Built in the mid-16th century, the museum building is one of Paris' oldest mansions and along with the square courtyard of the Louvre, one of its few remaining examples of Renaissance architecture. Its list of illustrious tenants includes Madame de Sévigné - one of the great icons of French 17th-century literature - and her family.
The Carnavalet Museum opened its doors to the public in 1880, and retraces the history of Paris with exhibits from every period. Paintings, engravings, coins, photographs, furniture, sculptures… no fewer than 600,000 items make up this incredible time capsule. Visitors can now explore several different spaces, following four years of work to restore both the building and its most iconic artefacts.
The collections span several millennia, from the Mesolithic Period (starting 10,000 years B.C.) to the 21st century. The tumultuous history of the French capital is brought to life through exhibits including a prehistoric canoe, a depiction of Mercury dating back to the ancient city of Lutetia (the predecessor to modern-day Paris), the armchair in which Voltaire is said to have died, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, painted by Jean-Jacques-François Le Barbier (1738-1826), and the equally famous, unfinished work The Tennis Court Oath, by Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825).
The Carnavalet museum has plenty to keep little ones entertained too. The artefacts on its special children's tour are displayed at their eye level and accompanied by information signs, and there are plenty of games and interactive opportunities to amuse younger visitors as you make your way around. Note that the museum's permanent collections are free of charge.
23 rue de Sévigné
Tel : +33 (0)1 44 59 58 58