Museums and art galleries in the Opéra & Grands Boulevards
- Critics choice
Taken as a whole (along with the Musée de la Mode et du Textile and Musée de la Publicité), this is one of the world's major collections of design and the decorative arts. Located in the west wing of the Louvre since its opening a century ago, the venue reopened in 2006 after a decade-long, €35-million restoration of the building and of 6,000 of the 150,000 items donated mainly by private collectors. The major focus here is French furniture and tableware. From extravagant carpets to delicate crystal and porcelain, there is much to admire. Clever spotlighting and black settings show the exquisite treasures - including châtelaines made for medieval royalty and Maison Falize enamel work - to their best advantage. Other galleries are categorised by theme: glass, wallpaper, drawings and toys. There are cases devoted to Chinese head jewellery and the Japanese art of seduction with combs. Of most immediate attraction to the layman are the reconstructed period rooms, ten in all, showing how the other (French) half lived from the late 1400s to the early 20th century.
Set in an apartment where Piaf lived at the age of 18, when she sang on the streets of Ménilmontant, this tiny museum consists of two red-painted rooms crammed with letters, pictures, framed discs and objects belonging to the singer.Curator Bernard Marchois doesn't speak English. It helps, therefore, to have seen the Marion Cotillard film before you go, to allow you to piece together the scrapbook of Piaf's highly mythologised life. The museum's real treasures are two letters, one a chatty number written on her 28th birthday, and another more passionate pen to actor Robert Dalban.These - and the well-worn, human-sized teddy bear cuddling a tiny monkey soft toy - are the only clues to the real Piaf, the greatest singer the nation has ever known.
- 5 rue Crespin du Gast, 11e
- Price band: 2/4
This municipal fashion museum holds Elsa Schiaparelli's entire archive and hosts exciting themed exhibitions. Dramatic black-walled rooms make a fine background to the clothes, and video screens and a small cinema space show how the clothes move, as well as interviews with the creators.
- Price band: 2/4
The upstairs element of the trio of museums in the Louvre west wing, the advertising museum has a distressed interior by Jean Nouvel. Only a fraction of the vast collection of posters, promotional objects and packaging can be seen at one time; vintage posters are accessed in the multimedia space.
The Pastis firm promotes modern art with the Prix Paul Ricard, where young French artists are shortlisted by an independent curator for an annual prize. The Prix Paul Ricard coincides with FIAC each autumn.
- 12 rue Boissy d'Anglas, 8e
The Palais Garnier houses temporary exhibitions relating to current opera or ballet productions, along with a permanent collection of paintings, scores and bijou opera sets housed in period cases. The entrance fee includes a visit to the auditorium, if rehearsals permit.
- Palais Garnier, 1 place de l'Opéra, 9e
The history of the French National Library began in the 1660s, when Louis XIV moved manuscripts that couldn't be housed in the Louvre to this lavish Louis XIII townhouse, formerly the private residence of Cardinal Mazarin. The library was first opened to the public in 1692, and by 1724 it had received so many new acquisitions that the adjoining Hôtel de Nevers had to be added. Some of the original painted decoration by Romanelli and Grimaldi can still be seen in Galeries Mansart and Mazarine, now used for temporary exhibitions (and closed otherwise). The highlights, however, are the two circular reading rooms: the Salle Ovale, which is full of researchers, note-takers and readers, and the magnificent Salle de Travail, a temple to learning, with its arrangement of nine domes supported on slender columns clearly influenced by the Ottoman architecture of the Levant. The latter is now hauntingly empty, as most of its books have been moved to the Bibliothèque Nationale de France - François Mitterrand.On the first floor is the Musée du Cabinet des Médailles, a modest two-room collection of coins and medals, including Greek, Roman and medieval examples. There is also a miscellany of other items, including Merovingian king Dagobert's throne, Charlemagne's chess set and small artefacts from the Classical world and ancient Egypt.
- 5 rue Vivienne, 2e
- Price band: 3/4
Couturier Pierre Cardin has owned belle époque restaurant Maxim's since 1981, and now he has added a museum of art nouveau, which he has been collecting since the age of 18. There are rooms and rooms of exhibits, arranged so as to evoke a 19th-century courtesan's boudoir.Read Zola's Nana before your visit to grasp the full effect of the dreamy lake maidens sculpted in glistening faience, pewter vanity sets in the shape of reclining nudes, and beds inlaid with opium flowers to promote sleep. Dinner settings on display include Gustav Eiffel's own chunky tureens, just crying out for turtle soup.
- Maxim's, 3 rue Royale, 8e
Two museums showcase the collection of perfume house Fragonard: this one has bottles by Lalique and Schiaparelli; the second (Musées des Parfumeries-Fragonard), at rue Scribe, has five rooms displaying everything from Ancient Egyptian ointment flasks to Meissen porcelain scent bottles.
- 39 boulevard des Capucines, 2e
- Price band: 2/4
This small, private museum and doll hospital enchants little girls with its collection of some 500 dolls (mostly of French origin) and their accompanying accessories and pets, which are arranged in thematic tableaux.A few teddies and quacking ducks are thrown in for young boys, and storytelling sessions and workshops (along the lines of making doll's clothes or miniature food for dolls' houses) are held at 2pm on Wednesdays (in French, reserve in advance; €8-€13). There's even a clinique pour poupées if your doll is falling apart at the seams.
- Impasse Berthaud, 3e
- Price band: 1/4
- Critics choice
This Gothic turret (1409-11) is the remnant of the townhouse of Jean Sans Peur, duke of Burgundy. He was responsible for the assassination of his rival Louis d'Orléans, which sparked the Hundred Years' War and saw Burgundy become allied to the English crown. You can climb the tower, which has rooms leading off the stairway.
- 20 rue Etienne Marcel, 2e
When Constantin Brancusi died in 1957, he left his studio and its contents to the state, and it was later moved and rebuilt by the Centre Pompidou. His fragile works in wood and plaster, the endless columns and streamlined bird forms show how Brancusi revolutionised sculpture.
- Place Beaubourg, 4e