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By Karen Nikos-Rose on July 27, 2020

As a consolation for lack of in-person travel, this summer the Arts Blog will take you on a global tour of museums, monuments, and other locales from the comfort of your own home. This week’s stop: Paris, France. Enjoy. It’s free! (Which is more than you can say for those trips you had to cancel this summer because of COVID-19 restrictions). 

By Leigh Houck, UC Davis Media Relations Intern

If you missed our London layover, you can catch that here. We went to museums and the Queen’s digs on that trip. The weather in Paris is perfect right now with temperatures in the 70s and 80s (Fahrenheit), so we thought we'd hop around the city to some of the most famous art locales. Note that you may have to update your software to watch some videos.

Louvre Museum

The Louvre Museum is among the most famous art museums in the world, of course. However, you don’t need a ticket to experience it for yourself. The Louvre website offers virtual tours. That means you don’t have to spend half a summer day waiting for a mere glimpse of the Mona Lisa behind throngs of tourists. (You can see her on their home page, along with various other famous works here.) Go get a look at other exhibitions you missed last time, such as Egyptian antiquities. (You didn’t see that one last time, did you?). I highly recommend it. 

Mona Lisa image screenshot
A Louvre screen shot.
  • Choose between History of the Louvre and Egyptian Antiquities and embark on a guided virtual tour here. Use your mouse to navigate the museum. Hover your mouse over a work of art, and if a question mark appears, you can click to learn more about its history. 

Musée d’Orsay

Located in the center of Paris on the banks of the Seine the Musée d’Orsay houses artworks from masters like Cezanne and Van Gogh. The history of the museum is quite unusual. The museum was installed in the former Orsay railway station, built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. So the building itself could be seen as the first "work of art" in the Musée d'Orsay, which displays collections of art from the period 1848 to 1914. I admit, it’s actually my favorite Paris museum. 

Orsay clock
The grand clock dominates the main gallery of Orsay, which was once a train station. (Karen Nikos-Rose/Photo)
  • Wander the museum virtually via Google Arts & Culture museum view here. You can even zoom in and out to get a better look at each artwork. 
  • The official website of Musée d’Orsay hosts an archive of past exhibitions. You can read about each exhibition and watch short video clips from curators here

Musée de l’Orangerie 

The Musée de l’Orangerie is located just across the River Seine from the Musée d’Orsay. Many people miss this one on a quick trip to Paris, but it’s really a must-see. You don’t even need to cross the Pont de la Concorde bridge to get there when you can visit online. 

  • Use museum view on Google Arts & Culture to explore the museum’s collection of paintings from Monet’s famous Water Lilies series here. You may have seen them when they were at the deYoung. But you’re in Paris. See them at their point of origin, for goodness sakes. You’ll be transported immediately.  Watch a video on the museum’s recent related virtual reality experience “The Water Lily Obsession” here
  • Take a walk through the museum here

Notre Dame Cathedral

In addition to being a place of worship, the centuries-old Notre Dame cathedral is a gothic masterpiece. While it remains closed to visitors after a devastating fire in 2019, you can still see it virtually. Now, that’s a bonus. No construction crews either.

  • Samsung XR offers a virtual tour of the Notre Dame cathedral, along with audio providing information. As you take the tour, click and drag your cursor to get a 360-degree view around you. You learn here that reportedly the cathedral gets more visitors than the Eiffel Tower.
  • You can also take a self guided virtual tour here

Eiffel Tower

Finally, no trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower reopened Thursday, June 25, after its longest closure since World War II. But you don’t have to fly to Paris to appreciate the design of this 130-year-old monument. 

  • The official Eiffel Tower website offers a virtual way to explore the different levels of the architectural wonder, from the esplanade to the very top, without having to stand in any lines. Explore here

Versaille: The palace of former French royalty

As long as you are traveling virtually, might as well head out to the palace to end all palaces at Versailles. There's a virtual tour here. The History Channel tells a good story of its opulence and grandeur, and the story of its creator, Louis XIV — "the royal responsible for turning what had once been a small royal hunting lodge into the most extravagant court that Europe had ever known."