Paris is world-famous for its spectacular art museums, such as the Louvre (everything from pre-historic to Egyptian to Greek and Roman to Renaissance), the Musée D’Orsay (impressionist), and the Centre Pompidou (modern and contemporary). But there are several lesser-known museums that are perfect places to spend a drizzly day when do you don’t think you can handle one more masterpiece.
Guide to Paris Museum Scene ~
This museum in Paris’ Marais district depicts the city’s history from medieval times through the Belle Epoque. Rather than being room after room of dull explanation of historical events, the Musée Carnavalet is home to fascinating artifacts from each period. Some of my favorites are from the French Revolution—including the locks of Marie Antoinette and her childrens’ hair, a gift to the recently deposed King Louis XVI.
Upstairs, there is a recreation of an early-19th-century watering hole, with all the delightful Art Deco touches. There are several paintings, to be sure, but the museum puts them in context with historical events. And the best part about the Carnavalet? It’s FREE!
Also in the Marais, the Museum of Hunting and Nature is a surprisingly twee assortment of everything having to with animals and, er, hunting them. If you find it impossible to “please do not touch,” this is the museum for you.
Throughout the permanent exhibit there are drawers to be pulled and field glasses to be gazed through and birdcall buttons to be pushed. Just don’t sit on the antique chairs—there are thistles on them to warn you away. (Like I said. Twee.)
You can find several curio cabinets, each devoted to a single beast—complete with drawings, examples of the food it eats, and even its merde. A “trophy room” displays the mounted head of several fauna from forest and jungle and the unicorn room features a teddy bear creepily preserved in a bell jar.
Located on the Right Bank in the same former military hospital as Napoleon’s tomb, the Army Museum is a good way to inject some testosterone into your frilly Paris adventure.
This museum hosts every kind of body armor you could think of. There’s even a suit of armor with a carved silver mustache on the face. Awesome. Take a gander at the ancient weaponry Mother France used to ensure her everlasting freedom and prosperity, and marvel at the craftsmanship that went into preparing each piece. While you’re there, you may as well pop in next-door to see Napoleon’s out-of-proportion shrine to himself.
Speaking of Napoleon… If you’re not going to be able to make the daytrip to Versailles but still want to get your fix of sparkly grandeur, visit the Louvre apartments of the big guy’s nephew, Napoleon III.
With red velvet furniture, golden everything and chandeliers as far as the eye can see, a jaunt in here can make you feel like a fancy noble dripping with jewels in late 1800s Paris.
Make sure to take a peek at the diamond-encrusted crown jewels as you enter the apartment, which might just blind you with their sparkle motion.
Musée D’Orsay, home to works by Van Gogh, Dégas, Seurat, Manet, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rodin, Renoir, and others.
Nina Petersen-Perlman has visited Paris on 13 different occasions, eight of which were during the last year when she was an English teaching assistant in a small town in Burgundy.