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Museums: Fashion, design and architecture

Shoes, shawls, furniture and beautiful buildings

© TB

Musée des Arts Décoratifs

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.

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1st arrondissement

Musée Galliera

This look at clothes through history takes an academic approach to its subject. Housed in a hôtel particulier built by Eiffel, the Galliera has a huge costume collection. It has links with the fashion industry, and its initiative with young designers shows innovative work.

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Champs Élysées and western Paris

Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine

Opened in 2007, this architecture and heritage museum impresses principally by its scale. The expansive ground floor is filled with life-size mock-ups of cathedral façades and heritage buildings, and interactive screens place the models in context. Upstairs, darkened rooms house full-scale copies of medieval and Renaissance murals and stained-glass windows. The highlight of the modern architecture section is the walk-in replica of an apartment from Le Corbusier's Cité Radieuse in Marseille It makes for a fascinating visit for children of all ages; to help them understand the exhibits, colourful interactive games are dotted around the permanent displays, so they can try their hand at architecture and learn the concepts of Romanesque and Gothic as they create fantastical animal heads, design stained-glass windows or build a Romanesque arch. On Saturdays at 2pm, three- to seven-year-olds can have a go at doing some building themselves with wooden blocks. Entry is €8 and you don't need to reserve (just turn up about 30 minutes beforehand).

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16th arrondissement
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Cité de la Mode et du Design

Since 2005, the apple-green caterpillar of Docks en Seine (La Cité de la Mode et du Design) has been pupating on the banks of the river between the Gare d’Austerlitz and the BnF. It finally, belatedly opened its doors in 2012, transforming an industrial wasteland into a futuristic vision of culture and entertainment as imagined by architects Dominique Jakob and Brendan MacFarlane. From now on, its future is assured. A grassy terrace runs down to the water, there’s a club (Nüba) and restaurant (Moon Roof) on the roof and a bar/club (Wanderlust, by the team behind Silencio) on the first floor, plus a programme of open air screenings and exhibitions. Behind the imposing façade of glass and metal, the Docks are finally teeming with life.

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13th arrondissement

Fondation Pierre Bergé Yves Saint Laurent

After bowing out of the fashion world in 2002, Yves Saint Laurent threw all his lingering energy into his self-titled foundation, which he managed together with his partner Pierre Bergé. Over the last six years of his life, he oversaw its evolution into a major exhibition centre with a focus on fashion and sartorial traditions from around the world. Artists such as David Hockney and photographers including Gisèle Freund have featured in the past.

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Champs Élysées and western Paris

Galerie des Gobelins

From time to time, Le Mobilier National – the institute historically charged with furnishing royal households – puts on temporary exhibitions of antique furniture and textiles woven by the prestigious Gobelin guild. The building also hosts the odd contemporary art show, in an effort to contextualise its own collection. Definitely worth a gander (though be aware that exhibitions don't run throughout the year, and that the institute otherwise remains closed to the public).

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13th arrondissement
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Pavillon de l'Arsenal

The setting is a fantastic 1880s gallery with an iron frame and glass roof; the subject is the built history of Paris; the result is disappointing. The ground floor houses a permanent exhibition on the city's development, but space and funds are lacking to the extent that exhibits are limited to a few storyboards, maps and photos, and three city models set into the floor (done far more impressively at the Musée d'Orsay). That said, things have picked up somewhat thanks to the installation of a monstrous new simulation of Paris as it may look in 2020 (financed by Google and JCDecaux), while recent temporary exhibitions on such intriguing topics as the Boulevard Périphérique have proved more diverting than the permanent collection.

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The Marais

104 (Centquatre)

It's more than a century since Montmartre was the centre of artistic activity in Paris. But now the north of Paris is again where the action is - albeit a couple of kilometres east of place du Tertre, in a previously neglected area of bleak railway goods yards and dilapidated social housing.104, described as a 'space for artistic creation', occupies a vast 19th-century building on the rue d'Aubervilliers that used to house Paris's municipal undertakers. The site was saved from developers by Roger Madec, the mayor of the 19th, who's made its renovation the centrepiece of a massive project of cultural and urban renewal.There aren't any constraints on the kind of work the resident artists do - 104 is open to 'all the arts' - but they're expected to show finished pieces in one of four annual 'festivals'. And they're also required to get involved in projects with the public, the fruits of which are shown in a space next door.

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19th arrondissement

More art in Paris

Contemporary art in the suburbs

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Secret galleries

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Museums for kids

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50 artworks not to miss

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Art deco Paris

After the First World War, architecture in Paris (like in other great cities across the world) turned away from the asymmetrical, sinuous forms of art nouveau, (made famous in Paris by architects like Hector Guimard, who designed the iconic Métro entrances) to embrace the angular, modernist and often symmetrical forms of cubism and neoclassicism. This aesthetic transformation reflected the nation's desire (during the Roaring Twenties and 1930s) to embrace modernity and leave... 

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Paris Museum Pass

If you're visiting Paris and planning on cramming in as many museums and monuments as possible, the Paris Museum Pass is a good way to save both money and time. The pass offers direct access to 60 of Paris's most iconic sights, and allows you to skip past the long ticket queues. There are three available options: a 2-day pass for €42, 4 days for €56 or 6 days for €69; so whether you plan to visit the iconic Louvre, Musée d'Orsay and Pompidou Centre, or to take your time exploring the city's sites, there's an option for everyone. Passes can be purchased online, or at visitor centres, museums and shops all over the city.For more information, click here.

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