Bonjour. I am Lindy I have lived in the beautiful city of Paris since 2009, and I would like to share with you my personal top 10 things to do if you are visiting Paris on a budget, or just if you want to get away from the madding crowd at the Eiffel tower!
1 - THE RODIN MUSEUM
Tucked away in the nondescript ‘Rue de Varenne’ in the shadow of the imposing ‘Hotel des Invalides’ lies my personal favourite, the ‘Hotel Biron’, (named after a former owner, The Marechal de Biron, as war hero from the battle of Fontenoy) a veritable little gem of an 18th chateau standing in its own grounds and home since 1919 to ‘The Rodin museum’.
Constructed in the Rococo style between 1729-1730 by ‘Jean Aubert’, the architect who went on to build the magnificent chateau of ‘Chantilly’ to the north west of Paris, the chateau is worth a visit in its own right. It is elegant and understated, the south facing ‘salons’ being luminous and airy, with large French windows that overlook the lovely gardens.
The Hotel Biron has played host to a number of famous residents – notably the writer, cartoonist and film maker Jean Cocteau, the painter Matisse, and of course Rodin himself, who occupied the exquisite south facing rooms on the ground floor and with the light streaming in through the large French windows it is easy to imagine the artist himself at work on a new masterpiece, but in fact he continued to live and work at ‘Meudon’ and used this Paris apartment for soirees with his many friends from the world of art and literature.
In 1911 the state took possession of the property and the idea of transforming it into ‘The Rodin museum’ arose. Rodin donated all of his sculptures and drawings, along with their rights, to the state in 1916, but he sadly died in 1917, before seeing the realisation of his wonderful and generous gift to the nation.
The museum now houses not only a large collection of sculptures and sketches by Francois-Auguste Rodin himself, ranging from the sheer simplistic beauty of ‘The Danaide’, ‘The Cathedral’, ‘The Secret’ and the famous ‘Kiss’ to the eroticism of ‘The messenger of the Gods’, and the tortured suffering and despondence of ‘The gates of Hell’ But is also home to works by Camille Claudel, his former student, muse and lover, who tragically spent the last 30 years of her life in an asylum and produced my personal favourite sculpture above even those of Rodin – ‘The Waltz’, a tiny masterpiece in bronze, standing less than a meter high, portraying the power, tenderness and beauty of the human form, and is a marvel to view from each and every 360 degree angle.
The best news for those travelling on a budget, is that entrance fee just for the gardens is only 2 euro during high season, and 1 euro during low season, and it is here that the major grand works, such as the famous ‘Thinker’ and ‘The Gates of Hell’ are found.
The gardens are a delight in themselves and a wonderful place to find sanctuary away from the hot sun and crowds during the high season in July and August. There are shaded copses furnished with wooden loungers on which to relax with a book or enjoy a picnic. There is a wooded area eerily populated by a variety of grim Biblical figures, a lovely fountain, and a great photo opportunity of the golden dome of ‘Les Invalides’ and the Eiffel Tower, both seen from the courtyard at the front of the chateau. And, of course, ‘The Thinker’ tantalisingly peeking from a behind a maze of giant topiary bushes.
All this and a nice little cafeteria with both indoor and outdoor seating, serving reasonably priced sandwiches, pasta salads, quiches and a very tempting selection of patisseries. Teas coffee and you can even enjoy a chilled glass of wine! There is also ice cream and soft drinks on sale from a kiosk.
The museum has ample well maintained toilet facilities both in the garden and near to the main entrance, plus an interesting gift shop where you can buy books, post cards etc, and replicas of some of the sculptures.
The museum is a few of 100 meters metro station ‘Varenne’ on line 13. (on leaving the metro turn in direction of the dome of Les Invalides keeping on the opposite side of the road, cross at the pedestrian crossing near the cafe, and the museum entrance is almost opposite at 79 Rue Varenne)
The museum is open every day except Mondays*.
Opening times are (correct at time of publication):-
10am – 5.45pm (last ticket sold at 5.15pm)
Late night opening Wednesday until 8.45pm
Early closing 17-24 December at 5pm. (last tickets sold at 4.15pm)
The museum is closed 25 December, 1st January and 1st May.
Prices (correct at time of publication):-
9 euro – House and gardens
1 euro October- 11 March, 2 euro 12 March-September – Gardens only
7 euro – reduced rate for visitors from non EU countries aged 18-25
4.50 – Persons accompanying a disabled visitor
Disabled visitors, young people under 18 from non EU countries and young people under 25 from EU countries are admitted free.
Audio guides in English are available for 6 euro with various concessions.