The Centre Pompidou is an eye-catching complex in the Beaubourg area of Paris’ 4th arrondissement. It's home to the National Museum of Modern Art (Musée National d'Art Moderne). The building most notably stands out among its surroundings with its overpowering industrial look.

Exemplifying the striking visual arts it houses within, the Centre Pompidou has an impressive, Insta-worthy appearance. As you approach it from Rue de Renard, the brightly coloured exterior pipes, ducts, and other features alluding to industrial chic wrapping the building come into view.

The same can be said as you admire its western side facing the main square, Place Georges Pompidou. Its steelwork facade screams high-tech architecture. It has an inside-out kind of look to it, thanks to the exposed frames barely concealing the 6 storeys of large column-free spaces. 

Centre Pompidou in Paris - one of the highlights of 11 Best Museums in Paris and 10 Best Views and Viewpoints of Paris (Read all about Paris here)

photo by Oh Paris (CC BY 2.0) modified

A brief history of The Centre Pompidou

Back in the 1960s, the city planned to move the National Museum of Modern Art (Musée National d'Art Moderne) as well as the historically significant Les Halles, Paris' central fresh food market. The food market was demolished in 1971, replaced by the modern Westfield Forum des Halles.

France's first Minister of Cultural Affairs, André Malraux, proposed his idea for a multicultural complex and Paris’ need for a big public library. President Charles de Gaulle announced the new site would be in the area known as Plateau Beaubourg. The project continued with the next presidencies.

Besides being the location for Paris’ new public library, Beaubourg would also develop into a centre for visual and contemporary arts. President Georges Pompidou commissioned the building and it was officially opened in early 1977 as The Centre Pompidou, honouring his name.

What are the highlights and features of the Centre Pompidou?

The Centre Pompidou owes its breathtaking, high-tech design to its architectural team: Richard Rogers, Su Rogers, Renzo Piano, and Gianfranco Franchini. The design was chosen by a panel of world-renowned architects among over 600 entries.

Its radical architecture quickly drew the world’s attention and it still is one of Paris’ most frequently visited modern cultural landmarks. In Piano’s own words, the centre is like a huge spaceship made of glass, steel and coloured tubing that landed unexpectedly in the heart of Paris.

Even so, beyond the avant-garde exteriors, the National Museum of Modern Art – among the world’s largest contemporary art museums, the public library, a music centre, and a hip rooftop bar and restaurant, all make for a complete cultural and sensory visit to The Centre Pompidou.

photo by Anton Lefterov (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

What’s to see at the National Museum of Modern Art?

Among the National Museum of Modern Art’s permanent and temporary exhibitions are the works of Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and other famous artists. A 2013 retrospective exhibition presenting the works of Salvador Dalí also broke the museum's daily attendance record at 7,364 people in a single day.

In line with the centre’s impressive architecture, you can find interesting exhibits on architecture and design at the museum. These include notable works by French industrial architects, designers, and urban planners such as Philippe Starck, Jean Nouvel, and Dominique Perrault.

Good to know about the Centre Pompidou in Paris

If you’re feeling peckish, you can consider heading up to the top floor of the Centre Pompidou to the Georges restaurant. The rooftop spot is a glitzy place to drink and dine while taking in the breathtaking Parisian skyline, dotted with the domes and spires of some of the French capital’s greatest monuments.

The Centre Pompidou is also known by its long and official name, Centre National d’Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou (Georges Pompidou National Art and Cultural Centre). It is right in the heart of Paris and you can reach it on a short stroll north of the city centre via Rue du Renard. You can book tickets online. Entry is free for visitors under 18.

Centre Pompidou in Paris

Location: 19 Rue Beaubourg, 75004 Paris, France

Open: Wednesday–Monday from 11 am to 10 pm (closed on Tuesdays)

Phone: +33 (0)1 44 78 12 33

Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveller