What to see at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris: timetables, prices and advice

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Joel Fulleda

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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The Musée d'Orsay brings together the works from three other Parisian museums and which are located in a specific time span, which goes from 1848 to 1914. The main character in this period and therefore, also in the museum, is the current of impressionism, whose greatest exponents are housed on the fifth floor of the structure, or an old restored railway, with their masterpieces known all over the world. Here what to see at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris: tips, prices and how to get there.


  1. What to see and how to visit Musée d'Orsay
  2. Self Portrait
  3. Breakfast on the grass
  4. The dance lesson
  5. Two Tahitian women
  6. Bal au Moulin de la Galette
  7. The circus
  8. The card players
  9. The origin of the world
  10. The poppies
  11. The church of Auvers
  12. Hours and prices
  13. Online tickets and guided tours
  14. User questions and comments

What to see and how to visit Musée d'Orsay

The Musée d'Orsay is basically arranged on five floors and is divided into two criteria: the first, chronological, which can be completed thanks to the presence of highlighted itineraries; the second, on the other hand, is monographic, which includes the presence of special rooms dedicated to each artist.
The entrance to the museum is organized in four entrances, each reserved for a specific type of user: entrance A for individual visitors; entrance B for groups of adults with reservations; entrance C for visitors with right of way and individual visitors with reservations; entrance D for school groups with reservations.
As soon as you enter, here's what to see at the Musée d'Orsay, or the ten works that you absolutely cannot miss.

1 - Self-portrait

Among the many self-portraits of the painter, this is undoubtedly the most significant, since it was made during the period of his stay in a mental hospital, where he also tried to take his own life: in fact, the artist's traits of impatience and restlessness are evident. .

  • creation date: 1889
  • Author: Vincent Van Gogh
  • Dimensions: 65x54 cm
  • Technology: oil painting on canvas

2 - Breakfast on the grass

A completely innovative painting, thanks to strong brushstrokes that contrast the warm tones with the cold ones, also moving the perspective outside the traditional schemes. This famous painting by Manet, among other things, was also judged vulgar, due to the representation of young naked girls, having breakfast in a park.
  • creation date1862-1863
  • Author: Edouard Manet - Claude Monet
  • Dimensions: 208x264 cm
  • Technology: oil painting on canvas

3 - The dance lesson

This painting depicts a dance class in a moment of pause, with young dancers as protagonists but, above all, a great choreographer of the time, Jules Perrot. Although it is a painting, this painting takes on the connotation of a photographic snapshot due to the immediacy of the painted moment.

  • creation date1873-1875
  • Author: Edgar Degas
  • Dimensions: 85x75 cm
  • Technology: oil painting on canvas

4 - Two Tahitian women

This work by Gauguin is the first that the author created in Polynesian land, during a trip to the search for the genuineness and simplicity of people. The main feature, which will accompany all the paintings of this genre, is the portrayal of women in daily actions, while they are absorbed in their thoughts. The features are deliberately marked and are accompanied by a contrast between bright colors and more subdued gradations.

  • creation date: 1891
  • Author: Paul Gauguin
  • Dimensions: 69 cm x 91,5 cm
  • Technology: oil painting on canvas

5 - Bal au Moulin de la Galette

Considered one of the absolute masterpieces of impressionism, this painting by Renoir represents a moment of popular life in Paris, a dance in a famous club obtained from the renovation of two windmills and located on the top of Montmartre. The atmosphere is joyful and dancing and although its elaboration took a long time, the author managed to capture the particular moment of celebration.

  • creation date: 1876
  • Author: Pierre-Auguste Renoir
  • Dimensions: 131 cm x 175 cm
  • Technology: oil painting on canvas

6 - The circus

The unfinished work of Seurat (the artist died before completing it), is the latest in a trilogy dedicated to worldly activities and night shows created by the author. The liveliness of the moment is given by the use of strong colors, such as red, yellow and blue, even if the color of natural light, or white, dominates the entire canvas. Finally, the contrast between curves and lines gives the painting a further atmosphere of festivity.

  • creation date: 1891
  • Author: Georges Seurat
  • Dimensions: 185,5 cm x 152,5 cm
  • Technology: oil painting on canvas

7 - The card players

Before finishing this work, Paul Cézanne made five different versions. In the latter presented at the Musée d'Orsay, the artist reproduces moments from a bistro that he knows well, since he himself was a regular customer. The entire subject of the painting is depicted in a square and the scene takes place in the center of the painting. The characters are also represented through geometric shapes and these researches will greatly influence the birth of Cubism.

  • creation date1890-1898
  • Author: Paul Cézanne
  • Dimensions: 47,5 cm x 54 cm
  • Technology: oil painting on canvas

8 - The origin of the world

Certainly the most discussed work among those exhibited at the Musée d'Orsay, The Origin of the World by Coubert represents the female genital organ in its rawest and most realistic form, in a combination of eros, femininity and fecundity. Despite being so highly allusive, the work does not fall into the category of pornographic paintings, thanks to the moderate use of colors and shadows.

  • creation date: 1866
  • Author: Gistave Coubert
  • Dimensions: 46 cm x 55 cm
  • Technology: oil painting on canvas

9 - The poppies

This work portrays a hot summer afternoon spent in a countryside of the Ile-de-France, made lively by the sparkling red of the poppies and the contrast of the blue of the sky. To populate the landscape, the artist's wife and child who, placed at the bottom, create a sensation of movement to the entire work.

  • creation date: 1873
  • Author: Claude Monet
  • Dimensions: 50cm x 65cm
  • Technology: oil painting on canvas

10 - The church of Auvers

As for the self-portrait, too this painting by Van Gogh reflects the last days of the artist's life and, especially in this work, his torment is more vivid than ever. The author, in fact, leaves for a moment the realism and the instant of impressionism, to paint a glimpse of life according to his feelings: the representation, in fact, is not realistic, but manifests his discomfort, through shapes and colors that seem to stagger.

  • creation date: 1890
  • Author: Vincent Van Gogh
  • Dimensions: 94 cm x 74 cm
  • Technology: oil painting on canvas

Hours and prices

  • open from Monday to Sunday, from 9:30 to 18:00; on Thursdays until 21pm. Closed every Monday, May 45st and December 1th. Groups are admitted only from Tuesday to Saturday, upon reservation
  • Best time to avoid queues: the days with the least turnout are estimated to be Wednesdays, Fridays and Thursdays starting at 18:00. The largest turnout, on the other hand, is recorded on Tuesdays and Sundays
  • € 14,00
  • Reductions: € 11,00 for carers of a child under 18 resident in the European Union, for a maximum of two carers per child
  • Free: for everyone every first Sunday of the month; for children under 18; for young people aged 18 to 25 resident in the European Union; for the handicapped with a companion; for the unemployed registered on the placement lists; for holders of the Paris Museum Pass; for holders of the Carte Blanche; for members of the Louvre Abu Dhabi; for members of the Societé des Amis du Musée d'Orsay or American Friends of the Musée d'Orsay association.
  • Combined ticket with the Orangerie museum: € 18,00
  • Combined ticket with the Rodin museum: € 21,00

Online tickets and guided tours

Useful tips for visiting the attraction

  1. Priority ticket: sometimes waiting times can exceed one hour so, to avoid endless queues, buy the priority ticket and enter entrance C without the line.
  2. Purchase the Paris Museum Pass: with this card you can visit several museums and enter the Musée d'Orsay for free - buy online
  3. Don't throw away your ticket: in the eight days following your entry, you can use the ticket to receive a reduction for the purchase of a ticket for the Gustave Moreau National Museum; for the purchase of a ticket for the Palais Garnier (National Opera of Paris); for the purchase of a ticket for the Jean-Jacques Henner National Museum.
  4. Watch out for restrictions: following the terrorist attacks in Paris, security checks have become tighter. In fact, it is not possible to introduce backpacks and bags with dimensions greater than 60x40 cm.
  5. Minimum time: the visiting time we recommend you dedicate to visiting the museum is approximately 3 hours.

Where is it and how to get there

  • On foot: overlooking the Seine, the Orsay museum is located in the Saint Germain des Prés district - Get directions
  • By bus: reachable with lines 24, 63, 68, 69, 73, 83, 84, 94
  • By metro: from Solférino station, line 12
  • RER: from the Musée d'Orsay station, line C

Historical notes and curiosities: what to know in brief

The Orsay Museum owes its name to the Gare d'Orsay railway station which has hosted it since 1 December 1986 and was created mainly to exhibit works ranging from 1848 (beginning of the Second Republic) to 1914 (beginning of the Great War).
The favorite style housed within the museum is undoubtedly impressionism and post-impressionism, whose works have conferred fame and prestige on the museum itself, but important galleries are also reserved for sculptures, such as those dedicated to Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Goustave Coubert.
For the organization of the interior spaces, the Italian architect Gae Aulenti was also involved, who strongly wanted a large exhibition area, to leave the visitor more freedom of movement.

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