There are A LOT of museums in Paris, and it is impossible to see them all on your first, second, or even third visit to the city.
In fact, I didn't make it to the Centre Pompidou until my third time to the city — and was that ever a mistake! Not only is the exterior of the building a must-see, the museum is home to over 100,000 works created in the 20th and 21st centuries, and an INCREDIBLE view.
A brief history of the museum
In 1969, the French president, Georges Pompidou, decided that there needed to be a new building to host the national modern art museum, a public reading library, and new music concerts.
The site for the new museum was chosen, and a worldwide architectural competition was announced attracting 681 competitors from 49 different countries!
Architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers won the competition for their “evolving spatial diagram” design allowing the whole of each 7,500 m2 floor to be used to display art and be organized however the curators see fit. According to the museum website, “[i]ts innovative, even revolutionary character has made the Centre Pompidou one of the most emblematic buildings of the 20th century.”
The museum opened on February 2, 1977, and since then has been one of the most visited monuments in France.
What you are going to see
Considered to be Europe’s leading collection of modern and contemporary art (from 1905 until the present day), there are some seriously big names housed in this museum — Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard, Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, and Yves Klein to name just a few.
You’ll see all forms of media: paintings, drawing, photography, new media, experimental film, architecture, design, industrial work, and more! (Check out the photos below for some seriously cool pieces.)
Getting there and getting in
Location: The museum is located in the 4th arrondissement of Paris, in the Beaubourg area. It is within walking distance to the river, Les Halles, rue Montorgueil, and the Marais.
You can get there easily by metro, RER, bus, car, bicycle, foot, and however else you like to move!
Opening Hours: The museum is open every day (except Tuesdays when it is closed all day) from 11 am to 10 pm, but the exhibitions close at 9 pm.
Admission: A single ticket for admission to all galleries and the "View of Paris" is €14; a ticket just to see the "View of Paris" (no access to the galleries) is €5.
Admission is FREE to all areas of the museum on the first Sunday of every month.
It's impossible to miss the building that houses the Centre Pompidou. Covered in colorful pipes on one side (in blue, red, green, and yellow), and the zig-zag of elevators on the other there is no mistaking it.
This is the view (above) of the building from Rue Beaubourg, where you can enter the public reading library. The public entrance to the museum is located on the other side of the building.
You don't have to actually buy a ticket to enter the main floor of the building, which gives you access to the cafe, fantastic museum shops, public washrooms (for those of you who just need a bathroom break), and some fun art installations, like the sculpture pictured above.
There is always at least one visiting exhibition at the gallery, like the works of André Derain, who was a French artist, painter, sculptor and co-founder of the Fauvism movement with Henri Matisse.
The work pictured above by Derain seemed to glow from inside the canvas (and no, it wasn't just because of the light shining on it).
Called the Tete blanche et rose, this work by Henri Matisse looks deceptively like a Picasso.
And then there is the Femmes deviant la mer, a gorgeous piece by Picasso.
The Centre Pompidou actually has an incredible collection of works by Picasso, even more impressive than the Picasso Museum located only a few blocks away!
This piece by Frantisek Kupka, Plans par couleurs, was located in one of my favourite sub-rooms in the gallery that was filled with portraits of women from the most abstract to the most detailed.
I am so in love with any black and white piece that looks like the artist moved his hand back and forth in one big flourish and then called it a day.
I'm not kidding.
This is seriously one of my favorites.
No contemporary art collection would be complete without a work by Andy Warhol. This black and white version of Elizabeth Taylor is so long that it covered an entire wall!
The floor filled with sculptural art installations like the one above is an Instagram dream!
See-through cubes against a black and white wall — yup.
I love modern art.
So, from this side, this sculpture looks like an emotional, heartfelt embrace. On the other side, however, the woman is making out with another man.
I had to stop myself from taking too many photos on this floor, as ever piece had a huge impact, including this work of colorful subway-tile-style squares.
The one thing that I did not expect to see at this world-renowned museum was the incredible view!
As a visitor, you travel from floor-to-floor through a series of exterior escalators and corridors that are surrounded by clear plastic tubes — kind of like hamster tubes but human-sized.
The higher you go, the more incredible the view — the Notre Dame towers, the Eiffel Tower, and the Sacre Coeur all come into your line of sight, not to mention the beautiful Parisian buildings that surround the museum.
If you are hoping to get some really amazing photos, wait until you get to the very top and you can check out the view unobstructed by the plastic tube.
No photo that I took does it justice, but the one above comes close!
NOTE: I learned after the fact that you can buy a ticket just to access the view for 5 Euros if you like!
- The 10 Most-Visited Museums in The World
- 10 Reasons Why I Love The MET in NYC and You Will Too!
- Unconventional Things to See and Do in Paris
- Mmmm Macarons — The History of These Beautiful French Treats
- What's The Difference Between The Roman Pantheon and The Paris Pantheon?
- Tips For Visiting The Louvre: How To Beat The Crowd And Make The Most of Your Visit