Unusual Paris Museums and Galleries
Located (where else?) but in the Marais, the Musée Carnavalet is where you’ll find the history of Paris literally laid out before you. If you want a close look at the French Revolution and the history of Paris through the centuries (really up to 1800), this is the place to go.
Housed in two adjoining townhouses (the Hôtel Carnavalet, a Renaissance mansion built in 1545 and the Hôtel Le Peletier, built in the 17th century), you need a full afternoon to see everything. The museum retraces Parisian history from the Roman empire to essentially the end of the 17th century, with some later additions. There are some beautiful scale models of the city.
The Revolution section is one of the most interesting and includes models of guillotines and objects associated with the royal family’s final days. One room is devoted to Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette and their family’s last years of life as prisoners. You can see Louis’ shaving bowl, one of Marie’s son’s school exercise books, games her children played with, and final portraits painted of them in gaol. They even have Robespierre’s final letter (and Napoleon’s cradle!).
Entire rooms furnished with original decorations, furniture and works of art show the evolution of Parisian interiors from the reign of Henri IV beginning of the 17th century) to the 20th century. The beautiful Art Nouveau boutique Fouquet, designed by Mucha in 1901 has been recreated here. Another interesting room setting is Proust’s cork-lined room in which he wrote "À la Recherche du Temps Perdus" (‘A Remembrance of Things Past").
The museum also displays the belongings of Marquise de Sévigné, who lived in the Hôtel Carnavalet from 1677 to 1696. One of the greatest letter writers in history, her correspondence shed light on styles, fashions, opinions and much more about life in France at end of the 17th century, and this fascinating -and intimate – display gives you a real insight into her life and times, and should not be missed.
Tip: If it’s sunny and you have some time to spare, spend some time sitting in the small public garden behind the Museum, between Rue Payenne and Rue de Sévigné. It’s green and peaceful, and there are lots of sculptures, columns and big blocks of stone strewn about that give it a certain quiet charm.
23, rue de Sévigné 75003
Tél. : 01 44 59 58 58
Fax : 01 44 59 58 10
Website: Musee_Carnavalet (in French, partial English translation)
Next page : Musée Edith Piaf
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