Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine

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Paris’ museums cater to lovers of all manner of art forms. Fans of sculpture can head to the Zadkine, Rodin or Picasso museums. Lovers of Impressionism flock to the Marmottan, Orangerie and Orsay museums. Fashion enthusiasts love the Galleria, Fondation Louis Vuitton or Mona Bismarck.

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But perhaps some of the finest museums in Paris are those dedicated to architecture. There are museums in buildings by Haussmann, Garnier and Le Corbusier alike. More often than not, Paris museums are located in unique and stunning environs. But the most comprehensive architecture museum in the city would have to the be the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine.

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The museum is held in a lofty, bright white space, very different to the Haussmannien surrounds of the Jacquemart André, or the compact design of the Fondation Le Corbusier. In this high-ceilinged hall, you will find Romanesque arches, Gothic church façades and pieces of Medieval brickwork from around the city. The museum focusses largely on the history of church architecture, though there are also models of some of the city’s best-known monuments and plenty of information on the history of French architectural styles and methods.

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Split into three galleries, the museum admirably covers French architecture from the 12th century to the contemporary period. It may seem over-ambitious, but take a look out the wide windows overlooking arguably the finest architecture city in the world, the Eiffel Tower in full view, and it’s clear if any place could manage such a feat, it’s this one.

Xx la muséophile

Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine

Palais du Chaillot

1 place du Trocadéro, 75016 (métro Trocadéro)

Museum homepage

Full price: 8 euros

Reduced price: 6 euros
Opening hours:
Monday, Wednesday, Friday to Sunday: 11am to 7pm

Thursday: 11am to 9pm

Closed Tuesday

LMDP across social media

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Les Musées de Paris has been floating around on Twitter for years, but it finally has its own home on Facebook and Instagram!

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Follow LMDP to see picturesque snapshots of Paris, share your museophilic feelings and read la muséophile‘s ramblings on the wonders of Paris’ lesser-known museums.

XX la muséophile

Musée des arts décoratifs

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I’ve written before about Paris museums that thrive on contradiction. Light and dark, old and new, life and death; museums in la ville lumière know how to strike a balance between seemingly opposing concepts. But none more so than the intriguing and sometimes downright bizarre Musée des arts décoratifs, or Museum of Decorative Arts.

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Unlike its partner the Musée Nissim Camondo, which embraces its 1700s heritage, the Musée des arts décoratifs is not only concerned with the past. The museum combines old and new, sitting intricate, centuries-old clocks next to contemporary installation art. It mixes amateur and professional, displaying French design students’ work near Rococo cabinets straight out of Versailles. It melds art and design, arranging furniture, light fixtures and trinkets as though they are as noteworthy as Renaissance paintings or Greek sculptures.

Lustre a douze lumieres, 1904.

Lustre à douze lumières, Nancy, 1904.

But more than anything, the Musée des arts décoratifs clashes high culture with low. Located only a few steps from the hallowed Louvre, the hallmark of high art, the museum praises the low-brow, even housing the Warhol-esque Advertising Museum within its very walls. In one room, you can find delicate Belle Epoque furniture, in a wood-panelled, light-filled traditional space. But turn the corner and you’ll enter a plush, windowless den strewn with sparkling jewellery, a naked mannequin submerged in a bathtub full of costume pearls. In one room, an authentic, Mad Men-esque 1950s office space is recreated in perfect mod detail. In the next, a suicidal mannequin is posed surrounded by owl wings.

Aurum, Erik Halley, 2012.

Aurum, Erik Halley, 2012.

On the one hand, the Musée des arts décoratifs could be seen as trashy, or at least as culturally confused. But on the other hand, the museum succeeds in doing what several others do not; breathing new life into old objects. Displaying a bureau from Marie Antoinette’s home in the same space as lipsticks and plastic necklaces makes a weird sort of sense, reminding us, like Coppola’s film, that the last French Queen was actually a flashy pop princess in her day.

The Musée des arts décoratifs questions the boundary between high-brow and low-brow, tradition and pop. Which I love. Rococo is just 18th-century bling, when you think about it.

Xx la muséophile

Musée des arts décoratifs

107 rue de Rivoli, 75001 (métro Palais Royal- Musée du Louvre)

Museum homepage

Full price: 11 euros

Reduced price: 8.5 euros

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday: 11am to 6pm

Open until 9pm on Thursday

Closed Monday

Musée d’Art Naïf- Max Fourny

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When I say I love Montmartre, people often ask me to explain myself. Surely I don’t mean that I actually like the Place du Tertre and its surrounding tourist traps? (No, of course not, you fools.) Do I realise there are many more hotels and 1 million-euro apartments than there are artists’ hovels these days? (Yes.) What about the crowds around the Sacré Coeur? (Obviously, that’s not what I love.)

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I’ve written about loving and hating Montmartre before, and feel like I’ve done my justifying already. But having recently visited one of the most unusual museums in the city, I want to add another notch to the pro-Montmartre tally.

Nestled in a surprisingly pleasant corner of the bustling space between Abbesses and Anvers lies the Musée d’Art Naïf- Max Fourny. A minute’s walk to one side and you’re in the throes of the Sacré Coeur crowds (and pickpockets- beware). A minute’s walk to the other and you’re in the clamorous streets of Barbès, with its African restaurants and many glittering fabric shops. A minute’s walk to the north, along the edge of the wooded precipice that separates the cathedral from the street below, and you’re on the rue André del Sarte with its pretty boutiques.

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It would have to be one of the most diverse and confused little spots in the city. And smack bang in the middle of it is the Halle Saint Pierre, a lofty hall that houses the museum, with its artistic bookshop, rambling cafes and collections of naïve, tribal, folk and ‘outsider’ art.

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The Max Fourny is like a Matisse painting come to life, all colour and vibrancy and weird new forms. The museum shows temporary collections throughout the year, with a focus on the avant-garde and brut (roughly translated as ‘primitive’). Far from a staid or established exhibition space, the Fourny evokes that exciting atmosphere of the new and left-of-centre that the Salon des Refusés was known for at the end of the c19th.

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Take that, Montmartre haters.

Xx la muséophile

Musée d’art naïf- Max Fourny

Halle Saint Pierre, 2 rue Ronsard 75018 (métro Anvers)

Museum homepage

Full price: 8 euros

Reduced price: 6.5 euros

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday: 11am to 6pm

Saturday: 11am to 7pm

Sunday: 12pm to 6pm

Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme

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I’ve never been religious, unless you count my childhood ritual of listing my toys’ names before falling asleep as a strange, abstract dedication I called “prayer”. I was baptised Catholic, but only as a formality, and my views have evolved from uncertain to agnostic to atheist over the years. But the way many peaceful people draw strength and solace from their faith? I have every respect for that. And upon entering the tranquil surrounds of the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme, it was immediately clear to me that the space was for such people.

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As the name suggests, the museum is interested not so much in the plight of the Jewish people, especially as the separate museum, Le Mémorial de la Shoah, details the events of WWII and the legacy of the Holocaust. Instead, this space, with its many gilded artefacts, panelled artworks and photographs, is more concerned with the art and culture of Judaism through the ages. lesmuseesdeparis judaisme 2

There are intricate manuscripts, golden amulets and menorahs, artworks religious and otherwise and beautifully rich, traditional fabrics. Much of the material comes from France, but there are pieces from all across the Jewish diaspora. On the upper levels, you can view a short film about the establishment of Israel. However, for the most part, politics remain largely absent. Instead, the museum is a dedication to the uniqueness and beauty of Jewish art, culture and faith. Image-1 (2)

Located in the stunning Hôtel de Saint-Aignan on the narrow, winding Medieval rue du Temple, the museum lies in the heart of the traditional Jewish quarter of the Marais. Start your visit off on the charming laneway of the rue des Rosiers, snapping up lunch at one of its several Jewish bakeries or, better yet, the famous l’As du Fallafel, before wandering up the beautifully-named rue des Blancs Manteaux to arrive at the museum’s door.

Xx la muséophile

Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme

Hôtel de Saint-Aignan, 71 rue du Temple, 75003 (métro Rambuteau)

Museum homepage

Full price: 8 euros

Reduced price: 6 euros

Opening hours: Monday to Friday: 11am to 6pm

Sunday: 10am to 6pm

Closed Saturday

Musée Cernuschi

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Ask any Paris-dweller, and they’ll most likely tell you they have a favourite arrondissement in the French capital. It may be the sixth or seventh, for their artistic history, abundance of galleries and cafes, or parks and open spaces. It may the 10th or 11th, for their collection of quirky bars and restaurants or their proximity to the Buttes Chaumont and Père Lachaise. It may be the 3rd or 4th, for their Medieval streets, quaint terraces and wonderful coffee shops. IMG_0805

Every arrondissement has a personality all its own, and I’d like to think that after all these years, you could plop me down in any random spot in Paris and I could tell you which district I was in. Some arrondissements are cooler than others, some are more historic, and some are certainly more popular. But one arrondissement in particular has been neglected, dismissed as less interesting or attractive than its neighbours: the 17th. It’s true you could easily spend a full and varied holiday in Paris without setting foot in the 17th arrondissement. When I started working as a tutor in Levallois Perret, the outer suburb which shares a border with the 17th, the metro line (3) passed through a series of stops I’d never had reason to look at; Villiers, Wagram, Pereire. Parts of the 17th are fancy, near the border with the 16th. Others are grungy, closer to the 18th. Still others are pretty, but sleepy, around the edge of the 8th.

The Great Hall at the Cernuschi.

The Great Hall at the Cernuschi.

But the 17th arrondissement is an under-appreciated gem. It is home to the picturesque Parc Monceau, with its ornamental lake, lush grass and meandering paths. It features many lovely cafes and brasseries, with a more relaxed feel than in the busier districts (my favourite is the Grand Café de la Poste on Boulevard Malesherbes, smack bang between two museums). These are the Musée Nissim de Camondo, with its stunning c17th decorative arts collection. And, a hop skip and a jump from that better-known museum, lies another: the Musée Cernuschi, a haven of Asian art.

Amida Buddha, 18th century, Tokyo.

Amida Buddha, 18th century, Tokyo.

The Cernuschi is tranquil and elegant. Situated close to Monceau, it is hemmed by verdant plane trees and quiet streets, and housed in a beautiful stone building in one of the prettiest corners of the 17th. Inside, you’ll find a collection of artworks, sculptures and artefacts from across the Ages and the Asian continent. Each room has its unique beauties, but the highlight is the mammoth Japanese Amida Buddha sculpture in the Great Hall, perched high above the rest and looking out of floor-to-ceiling windows into the leafy neighbourhood. Maybe we should start adding the 17th arrondissement to our Paris itineraries.

P.S. Love Asian art? Head to the Guimet in the 16th as well.

Xx la muséophile

Musée Cernuschi

7 avenue Vélasquez, 75017 (métro Monceau)

Museum homepage

Free entry to permanent collection

Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday: 10am to 6pm

Closed Monday

Invalides

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No matter what you think of old Napoleon Bonaparte the First, you have to admit the man had a flair for the extravagant. He decked out his living quarters in velvet and gold, supplanted priceless Egyptian statues from their rightful home to the heart of Paris and built himself all manner of over-the-top monuments, not least the iconic Arc de Triomphe, which he commissioned after his victory at Austerlitz.lesmuseesdeparis invalides 5

Though the legends about France’s first Emperor and his less-than-impressive stature are unfounded (in fact, he was 5’6”, average for a man of the period) Napoleon did seem to care very much about how others saw him. Which may explain his tomb.

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In the sophisticated surrounds of the 7th arrondissement, not far from the banks of the Seine, lies the monumental, radiant gold dome of Invalides. One of the brightest spots on the Paris skyline, this stunning dome stands out in almost any view of the city, from Sacré Coeur to the Eiffel Tower. Personally, I love the way it looms over the high garden walls of the neighbouring Musée Rodin, its surface glittering on a sunny day.

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While the dome could well be expected to top a palace or a gigantic exhibition space, Invalides has one function and one function only: to house Napoleon’s remains. The building’s interior is predictably lavish, with soaring ceilings and marble everything. The sarcophagus itself, in cream and red marble, is surrounded by multitudes of statues, with the inside of the dome looming directly above.

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On the same site, as a dedication to Napoleon’s military prowess, museum enthusiasts can visit the Musée de l’Armée, a small but thorough museum about France’s military history.

Some love Napoleon for carrying a struggling new republic far from the disastrous monarchy of Louis XVI, and the equally disastrous Terreur of Robespierre, into a new age. Others despise him (ahem, me) for his brutal colonising practices.

Whichever side you’re on, it’s undeniable that Napoleon lived large. It seems he wanted to continue the tradition into his death, too.

Xx La muséophile

Hôtel des Invalides

Esplanade des Invalides, 129 rue de Grenelle, 75007 (métro Invalides, La Tour Maubourg)

Museum homepage

Full price: 9.5 euros

Reduced price: 7.5 euros

Opening hours:
Every day, April 1 to October 31: 10am to 6pm

Every day, November 1 to 31 March: 10am to 5pm

Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris

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What’s your idea of a perfect day ?

It’s a question that comes up in a lot of cheesy contexts, like celebrity interviews or dating website questionnaires (not that I know anything about that!) Often, it’s obvious people’s answers are constructed to create a certain image (dear movie star, we know your perfect day doesn’t involve wheat grass shots, meditation and hot yoga, stop making us feel bad).

Le musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris

Le musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris

It seems like such a casual question, yet people set so much stock in someone’s description of their perfect day. We seem to see it less as an opportunity to daydream and more of a chance to prove something about ourselves; to show how cultured/motivated/admirable/unique/selfless/just generally ”together” we are. In the Age of Instagram, we care more and more about what our interests say about us.

In actual fact, I don’t think I could decide on a single idea of the “perfect” day. I love the chill of winter, but I also crave sunshine (just not sweltering heat). I feel rejuvenated if I eat well, but I’d be lying if I said my favourite food wasn’t fries. I love to be busy, to be challenged, to pursue ideas, but sometimes I like to wake up just to eat pancakes then go straight back to bed. I love sharing a bottle of wine (or two) with a friend into the wee hours, and I love falling asleep at 9.30pm watching Game of Thrones on my laptop in bed. I adore living in Paris, but I also cherish waking up to the kookaburras in Australia. And let’s be honest: on one day my ‘perfect’ date might be a fancy dinner and a French film, while on another I’d much rather order takeaway and watch Parks and Recreation in my pajamas on the couch with l’Américain.

Andre Lhote, La Partie de Plaisir, 1910.

Andre Lhote, La Partie de Plaisir, 1910.

But if I absolutely had to pick a perfect day, or at least a perfect afternoon, I’d have to go with a visit to the Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris. It would start off all impressive and movie star-interview-worthy. I emerge from the Alma-Marceau metro into the crisp winter air. I cast my gaze around at the glittering terraces and Haussmannien architecture, the rustling plane trees and the iconic Eiffel Tower, across the river. I pull up the collar of my trench coat against the breeze and stride along the Avenue de New York. I step into the elegant surrounds of the museum and revel in the wild, vibrant, astounding art of the twentieth century. I soak up the Matisses, the Picassos, the Kleins, the Rothkos and reflect on the intriguing beauty of modern art. Etc.

Yves Klein, Portrait relief de Martial Raysse, 1965

Yves Klein, Portrait relief de Martial Raysse, 1965

Then I meet up with my best friend to drink a 3-euro bottle of wine, eat fried potatoes and watch silly YouTube videos in our 10m2 apartments. We eat too much cheese and Nutella and when I go home I play Dots on my phone until I fall asleep.

Culture is open to one and all, and you can follow up your visit to a glorious modern art museum like the Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris with champagne or Fanta, opera or video games. It doesn’t matter.

Let’s let whims be whims and daydreams be daydreams. Let’s own our guilty pleasures, our junk food cravings and our cultural nerdiness alike. Let’s explore when we feel like exploring, create when we feel like creating, and nap when we feel like napping.

This is la muséophile, signing off on this post about a fancy art museum from the comfort of her own bed.

Xx la muséophile

Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris

11 avenue du Président Wilson, 75016 (métro Alma-Marceau)

Museum homepage

Free entry to permanent collection

Temporary exhibitions: 5-11 euros

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday: 10am to 6pm

Open until 10pm on Thursday

Closed Monday

Musée Clemenceau

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Where I come from, more often than not, museums are located in specially-built spaces; dedicated public buildings, often in the ‘white cube’ style. But in Paris, many museums are housed in places not originally intended for exhibition purposes.

For example, the Musée du Jeu de Paume, the city’s finest photography museum, sits in a 19th-century ‘royal tennis’ hall (it’s not your average tennis court; look it up). The Musée Zadkine, dedicated to the remarkable Belarusian sculptor of the same name, counts among its rooms the very space in which Zadkine crafted many of his works. And of course, the monolithic Louvre, inarguably one of the finest buildings in the world, was once the French Royal Palace.

But perhaps more thrilling than any of these are the select few museums set in adapted homes. One of the greatest is the Musée Clemenceau, which is located in the former Prime Minister’s original chambers, and is barely ‘adapted’ at all.

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There are signs leading to the museum, set off the chic 16th-arrondissement village of Passy, but once inside the pretty building, you’d barely know you were in a public place. Ascending in a rickety iron lift, surrounded by a plush spiral staircase, you could very well be on your way to visit Clemenceau in his own home. Which you sort of are.

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Pushing open the heavy wooden door to the apartment, you are met by one or two unassuming staff members, whose knowledge and admiration of the man known as Le Tigre, a man who led the French nation through WWI, is immediately clear. There are no ticket booths or gift shops here; you are directed straight into a wood-panelled salon where a wide range of photographs, medals, newspaper articles and letters are displayed, detailing Clemenceau’s life and career. Having known comparatively little about this well-liked French figure before visiting, I came away from these rooms with a far greater understanding of his role in wartime politics and his impact on French society.

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Yet the highlight of the Musée Clemenceau lies on the apartment’s ground floor, where the Prime Minister’s bedchamber and office remain wonderfully well-preserved, down to his slippers and fountain pens. Clemenceau slept little and often worked well into the night, allowing himself very little time away from his duties, and these two connected rooms truly give you a sense of his process.

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Soak up these living spaces and imagine Georges bent over his desk in the wee hours of the morning, a cup of tea by his nearby bedside table. Then step out the adjacent door into the modest garden, drink in the Paris atmosphere, and imagine being one of the people running it all. Would you want the responsibility? Especially during a war? I think I’ll stick to writing about museums, thank you very much.

Xx la muséophile

Musée Clemenceau

8 rue Benjamin Franklin, 75016 (métro Passy)

Museum homepage

Full price: 6 euros

Reduced price: 3 euros
Opening hours:
Tuesday to Saturday: 2pm to 5.30pm

Closed Sunday and Monday

Musée du Luxembourg

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Which is the finest garden in all of Paris? It’s not an easy question to answer. Some are partial to the regal Tuileries, stretching out from the Louvre, winged by the Orangerie and the Musée du Jeu de Paume, and edged by the epic Place de la Concorde. Others prefer the haven of Parc Monceau, in the peaceful 17th arrondissement, with its readers lounging on benches and its locals jogging on the circular paths. I love the much smaller, but lusher and wilder gardens of the Musée de Montmartre.

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But the most beloved of Paris parks would have to be the Jardins du Luxembourg. Perfectly located between the Latin Quarter, Saint-Germain-des-Prés and Montparnasse, the Luxembourg gardens have everything you could ask for: ponds and fountains where children tap wooden boats about in summer, paths to stroll along among leafy plane trees, grass you can actually lounge on, and plenty of those iconic iron seats you can sink into and read your novel or newspaper while soaking up Paris in all its glory.

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For children, there are miniature pony rides, play grounds and puppet theatres. For grownups, there are stunning views of the Paris skyline, a luxe tearoom and, above all, the gold and stone artistic mecca of the Musée du Luxembourg.

La vision de sainte Hélène, Veronese, 1570-1575.

La vision de sainte Hélène, Veronese, 1570-1575.

Bordered by a quiet St-Germain street, the flower beds of the gardens and the imposing façade of the French Senate, the Musée du Luxembourg is a charming exhibition space in one of the most perfect locations imaginable. The museum hosts only temporary exhibitions, so check ahead to see what’s on show. But they are yet to disappoint with their collections, which have ranged from Chagall retrospectives to Renaissance representations of dreams (from which the photos in this post were drawn). At the time of writing, you could catch Paul Durand-Ruel.

Le Songe de Jacob, Cardi, 1593.

Le Songe de Jacob, Cardi, 1593.

Make an afternoon of it and pack a picnic to enjoy in the gardens, then saunter along the shaded pathways, lined with statues, to arrive at the museum’s doorstep ready to absorb some world-class art. The best park in Paris? I think we have a winner.

Xx la muséophile

Musée du Luxembourg

19 rue de Vaugirard, 75006 (métro Luxembourg [RER] or Saint-Sulpice)

Museum homepage

Full price: 12 euros

Reduced price: 7.5 euros
Opening hours:
Tuesday to Thursday: 10am to 7pm

Monday and Friday: 10am to 10pm

Saturday and Sunday: 9am to 8pm

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