Ten excellent Paris museums that are criminally overlooked

There are around 150 museums in Paris. Some are household names, like the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay. But once you’ve visited them, how can you possible choose where to start with the other 148?

Sure, there are “top lists” around the internet, but then what? And how to avoid the crowds? Well, here are ten great lesser-known museums that we visited recently as part of the Paris Countdown.

Our definition of “lesser known” museums? You’ll find none of these places in the official Paris Tourism Office website’s list of the top 20 most-visited Paris museums.

The interactive map

First, here’s an interactive map of everything we are about to recommend, to help you find it all easily.

This map was made with Wanderlog, for making itineraries on iOS and Android

1. Musée Carnavalet

Ah what’s not to love about the Musée Carnavalet? This museum of Paris history has been closed for years for a mega facelift. It reopened in June 2022 and looks spectacular. Do not miss this the old shop signs in the entry hall, or the giraffe memorabilia upstairs. @museecarnvalet Address: 23 Rue de Sévigné, 75003

More to find in the 3rd arrondissement.

2. Cluny Museum

Also known as the National Museum of the Middle Ages, this is another exceptional and newly-renovated museum. The Roman ruins are the dream of ancient history fans, while the tapestries (especially The Lady and the Unicorn) will get your imagination spinning. (We discussed these more on our podcast all about the 5th arrondissement). Address: 28 Rue du Sommerard, 75005

More to find in the 5th arrondissement.

3. Musée des Arts Forains

This enormous fairground museum was excellent! If you’ve seen Midnight in Paris you have seen inside one of the rooms, from the scene where Owen Wilson dances near the carousels. The museum is quite a way away from the rest of the action in Paris, but where else can you play old fairground games, ride hundred-year-old carousels, and walk through what feels like a dream? Note: Advanced bookings are essential. @museedesartsforains Address: 53 Av. des Terroirs de France, 75012

More to find in the 12th arrondissement.

4. Musée des Archives Nationales

This is the museum I was raving about on the podcast about the 3rd district. Be sure to go upstairs to see Napoleon’s handwritten testament and a letter from Marie Antoinette. The rooms are like a central Paris answer to Versailles… and the 600-year-old building even played host to a Mission Impossible scene! Address: 60 Rue des Francs Bourgeois, 75003

More to find in the 3rd arrondissement.

5. Ateliers des Lumières

Opened in 2018, this immersive museum hosts light shows that feature classical works of art from the likes of Dali, Van Gogh and Cézanne projected on the expansive industrial museum walls. You’ve not experienced a museum like this before, and you’ve not seen art in this way before either! Advance online bookings are essential. @ateliersdeslumieres Address: 38 Rue Saint-Maur, 75011.

More to find in the 11th arrondissement.

6. Musée Eugène Delacroix

Delacroix is something of a hero of the 6th arrondissement. This museum is in his old home, complete with workshop and garden out the back. You can also find some of the artist’s masterpieces in the nearby Saint Sulpice church, and a fountain in his honour in the Luxembourg Gardens. @museedelacroix Address: 6 Rue de Furstemberg, 75006

More to find in the 6th arrondissement.

7. Musée Nissim de Camondo

This museum is one of the most visually stunning in Paris. A house full of stunning decorative art that will take your breath away. It featured as the bad guy’s home in the recent Netflix series Lupin. The museum has a tragic history, the previous owners were taken and killed in Nazi extermination camps during the Second World War. For way more beautiful pictures from our visit, and much more information on the museum, here’s our full blog postAddress: 63 Rue de Monceau, 75008.

More to find in the 8th arrondissement.

8. Musée de la Libération de Paris 

Ever been in a Paris WW2 bunker? Head to this museum if you’re into WW2 history, you’ll surely love it. It features the defence shelter where French Resistance fighters planned the liberation of Paris from German Nazi occupation. There are relics of the past including gas masks and old posters – but be warned: it’s absolutely impossible to visit with a wheelchair or stroller, it’s about 100 steps to get down there. Address: 4 Av. du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 75014

More to find in the 14th arrondissement.

9. Deyrolle 

If you’ve never visited Deyrolle taxidermy shop, then you have been missing out. It’s delightful collection of stuffed animals and pinned butterflies. It’s part museum and part shop, and if you think you recognise it, you’re probably right: It also features in the movie Midnight in Paris. The head of the shop Francine Campa, pictured below, featured on our podcast about the 7th arrondissement@deyrolle.officiel Address: 46 Rue du Bac, 75007

More to find in the 7th arrondissement.

10. Musée de l’Éventail 

And finally: we’re big fans of this fan museum. It’s tucked away in what was once a (huge) Paris apartment. It’s a functioning atelier too, meaning you’ll likely see people making the hand-held fans as you explore the museum. @museedeleventailAddress: 2 Bd de Strasbourg, 75010

More to find in the 10th arrondissement.

That’s all for now, happy exploring!

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6 thoughts on “Ten excellent Paris museums that are criminally overlooked

  1. Merci beaucoup for the museum reminder. I have placed 3 of the museums on my itinerary for my April 2023 trip to Paris.

  2. Been to 7. Added the remining 3 to my list to explore when I spend five weeks in Paris starting Jan 25. Thanks for the list and descriptions.

  3. We went to the Fan museum the 2nd week in December because of your suggestion! It was really cool and yes there was a young woman making fans that day! We also signed a petition to save the Fan Museum because they had a sign up that it is in jeopardy of closing. We went with our adult children 24, 26 and 28 and they all thought it was really cool! Save the Fan museum. Thank you for the great suggestion.

  4. Another not-to-miss museum is the Hôtel de la Marine on the Place de la Concorde. Part history and part residence, this newly opened museum is a delight for a leisurely visit.

  5. Adding these to Fall 2023 trip: Evantail, Deyrolle, and Arts Forains! Thank you, Oliver, Lina, and Otis for brightening our lives👏🏼💕🥂🥳

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