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11 February 2014

Paris Museums Minus the Crowds 

The legendary museums of Paris attract crowds from around the globe, which often leaves visitors yearning for more elbow room.

Evidence of this emerged in February, when the Louvre announced it would no longer offer free admission on the first Sunday of the month during the vacation season from April to September. That freebie had become so popular among international tourists that the museum experienced "hyper attendance" of nearly 40,000 visitors on some Sundays.

Fortunately, Paris is home to many captivating museums – 175 by one estimate – that draw much smaller crowds. A few of the must-see museums are within a couple of kilometers of each other.

For the structurally minded, the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine offers a look at how the art and science of architecture evolved in France over more than 1,000 years. The museum features scale replicas of medieval, Gothic and Renaissance cathedrals and sacred decorations, and you can see the Eiffel Tower from one of its windows.

Nearby is the Musée National des Arts Asiatiques-Guimet, which the New York Times called "the most luscious overlooked museum in Paris." Émile Guimet, a French industrialist, built the structure in 1889. Today it is packed with Asian art, including pieces from the famed Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia. Rooms hosting the permanent collection get the fewest visitors but often have the most fascinating artifacts.

Those who crave exposure to fine art of the 20th century will want to visit the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, which features classic works by Picasso, Matisse, Braque and many more. And the neighboring Palais de Tokyo offers the latest cutting-edge art for those with an adventurous spirit.

These are just a few examples of why museums are integral to the ecosystem of Paris, and many of the best can be enjoyed in sublime solitude.