I’m pretty fortunate to live close to what some would consider one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The problem is that most of the time, when I’m in Paris, I’m usually there to run an errand. And when I’m running an errand, that leaves me little time to actually enjoy Paris. However, some last-minute unexpected days off of work gave me the idea to stay in Paris and spend some time playing tourist in the city. We found an inexpensive deal at the Atlantic Hotel (highly recommend, by the way), and that gave us the opportunity to visit some of the lesser-known museums of Paris: Musée Carnavalet, Musée Rodin and Hôtel de la Marine.
Tucked into the beautiful Le Marais district is the Musée Carnavalet. This museum is actually free to see the permanent collections, though timed tickets are recommended (reserve tickets here). The Musée Carnavalet, recently reopened in May of this year after 5 years of renovation, is dedicated to the history of Paris. Artifacts range from 6000+ year old canoes to modern day street signs.
The reason we were here was to see a temporary exhibition of one of my favorite photographers, Henri Cartier-Bresson. Cartier-Bresson was a street photographer who captured many key points of history from the 1930’s to the 1970’s. He believed in “The Decisive Moment”, which was the moment where everything visually comes together in an instant to properly express that significant event. As a longtime resident of Paris, this exhibition shows Paris throughout the decades through Cartier-Bresson’s lens. If you’re in Paris before the end of October 2021, I highly recommend this exhibit!
Although we enjoyed the Musée Carnavalet, the only thing that we didn’t like was that it was too crowded, despite their effort to keep crowds limited through timed tickets. That was why we really enjoyed the Musée Rodin during these crazy COVID times – although there were some indoor areas that were crowded, a large part of the museum is outdoors in the gardens, allowing for a lot more space. Auguste Rodin was a French sculptor who is often called the father of modern sculpture. This museum, dedicated to him, is located on the grounds of the Hôtel Biron, a prestigious 18th century mansion where Rodin lived as a tenant.
Hôtel de la Marine
I’ve walked by the Hôtel de la Marine plenty of times and never even realized it was there. And that was for very good reason – this building has been closed to the public for about 200 years and just recently opened in June of this year (2021). Hôtel de la Marine was built in the mid-1700’s to house the King’s furniture collection (basically, a glorified warehouse) and to house the the Royal Furniture Keeper (le Garde Meuble – yes that was actually a job). The Hôtel’s original purpose did not last very long, since in the late 1700’s, well… The French Revolution happened. The Royal Furniture Keeper was assassinated in a French prison and King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were put to death, right in front of this building, at the Place de la Révolution (now known as the Place de la Concorde. In 1798, the Navy took over the space and pretty much stayed there (with the exception of a brief Nazi occupation during World War II) until 2015.
One more thing to mention about this beautiful museum/building. They have an excellent audio tour, which is included in the price of admission. The audio tour only uses headphones, which automatically detect which room you’re in and start playing in crisp, surround sound. The longer you stay in a room, the more information and stories you get about it. It was probably one of the highest quality audio tours I’ve done. The website recommends buying timed tickets in advance, but we were able to walk right in and get in without a problem. It probably depends on when you go (we went on a Monday). But if you want to be sure to get in, definitely buy tickets online first.
I hope you enjoyed my tour of three of Paris’ lesser-known museums. If you have any recommendations for other Parisian museums that I should try out, feel free to drop them in the comments below.
Until next time,
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