There’s nothing old hat about Paris museums, as these five recently reopened treasures prove.
The Rodin Museum, which reopened in November 2015 after a three-year renovation, feels as intimate as a home, because that’s what it once was. Auguste Rodin, one of the fathers of modern sculpture, lived in the mansion, L’Hôtel Biron from 1908 until his death in 1917. The museum offers a portrait of his life – as novice, lover (don’t miss the room devoted to sculptor Camille Claudel), working artist and master. The updates, which saw paintings and antiquities from Rodin’s own collection added, also repaired the parquetry flooring worn out by 700,000 visitors per year and introduced a softer colour palette. Its charm, manageable size and beautiful garden replete with works including Balzac, The Burghers of Calais and The Thinker make the museum one of the city’s most popular sites, so go early (or at lunch time) to beat the queues.
77 rue de Varenne, 75007
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Le Musée de l’Homme
What is a human? A hunter, farmer, surgeon, thinker, innovator? To answer this question, the Museum of Man, which reopened in late 2015 after a six-year, AU$133 million makeover, takes the visitor on a journey through mankind’s origins, evolution and society. Among the fascinating exhibits are the diminutive 3.2-million-year-old Lucy, philosopher René Descartes’ skull, and a wall of languages – pull a tongue to hear a sample of, for example, a Papua New Guinean dialect only spoken by eight people. The design is involving, interactive and engaging for adults and kids alike. Another bonus is a postcard-worthy view of the Eiffel Tower from the terrace of Café de l’Homme.
17 place du Trocadéro, 75016
Musée Picasso Paris
Curious to glimpse a different side of Pablo Picasso? The Musée Picasso Paris, in the heart of the vibrant Marais district, is turning its attention to a lesser-known aspect of the artist’s work with the show Picasso. Sculptures (until 18 September 2016). And it’s not just the iconic artwork that attracts visitors: the building itself is something to behold. The permanent collection of more than 5000 works has been installed in the 17th-century Hôtel Salé (so-named because its first owner was a salt-tax collector for the king) since 1985 but an overhaul that took place between 2009 to 2014 opened up its spaces, improved visitor flow and restored the grand staircase.
5 rue de Thorigny, 75003
Palais Galliera (Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris)
It’s fitting that Paris’s fashion museum should be housed in the elegant Palais Galliera, the neo-Renaissance interiors of which have recently been restored to their 19th-century glory. Since the reopening in 2013, beautifully edited temporary exhibitions have showcased the couture houses of Lanvin and Alaïa as well as 1950s fashions and the Belle Époque collection of Élisabeth, Countess Greffulhe. Until October 2016 Anatomie d’une Collection, which traces the depth of the museum’s vast permanent collection in about 100 pieces, from a corset worn by Marie-Antoinette to Tilda Swinton’s pyjama-style eveningwear, is the must-see.
10 avenue Pierre-1er-de-Serbie, 75116
Galerie de Minéralogie et de Géologie
This gallery rocks, literally. From giant crystals weighing up to three tonnes and meteorite fragments that are as old as the sun (roughly 4.3 billion years) to gems, pigments and royal jewellery, this museum opens up the oddities, precision and beauty of the mineral world. The gallery is part of the Natural History Museum complex within the Jardin des Plantes, on the edge of the Latin Quarter, which also includes soaring glasshouses and a small zoo. The regular open-air photography exhibitions are always worth a wander, too.
36 rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 75005
Image: Galerie de Minéralogie et de Géologie © MNHN - Bernard Faye