To the delight of art lovers (and perhaps night owls who have a penchant for wandering around museums after-hours), Paris hosts a Museum Night one night a year in May. Most of the city's major museums open their doors to the public late into the evening for this annual occasion. Best of all? It's almost entirely free.
Paris Museum Night, or La Nuit des Musées, usually falls on the third Saturday in May—the perfect time to be roaming the French capital's gorgeous streets. Make sure to take advantage of this fun, budget-friendly and culturally enriching event.
The Details: When is Museum Night in 2020?
In 2020, Museum Night falls on the evening of Saturday, May 16th. Most participating museums open at around sundown and close at around midnight, but be sure to check times for the museum you're interested in.
This popular event will feature almost all of the city's more than 150 museums open to the public for free. The full program is yet to be announced, but it's slated to include guided museum tours, performances and installations, concerts, lectures, film screenings, and even workshops for young participants. All of these events will be free of charge, too!
To see the full program for May 2020, see this page at the official website (in English).
Which Museums Will Be Participating This Year?
Most of the city's major museums participate consistently in this event, year after year. Big-ticket institutions in the capital that have been a part of Museum Night in the past include some of the following:
- Musée du Louvre
- Musée d'Orsay
- Centre Georges Pompidou (National Museum of Modern Art)
- Grand Palais
- Petit Palais
- Institut du Monde Arabe (Institute of the Arab World)
- Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (Modern Art Museum of the City of Paris)
- Musee des Arts et Metiers
Museum Night Tips
To really make the most of this exceptional night of free arts and culture, we recommend that you adapt one of two strategies:
The "Scholar's Approach": Concentrate on only one or two museums. Soak in their wonderful collections and spend time enjoying whatever free events may be offered, from film screenings to performances to guided tours of the permanent exhibits. This will allow you to really get a deeper sense of particular collections and institutions, and bask in a few excellent masterpieces without spreading yourself too thin.
The "Impressionistic Approach": Museum-hop through the night. Take in bits and pieces of art and happenings from several of the capital's cultural hotspots. This may feel a bit more superficial, but if you'd like to really get a sense of what Museum Night feels like across Paris, you'll be afforded some real treats. It'll also allow you to appreciate many different periods and themes—from the ancient and Baroque collections at the Louvre to the cutting-edge contemporary creations showcased at the Modern Art Museum of the City of Paris, to the weird world of science, industry, and modern inventions at the Musee des Arts et Metiers.
Pro Tip: Timing is Everything
Whichever of our two recommended strategies you opt for on the night, we strongly advise you to make your move either earlier in the evening or toward the end of the night in order to beat the crowds. Museums are likely to be the most crowded during the middle hours of this nocturnal event (as are metro cars). Going early might be a good strategy, especially for the collections and events you want to see most (assuming the events don't happen later). Then, if you want to stay out well into the night, you can more casually check out other museums and happenings.