The Orsay, from a Train Station to a Museum


ParisCultural HeritageCities

© CRT Ile-de-France/J. Sierpinski
© © CRT Ile-de-France/J. Sierpinski

Reading time: 0 minPublished on 4 January 2023

Hop aboard the culture train, next stop – Gare d’Orsay!

Once a railway station on the left bank of the Seine, the Gare d’Orsay was completed in 1900 as a home for electric trains running to south-west France until 1939.

Having been a parcel shipping centre during the war, and at other times a film set, the old station was transformed and opened as the Musée d’Orsay in 1986.

Today it houses the world’s largest collection of Impressionist paintings and is Paris’s most visited museum.

The Glory of the 19th Century

Designed to specialise in 19th century art the museum today is both airy and light, offering a central nave – where platforms once stood – covered by a restored glass platform roof with the original station clock still hanging proudly to remind travellers of the building’s past.

It's said that “the most important piece in the Musée d'Orsay is the museum itself"!

Impressionist Paradise

Where fans of the works of Manet, Degas, Monet, and Renoir come to bathe in their luminous and mood-driven pieces that reflect the life of the time, the museum brings impressionist artists’ snapshots of everyday life together under one roof.

Boasting a range of sculptures, photos and other creative achievements the Musée d’Orsay is the place to visit for an in-depth and varied look at the Impressionist Movement.

Renovations in 2011

In 2011, the museum underwent significant renovations, both to the building itself as well as its collections, to further strengthen its position as a specialist 19th century art museum.

New rooms and a space dedicated to Van Gogh (containing 24 pieces including some of the famous self-portraits) wereopened.

The highlight of the renovated museum? Without a doubt, the 5th floor, where the Impressionist Gallery overlooking Seine houses a dozen rooms with five distinct themes:

  • Origins of Impressionism
  • The first Impressionist exhibition (1874)
  • Painting Modern Paris
  • Impressionism around 1880
  • The sources of the 20th century: Monet and Cézanne after1900

The renovations also improved accessibility and comfort for visitors, while still preserving the station-like feel of the building.

On the ground floor, galleries nestle either side of the central nave area, dominated by the Laloux’s huge golden station clock. On the middle and upper levels, new rooms showcase permanent exhibitions as well as the many temporary exhibitions held throughout the year.

Don’t miss the Rodin area, which gathers together twenty of the French artist’s sculptures including Portes de l’Enfer (Gates of Hell) and bronze busts like L’Homme au nez cassé (the Man with the Broken Nose).



1 Rue de la Légion d'Honneur 75007 Paris


The magazine of the destination unravels an unexpected France that revisits tradition and cultivates creativity. A France far beyond what you can imagine…