The Top 3 Asian Arts Museums in Paris

For visitors interested in the artistic traditions and cultural histories of China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam or Southeast Asia,  Paris is a secret treasure-trove of museums whose collections either partially or wholly dedicate themselves to arts from these nations. While these three key museums don't enjoy visits from millions of visitors each year like the Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay do, they remain essential in any full exploration of the French capital's cultural offering. These are rich collections located in quieter areas of the city rarely explored by tourists. Find our picks for the best among these collections, and plunge into fascinating and millennia-long artistic and cultural traditions. 

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    Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu, "Chie no Umie", 1832-1834, Musee Guimet.
    Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France (Hokusai au musée Guimet)/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

    Perhaps the most substantial and celebrated Asian art museum in Paris, the Musée Guimet (National Museum of Asian Arts) is an essential destination for any visitors fascinated with the history of these rich traditions. Its impressive permanent collection boasts some 19,000 works of art and artifacts from greater Asia, with dedicated collections to Japan, China, Korea, Southeast Asia, and even to the arts of the Himalayas.​​

    Meanwhile, well-curated temporary exhibits focus on lesser-known or less frequently considered aspects of Asian arts and culture, such as theatrical traditions. 

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    Large Buddha at Musée Cernuschi
    Daderot/Wikimedia Commons

    This free museum in Paris is one of the oldest municipal museums, having opened in 1898, and houses a remarkable collection of some 900 pieces of paintings, sculpture, and other artifacts from China, Japan, Vietnam, and Korea. Ancient bronzes such as the Buddha from Japan pictured here, delicate fine ceramics from China, funerary objects, and furnishings, and other stunning works await here. The rich Chinese collection offers a fascinating look at an artistic tradition stretching from the Neolithic period through numerous ancient dynasties through the 7th century A.D., while the Japanese collection focuses on decorative and graphic arts from "Nippon" traditions. While Korean and Vietnamese artistic traditions often get short shrift in many collections, meanwhile, the Cernuschi museum dedicates entire spaces to exploring the rich and distinctive heritage. 

    The museum is located in the posh western district of the 8th arrondissement, in close reach of the elegant Avenue des Champs-Elysees

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    Box and vase, late 19th-century China, at a temporary exhibit at the Musee Quai Branly.
    Jean-Pierre Dalbera/CC

    A recent addition to the Parisian arts landscape, the Musee du Quai Branly was in part the brainchild of former French President Jacques Chirac. As part of its massive (and controversial) permanent exhibition bringing visitors on a "tour" of artistic and cultural practices from the non-Western world, including Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas, the museum houses an impressive and substantial collection of arts from East Asia.

    Artifacts from the Miao and Dong ethnic minorities in China, a section on Buddhist art and cultural practices, and objects related to the art of Japanese stencil decorating are among only some of the many highlights on this eclectic itinerary. Temporary exhibits are also very worth an afternoon's visit.