Photo: Wikimedia: Lionel Allorge

Musée Carnavalet

Take a stroll through Paris’s history at this newly reopened, must-see attraction.

The Musée Carnavalet—the “theater of the history of Paris,” according to its director, Valérie Guillaume—first opened in 1880, making it one of the city’s oldest museums. It reopened at the end of May after a four-and-a-half-year, €58 million renovation. (This being France, a one-day employee strike marred the event.) The vastly improved facility, which features a new restaurant and café and splendid garden courtyards, merits at least one long visit.

Located in two beautiful mansions in the Marais, one of them the former home of renowned 17th-century letter-writer Madame de Sévigné, the once-dusty and confusingly laid-out museum now offers an easy-to-understand chronological itinerary through its multifaceted collections, beginning with the city’s prehistory, which is presented in a newly opened vaulted basement. Along the way, visitors pass through areas dedicated to the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Revolution, and the 19th and 20th centuries, ending with today’s Paris. 

France’s Loire Valley Celebrates the Renaissance

Related Article

France’s Loire Valley Celebrates the Renaissance

Five hundred years after Leonardo da Vinci’s death, special exhibitions and events conjure up the lifestyles of the era’s royals.

The 3,800 exhibits vary enormously, from an ancient dugout canoe to relics from a 13th-century Jewish cemetery to one of Marie-Antoinette’s slippers. Some 30 period rooms from townhouses and shops that no longer exist illustrate bygone architectural styles, including Louis XIV, art deco, and art nouveau.

Marcel Proust’s bed, where he wrote most of his brilliant novel, has found a home here, while a wall of 19th-century paintings brings back to life the players of the time and the joys of Belle Époque nightlife. The section on today’s Paris includes photos of the massive march after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2015. 

The cleaned-up, remapped, and modernized museum, now equipped with interactive displays for added insights, retains all its former charm and is now mostly wheelchair accessible. The descriptive texts have all been translated into English but are often difficult to read, the only flaw in an otherwise magnificent renovation.