Centre George Pompidou ★★

The Pompidou is not usually this uncrowded; I guess they cleared the rooms so President Barack Obama could admire the works in peace (Photo by Pete Souza)
The Pompidou is not usually this uncrowded; I guess they cleared the rooms so President Barack Obama could admire the works in peace

The Centre George Pompidou (sometimes called the Beaubourg) is Paris's premier modern art museum

The Pompidou is Paris' homage to 20th-century creativity.

Aside from the gallery of modern art—featuring the works of Matisse, Chagall, Kadinsky, Bonnard, Ernst, Pollock, Calder, Duchamp, and Henry Moore—there are exhibits on industrial design, music research, photography, and the history of film.

A personal favorite: An interactive sculpture by Jean Dubuffet called Jardin d'Hiver (Winter Garden), a lumpy white room laced with undulating black lines that you can enter and walk around.

The cafeteria on the top floor has some fantastic views.

Even if you don't want to go inside, come by to shake your head at the wildly colorful and controversial see-through inside-out architecture by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano—it reminds me of nothing so much as the Habitrail network of plastic tubes my hamster used to scurry around in—and to enjoy Paris' best street performers on the sloping square out front.

Also don't miss the studio of Constantin Brancusi, reconstituted in a separate structure out in front of the museum and open Wednesday to Monday 2–6pm (pictured to the right).

Tickets
 
Photo gallery
  • The Pompidou is not usually this uncrowded; I guess they cleared the rooms so President Barack Obama could admire the works in peace, The Pompidou, Paris (Photo by Pete Souza)
  • The wacky architecture of the Pompidou, designed by by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano, The Pompidou, Paris (Photo © Reid Bramblett)
  • Composition in Red, Blue, and White II (1937) by Piet Mondrian, The Pompidou, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Jardin d'Hiver (Winter Garden) (1969–70) by Jean Dubuffet, The Pompidou, Paris (Photo © Reid Bramblett)
  • Improvisation XIV (1910) by Wassily Kandinsky, The Pompidou, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Yellow-Red-Blue (1925) by Wassily Kandinski, The Pompidou, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • Arlequin à la guitare (Harlequin with Guitar) (1919) by Juan Gris, The Pompidou, Paris (Photo Public Domain)
  • The famous Wassily Chair, or Model B3, (1925) by Marcel Breuer, The Pompidou, Paris (Photo by Sailko)
  • Constantin Brancusi's recreated studio at the Pompidou, The Pompidou, Paris (Photo © Reid Bramblett)
  • Constantin Brancusi's recreated studio at the Pompidou, The Pompidou, Paris (Photo © Reid Bramblett)
  • A view of Montmartre from the Pompidou terrace, The Pompidou, Paris (Photo © Reid Bramblett)
The Pompidou Tours
 
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Tips

Free admission with a sightseeing card

Get into The Pompidou for free (and skip the line at the ticket booth) with:

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How long should I spend at the Pompidou

Taste in art is subjective—and that goes doubly for taste in modern art.

Some people simply wander through, shaking their heads at the odder exhibits, in 90 minutes or less.

Others will delightedly spend an entire morning here.

Much depends on the quality of, or interest you have in, the frequent and substantial temporary exhibitions. 

Put it this way: when I gave the teenagers in my Boy Scout troop an afternoon on their own to spend doing whatever they wanted in Paris—and this was the final afternoon of their month-long European vacation—as a group they all decided to return to the Pompidou.

The Pompidou is free once a month

Admission to Pompidou 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.