiful garden and a concert hall that hosts regular performances of classical music. It's a peaceful and contemplative space that's perfect for art enthusiasts and those looking for a moment of tranquility.
We can customize any of our Self-Drive Tours in the French Riviera according to your preferences.
Provence is famous for its stunning landscapes, Roman ruins, lavender fields and cultural heritage. Some of the best museums to visit in Provence include:
The Pope's Palace, Avignon
The Pope's Palace in Avignon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back to the 14th century. It was once the seat of the Catholic Church and is now a museum that showcases the history and architecture of the palace. Visitors can admire the stunning frescoes and tapestries that decorate the palace's halls and rooms.
Musée Regards de Provence, Marseille
The Musée Regards de Provence celebrates the art and culture of Provence. It’s housed in a beautiful former maritime station and features a collection of paintings, sculptures, and photographs that depict the beauty and diversity of the region. The roof terrace offers panoramic views of the Old Port.
In the Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean, you can learn about the history and cultures of the Mediterranean region.
The museum's collection includes over a million artifacts and works of art, spanning from prehistory to the present day. It also features exhibits on contemporary issues such as migration and the environment.
MUCEM is worth visiting if you’re in Marseille, even just for its striking modern building. Architect Rudy Ricciotti was inspired by the traditional architecture of the Mediterranean region. The museum’s design features a striking lattice-like concrete shell that wraps around the museum's exhibition spaces, providing shade and ventilation while also evoking the region's latticed screens.
The building also has a large footbridge connecting it to the 17th century Fort Saint-Jean, which now houses part of the museum's collection.
Cézanne's studio, Aix-en-Provence
Cézanne's studio in Aix-en-Provence is a must-visit for art lovers. The studio is where the famous French painter worked for many years and is now a museum that's been preserved as it was during his lifetime. Visitors can admire the artist's personal belongings, his unfinished works, and the beautiful garden that inspired many of his paintings. It's a tranquil and inspiring space that's perfect for those looking to connect with the art and history of Provence.
Check out our Provence tours. We'll craft an itinerary just for you, based on your wishes and interests.
The French Basque Country has a unique identity that's quite different from the rest of France, as well as its own language. You may like to visit the following museums while you’re there:
Musée Basque et de l'histoire de Bayonne
At the Basque Museum in Bayonne, you can learn the fascinating history and culture of the Basque Country. The museum has a collection of over 2,000 objects that showcase the region's art, folklore, and traditions. You can also learn about the history of Basque whaling, admire traditional Basque costumes, and even try your hand at the Basque sport of pelote.
Musée de la Mer, Biarritz
The Biarritz Aquarium and Museum feature exhibits on the history of fishing, the biology of the ocean, and the art of surfing (which is a popular watersport in Biarritz). The museum's aquarium is home to over 150 species of marine life.
Espace Chemins-Bideak, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
This is a museum about the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage route that runs through the Basque Country. You’ll find exhibits about the history of the pilgrimage, the art and architecture of the region, and the traditions and customs of the Basque people. People also visit to learn about the different routes of the Camino de Santiago and plan their own pilgrimage.
Our Basque Country tours will introduce you to the most beautiful landscapes and fascinating features of this unique part of France.
The Loire Valley is famous for its stunning chateaux and beautiful landscapes, but it's also home to some impressive museums. The ones we like include:
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Tours
This fine art museum is housed in a beautiful 18th-century mansion and has a collection of over 12,000 works of art, including paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts by renowned artists such as Rubens, Delacroix, and Degas.
Musée de la Vigne et du Vin, Anjou
Here you can learn about the history and culture of winemaking in the Loire Valley. There are exhibits on the history of viticulture, different winemaking techniques, and the different types of wines that are produced in the region. There are also wine tasting sessions where you can sample some of the local wines.
As well as these museums, our Loire Valley tours will take you to our favorite vineyards and castles of the Loire Valley!
Dordogne is most famous for its stunning landscapes and prehistoric caves. We recommend visiting:
Lascaux IV, Montignac
Lascaux IV is a replica of the famous Lascaux Cave, which is home to some of the world's most impressive prehistoric monochrome cave paintings. The original cave had to be closed to the public due to damage that was being caused to the paintings by the humidity from the breath and sweat of thousands of visitors.
The replica was created using the latest technology and techniques to ensure that visitors can enjoy a realistic experience of how the cave would have been thousands of years ago. As well as the stunning recreated paintings of animals, including bison and wooly mammoths, you’ll be able to learn about the history and culture of the prehistoric people who created them.
Musée National de Préhistoire, Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil
Dedicated to the prehistoric period of the Dordogne region, this museum would complement a visit to one of the caves, as it helps put everything into context. The National Museum of Prehistory features exhibits on the evolution of humanity, the lifestyles of prehistoric people, and the art and culture of different periods. There are also examples of prehistoric tools and weapons, as well as replicas of some of the region's famous prehistoric sites.
You can discover these museums, prehistoric caves, gorgeous landscapes and centuries-old castles on a custom Dordogne self-drive tour.
The beautiful region of Burgundy is synonymous with some of the finest wines in the world. It also has excellent gastronomy and an interesting history. You can find out more at:
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon
The Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon is one of the oldest fine art museums in France, housed in a former ducal palace dating back to the 15th century. The museum has a collection of over 13,000 works of art from between the 14th and 19th centuries, featuring pieces by Titian, Veronese, and Rubens.
Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie et du Vin, Dijon
At the International City of Gastronomy and Wine you can see exhibits relating to the history of viticulture and gastronomy in the region. There are also cooking and winemaking workshops, as well as opportunities to sample some of the local wines and cuisine.
The Medieval Hospices, Beaune
This stunning 15th-century building has exhibits on the history of the hospices in Beaune and the care of the sick and dying in medieval times. You can also see some of the hospital's original furnishings and artefacts and admire the building’s impressive Gothic architecture.
Our tours of Burgundy, France will take you to the finest wineries, the best restaurants and the most interesting historical places (that most tourists don't know about!)
Brittany has a gorgeous coastline and an interesting and distinct culture. You may like to visit these museums:
Musée de Bretagne in Rennes
As you might imagine, the Museum of Brittany is the place to learn about the history, culture, geography, history, art, and culture of Brittany. There’s a particular focus on the daily life of Breton people, with examples of traditional Breton clothing, furniture, and handicrafts.
Musée de la Résistance Bretonne, Sainte-Anne d'Auray
The Museum of the Breton Resistance tells the story of the French Resistance in Brittany during World War II. It includes exhibits on the resistance movement, the occupation of Brittany, examples of wartime propaganda, weapons, and artifacts, and the role of Breton people in the war effort. It’s very interesting if you’re a history buff and plan to visit some of the other key WWII sites in France.
Our Best of Brittany tour will take you to all the most beautiful and fascinating places in this gorgeous part of western France.
Normandy is a beautiful and fascinating region of France. It is particularly famous for its associate with WWII and the Normandy landings on D-Day in 1944. It is also famous for its artists, its cider and apple brandy and its delicious cuisine. There are many museums that are worth visiting - here are some of our favorites:
Mémorial de Caen
The city of Caen suffered severe damage and loss of life during the WWII bombings. The Mémorial de Caen is both a WWII history museum and a war memorial featuring exhibits on the causes of the war, the Battle of Normandy, and the Cold War.
Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux
The Bayeux Tapestry Museum is home to the famous 11th-century tapestry that tells the story of the Norman Conquest of England, which took place in 1066.
Please note that the museum is scheduled to close for refurbishment for around two years in 2024. Restoration work on the tapestry will also be carried out during this period.
The D-Day Museum - Musée du Débarquement, Arromanches
The D-Day Museum in Arromanches-les-Bains is a very interesting place to visit if you like WWII history. It has exhibits on the Normandy landings, including artifacts, models, and film footage.
We can arrange for our travelers to be taken to the key places of interest at the Normandy landings beaches by an expert private tour guide. They will explain exactly what happened at each place. If you have a relative who was killed in action during the Battle of Normandy, they can also research where your relative was buried, so you may visit and pay your respects.
Musée Eugène Boudin, Honfleur
The Eugène Boudin Museum in Honfleur is dedicated to the works of the eponymous painter, known for his landscapes and seascapes of Normandy. Boudin was a mentor and great inspiration for Claude Monet and many other landscape painters, some of whose work you’ll also be able to see in the museum.
We would love to plan a self guided driving tour of Normandy, France that incorporates all the places you most want to visit.
Alsace in eastern France is next to the border with Germany, and in fact used to be part of Germany at various different points in history. You’ll notice the German influences on the architecture, place names, and gastronomy. The following museums are worth visiting if you’re on a road trip through Alsace:
Musée d'Unterlinden in Colmar
Located in a 13th-century Dominican convent and a 1906 former public baths building, the Unterlinden Museum in the beautiful Alsatian town of Colmar has over 700 paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts, including pieces by Monet and Picasso, and the Isenheim Altarpiece by the German Renaissance painter Matthias Grünewald. It is the most visited museum in Alsace.
Musée Alsacien, Strasbourg
At the Alsatian Museum you can learn more about the history and culture of Alsace, including the daily life, customs, and traditions of the people of Alsace, with a focus on the 18th and 19th centuries. There are also exhibits of traditional Alsatian clothing, furniture, and handicrafts.
Lille is a city in northern France that's known for its stunning architecture, rich history, and cultural heritage. Here are some of our top picks for museums to visit in Lille:
Palais des Beaux-Arts
The fine art museum in Lille is one of the largest art museums in France. Its collections of European art span from ancient times to the modern era, and include pieces by Rubens, Delacroix, and Monet.
La Piscine, Musée d'Art et d'Industrie André Diligent
La Piscine is in a former Art Deco swimming pool and features fine art, science and fashion and textile exhibits. Visitors can admire works by local artists and examples of industrial design and machinery.
Musée de l'Hospice Comtesse
The Musée de l'Hospice Comtesse is a museum about the history of this 17th-century hospice in the Old Town of Lille, France. It houses art and historical objects from the 16th-20th centuries, including ceramics, paintings and furniture.
Browse our self-drive tours in the North of France - there's so much to discover!
Bordeaux is in southwestern France and is known for its fine wines and its city’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We warmly recommend visiting:
La Cité du Vin
La Cité du Vin is dedicated to the history and culture of wine in Bordeaux. The museum features exhibits on the history of viticulture as well as the techniques of winemaking, and wine-tasting opportunities.
Les Bassins des Lumières
Les Bassins des Lumières is a unique digital art space in a former submarine base. Digital projections and light shows transform the space into a stunning visual spectacle, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the art and music. The exhibitions in 2023 include Catalan artists Dalí and Gaudí.
If you enjoy visiting museums, or have a specific artistic or historic interest, you may be interested in one of our Art and Museums Tours. Let us know your interests and we'll plan a self-guided tour of France that takes you to museums relating to your interests. We'll give you tips for avoiding the lines where possible, and we can arrange tours with a private guide, if you would like.