The Musée d'Orsay ★★★

Les Coquelicots (Poppy Field) (1873) by Claude Monet (Photo Public Domain)
Les Coquelicots (Poppy Field) (1873) by Claude Monet

Did someone say "Impressionists"? The Orsay Museum houses the world's largest collection of Impressionist art

In 1986, Paris consolidated most of its collections of French art from 1848 to World War I in the most unlikely of spots: a old converted train station.

While the museum does contain earlier, mid-19th century works by the likes of Ingres and Delacroix, without a doubt the Orsay's biggest draw is its massive collection of paintings and sculptures those crowd-pleasing Impressionists.

So many of the works here are so widely reproduced that you might wander through with an eerie feeling of déjà vu.

Orsay highlights

There are Degas' ballet dancers, his l'Absinthe; Monet's women in a poppy field, the Rouen cathedral painted under five different lighting conditions, a giant Blue Waterlillies; Van Gogh's Restaurant de la Siréne, Starry Night, self-portraits, peasants napping against a haystack, and his Bedroom at Arles.

Then there are artistic icons of surpassing fame: Whistler's Mother; Manet's groundbreaking Dejeuner sur l'Herbe (Picnic on the Grass) and Olympia, which together helped throw off the shackles of artistic conservatism, giving Impressionism room to take root.

Add in a generous helping of Cézanne, Gauguin, Rodin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Pissarro, and Seurat, and you could easily spend a full day (or two) exploring this museum.

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Photo gallery
  • Les Coquelicots (Poppy Field) (1873) by Claude Monet, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • The main hall, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo by Ana Paula Hirama)
  • Loooong lines at the Musée d'Orsay are yet one more reason to get the Paris Museum Pass, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo by Eric Parker)
  • La chambre de Van Gogh à Arles (Van Gogh's Bedroom in Arles) (1889) by Vincent van Gogh, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Dance Class at the Opera (1872) by Edgar Degas, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • , Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Les Raboteurs de parquet (The Floor Scrapers) (1875) by  Gustave Caillebotte, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Le Lit (The Bed) (1893) by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Self-portrait (1889) by Vincent van Gogh, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1, better known as "Whistler's Mother," (1871) by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Bal du moulin de la Galette (Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette) (1876) by Auguste Renoir, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Baigneuse allongée sur le sol (Bather Lying Down) (1886–88) by Edgar Degas, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Self-portrait (1873) by Camille Pissarro, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Olympia (1863) by Edouard Manet, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Entrée du village de Voisins (Entrance to the Village of Voisins) (1872) by Camille Pissarro, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Village de Voisins (Village of Voisins) (1874) by Alfred Sisley, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • La Cathédrale de Rouen. Le portail et la tour Saint-Romain, plein soleil ; harmonie bleue et or (1892–93) by Claude Monet, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • La rue Montorgueil à Paris. Fête du 30 juin 1878 (The Rue Montorgueil in Paris. Celebration of June 30, 1878) (1878) by Claude Monet, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Régate à Argenteuil (Boat Race at Argenteuil) (1872) by Claude Monet, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • London, Houses of Parliament. The Sun Shining through the Fog (1904) by Claude Monet, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Essai de figure en plein-air: Femme à l'ombrelle tournée vers la gauche (Study of a Figure Outdoors: Woman with a Parasol, facing left) (1886) by Claude Monet, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Blue Water Lilies (1916/19) by Claude Monet, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • , Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Prima Ballerina (1878) by Edgar Degas, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Jeunes filles au piano (Young Girls at the Piano) (1892) by Auguste Renoir, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Pommes et Oranges (Apples and Oranges) (1899) by Edgar Degas, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • La mort de Francesca da Rimini et de Paolo Malatesta (Death of Francesca da Rimini and of Paolo Malatesta) (1870) by Alexandre Cabanel, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • La Classe de danse (The Ballet Class) (1871–74) by Edgar Degas, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • L'église d'Auvers-sur-Oise, vue du chevet (The church in Auvers-sur-Oise, view from the Chevet) (1890) by Vincent van Gogh, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Répétition d'un ballet sur la scène (Ballet Rehearsal on Stage) (1874) by Edgar Degas, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Après le bain, femme nue s'essuyant la nuque (After the Bath) (1898) by Edgar Degas, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Two ironing women (1884) by Edgar Degas, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Noon – Rest from Work (1890–91) by Vincent van Gogh, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe (Luncheon on the Grass) (1863) by Edouard Manet, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • , Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Le Cirque (The Circus) (1891) by Georges Seurat, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • La Charmeuse de serpents (The Snake Charmer) (1907) by Henri Rousseau, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • La Source (The Spring) (1820/56) by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Le Jardin de l'artiste à Giverny (The Artist's Garden at Giverny) (1900) by Claude Monet, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Bathers (1892–94) by Paul Cézanne, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Self-portrait (c. 1875) by Paul Cézanne, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Arearea (Joyfulness) (1892) by Paul Gauguin, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Le canal du Loing (The Loing's Canal) (1892) by Alfred Sisley, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Vue du canal Saint-Martin (View of the Canal of Saint-Martin in Paris) (1870) by Alfred Sisley, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Panneaux pour la baraque de la Goulue, à la Foire du Trône à Paris (1895) by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Portrait de Madame M. (Portrait of Madame M.) (1895–97) by Henri Rousseau, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • L'air du soir (The Evening Air) (1893) by Henri-Edmond Cross, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • La bouée rouge (The Red Buoy) (1895) by Paul Signac, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Alone (1896) by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Le docteur Paul Gachet (Dr Paul Gachet) (1890) by Vincent van Gogh, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
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Tips

Free admission with a sightseeing card

Get into Musée d'Orsay for free (and skip the line at the ticket booth) with:

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How long should I spend in the Musée d'Orsay

Budget at least 90 minutes to spend in the Musée d'Orsay—though personally I'd give it about 3 or 4 hours.

This is, after all, the single greatest collection of Impressionist works in the world.

Combination tickets

You can get a "passport" ticket covering admission to both the Musée d'Orsay and the Orangerie for €16 (as opposed to the regular total ticket price of €21). 

There is also a ticket good at both both the Musée d'Orsay and the Musée Rodin for €18 (as opposed to €22).

Both last for three months, but are good for only one admission at each museum.

Those all do save you a bit of money over seperate admissions, but frankly, the unlimited-entry Paris PassParis Pass or Paris Museum Pass also cover all those museums and are better deals overall.

The Orsay is free once a month

Admission to the Musée d'Orsay is free—and the museum is intensely crowded—on the first Sunday of every month.

Useful French phrases

Useful French for sightseeing

English (anglais) French (français) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Où est? ou eh
...the museum le musee luh moo-ZAY
...the church l'eglise leh-GLEEZ
...the cathedral le cathédrale luh ka-teh-DRAHL
When is it open? Quand est-il ouvert?  coan eh-TEEL oo-VAIR
 
When does it close? A quelle heure est-ce que cela ferme? ah kell eur es kuh suhla fair-MAY
ticket billet d'entrée bee-YAY dahn-TRAY
two adults deux adultes dooz ah-DOOLT
one child un enfant ehn ahn-FAHN
one student un étudiant uh-NETOO-dee-YON

Basic phrases in French

English (anglais) French (français) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you merci mair-SEE
please s'il vous plaît seel-vou-PLAY
yes oui wee
no non no
Do you speak English? Parlez-vous anglais? par-lay-VOU on-GLAY
I don't understand Je ne comprende pas zhuh nuh COHM-prohnd pah
I'm sorry Je suis desolée zhuh swee day-zoh-LAY
How much does it cost? Combien coute? coam-bee-YEHN koot
That's too much C'est trop say troh
     
Good day Bonjour bohn-SZOURH
Good evening Bon soir bohn SWAH
Good night Bon nuit  bohn NWEE
Goodbye Au revoir oh-ruh-VWAH
Excuse me (to get attention) Excusez-moi eh-skooze-ay-MWA
Excuse me (to get past someone) Pardon pah-rRDOHN
Where is? Où est? ou eh
...the bathroom la toilette lah twah-LET
...train station la gare lah gahr

Days, months, and other calendar items in French

English (anglais) French (français) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quand est-il ouvert? coan eh-TEEL oo-VAIR
When does it close? Quand est l'heure de fermeture?   coan eh lure duh fair-mah-TOUR
At what time... à quelle heure... ah kell uhre
     
Yesterday hier ee-AIR
Today aujoud'hui ow-zhuhr-DWEE
Tomorrow demain duh-MEHN
Day after tomorrow après demain ah-PRAY duh-MEHN
     
a day un jour ooun zhuhr
Monday Lundí luhn-DEE
Tuesday Maredí mar-DEE
Wednesday Mercredi mair-cray-DEE
Thursday Jeudi zhuh-DEE
Friday Vendredi vawn-druh-DEE
Saturday Samedi saam-DEE
Sunday Dimanche DEE-maansh
     
a month un mois ooun mwa
January janvier zhan-vee-YAIR
February février feh-vree-YAIR
March mars mahr
April avril ah-VREEL
May mai may
June juin zhuh-WAH
July juillet zhuh-LYAY
August août ah-WOOT
September septembre sep-TUHM-bruh
October octobre ok-TOE-bruh
November novembre noh-VAUM-bruh
December décembre day-SAHM-bruh

Numbers in French

English (anglais) French (français) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 un ehn
2 deux douh
3 trois twa
4 quatre KAH-truh
5 cinq sank
6 six sees
7 sept sehp
8 huit hwhee
9 neuf nuhf
10 dix dees
11 onze ownz
12 douze dooz
13 treize trehz
14 quatorze kah-TOHRZ
15 quinze cans
16 seize sez
17 dix-sept dee-SEP
18 dix-huit dee-SWEE
19 dix-neuf dee-SNEUHF
20 vingt vahn
21* vingt et un * vahnt eh UHN
22* vingt deux * vahn douh
23* vingt trois * vahn twa
30 trente truhnt
40 quarante kah-RAHNT
50 cinquante sahn-KAHNT
60 soixante swaa-SAHNT
70 soixante-dix swa-sahnt-DEES
80 quatre-vents  kat-tra-VAHN
90 quatre-vents-dix  kat-tra-vanht-DEES
100 cent sant
1,000 mille meel
5,000 cinq mille sank meel
10,000 dix mille dees meel


* You can form any number between 20 and 99 just like the examples for 21, 22, and 23. For x2–x9, just say the tens-place number (trente for 30, quarante for 40, etc.), then the ones-place number (35 is trente cinq; 66 is soixsante six). The only excpetion is for 21, 31, 41, etc. For x1, say the tens-place number followed by "...et un" (trente et un, quarante et un, etc.).

‡ Yes, the French count very strangely once they get past 69. Rather than some version of "seventy,' they instead say "sixy-ten" (followed by "sixty-eleven," "sixty-twelve,' etc. up to "sixty-nineteen.") And then, just to keep things interesting, they chenge it up again and, for 80, say 'four twenties"—which always make me thinks of blackbirds baked in a pie for some reason. Ninety becomes "four-twenties-ten" and so on up to "four-nineties-ninteen" for 99, which is quite a mouthful: quartre-vingts-dix-neuf. 

 

Related

Impression, sol levant (Impression, Sunrise) (1872) by Claude Monet—the painting that inadvertently lent its name to the artistic movement of Impressionism (Photo Public Domain)

Just who are these "Impressionists" anyway?