Carnavalet Museum :: Paris, France

Devoted to preserving the history of Paris, the Carnavalet Museum opened in 1880 and continues to collect and showcase historical elements of the city. One of the city’s most renowned attractions, the museum spans two adjacent mansions that were once nineteenth-century hotels. With its vast holdings that stretch back to the earliest settlements of the area, the Carnavalet Museum hosts more than a million visitors each year.

Located on the Rue de Sevigne, the museum owns a vast collection of artifacts, paintings, illustrations, photography, ceramics, models, furniture, coins, and so much more. With thousands of archaeological relics, the museum’s holdings span ancient history to the present. Scenes of daily life offer glimpses into the experiences of the city’s citizens while depicting the social hierarchy of the times. The collection also features portraits of prominent Parisian figures such as Catherine de Medici and Henry IV.

The oldest item of the museum’s diverse collection is a canoe that dates from 4600 B.C. The museum contains some interesting relics from the earliest settlement of Paris when it was known as a village called Lutece. One of these items is a fourth-century perfume bottle. The museum’s medieval collection focuses on major events such as the Great Plague and the Hundred Years War.

Much of the collection is thematically grouped; tours are available and cover various important eras in the city’s history. Some of these time periods include “Paris under Louis the XV,” “Paris under Louis XVI,” “Paris during the Revolution,” “Paris during the Belle Epoch,” and “Paris under the Second Empire.” The collection also includes an extraordinary writer’s room that contains relics from important Parisian literary figures like George Sand and Marcel Proust.

The museum’s galleries boast interiors that reflect the historical periods of Paris with décor and artifacts. These periods have been painstakingly recreated with period wallpaper, fabrics, and vast array of antiques. Additionally, the museum’s changing exhibitions continue to renew interest in many aspects of the city’s illustrious past. Some of the museum’s past exhibitions include such topics as the restoration of Eglise Saint-Sulpice, nineteenth-century stained glass, Paris during the Impressionist movement, the city’s Metro, Benjamin Franklin in Paris, and Parisian childhood.

The museum’s tours are immensely popular with visitors as well as schools and other organizations. Lectures, slide shows, workshops, and storytelling sessions are also hosted by the Carnavalet Museum and its professional staff. The museum also features a gift shop, the ideal place to purchase a souvenir of the city.

Rick Steves' France 2012
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