Some Paris districts are so filled with little museums, it seems impossible they could hold still more. The 16th arrondissement is one such place, home to no fewer than 17 museums, ranging from the contemporary Palais de Tokyo to the African art collection of the Musée Dapper. The 6th arrondissement is another treasure trove, hosting art museums like the Delacroix, Dubuffet, Luxembourg and Zadkine.
But the highest concentration of museums of Paris would have to be in the Marais. Spanning across the small third and fourth arrondissements, this labyrinthine district, with its preponderance of vintage boutiques and medieval architecture, holds a remarkable number of museum gems.Here you will find the Carnavalet Paris history museum, the Musée Picasso, the Cognacq-Jay, the Mémorial de la Shoah, the Musée de la Magie et des Automates, the Archives Nationales, the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme, the Maison de Victor Hugo and the decadent Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature.
All these museums can be found within a few blocks of one another. However, when entering the Marais from Saint-Paul metro station, most visitors tend to head north up the rue Pavée, missing a museum located just south of the station. For steps away, down the rue de Fourcy, lies the Maison Européenne de la Photographie.
Housed in a gorgeous mansion that has been elegantly adapted to photographic collections, the European Photography Museum is surrounded by a peaceful courtyard. The museum features several large rooms on three floors. The central staircase appears to be right out of the 17th century, with smooth stone steps, red velvet carpeting and delicate chandeliers. But the rooms themselves, all temporary exhibits except for the Family collection on the top floor, are spare and modern. Filmy white curtains hang over the windows to optimise the light, atmospheric music plays and the galleries are trimmed with pale wood features.
For those needing a caffeine boost there’s a sweet cafe, plus students and writers can hole up in the softly-lit, elegant little library tucked away on the museum’s lower floor. So next time you alight at the busy Saint-Paul metro stop and are tempted to head up the well-known streets of the rue Pavée, rue des Rosiers or rue du Roi de Sicile, turn instead down the rue de Fourcy to explore the Maison Européenne de la Photographie. It may not be the best-known museum in the Marais, but it is one of its most tranquil, unique- and photogenic.