Hôtels particuliers


The other day, I wrote about the musée Cognacq-Jay in the Marais. Another, much larger museum around the corner is the musée Carnavalet, the museum of the history of the city of Paris. Six hundred thousand objects tell the story of Paris from 5 millennia B.C. to the present day.  The buildings that the museum occupies are as interesting as the collection – two hôtels particuliers (ohtell par-tic-oo-lee-ay) – or private mansions, one built in the 16th century, the other in the 17th.

carnavalet 4The older building, l’hôtel Carnavalet, gave its name to the museum that was founded by Baron Haussmann 1866. It’s rather ironic that this was his project, as he is the man who changed Paris dramatically, carving wide boulevards through the city and knocking down whatever stood in his path. In 1989, it absorbed the adjacent hôtel Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau. In addition to the permanent exhibits, there are excellent temporary exhibits, also usually free. It’s open most days from 10 am to 6 pm except Mondays and holidays.


My favorite part of the museum is the recreated period rooms. There are complete interiors here that represent changing tastes in design from the 17th to the 20th centuries. The oldest room dates to 1652 and was created by Le Vau and Le Brun, the team that designed the interiors of Vaux le Vicomte and Versailles. The most recent room is an Art Déco ballroom designed by José-Maria Sert. The marquise de Sévigné used to live in the hôtel Carnavalet and the lacquered Chinese-style desk where she used to write her voluminous correspondence is here. Marcel Proust’s bedroom is here complete with his brass bed and little table and notebooks. I love the Art Nouveau jewelry store with its beautiful paneling. The Carnavalet is a great place to while away a rainy day.

416AvFrv7SL__SL75_Rick Steves’ Paris 2013

About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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6 Responses to Hôtels particuliers

  1. Norman Ball says:

    No trip to Paris is complete without a visit to the Carnavalet. As you suggest it is an ideal refuge from rain. We have sought refuge from snow there as well and even visit on sunny days. We have so many fine memories of both permanent and temporary exhibits. One of our favourites was on the wonderful creations of Louis Vuitton. Thanks for the reminder of a great museum and a wonderful bookstore. It helped warm a rather cold day here in Toronto.

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