Paris is home to some of the most famous museums in the world such as the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, but it also shelters several less well-known and often unusual establishments. Adam Roberts, editor of the website Invisible Paris recommends five that are worthy of a visit.
1. Musée d’Histoire de la Médecine
Tucked away in what was previously a library at the René Descartes University, this museum gives an insight into the history of medical treatment in France. The subjects can sometimes be a little gruesome, but it is a fascinating look at an important chapter of French social history. It is the oldest such collection in Europe, and includes displays of equipment that was used for operations as well as dentistry and pharmacy sections. There is also an extensive collection of related artwork.
Address : 12 rue de l’école de Médecine, 75005
Opening Times : 14:00 – 17:30 Monday to Saturday.
Price: € 3.50
2. Musée des Arts Forains
This collection of 19th century travelling fairground equipment, housed in an old wine storage facility, is a museum more in name than in practice. It is a privately owned establishment and is used almost exclusively as an exotic backdrop to corporate events, but it can be opened to casual visitors if you can manage to group together 15 or more people. If this is not possible, you can also try to join a group via the museum website.
Once inside you will find an establishment that is organized in a similar manner to a fairground, and you are free to wander around the exhibits as you please. You can also play with or ride on some of the attractions, including small merry-go-rounds with colourful carved animals.
Address : 53 Avenue des Terroirs de France, 75012
Opening Times : On appointment
Price: On appointment
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3. Musée de la Préfecture de Police
The London police force has its famous Black Museum (http://www.met.police.uk/history/crime_museum.htm), but the Paris police force museum is a lot less well-known. The advantage of the Paris version though is that members of the public are allowed to visit, and what’s more, it is free!
This museum describes the history of policing in Paris, but is of course rendered more interesting by the many artifacts relating to famous crimes and the stories of notorious city criminals. The trickiest part of the visit is to find the building in which the museum is housed in the first place (a working police station), then to locate the museum within the building. If you get lost though, you can always ask a policeman.
Address : 4, rue de la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève 75005
Opening Times : 09:00 – 17:00 Monday to Friday, Saturday: 10:00 – 17:00; Closed on Sundays
4. Musée de l’Erotisme
In amongst the tat and tawdriness of the Pigalle district it is not surprising to find a museum dedicated to the erotic. What is surprising though is to find a tasteful and genuinely instructive museum dealing with a worthy subject that touches religion, society, art and literature. The museum is housed in a tall, narrow structure and exhibits are spread over seven floors. Each floor is organized by theme, including temporary art installations, photos and artifacts relating to famous Paris brothels and displays of historical fertility symbols amongst many other articles.
It must of course be noted that even in permissive Paris this museum is only open to those aged over 18!
Address : 72 Boulevard de Clichy 75017
Opening Times : 7 days a week, 10am to 2am!
Price: 8 Euros (3 Euro reduction from website)
5. Maison d’Auguste Comte
Less a museum and more a shrine to followers of the cult of Positvism (mostly Brazilians strangely enough), this is perhaps one of the smallest and most obscure museums in Paris. Open for only 3 hours a week, it is simply the untouched apartment of Auguste Comte, founder of Positivism and also to many the father of modern Sociology. It is located in a typical apartment block near the Jardins de Luxembourg, and even if Comte and his teachings are of no interest to you, a visit to this comfortable home will give you an insight into how the middle-classes lived in Paris in the 19th century.
On a related theme, you can also visit the Posivitist chapel dedicated to Comte at 5 Rue Payenne in the Marais. Known as the Chapelle de l’Humanité, this installation, paid for by the Brazilian state, is essentially a secular church where humanity rather than a deity is celebrated.
>>Read more about the August Comte Museum
Address : 10, rue Monsieur le Prince 75005
Opening Times : Wednesday 2pm – 5pm