Paris with Kids: Musee d’Orsay

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We’re finishing our time in Europe with four nights in Paris before we fly back to Malaysia. Not a bad way to finish a European trip! After years of studying art in school, there was no way I was coming to Paris without visiting some of the most important art galleries.

Today the kids and I visited the Musee d’Orsay, housing one of the best collections of impressionist and post-impressionist art works in the world. Noah and Hayley were really eager to visit an art gallery so rather than going by myself I took them along hoping that they would enjoy it and not go too crazy.

We ended up having a great time.

The kids really enjoyed looking at the impressionist artworks. Renaissance classics, religious art, photo-realism … these works are beautiful but I don’t think they are as appealing to young kids as impressionist works of art. Impressionist art has colour and movement. You can see the brush strokes; sometimes long swirls of colour, sometimes short strokes, sometimes pointillism. The kids can look at each artwork and see how the artist actually painted it. Often the works depicts every day life – what do you think kids would rather see – a beautiful building or portrait, or a colourful painting of families and life 100 years ago?

Highlights:

Cezanne, Renoir, Monet, Manet, Courbet, Degas … their works were all there. Seeing so many artworks that I’d only ever seen in text books was fantastic. But the highlight for all of us was Van Gogh.

Sadly the kid’s knowledge of Van Gogh and his art comes from watching Doctor Who … but we were all still pretty excited to go to the gallery that the Doctor took Vincent Van Gogh too to see his paintings … and having the kids excited about going to a gallery even if it’s thanks to science fiction is still a good thing right?

Some of the more important works weren’t on display (Starry Night, the Sunflowers) but we were still impressed with what we saw. It’s hard to beat Van Gogh for colourful paintings that will capture the attention of kids and adults alike.

And yes we checked Van Gogh’s Church At Auvers to make sure there was no monster in the picture, like there was in Doctor Who!

See no monster!

The view from the top floor of the Musee d’Orsay and getting up close to some of the amazing giant clocks wasn’t bad either! Certainly a nice break for the kids to look at these after so many paintings.

Another highlight was on the ground floor at the back. There is a glass floor with a huge model of Paris and a giant model of the Paris national opera building. The detail is amazing. The kids spent ages looking at it all.

The other thing I really enjoyed were how friendly and relaxed the staff were. After visiting the Acropolis Museum in Athens and numerous museums in Australia, I was expecting a museum with so many important artworks to be filled with guards ‘shhing’ and scowling at me for daring to bring kids to a museum.

But everyone was great. The kids were pretty well behaved but lets be honest – no 4 and 6 year old is ever going to act in a gallery the way they probably should. They hid behind walls, crept under stairs, skipped, got too close to paintings (no touching … just) and spoke to loudly. The only time we got in trouble was when they had a screaming match over a chair.

How long to allow:

We spent two hours in the Gallery and saw most of the artworks. The kids were excited to go to the gallery, not quite as excited as they would have been if we had of annouced that we’d purchased Disneyland Paris tickets but excited all the same. And they really enjoyed their visit.

With older children I would probably allow 3-4 hours as you’ll stop longer at each painting, but two hours was a good length of time with young kids. We had enough time to see everything and have a rest at the coffee shop. By the last 15 minutes the kids had lost interest and wanted to run around. I resorted to ‘lets find the biggest painting’ to make it around the last few collections.

Even chasing after two kids I felt like I had seen enough in two hours that I wasn’t disappointed to leave (although I probably could have enjoyed another hour there by myself).

Lining up and buying tickets:

Arrive early is my biggest recommendation!

We arrived at the gallery just after 10am on a Tuesday and even then the queue was huge. We went on a Tuesday, the one day of the week that the Louvre is closed so I’m guessing Tuesday’s are the busiest day at the Musee d’Orsay. By the time we left at 12.30 it was so long people would have waited hours to go in.

If you can buy tickets online I’d recommend it. This allows you to bypass the main queue and go in through the Group/Disabled entrance. But it’s still worth going early as by lunchtime even this line was 45 minutes long.

Since we were visiting with young kids, the museum guards directed us to go through the shorter queue at the Group/Disabled (C) entrance. We only waited 10 minutes. Wasn’t that nice of them!

Admission for adults was 9 euros and free for anyone under 18 years old.

Tickets are single entry only – you can’t go out to get lunch and come back in. But there is a restaurant and cafe inside. The cafe prices were quite reasonable – cheaper than many restaurants we’ve seen.

If you are planning on visiting a lot of galleries and museums in Paris, check out the Museum pass. It may be worth purchasing it for the adults in your party.

Cloakroom, prams and disabled access:

The cloakroom is free but by lunchtime they were no longer accepting coats/jackets, only backpacks as they were too full. Another good reason to go early if you are visiting in winter!

The museum also had prams and wheelchairs for loan. Large prams have to be checked into the cloakroom but you can then borrow their smaller prams. You need to leave identification with the cloakroom as security for the pram or wheelchair.

As far as disabled access, the museum is well laid out. Every area we saw could be accessed via ramps or elevators.

Getting there

The Musee d’Orsay is located along the Seine almost opposite the Louvre. There are several metro stations within a 5 minute walk so it’s very easy to get to.

After you finish at the museum be sure to walk across the Passerelle des Arts bridge just outside the museum. Thousands of padlocks line each side of the bridge with peoples names on them as a symbol of love. Directly opposite is Jardin Des Tuileries, a huge park that is perfect if your kids need to run around after being so well behaved in the gallery.

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