Centre Pompidou (Paris): "The most avant-garde building in the world" is a citadel of 20th-century art, with exhibitions drawn from more than 40,000 works. Everything is here, from Calder's 1928 Josephine Baker (one of his earliest versions of the mobile) to a re-creation of Brancusi's Jazz Age studio.
Musée d'Orsay (Paris): The spidery glass-and-iron canopies of an abandoned railway station frame one of Europe's most thrilling museums. Devoted to 19th-century art, it contains paintings by most of the French Impressionists, and sculptures and decorative objects whose design forever changed the way Europe interpreted line, movement, and color.
Musée du Louvre (Paris): The Louvre's exterior is a triumph of grand French architecture, while its interior contains an embarrassment of artistic riches, with more paintings (around 300,000) than can be displayed at one time. The collection retains its dignity despite the thousands who traipse through the corridors every day, looking for the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. I. M. Pei's controversial Great Pyramid neatly offsets the grandeur of its Cour Carrée.
Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux (Bayeux, Normandy): This museum's star is a 900-year-old tapestry named in honor of medieval Queen Mathilda. Housed in a glass case, the Bayeux tapestry is a long band of linen embroidered with depictions of the war machine that sailed from Normandy to conquer England in 1066.
Musée Historique Lorrain (Nancy, Alsace-Lorraine): Few other French museums reflect a province as well as this one. Its collections include 16th-century engravings, 17th-century masterpieces by local painters, exhibits on Jewish history in eastern France, antique furniture, wrought iron, and domestic accessories.
Foundation Maeght (St-Paul-de-Vence, Côte d'Azur): Established as a showcase for modern art by collectors Aimé and Marguerite Maeght, this avant-garde museum features works by Giacometti, Chagall, Braque, Miró, Matisse, and Barbara Hepworth. The multilevel design by the architect José Luís Sert boasts glass walls with views of the Provence landscape.
Musée Fabre (Montpellier, Languedoc): This museum occupies a villa where Molière once presented some of his plays. Today it displays one of the worthiest collections of French, Italian, and Spanish paintings in the south of France.
Musée Toulouse-Lautrec (Albi, Languedoc): Henri Toulouse-Lautrec was born in Albi in 1864. Much to his family's horror, he moved to a scandalous area in Paris, where he created depictions of the Belle Epoque scene that are treasures today. Also on view are works by Degas, Bonnard, and Matisse.
Musée Ingres (Montauban, the Dordogne): This museum, in a 17th-century bishops' palace, was created in 1867 when Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (one of the most admired classicists since the Revolution) bequeathed to the city more than 4,000 drawings and paintings.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.