Do you ever imagine what it would be like to go back in time? I do. I love reading about history and then travelling to the sites where that history actually happened. Once I’m there, I love imagining what it must have been like to watch history unfold all those years ago. It’s one of the many reasons why I love living in Paris. There are countless opportunities to do this in this city. With its hundreds of museums, monuments, and historic buildings, you can imagine you’re walking in the footsteps of history no matter where you are. Case in point. I recently paid a visit to the Musée Jacquemart-André, and from the moment I entered I was instantly transported to 19th century Paris. For this reason alone, this off the beaten path museum should be on everyone’s must see list when they visit Paris.
The Musée Jacquemart-André is located on the fashionable Boulevard Haussmann in the 8th arrondissement of Paris. It was originally built between 1869 and 1875 by Edouard André, an avid art enthusiast. So avid in fact, that he built his spacious mansion specifically to house his ever expanding art collection. In 1881, he married society painter Nélie Jacquemart, and together, the couple filled their home with masterpieces from around the world. When Nélie died in 1912, she bequeathed the entire collection to the Institut de France, and the Musée Jacquemart-André opened to the public the following year.
Some would say that the art collection alone is the main reason to visit the Musée Jacquemart-André, and I can’t say I disagree. The artwork on display is indeed magnificent and well worth the visit. However, even without the beautiful art that adorns its walls, I could have spent hours wandering the halls of this beautiful building. From the State Apartments with their retractable walls to the intimate bedrooms where Edouard and Nélie lived, every room was spectacularly beautiful.
Now, I will admit that I have spent more than my fair share of time admiring the spectacularly beautiful former residences of France’s upper classes. From Versailles to the Vaux le Vicomte, France has a lot of them. However, as spectacular as they are, these palaces very much feel like the museums they now are. I think this is what I found so alluring about the Musée Jacquemart-André. Yes, it is a museum, but it also still feels lived in. Used. Like its owners are out of town for the weekend and I’m just checking in to water their plants. It’s a difficult feeling to put into words, but I will say that for the several hours I spent there, I truly felt like I had gone back in time.
This is not to say that the museum was all homeliness and no wow factor. The architectural masterpiece of the building is the stunning Winter Garden with its incredible double staircase. The architect of the building, Henri Parent, was apparently so disappointed at coming in second in the contest to design the Garnier Opera House, that he set out to create a building that was equally impressive. All I can say is mission accompished. I could have sat in that room for hours.
If you have a chance to visit the Musée Jacquemart-André on your next trip to Paris, I cannot recommend it enough. Take time to admire the Rembrandts in the library. Sit and listen to the music wafting through the appropriately named Music Room. But most of all, take time to bask in the beauty of the Winter Garden and the grand staircase. It will be a trip back in time you won’t soon forget.
Visiting the Musée Jacquemart-André
The Musée Jacquemart-André is located at 158 Boulevard Haussmann. Closest metros are Saint-Augustin, Miromesnil or Saint-Philippe du Roule stations. The museum is open every day from 10am to 6pm.
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.