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Musée Carnavalet

Courtyard of the Carnavalet Museum of Paris
Miguel Hermoso Cuesta, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Musée Carnavalet

Museum Dedicated To The History Of Paris


23 Rue de Sévigné, 75003 Paris

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The Carnavalet Museum is not vast and masterpiece-rich like the Louvre. Nor is it intimate and elegant like Nissim de Camondo or Jacquemart-André. It doesn’t have crowds queuing outside, nor posh influencers advertising for it on social media. Nevertheless, it’s a must-see for every lover of Paris simply because it’s an ode to the city itself. The very first museum of the City of Paris, Musée Carnavalet was founded in Le Marais in 1866 (with an official opening in 1880), at the initiative of Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann, prefect of Seine at the time. Yes, the same man who is largely credited with the modernization of Paris in the 19th century is the one also responsible for the beginnings of this collection of quintessential Parisian objects, documents, and mementos, gathered under the sculptural roof of the Carnavalet.

Musée Carnavalet, Paris
Lionel Allorge, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The original building is a fine example of Renaissance architecture, one of the few remaining intact in the city (Louvre’s Cour Carée, or the Square Court, is a great example of another). It was built in the 16th century for — and initially named after — the president of the Paris Parliament, Joseph de Ligneris. Only a few years later, it was sold and renamed Hôtel Carnavalet — the adaptation of the name Kernevenoy, belonging to a Breton aristocrat at the court of King Henri II.

Sign collection at the Musée Carnavalet, Paris history museum
Musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris © Cyrille Weiner

A second building, formerly known as Hôtel Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau, was added in 1989. The museum hosts a variety of authentic objects strongly connected with the history of Paris, spanning from the Mesolithic Era to the 20th century. Besides paintings, photographs, sculptures, and shop signs, you can also admire unusual items like the campaign kit belonging to Napoleon I, Émile Zola’s watch, Marcel Proust’s desk, or a royal crib donated by Empress Eugénie. With over 600,000 items on display, be prepared to spend several hours exploring the history of your favorite city. Entrance to the museum’s permanent exhibits is free of charge.

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  • 23 Rue de Sévigné
  • 75003 Paris
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