The City of Lights tops many a bucket list, with good reason. With its fabulous architecture, bohemian neighborhoods, gorgeous churches, and fantastic shopping, Paris offers something for everyone.
Even those with unusual tastes.
Never mind Pere Lachaise cemetery and the Catacombs. With museums for playing cards, sewers, erotica, and braille, Paris is bursting with weird things to see.
As cool as the Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre are, sometimes you want something different. So whether your tastes run to the eccentric or you just like new things, here are 8 strange museums to see in Paris.
1. Musée d’Histoire de la Médecine (Medical History Museum)
It wouldn’t be a list of strange museums without a medical museum, would it? You’re spoiled for choice in Paris. For those with a stronger constitution, you might like the Musée Dupuytren. Its collection of preserved specimens and curiosities is not for the faint-hearted.
Instead, why not try the Musée d’Histoire de la Médecine in the Faculty of Medicine in the Latin Quarter?
This historic building houses the oldest collection of medical instruments in Europe. The room dates to 1905-07, but the museum didn’t open until 1955. The surgical instruments help chart the developments in medicine throughout the decades. Some tools date back to the mummification practices of ancient Egypt.
Although some of them wouldn’t look out of place in the Chamber of Horrors.
2. Musée de la Magie (Museum of Magic)
If you’re a fan of illusions and stage magic, then check out the Musée de la Magie. It opened in 1993 and tells the story of stage magic from the 18th century.
Housed in 16th-century cellars, you can meander through seven different rooms. On display, you’ll find posters, magic tricks, antique props, illustrated adverts and
Your visit also includes a magic show. This is in French, but you should still be able to appreciate the illusions.
The cellars also contain the Automata Museum and you can get a combined ticket to visit both. They’ve got 100 different robots and automata, which is both cool and freaky at once. Many are coin-operated and still work.
3. Musée Grevin (Wax Museum)
Most people think of Madame Tussauds when they hear ‘wax museum’. Unless they’re a Vincent Price fan and they think of his early foray into 3D cinema, House of Wax (1953).
The Musée Grevin has a cool circus/hall of mirrors feel which gives it a certain vintage atmosphere. New celebrity waxworks regularly join the collection. From Jean Reno to Mozart, you can pose with over 200 waxworks.
Even if you’re not fond of waxworks, it’s worth seeing for its sumptuous interiors alone.
4. Musée des Arts et Métiers (Museum of Arts and Crafts)
If you’re a fan of mad scientists or genius inventors, then the Musée des Arts et Métiers might be the ticket. The fact it’s housed in the Abbaye de Saint-Martin-des-Champs adds to its charm.
Founded in 1794, this industrial design museum offers a range of displays. Exhibitions explore transport, communication, mechanics, materials, and scientific instruments.
Of its 80,000 objects, it has 3,000 on display. Among them, you’ll find an astrolabe from 1569, Pascal’s arithmetic machines, and early cameras. While the items in the digital age section look super retro, they’re still worth seeing.
Have you read Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum? You’ll find the original model of the pendulum here.
5. Musée des Vampires (Vampire Museum)
Where else but Paris would you expect to find a vampire museum (except New Orleans)? Head out to the edge of the city to Porte des Lilas to find the Vampire Museum.
Jacques Sirgent, an English teacher and Bram Stoker translator, runs the museum. Its single room brims with a collection you’d expect in the backroom at Hammer Films.
Pore over old books and posters, marvel at vampire trinkets and enjoy the Halloween props. Sirgent finds his pieces online or in flea markets. He even has a crossbow and a 19th-century vampire-hunting kit in the collection.
He even offers membership to the museum for more ardent fans.
6. Pavillons de Bercy
Are fairgrounds and carnivals up your street? Do you love the grimacing carousel animals and the weird out-of-tune calliope music?
Then the Pavillons de Bercy is worth a visit. Celebrating all things fairground and carnival, they’re an often-overlooked treat.
There are four different areas to visit. Find the 19th-century fairground displays at the Musée des Arts Forains. The French government awarded it a living heritage label for its preservation work. Their collection is the biggest collection of fairground objects in Europe.
The Salons Vénitiens features the carnival displays. You’ll find some excellent cabinets of curiosity in the Théâtre du Merveilleux. Outside, the Théâtre de Verdure contains splendid gardens. The pavilions are old wine warehouses.
7. Musée de la préfecture (Paris Police Museum)
It’s always nice to have somewhere free to go when bad weather rolls in. Who wants to trudge around the Tuileries Gardens in the rain?
Head to the Prefecture off the Rue des Écoles. Be warned the police will search you on entry to their building. Tell them you want the museum and go up to the third floor where you’ll find the Paris Police Museum.
It contains around 2000 items dating back to the 17th century. They don’t shy away from the darker aspects of French history. The museum includes displays about the Nazi occupation of Paris and you’ll even see a guillotine.
The museum grew out of an exhibit created for the 1900 World’s Fair. It also displays changing weaponry, uniforms and documents from the police archives. Much of the museum is still in French though some text is available in Spanish and English.
8. Musée des moulages de l’hôpital Saint-Louis (The Museum of Casts)
We’re ending this list of strange museums the way we started it…with a medical museum.
Founded in 1885 at the Saint-Louis Hospital, the Musée des moulages was a teaching museum. Professors used its 4807 wax casts to teach students of dermatology. They made better progress learning from three-dimensional models than from drawings.
One moulder, Jules Baretta, made almost 3500 casts on his own. The final casts date to 1958. The building once housed a clinic on the ground floor, with teaching spaces upstairs.
Be aware they take visitors by appointment only. Otherwise, you can visit during the European Heritage Days. That’s the third weekend in September.
If you only have a few days in Paris, your biggest problem will be deciding which museum to visit first!
If you enjoy thrillers set in Paris, check out Crypt of Bone, which includes the Louvre and the Paris Catacombs.