If you’re looking for world’s largest collection of Claude Monet’s Impressionist masterpieces, Musée Marmottan Monet is the best museum in Paris to visit. In this post, we’ll share photos of the galleries, whether it’s worth your time and money, and a review of this relatively under-the-radar point of interest.
While I’m not sure calling it a hidden gem is apt, Musée Marmottan Monet is not nearly as popular as the high-profile museums in Paris. It currently has under 2,000 reviews on Google, a far cry from the 20,000+ reviews of Musee d’Orsay. This is likely due to its semi-suburban setting and the fact that it does not accept the Paris Museum Pass, and is not an indictment of Musée Marmottan Monet’s quality.
Quality isn’t really an issue: Musée Marmottan Monet is touted for its staggering collection of 130 paintings by Claude Monet, donated to the museum by his son. This is an impressive collection, to be sure, and it’s the main reason we visited Musée Marmottan Monet. However, it’s one of the two big reasons why we loved Musée Marmottan Monet and why we recommend it so highly…
Before why get to why you should visit Marmottan Monet Museum, let’s start with why you wouldn’t: location and cost. While the 11 euro admission is hardly astronomical in terms of art museums, it’s the fact that this museum doesn’t accept any of the various Paris museum passes that makes ‘cost’ an issue. You’ll actually have to pay out of pocket to visit.
Location is an odd one. It’s not really that far off the beaten path. You’re looking at a ~15 minute Metro ride from the Trocadero, or ~20 minute walk. We assume it’s less about the distance and more that the Monet Museum is away from the dense area of tourist attractions, and in the direction of the suburbs.
Both of these supposed issues are really no issue at all. There are several prominent points of interest in Paris that don’t accept the museum passes, so visit on one of your days that you aren’t using your pass. As for the supposed commute, 30 minutes round trip is nothing. There’s also the added upside of getting you away from the throngs of people in central Paris.
Another reason why you might be dissuaded from visiting is reading crowd-sourced reviews, many of which refer to Musée Marmottan Monet as “small.” While this is accurate, especially as compared to Paris’ flagship museums, we don’t see this as a problem. The Louvre is overwhelmingly large, exponentially more art than anyone should attempt to ‘consume’ in full week, much less a single afternoon.
By contrast, Musée Marmottan Monet is about the ideal size for an art museum from our perspective. It can be experienced fully in about 2 hours; less if you’re only concerned in the Monets, or more if you see it all and spend some time savoring the Monet gallery. This is perfectly digestible in a single visit, and not too large that it’s daunting and not too small that it feels underwhelming.
I don’t think it’s appropriate to compare Musée Marmottan Monet to the Louvre or Musee d’Orsay as they are very different types of museums, but for a first-timer with an interest in Impressionism, I think the Marmottan Monet Museum is every bit as good as those heavy-hitters. It definitely doesn’t have collections that are as formidable or the same degree of breadth, but I’d rank this in my top 3 for Paris museums.
In terms of the two halves of the Marmottan Monet Museum, they’re both in the name. There’s the obvious: Monet Museum. Then there’s the less clear: whatever “Marmottan” is.
It turns out that’s the name of the name of the family that purchased this former hunting lodge in 1882. After inheriting the premises from his father, Paul Marmottan moved into the lodge and expanded its collection of paintings, furniture, and other decorative arts.
Upon Paul Marmottan’s death, he bequeathed his entire art collection and the lodge to the French Academy of Fine Arts, which would go on to establish the museum.
Over the ensuing years, the museum has gone on to receive a staggering number of private collections, which you can read about in the museum’s official history. Most notable of these was from Michel Monet, second son of Claude Monet, putting the Monet in the museum’s name.
The result of building’s history and the series of donations before the Monet paintings is that the upper levels very much resemble a furnished mansion of an aristocratic family, rather than a straightforward art museum.
These rooms reminded me as much of the chateaux of the Loire Valley as they did the art museums of Paris. On the upper levels, Marmottan feels like a mashup between the two and the result is a very compelling experience. It’s like a “lived in” art museum.
Not only is this really pretty, but it’s much more engaging than a traditional art museum. You see pieces displayed how they might be in someone’s home (albeit someone really really rich…but it’s not like us commoners are displaying works by Impressionist masters), and each new room you enter engages you in a different way beyond just the art that’s on display.
I wouldn’t be surprised if some art scholar or academic argued that this is all ‘visual clutter’ or a ‘chaotic’ way of displaying art that distracts from the piece itself, but as casual visitors, we loved it. There were added layers of beauty to peel back, and each room was a treasure trove of detail.
These rooms feature an impressive collection of Napoleonic furnishings and range of art from French First Empire art. It’s not just Impressionism; it’s a relatively diverse line-up. My favorite gallery featured Berthe Morisot, which is also displayed in a more traditional manner.
It didn’t hurt that the Morisot gallery included a goat painting, but the body of her work on display was exquisite on the whole. With the exception of the ‘Illuminations and High Period’ exhibit (which is bleak and a tonal departure from the rest of the museum), we enjoyed it all. A lot.
I might add that unlike some places in France (*cough*Versailles*cough*) none of these interiors are over the top in ostentatiousness. They’re fancy but elegant. Settings that complement the art rather than overpowering it.
The upper levels act as a nice aperitif for the main course: the Monet gallery in the basement. I have to admit, this arrangement is sort of…different. It’s like the upper floors of Marmottan are meticulously curated and staged and, oh by the way, the world’s largest collection of Monet paintings is in a nondescript gallery in the basement.
The presentation is totally different, and between the location and the (lack of) prominence of the stairs leading to the Monet gallery, it feels almost like an afterthought. Yet, it works, I guess?
I shouldn’t say it totally works. The upper levels work on their own terms and the Monet basement display works on its own terms. There’s no real symbiosis or coherence between the two–it’s like you’re visiting two different places.
To be fair, I don’t know what a better approach would be. The furnished interiors upstairs work for the art they display, and Monet’s paintings are deserving of a more traditional gallery display with sterile walls and the viewer’s undivided attention.
As for the Monet gallery, it’s worth the price of admission alone. Far be it from me to critique Monet, but this is perfection. It’s my favorite gallery of any museum in Paris. I really don’t know what else to say. Even if you find nothing else in this glowing review to be compelling, this room should sell itself.
Ultimately, irrespective of whether Musée Marmottan Monet is a hidden gem, it’s definitely under-visited given what the treasure trove of diverse riches it offers. Selfishly, perhaps this is for the best. It is a relatively small museum that couldn’t absorb a fraction of the crowds something like the Louvre sees, and we rather enjoyed the feeling of having the place to ourselves. Nevertheless, it’s a real shame that this museum doesn’t receive more accolades, and that when it does, they’re predicated entirely upon the world’s largest collection of Monet paintings. That’s only half the story of this superlative museum, and one that should be considered a Paris must-do.
If you’re planning a trip to France, we recommend starting by consulting our Ultimate Guide to Paris, France to plan all aspects of our vacation. You should also check out our other posts about France for ideas on other places to visit!
Have you visited Marmottan Monet Museum in Paris? What did you think of the experience? Do you agree with us that it’s under-appreciated, or with others that it’s too small? Would you recommend it to a first-timer visiting France? Any thoughts or tips of your own to add? Does this Paris museum interest you? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!