Coming in hot here, but Centre Pompidou might have the best views of Paris. That’s right, better than Montmartre, better than Montparnasse. Better than the Eiffel Tower (but that goes without saying). In the grand scheme of Haussman’s Paris, Centre Pompidou is a strangely avant-garde, colorful, inside out behemoth of a building that one could argue is almost as much of an eyesore as Montparnasse. Except, at least this one can be characterized as artsy and important to the trajectory of modern architecture history. Six stories of building guts clashing gloriously with the pristine façades around it.
just look at these views!!!
Centre Pompidou is a cultural center that includes the National Museum of Modern Art, an art library, music center and bookstore. Since opening in 1970, it’s become an embraced part of the Parisian art scene. The modern art museum picks up where the Louvre and Orsay leave off, after the Impressionists all the way up to the present, with the biggest collection of modern and contemporary art in Europe.
The center consists of six floors, plus a basement (with theater and performance venues). The main level (0) is a large forum open to the public, with ticketing booths to one side, the Book Shop to another and the gift boutique to another. It’s open to the upstairs (level 1) where there is a cafe, a couple exhibition galleries and a cinema venue. The public library occupies the entire level 2 and 3 (which also houses the Kandinsky research library), and a part of level 1.
Those who are here for the museum are directed straight up from the forum to the iconic escalators in the front to go up to the 4th and 5th levels where the museum’s main collection lives. The 6th floor is dedicated to special exhibitions and Le Georges Restaurant, with breathtaking views of the city.
The building in itself is a work of contemporary art. The colors of the structural components correspond to their purpose: blue for air flow, yellow for electricity, green for water, red for pedestrians. It defies what a building should look like, by having the inner workings of it on public display, like a living and breathing construction in the middle of the city.
The glass covered escalators (aka caterpillar) and the covered galleries that extend the width of the building offer panoramic views of the city, from Montmartre to the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame. As for the actual art, this is one of the premier collections in the world, with well known 20th century artists as well as up and coming contemporary artists. On top of the main collection, there is a well curated program of special exhibitions throughout the year, as well as events, screenings, performances and workshops rounding out the cultural experience.
Go here for: a generous dose of contemporary art, underrated views of the city, a rooftop lunch, books
Don’t miss: the whimsical Kandinsky fountain in a plaza to the south of the museum, and the 5th floor terrace fountain (accessible through the museum) with views towards the south of the city
Amount of time to spend: about 2-3 hours to a half day
When to come: any time, but weekdays are definitely less crowded
Getting here: take line 11 to Rambuteau for the closest station, also a short walk away from Hôtel de Ville (1, 11), and Châtelet-Les Halles (1, 4, 7, 11, 14, RER A, B)
Other things to note: