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Exploring the Centre Pompidou

If it’s modern art in Paris that you’re looking for, you need look no further than the Georges Pompidou Center, known most commonly as the Centre Pompidou. Before you even set foot inside the building, you know you’re in store for a different kind of museum experience – the architecture may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s certainly unique.

Construction on the Centre Pompidou, named for former French Presient Georges Pompidou who governed in the early 1970s, was started in 1971 but not completed until 1977. The designers included two Italians, three Brits, and one Irishman – this team won the design competition in order to get the job. The idea behind the design is to put what’s normally hidden inside the structure of a building on the outside – things like the staircases, and the heating and cooling ducts – and make those ordinarily interior elements architecturally interesting. If you like the building, you think they accomplished this by doing things like painting pipe and duct work with bright colors. If you don’t like the building, you don’t think they accomplished anything but creating an eyesore. In fact, the Centre Pompidou’s detractors routinely call the building an “oil refinery.”

Plenty of people love the Centre Pompidou, however, both for its architectural boldness (especially when it was first constructed) and for what’s inside. There are several attractions here, which are:

  • National Museum of Modern Art
  • Public Information Library
  • Center for Industrial Design
  • Institute for Research and Coordination of Acoustics/Music
  • Pompidou Courtyard & Stravinsky Fountain

For most people, the two things that should be considered “don’t-miss” attractions are the National Museum of Modern Art and the courtyard outside the building, so those are the sights I’m going to focus on here. But if you’ve got a particular interest in industrial design or acoustics, know that you’ll be well-served by a visit to those attractions; and if you’re hunting for free WiFi or free internet access in Paris, know that the center’s library offers both.

National Museum of Modern Art
When you’ve completed your tours of the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay, you can make the jump into modern times with the artwork on display in the Pompidou Center. This museum holds more than 60,000 works of art in its permanent collection, covering the 20th century to the present day and a variety of media, although you’ll only see around 1,000 pieces on display at any given time. Some of the artists whose work you can see are Matisse, Picasso, Pollock, Warhol, Modigliani, Kandinsky, Miro, Brancusi, and Duchamp. You can learn more about exactly what’s in the collection on the museum’s website.

Pompidou Courtyard & Stravinsky Fountain
The courtyard in front of the Pompidou Center is one of those places you’ll be pleased to find if you’re trying to entertain kids – or if your inner child needs entertaining. You’ll often find street performers of many varieties plying their trade in front of the museum, and the Stravinsky fountain nearby is full of colorful sculptures that move. Best of all, enjoying the courtyard and fountain is totally free. And for another free perk, head up to the roof of the Centre Pompidou building for a nice view of the city of Paris.

Location: Place Georges Pompidou, 4th arrondissement, Paris 75004

How to Get There: Paris Metro stops Rambuteau, Hotel de Ville, or Les Halles; RER A stop Chatelet-Les-Halles; bus lines 38, 21, 29, 47, 58, 69, 70, 72, 74, 75, 76, 81, 85, 96

Admission: High Season rates – €12 adult, €9 reduced rate (ages 18-25), free admission for people under 18 & disabled people
Low Season – €10 adult, €8 reduced rate
Some other exhibits will cost extra

Hours: Wednesday-Monday 11:00am-9:00pm, last admission 8:00pm (closed Tuesdays and May 1)
The library is open Monday-Friday 12:00noon-10:00pm; Saturdays, Sundays & public holidays 11:00am-10:00pm

Good to Know: You can buy your tickets to the Pompidou Center in advance on the official website.
The Centre Pompidou’s English-language website can be found here, and the center’s library has its own website here (in French).

original photo locations, from top to bottom: refractedmoments, Omar Omar, and ricardo.martins