Paris is renowned for many things — from the Haussmanian grandeur of her boulevards, to boasting some of the most romantic spots in the world — but it is also a city replete with museums of all types, for every stripe of visitor. While most tourists flock to the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, the impressionist paintings in the Musee D’Orsay, and the avant-garde installations in the Pompidou Centre, their cultural journey through Paris’ museums stop there. Of course we realize that during a whirlwind tour of Paris these things are an absolute must-see; but for those who want to trek off the beaten-path there are many, many more museums which might pique the curiosity of the culture-bound tourist.
We’ve compiled here a list that defies categorization. We thought perhaps the terms “bizarre” or “eccentric” would do, but, in truth, it’s impossible to distill descriptions down to anything other than “unusual”.
Musée de la Contrefaçon
The Musée de la Contrefaçon, or the Museum of Counterfeiting, houses more than 350 objects, authentic and counterfeit, paired against each other; each of which has been under legal scrutiny. Often times it’s hard to tell the difference between the original and its copy. Try to figure it out yourself: from Rodin bronzes, cigars, writing instruments, leisure and luxury items, to clothing, toys and more.
The Dupuytren museum has been in existence since 1835 and exhibits examples of uncommon anatomic pathologies. Included are skeletons, wax casts and organs preserved in jars — in all over 6,000 pieces on display. This museum leaves nobody indifferent, but it must be warned, it is not at all for the faint of heart.
Musée de l’Erotisme
Paris, the city of lights, the city of love, the city of romance and passion. Being the city of museums as well, it’s no surprise that the enterprising duo of Joseph Khalifa and Alain Plumey assembled a large collection of artifacts and erotic arts and opened them the public. What was once a cabaret has become the Musée de l’Erotisme. Go through a large gallery of drawings, documents and brothel photos. see fertility idols from the Aztec, pornography ceramics of China, temple carvings from Nepal and much more.
Musée du Fumeur
Within a 60 square meter venue the Musée du Fumeur (Smoking Museum) houses a collection of smoker paraphernalia from different cultures and epochs; live plants and smoking-themed artwork. Amongst the objects and art one can find collections of European pipes, 17th-century clay pipes, peace pipes, hookahs, Chinese opium pipes, Egyptian sheeshas, snuffboxes, cigars, tobacco samples, hemp clothing, etchings, portraits, photographs, video and more.
Musée des Égouts de Paris
The first sewer system in Paris was constructed way back in 1370, and it has grown since then to accommodate the city’s more than 2 million inhabitants. Finding out about the complex works involved is an original way to understand the city. In the Musée des Égouts there is an exhibition area, where machinery and models that were used in bygone times, as well as the ones that are used now, are on display. There is also an audio-visual show.
Located just outside the Cite de Sciences, the Argonaut is a former hunter-killer submarine and flagship of a French squadron, now open to the public. In its heyday it traveled 10 times around the world, spent 2,000 days at sea and over 32,000 hours underwater before it was decommissioned in 1982. Visitors can examine the instruments and quarters of this 400-ton beast.
Les Catacombes de Paris
The Catacombs of Paris hold a lot of secrets, namely the remains of about 6 million Parisians from the 18th century to the 19th century. Les Catacombes de Paris, the underground ossuary, has today become a popular tourist destination. The underground tunnel network in this city is vast, and just a part of it has been opened to the public. It is this portion that is known as the Catacombs or the Denfert-Rochereau Ossuary. Visit the underground museum and winding tunnels deep in the underworld of Paris.
Musée Nissim de Camondo
Want to see a medieval mansion in all its glory, a former aristocrat’s home that has been maintained just as it was before? Head to the Musée Nissim de Camondo, where three floors are open to the public, containing some of the finest paintings, carpets, table settings, silver dining sets, crystal chandeliers, Chinese vases and more.
Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature
The Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (Museum of Hunting and Nature) houses collections which show the relationship between man and his natural environment, especially through the practice of hunting. Amongst the collection you will find instruments of hunting through the ages; trophies and stuffed animals from Africa, Europe, Asia and America; and works of art including paintings, prints, sculptures, tapestries, ceramics and furniture.
Maison de Victor Hugo
The Maison de Victor Hugo, on the second floor at number 6 Place de Vosges, is now a museum displaying rooms where the author of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” wrote his masterpiece, “Les Miserables”. Also on display this house, where Hugo lived for 16 years, are memorabilia including books and drawings arranged in chronological order from his early years to his exile between 1852 and 1870.
While lists are handy go-to items, this list of the “unusual” is by no means exhaustive. We just hope it whets your appetite for more of the incredibly diverse range of cultural offerings here in the city of lights.
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