Carnavalet Museum Overview

The oldest museum of the French capital city, the Carnavalet Museum is home to the rich, intricate history of Paris with over 600,000 objects forming its permanent collection. Dating from prehistory to the present, this extensive collection is spread across 100 rooms. The museum also hosts a number of temporary exhibitions related to the various eras of Parisian history.Originally opened in the Hotel de Carnavalet, the Carnavalet Museum Paris later grew into the adjacent mansion Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau, as its collection started expanding. The enormous collection of the museum is categorized into four sections - Prehistory, Antiquity, and Middle Ages, Paris from 1547 to 18th century, French revolution to the first half of 19th century, and from the second half of the 19th century to present. Along with the 2,600 paintings, 2,000 sculptures, 20,000 drawings, 150,000 photographs, and 300,000 engravings, the museum’s breathtaking formal gardens and magnificent central courtyard also appeal to the visitors.

Collections at the Carnavalet Museum

Carnavalet Museum, Paris
Lutetia - Prehistory and Ancient

At the lowest level of the Carnavalet Museum Paris, this collection showcases artworks and other objects excavated from neolithic sites. Some of the prime highlights of this section include Gallo–Roman artifacts from Lutetia, a 2700 BC pirogue made of a single tree, and artifacts discovered from the first permanent settlement of Paris in 1990s including wooden tools, pottery, carved figurines, earthen cooking pots, and farming & fishing equipment.

Carnavalet Museum, Paris
Medieval to Renaissance Paris (5th–16th century)

The exhibits in the Medieval to Renaissance section of the Carnavalet Museum date between the 5th and the 16th centuries. Some of the main exhibits of this section include a sample model of the Île de la Cité, a 14th-century sculpture of the Virgin Mary's head, sculpted busts of Saints and Apostles, stained glass windows from the Dormans-Beauvais College chapel, artworks by Francis I, Catherine de Medici, and Henry IV dating back to the 16th century, and a 13th-century ornate chest.

Carnavalet Museum, Paris
The Paris of Henry IV and Louis XIV (Late 16th-17th century)

This section of the museum is home to the magnificent statues of Henry IV and Louis XIV that were originally placed on the Pont Neuf and in the Place de la Concorde respectively, but were torn down during the French Revolution. This section also showcases beautiful furniture made by the eminent cabinetmaker Andre-Charles Boulle and a plethora of brilliant artworks made by the students of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture.

Carnavalet Museum, Paris
The Enlightenment (18th century)

This section of the Carnavalet Museum Paris showcases two 18th-century rooms from the Hôtel de Breteuil, Voltaire's armchair, the Salon Demarteau, and the Salon of Philosophers. Some of the prime highlights of this section include an artwork showcasing the marriage of Louis XIII to Anne of Austria, a portrait of Cardinal Mazarin dating back to the year 1665, a plethora of artworks of Madame de Sévigné, and letters of Madame de Sévigné to her beloved daughter.

Carnavalet Museum, Paris
The French Revolution (1789–1799)

As its name suggests, this section of the Carnavalet Museum is home to a huge collection of awe-inspiring objects and artifacts associated with the French Revolution. Some of the main exhibits of this section include paintings or sculptures of renowned Revolutionary figures including Danton, Mirabeau, and Robespierre and the cell at the Temple Prison where Louis XVI was imprisoned along with his wife Marie Antoinette and their son.

Carnavalet Museum, Paris
Napoleon Bonaparte through Louis-Philippe (1800-1848)

This section showcases a number of things owned by Napoleon Bonaparte, like his death mask and the silverware case and dish brought by him on his military campaigns. You can also see the statue of "Victory" or "Immortality" made by Louis-Simone Boizot between 1806 and 1808 and the portrait of Juliette Récamier made by François Gérard in 1805. Some of the important paintings to check out in this section include "Louis Phillipe celebrates victory at the Hotel de Ville on 31 July 1830" and "The Louvre under attack during the 1830 July Revolution ''.

Carnavalet Museum, Paris
The Paris of Napoleon III (1848-1871)

This section of the Carnavalet Museum is home to some interesting exhibits including the cradle of Napoleon III's son, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte and the painting "Baron Hausmann présents the plan for annexing the communes surrounding Paris to Napoleon III (1859)".

Carnavalet Museum, Paris
The Siege of Paris and the Paris Commune (1870-1871)

This section of the Carnavalet Museum Paris exhibits pictures that showcase the Paris Commune during the time when the French Army regained the city. These photographs display the fires lit on the night of May 23-24, 1871 by the Paris Commune and the barricade built by them on March 18, 1871.

Carnavalet Museum, Paris
Paris in the Belle Epoque (1880-1914)

As the name suggests, this section of the museum showcases the cultural life of Paris that flourished throughout the Belle Epoque era. This section exhibits impressive paintings made by eminent illustrators like Henri Gervex, Louise Abbéma, Jean Béraud, and Carolus-Duran. There are also a plethora of colorful posters made by legendary artists including the Chat Noir and Moulin Rouge cabarets. You can see some iconic paintings by Paul-Joseph-Victor Dargaud, such as "The Grand Boulevards, exit of the Theatre des Varietes", "The Assembly of the Statue of Liberty'', and "The Cafe de Paris''.

Carnavalet Museum, Paris
Paris in the 20th and 21st Centuries

When the Musée Carnavalet was reopened in 2021 after renovation, many objects from the period between the 20th and 21st centuries were stocked here for display. Some of the key exhibits here include furniture and personal belongings of Marcel Proust, pictures of 20th-century Paris clicked by Eugène Atget and Henri Cartier-Bresson, the Hotel de Wendel's ballroom, a painting of a mid-1900s crowded café by Leonard Foujita, a textile work by renowned artists Nil Yalter and Judy Blum, and pictures documenting the liberation of Paris.

History of Carnavalet Museum

Carnavalet Museum, Paris

Stationed in the Carnavalet mansion, the Carnavalet Museum Paris was opened to the public on 25th February 1880. After its opening, the collection of the museum started growing significantly, resulting in the annexation of the Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau mansion in 1989. In October 2016, the museum underwent a major renovation, during which it remained closed for the public. In March 2021, the museum finally reopened for the public.

Donations are the prime way of acquisition of the museum and since its establishment, more than tens of thousands of people have contributed towards the expansion of the collection. The first donors of the museum include Jules Cousin, Théodore Vacquer and Alfred de Liesville. Some of the key donations include a crib donated by Empress Eugénie, the widow of Napoleon III and Georges Clemenceau’s donation of a painting that had belonged to his father.

At present, the museum has more than 618,000 items, spanning from prehistory until the present, including sculptures, paintings, photographs, coins, medals, engravings, posters, furniture, and interior decorations.

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Plan Your Visit to Carnavalet Museum

Essential Information
How to Reach
Visitor's Tips
Carnavalet Museum, Paris
  • Opening Hours:

10 AM to 6 PM; Closed on Monday

  • Location:

23 Rue de Sévigné, 75003 Paris, France

  • Best Time to Visit:

The best time to visit Carnavalet Museum is during the morning hours as there are fewer people in the museum at this time of the day and you get to explore the rich collection peacefully. You are also suggested to consider visiting the museum on weekdays as it remains very crowded during holidays and on weekends.

FAQ's of Carnavalet Museum

Why is Musee Carnavalet Paris so popular?

    Musee Carnavalet Paris is popular as the oldest museum of Paris. It is known for its massive collection of a whopping 610,000 rare items that date from the prehistoric era until the present.

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