The Musee Carnavalet is one of Paris’s most interesting and educational museums, chronicling the history of the City of Light from its founding on the Ile de la Cite in 250 B.C. to today’s 21st century center of business, finance, art and culture.
The museum occupies two side-by-side 17th century mansions — the Hotel Carnavalet and the Hotel le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau — and was opened to the public in 1866. (Noted aristocrat and letter-writer Madame Sevigny lived in the Hotel Carnavalet for 20 years.)
The collection is massive, and only a fraction is on display in the museum’s nearly 100 rooms. All told, the museum houses 2,600 paintings, 20,000 drawings, 300,000 engravings, 150,000 photos, 2,000 sculptures, 800 pieces of furniture and countless other items of historical significance.
Specific periods well represented in the museum include: Lutecia (the period when Paris was ruled by Rome), the Medieval city, the Renaissance, Protestant and Catholic wars of religion, the French Revolution, Napoleon’s Paris, and Paris of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Key pieces on display include: Jewelry and furniture taken from Versailles during the French Revolution, a recreation of Marcel Proust’s bedroom, Benazech’s painting “Execution of Louis XVI,” a painting of Marie Antoinette by Kuchaski, many of Madade Sevigny’s letters, and the final letter ever written by Robespierre.
Don’t miss the gorgeous landscaped garden in the courtyard between the two mansions, which is particularly lovely in late spring.
The Musee Carnvalet is free, and open Tuesday-Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Closed Monday.) It is located in the Marais at 23 Rue de Sevigne.