The Petit Palais is an often-overlooked attraction in Paris. Travelers are charmed by the Champs-Elysées, awed by the Arc de Triomphe, seduced by the Seine river, and gung-ho about the Grand Palais. Somehow the Grand Palais’ little sister gets lost in the mix of all the incredible sites clumped into one neighborhood.
But I’m here to tell you: don’t skip the Petit Palais, and here’s why:
1. It’s free.
Le Petit Palais isn’t just a unique and pretty building, it’s not just a historical monument… it’s also the Museum of Fine Arts of Paris (Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris). And seeing the impressive permanent collection inside is 100% free.
Temporary exhibits (such as the Paris 1900 or Baccarat Crystal exhibits in 2014) range from 5-11 euros.
2. It’s small and accessible.
You won’t spend more than an hour in the Petit Palais (and sometimes I’m in and out in 20 minutes, just on the ground floor – it depends if you want to see the temporary exhibits, or just the permanent collection). That’s a nice respite after all-day activities like the Louvre or Versailles. All the same, the Petit Palais collection has some impressive pieces by the likes of Rembrandt, Cezanne, Monet, Degas, Delacroix, Manet, Renoir, Pissarro, Rodin, Guimard, Toulouse-Lautrec, and more. That’s quite a resume!
3. It’s got coffee, with a view.
The Petit Palais building itself has a semi-circle column-lined courtyard that is impressive in its own right. At the back of the courtyard is a lovely Parisian café (with both indoor and coveted outdoor seating). Need a pick-me-up after some serious shopping on the Champs-Elysées, or endless walking on the Seine River? Make this your go to café.
4. It’s got history.
Like its sister palace the Grand Palais, le Petit Palais was built for Paris’ Exposition Universelle in the year 1900, and became a museum in 1902. Designed in the beaux-arts style by famous architect Charles Girault, it’s meant to be lit by natural light only… this is evident when you walk in and see the huge windows up to the high ceilings and transparent domes. The Petit Palais is so wondrous it’s even been imitated around the world, for example the fine arts museum in Santiago, Chili.
5. It’s not crowded.
This bit is pretty self-explanatory… There aren’t a lot of advertisements on the Petit Palais, and many travelers don’t know that it’s anything beyond just another pretty building in Paris. What a shame, to miss this unique gem, right in a prime neighborhood of the City of Light!
6. It’s equipped.
Two words for you here, very important ones in Paris: Free. Bathroom.
7.It’s your moment of zen.
No crowds, relaxing courtyard, beautiful high ceilings, lots of white and light… This is one of my favorite zen addresses in Paris. So when you need a moment of relief from the hustle and bustle of the Champs-Elysées, pop in here for a look around, a coffee, or heck even just a bathroom break!
Le Petit Palais
Avenue Winston Churchill 75008 Paris
Metro : Champs-Elysées Clemenceau, Concorde
Open : Tu-Su 10am-6pm