While Paris plays host to many of the world’s most iconic galleries (who hasn’t heard of the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay and the Pompidou, for instance?), tucked into the pockets of her high-profile artistic cloak the city is also home to a host of lesser-known museums. Delightful in their eccentricity, many of these quirky establishments are, in fact, becoming more mainstream in their own right as more and more people discover how beguiling the culture of Paris can be, just slightly left-of-centre.
Musee de la Poupee
Appealing to both adults and children, the Musee de la Poupee is just a short walk from the Pompidou, in the Beaubourg district of central Paris. Dedicated to the preservation of a huge range of dolls from French history, the exhibits are beautifully curated and displayed in chronological collections. Established in 1994, the museum is now the home of over 500 dolls of varying materials – including porcelain, rubber, and plastic – displayed in detailed and lifelike settings depicting the time of their creation, from the 1800’s to contemporary times. (Open Tuesdays to Sundays.)
Musee de la Magie
Roll up, roll up to see the greatest magic show on Earth! In Paris, at least, the Museum of Magic really does entrance any visitor who crosses its unassuming threshold. Situated in the arty Marais district, at 11 Rue St Paul, the museum may not be large but its setting is entirely appropriate in a dank and gloomy basement. Exhibited among the stone arches and vaulted chambers is a large range of props and tools of the ancient magicians’ trade, with everything from violin-playing skeletons to vintage posters and optical illusion gadgetry. There’s also a live magic show and a guided tour – although it is in French. This is a truly ‘magical’ experience. (Open Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 2:00 pm – 7:00pm and every day during school holidays.)
Anything worth seeing takes a little bit of effort, right? Well, the first thing to bear in mind about this unique museum is that you’ll need to make an appointment to visit. It’s also a little tricky to find, being on the outskirts of the city, but for those with a fascination for vampires, it’s definitely well worth it – and only 15 minutes on the Metro from the centre of Paris. Even the entry of the museum bodes well for vampire lovers, with its striking (but fairly unobtrusive) bright red door down a back alley. Inside, you’ll find all manner of books, paintings, posters, movie props and, in fact, anything you could imagine related to the culture and folklore of vampires throughout French and world history. The curator himself is the author of several books on the subject, and spending some time chatting to him makes for a charming and fascinating encounter.
While Paris displays much of her finery and opulence for all the world to see, these three museums are further proof that so much of her appeal can be discovered beneath the surface of that beautiful exterior.
How to Get There
The city’s two main international ports of arrival are Charles de Gaulle Airport (also known as Roissy) and Orly Airport. Charles de Gaulle, the second busiest airport in Europe, is about 25km northeast of the city centre. Orly is situated around 15km south of the city and is the busiest domestic airport in the country as well as servicing many international flights. Shuttle Direct’s fast and efficient Paris transfers from both airports ensure easy online booking, a convenient, timely pickup service, and safe, comfortable transport to your accommodation.
Where to Stay
Hotel de Saint-Germain – For an affordable stay in one of Paris’ most chic arrondissments, the Hotel de Saint-Germain offers the perfect escape. With stylishly decorated rooms, 24-hour reception, continental breakfast, and free WI-FI, the hotel is just a couple of minutes from the Metro station and a stone’s throw from the famous Boulevard de Saint Germain.
Grand Hotel Dechampaigne – Situated in the very heart of Paris, the Louis X11- inspired décor of the Grand Hotel Dechampaigne sets the scene for an authentic Parisian experience. Superbly situated just five minutes from the Notre Dame and the Louvre, and just a short stroll to the banks of the Seine, you’ll enjoy the very best of Paris right on your doorstep at the Grand Hotel Dechampaigne.
Hyatt Paris Madeleine – For a luxurious stay in the centre of the city, with luxury finishings befitting its chic surrounds, the Hyatt Paris Madeleine is just minutes from the famous Boulevard Haussman shopping district and an elegant wander to the Champs Elysees. With onsite fitness centre, restaurant, cocktail bar and terrace dining, you’ll enjoy the signature Parisian style of this grand hotel with easy access to all the city’s iconic attractions.