If you like history, you will love the Musee Carnavalet

It’s been (another) lazy summer in Paris. Covid19’s still here with us so the city has been dormant. Museums, stores, restaurants and many cafes are actually open but waiting for people that, unfortunately, are still missing. Parisians’s escaped for summer holidays – sorry, I was among them – and tourists are still struggling to get here so the city centre was quiet, almost empty. Before leaving, I decided to make the most of this strange period: visit old and new venues; do some overdue site-inspections and enjoy Paris without the crowd. Can you guess what happened to me? I ended up in the only crowded place in town which was…. Musee Carnavalet! If you think that Parisians storm only royal prisons or department stores you are wrong*.

The Musee Carnavalet is the museum dedicated to the history of Paris and after more than 4 years of renovation work it is finally back. Housed in the 16th century mansion that once belonged to Madame de Sevigne – my trusted aristocratic source of information and gossip about Louis XIV’s court – it’s always been one of my favourite places in the Marais. I really enjoyed wandering around its labyrinthine exhibition. Being an (art)historian I spent hours in there looking for information and, I must admit it, trying to figure out how to navigate its 2 buildings, the garden and the various annexes… ahhh, the charm of an old and a dusty museum!

Today, the museum is not dusty anymore and its charm is greater than ever. If at the beginning of my visit I was not sure that spending quite a long time in “close proximity” with plenty of strangers in a closed space was a brilliant idea I quickly changed my mind. The “traffic” inside the building was well organized (no crowds!) and the building itself is just marvellous.

The museum’s experience is definitely improved: the exhibition now follows a mainly chronological order so navigating and understanding the collection is way easier than before. The new 1.5km path includes the ancient stone deposit in the basement, displaying artifacts dating back from Roman time; richly decorated halls from elegant aristocratic mansions; everyday items related to the construction of Paris and a significant collection of memorabilia of the French Revolution. My favourite? The amazing Boutique Fouquet, an Art Nouveau shop, decorated by Mucha rebuilt inside the museum itself.

The museum architecture is quite interesting too: the monumental staircases play an important role creating an interesting contrast between ancient and modern architecture and designing new point of view on the works on display.

A little plus for visitors who, like me, love museum cafes: the new little restaurant “Le Jardins d’Olympe” by the woman chef Chloé Charles, in the garden. Absolutely lovely.

If you are interested in history you should consider to add the Musee Carnavalet to your to do list. Just remember that since admission is free – yes, there is something free in Paris – you should book your ticket in advance on the museum official website.

  • Almost wrong. In few days I will post my review about the reopening of La Samaritaine, a new department store in Paris… it wasn’t easy but I survived.

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