A Complete Guide to Guimet Museum, Paris


I arrived in Paris on a rainy afternoon.

Prior to my arrival in the city, I had anticipated a sunny spring contrasting with Durham. Regrettably, the forecast indicates that my four-day visit will be accompanied by continuous showers. Despite catching glimpses of the clear sky of Paris between rain-breaks, the predominant impression left on me by the city streets was one of blue, blue, and more blue.  However, the rainfall failed to dampen my enthusiasm for exploration as a devoted museum lover. In addition to visiting the renowned Louvre, I also had the opportunity to discover the Guimet Museum on a cloudy morning.

Climbing up the stairs from Iéna metro station’s second exit, Guimet Museum is located right in front of you. Exiting from the third exit, I found myself disoriented by the traffic circle and had to navigate an additional three crosswalks before finally reaching the domed building. Huge and colourful posters covered its cylindrical body, making it quite outstanding compared to the surrounding beige brick buildings. Initially underwhelmed by its appearance, my scepticism was soon dispelled as I encountered the museum’s impressive collection of East Asian art.

The museum has five floors. On the ground floor, there’s a cafeteria and resting areas, while floors 1 to 4 have exhibitions arranged by region. As you walk in, you’ll see a huge Buddha head at the centre of the exhibition, surrounded by smaller but vivid full Buddha statues that give tourists a glimpse into Southeast Asian religious culture. Moving out from the central hall on the 1st floor are religious statues made of stone and wood from all over Southeast Asia, mostly from Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam. The most striking piece is definitely the giant Buddha head in the middle of the floor – it’s carved with the same face on all four sides. Standing beneath it makes you feel like you’re surrounded by humid air that takes you back to its origins.

The 2nd floor houses Buddha collections from East Asia. I was drawn to a Japanese Buddha statue. Before seeing this one, I had noticed that craftsmen tend to make Buddhas look local – for example, those from India or Central Asia often have curly hair, reflecting regional beauty standards. This idea was confirmed when I saw the Japanese Buddha statue because it looked just like a Japanese doll. Its thin eyebrows and upturned eyes reminded me of those smiling ningyo dolls.

The third floor was dedicated to special exhibitions, and I took the opportunity to visit an art gallery showcasing the works of a Chinese artist who had resided in France. However, it is a shame that I couldn’t recall his name.

On the fourth floor, I finally encountered the expected East Asian collections. The floor was organised into three distinct sections dedicated to China, Japan, and Korea, showcasing a diverse array of paintings, furniture, and ornaments. Walking through the exhibition hall felt like a journey through these three countries. The most striking piece I encountered was a model of an ivory mansion labelled “King of Fen Yang,” resembling an artisanal mansion. However, its pale colour gave it an eerie quality reminiscent of a haunted house due to its association with funeral and death in traditional Chinese culture. Additionally, there were numerous charming animal figurines displayed behind glasses. One that stood out was a simple and abstract white tiger ornament which may have been of Korean origin.

Walking through the exhibition hall felt like a journey through these three countries

It took me nearly five hours to walk around the whole place. Unfortunately, except a few astonishing exhibits that have an English introduction, all guides are in French. So it was hard to learn about the story behind many wonderful works.

As I walked out of the front door, the rain was falling again. It finally feels like Paris when my coat gets wet with raindrops.

I would say Guimet is a perfect spot to visit on a rainy day in Paris. When you find you have been to all the landmarks in Paris but have plenty of time left, nothing better than walking into a museum that is free of entry for students, including those from the UK.


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