Unusual Museums to visit in Paris
Paris is a top destination for museum-goers and lovers. It is host to over 70 museums, including world-renowned locations like the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and the Pompidou Centre. Known as ‘The Museum City’, it’s no surprise that Paris’s museums cover a number of topics and niches, from modern art and history to perfume and eroticism. If you’re in Paris and want to experience attractions off the beaten path, read on.
Now a top attraction, the Catacombes de Paris are a network of underground ossuaries. The Catacombs date back to 1786 when cemeteries in Paris were either overflowing or falling apart. To combat this, remains were transferred from cemeteries to an open mine shaft where they were almost forgotten. This holding space became a popular location for hosting concerts and events in the nineteenth century, and as a result, was opened to the public in 1874. Packed with years of history, the underground museum holds over six million bones and is not for the faint of heart. The stories of the past are told through decoratively stacked bones, and tight original corridors. Paris is known for its cemeteries, and the Catacombs offer an unusual and interesting look into the city’s past.
2. Paris Sewer Museum
If claustrophobia hasn’t hit after the Catacombs, the Paris Sewer Museum is another underground “path” into Paris’s past and current culture. When visiting the city, you’ll definitely notice a number of sewers draining onto the streets. Tours of the Parisian sewers began in 1889 when guests explored by boats and wagons. Now visitors (and fans of Les Misérables) can explore this 2100-kilometre labyrinth and peep into the engineering, workings, and layout of this historical network.
3. Paris Vampire Museum
Les Musee des Vampires is the first and only in the world of its kind, run by vampirologist and Bram Stoker translator Jacques Sirgent. The museum sits just outside of Paris near Porte des Lilas, catering to fans of vampires, mythology and folklore. The appropriately-decorated one-room museum and gothic-themed garden are filled with odd objects and items collected by the owner, which can be enjoyed privately through advanced bookings.
4. 59 Rivoli
Art lovers in Paris have an array of impressive museums to visit and works to see by influential artists such as Dali, Picasso and Monet. However, if you’re in the mood for something more local and unexpected head to 59 Rivoli. Its bold design makes it unmissable, even though the building sits on a busy commercial street a few blocks from the Louvre. It’s not quite a gallery and not entirely a studio, but local art occupies every wall and corner.
The abandoned space, nicknamed ‘Aftersquat,’ was founded by three artists in 1999. The artists took advantage of the space as a home and studio, successfully overcoming several eviction attempts. They remained as squatters in the building while creating art pieces, cleverly known as ‘squart’. No longer a home, the building now houses twenty permanent and ten temporary artists. Visitors can explore the rooms and art at their leisure and even speak with some of the resident artists, all at no cost.
5. Carnival Museum
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If you love Paris’s carousel rides scattered across town, it might be a good idea to pay a visit to the Musee des Arts Forains. Built in 1996, this whimsical museum showcases the private collection of actor and antique dealer Jean-Paul Favand. The museum showcases objects such as vintage carousels, old musical instruments and forgotten fairground games.
The interactive experience, hosted in an ancient wine cellar, allows for visitors to partake in rides and games while discovering the history of entertainment. The bustling and festive district of Bercy is a fitting location for this museum, which is open year-round by appointment only.
6. Museum of Magic
If the Musée des Arts hasn’t satisfied your childlike wonder, Paris’s Musée de la Magie will be sure to amaze. This magic museum is also housed in ancient cellars dating back to the sixteenth century and expands into seven mystical rooms. Established in 1993, the museum showcases everything related to magic – from hats and wands to magician’s boxes. The museum offers up tales to learn the history of magic from the eighteenth century to the present. Each ticket to the museum includes an enchanting, traditional magic show and access to the Musée des Automates.