By: Sarah Stone
Like any of the world’s greatest cities of history and culture, Paris is packed with museums from the famous to the unique and the quirky. No trip to Paris is complete, of course, without touring the Louvre, the largest art museum on the planet and a central city landmark. But for the best Paris experience, don’t limit yourself to just this single destination—read on to see our top picks for the best museums in Paris that aren’t the Louvre!
The name is misleading since the Petit Palais is a grand building that houses a vast collection dating all the way back to the Middle Ages to the Modern Art movement. The “Small Palace” was first built to be part of the 1900 Exposition, and it became a museum two years later. Today it’s considered a hidden gem even though it’s adjacent to Paris’ famous promenade, the Champs-Elysées. The building is a work of art itself with brilliant stained glass, colorful mosaics, and striking murals.
- Location: Avenue Winston Churchill
- When to visit: The museum is open from 10:00am to 6:00pm every day except Monday
Literally translated as the Museum of Arts and Crafts, this Paris museum is an eclectic collection reflecting pioneers in inventions and technological progress. With over 2,400 fascinating objects, Musée des Arts et Métiers is renowned as a “one-of-a-kind repository of scientific and technical knowledge.” Ironically, these examples of the evolution of modern technology are housed in a Medieval monastery. You’ll see some of the first planes to take flight, the original model of the Statue of Liberty (called Liberty Enlightening the World), and collections in seven scientific categories.
- Location: 60 Rue Réaumur
- When to visit: Visit the museum any day except Monday; opening hours are 10:00am to 6:00pm, with an extension to 9:30pm on Thursdays
Musée de la Magie (and the Musée des Automates)
Anyone fascinated by magic (and everyone else) will love the Musée de la Magie. This incredible museum is all about the art of magic from the 18th century to the present. Established in 1993, it houses seven rooms of magical objects to explore, from magical wands and hats to ancient items that chronicle the history of magicians. The museum also features ongoing shows for both children and adults. As a bonus, you can step into the Musée des Automates in the same place, where over 100 robots will keep you entertained!
- Location: 11 rue Saint-Paul
- When to visit: The museums are open Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 2:00pm to 7:00pm
English teacher Jacques Sirgent established this creepy museum by stocking it with his own private collection of weird objects obtained from mysterious sources like Montreuil flea markets, dark places on the web, and even graveyards. A teacher by day, Sirgent becomes a connoisseur of all things vampire by night. Adding to the spookiness, the Musée des Vampires et Monstres de l’Imaginaire is hidden away in a dark alley on the edge of the city near Porte des Lilas. Expect to see curiosities such as mummified cats and vampire protection kits. This is a private museum that offers reservations for guided tours and a dinner club.
- Location: 14 Rue Jules David
- When to visit: Via website booking
Perhaps the eeriest and most unusual museum of all, the catacombs are cold chambers with low ceilings and the bones of about six million Parisians stacked neatly below the ground. The bizarre sight has a reasonable yet chilling explanation: during the late 18th century, the city’s graveyards had to be gradually closed, posing a health risk spurring authorities to declare all remains had to be moved underground. They chose a site that was outside the city yet easily accessible, the old Tombe-Issoire quarries. First called the Paris Municipal Ossuary, the site eventually took on the name “Catacombs” after the ones in Rome.
- Location: 1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy
- When to visit: The catacombs are open from 10:00am to 8:30pm every day except Monday
You’ll be grateful for modern medicine at Paris’ Musée d’Histoire de la Médecine (Museum of the History of Modern Medicine), a museum that showcases bone saws and other terrifying sharp-edged tools once considered the latest technology in the medical profession. You’ll see the tool that fixed Louis XIV’s anal fistula, autopsy equipment used on Napoléon, and a table made from petrified human parts.
- Location: Rue de l’Ecole de Médecine
- When to visit: This fascinating museum is open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 2:00pm to 5:30pm
Which other places would you say are the best museums in Paris? Share your thoughts with the Frayed Passport community!