Paris, France - August 13, 2016: The Pompidou Centre is a complex building in the Beaubourg area of the 4th arrondissement. It houses the Public Information Library and the museum of Modern art.

©Pics Factory/Shutterstock

Centre Pompidou

Top choice in Paris

Home to Europe's largest collection of modern and contemporary art, Centre Pompidou has amazed and delighted visitors ever since it opened in 1977, not just for its outstanding art collection but also for its radical architectural statement. Don't miss the spectacular Parisian panorama from the rooftop.

Rooftop of Centre Pompidou, Paris
Viewed from a distance, the Centre Pompidou’s primary-coloured, box-like form amid a sea of muted grey Parisian rooftops makes it look like a child’s Meccano set  ©Julien Fromentin/Getty Images

What you can see

The Musée National d’Art Moderne, France’s national collection of art dating from 1905 onwards, is the main draw; a fraction of its 100,000-plus pieces – including Fauvist, cubist, surrealist, pop art and contemporary works – is on display. It's located on the 4th and 5th floors.

The permanent collection changes every two years, but the basic layout generally stays the same. The 5th floor showcases artists active between 1905 and 1970 (give or take a decade). You'll find works by Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Kandinsky, Arbus, Warhol, Pollock and Rothko here.

The 4th floor focuses on more contemporary creations, roughly from the 1990s onward, with monumental paintings, installation pieces, sculpture and video taking centre stage. The focus here is on contemporary art, architecture and design.

Interior of the Centre Georges Pompidou library
Interior of the Centre Georges Pompidou library ©nikolpetr/Shutterstock

Entered from rue du Renard, the huge Bibliothèque Publique d’Information (public library) takes up part of the 1st and the entire 2nd and 3rd floors. The 6th floor has two galleries for temporary exhibitions (generally excellent) and restaurant Georges, with sweeping views of Paris. 

There are cinemas and more exhibition space on the ground floor and in the basement. West of the centre, place Georges Pompidou and the nearby pedestrian streets attract buskers, musicians, jugglers and mime artists. South of the centre, on place Igor Stravinsky, are fanciful mechanical fountains of skeletons, hearts treble clefs and a big pair of ruby-red lips, created by Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle.

Centre Pompidou for children

On the 1st floor, the Galerie des Enfants, open from 11am to 7pm Wednesday to Monday, is an exhibition area aimed at children aged two to 10, which encourages interactive experimentation; various workshops take place on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.

For teenagers aged 13 to 16, Studio 13/16, open 2pm to 6pm Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday on the lower ground floor, has visual, multimedia and performing art kits and opportunities to meet artists.

Exterior piping of the Centre Pompidou, an avant-garde complex housing the National Museum of Modern Art
The avant-garde complex is an artwork in itself ©Sailorr/Shutterstock

The building

Former French President Georges Pompidou wanted an ultra-contemporary artistic hub, and he got it: competition-winning architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers effectively designed the building inside out, with utilitarian features, such as plumbing, pipes, air vents and electrical cables, forming part of the external façade, freeing up the interior space for exhibitions and events. The building was renovated in 2020.

Parisian rooftops in the foreground with Centre Georges Pompidou in the background
The museum building designed by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano was inaugurated in 1977 ©Yann Guichaoua-Photos/Getty Images

Tickets and other practicalities

Centre Pompidou opens late every night (except Tuesday, when it’s closed), so head here around 5pm to avoid the daytime crowds. Admission to the museum is free on the first Sunday of each month. Rooftop entry is included in museum and exhibition admission; alternatively, buy a panorama ticket (€5) just for the roof. You'll still have to queue to get through security, but the entry process will go faster if you buy museum and events tickets online.

Audio-guided tours are downloadable on its website (you'll need your own smartphone and earphones). Guided tours in English take place at 2pm on Saturday and sometimes Sunday (€4.50; reserve online). 

The museum is wheelchair accessible with a step-free entry at the south side of building at the corner of Rue du Renard and Rue St Merri. There are elevators inside to get between floors.

The nearest metro station is Rambuteau.

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