The former Paris mansions turned museums are a unique feature of the city. Paris preserves its architectural gems whenever possible.
Many historic houses are now used as museums. In this way, they form part of a fascinating living heritage. Alive today for all to enjoy.
This special two-part blog takes a look at some of these unique treasures of the French capital.
The city’s hôtels particuliers
You may have heard of the term ‘hôtel particulier’. But what does it mean?
Unlike the word ‘hotel’ as we recognize it in English, these grand houses are not guesthouses for tourists. Instead, they are private mansions.
Large courtyards, reception rooms, and bedrooms, even urban gardens. All are features of the hôtels particuliers of Paris. They have their origins in the 17th century, before Louis XIV moved French court life from the capital to Versailles.
It is these grand dwellings that take on a new purpose in modern Paris. They now house some of the city’s lesser-known and most beautiful museums.
Carnavalet Museum, the history of Paris
Located in the Marais, the Carnavalet Museum dedicates itself to the history of Paris.
Occupying the former Hôtel Carnavalet, it’s a rare example of Renaissance architecture in the capital.
The museum houses a breathtaking array of artifacts: 300,000 engravings,150,000 photographs, 20,000 drawings, 2,600 paintings, 2,000 modern sculptures, and 800 pieces of furniture. Along with many more countless items.
Together, they tell the story of how a village called Lutèce grew into the grand city we know today.
Expanded in 1989 into the neighboring Le Peletier mansion, the museum is currently under renovation, and set to reopen in 2020.
The Marais is in the 4th arrondissement (district) and houses some real Parisian gems. Such as this stunning air conditioned property with 16 foot ceilings.
Marmottan Monet Museum, home of the Impressionists
Home to one of Paris’s largest collections of Impressionist paintings, the Marmottan Monet Museum is a must for art lovers.
Decorated in the style of the Napoleonic era, it’s housed in a grandiose hunting lodge formerly owned by the Duke of Valmy.
Inside, you can view dozens of Claude Monet’s masterpieces, including iconic works such as Impression, Soleil Levant (The Rising Sun). This is the painting which gave the whole Impressionist movement its name.
Also exhibited are paintings from Monet’s own collection. Artists represented include Degas, Gauguin, Guillaumin, Renoir and Sisley. Many were personally donated to the museum by Michel Monet, the artist’s youngest son.
The Marmottan Monet Museum is in the 16th arrondissement, close to the beautiful Bois de Boulogne.
It’s where you’ll find the charming Passy neighborhood, and the Trocadéro area, famous for its stunning views of the Eiffel Tower.
Have a look at this Art Deco apartment with balconies near the Bois de Boulogne
The unique Museum of Hunting and Nature
The Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (Museum of Hunting and Nature) is one of the city’s most unique museums.
It’s housed within the limestone Hôtel de Guénégaud, which dates from the 17th century and is a prime example of a Parisian hôtel particulier. Following remodeling in 2007, the museum extends into the handsome Hôtel de Mongelas.
Many a guidebook refers to this museum as “quirky, astonishing, strange and eclectic” and it’s not hard to see why. Not when you consider some of the artifacts include a collection of dog collars through the ages, and a talking animatronic albino boar head!
The Museum of Hunting and Nature is well worth a visit for an alternative look at French culture and history. Currently closed for renovations, it’s reopening next fall.
It’s located in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris, home to the Upper Marais. Where you’ll find this one bedroom for rent in the trendy Arts et Métiers area.
More Paris mansions turned museums
Paris is home to many more fascinating mansion museums. We’ll be taking a look in the second part of this blog, coming soon.
Until then, if you have any questions about living and working in the French capital, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the experts here at 56Paris.