Musée d'Orsay

Known as one of the most popular museums in Paris, the Musée d'Orsay is a big French art museum located on the left bank of the Seine, opposite the Louvre. With its convenient location in the heart of Paris, the Museum is always busy with art lovers from across the globe visiting to have a look at the biggest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings in the world. Like some other museums in Paris, the building the Musée d'Orsay calls home was not initially built with the intention of having a museum in it.

Gare d’Orsay as it was previously named was built to be a railway station. Standing at a length of 175m, and a width of 75m and with a height of 32m, the Gare d’Orsay was an architectural masterpiece at the time it was opened in 1900. Its use of metal and stone was highly acclaimed, together with the classical approach to its architecture. Soon after in 1939, due to the emergence of longer trains that could not be used with the platforms that had been created, the Gare d’Orsay lost its function as a railway station. It got different purposes after, being a mailing centre and a home for a theatre company. It was also used as an auction site for a short while. It was in 1977 that the government decided to turn it into a museum. The reconstruction took place between 1980 and 1986 when it was officially opened. At the time of its inauguration, it had four flours with a lot of useable floor space. The Musée d'Orsay as it was subsequently named had over 2000 paintings, and over 200 objects ranging from sculptures and other antiquities. Some of these were derived from other museums in Paris at the time. Now, the museum boasts paintings from history’s most famous painters, impressions, decorative arts and photography. Though the collection is reminiscent of French culture, it originates from different regions of Europe and beyond.

The Musée d'Orsay is famous for its impressionist and post impressionist galleries which have the top floor dedicated to them. Works from the greatest impressionist painters in history are on display. These include The Birth of Venus from Alexandre Cabanel, L’Absinthe by Edgar Degas, Blue Water Lilies by Claude Monet, Starry Night Over the Rhone by Van Gogh, Whistler’s Mother by James Whistler and many other masterpieces from different painters. Besides the paintings, there are sculptures from early 19th century, displayed in the middle level of the museum. There is a big restaurant in the museum, as well as a small café on the top floor. From there, one can get a good view of Paris, though of course there are higher elevations in Paris where you can get a more panoramic image.

The design of the Musée d'Orsay is magnificent. One of its strengths is with the large atrium which permits a lot of natural light into the museum. As such, you get naturally illuminated paintings, and this helps enhance your appreciation for them. The parvis of the museum has six sculptural groups which are representative of the major continents in the universe. Other sculptural works are on display inside the museum.

The Musée d'Orsay is the 3rd most visited museums in Paris. It appears modest when compared with the Louvre, which is perhaps a thing that attracts most visitors as the Musée d'Orsay can be visited in one day, something not possible with the Louvre. The museum remains open everyday with the exception of Monday. Also, there is no charge for the first Sunday of every month. If you have an appreciation for art and sculptural figures, the Musée d'Orsay should be on your list of must-visit destinations in Paris.