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The Magical Musée des Arts Forains
Ah Paris! If there is any one city in the world that calls us back over and over again it is the City of Light. Paris changes as quickly as a model changes outfits for a runway show. Every season brings its own charms and delights. The city changes with each passing season. You really should plan on returning to Paris if only to taste the changes to the seasonal menus in all of her incredible restaurants. However, aside from eating and drinking wine, is there enough to do for repeat visitors? The answer, of course, is yes. There is always some new exhibit or concert to check out, another wing of the Louvre to explore, and a seemingly never ending list of quirky museums to find and visit.
On our last trip to Paris we finally made it to the delightful Pavillons des Bercy and the Musée des Arts Forains. For those of you non French speakers (comme moi), the Musée des Arts Forains is the Museum of the Carnival Arts. No, it is not filled with paintings of clowns created by wistful carnival ride operators. It is, in fact, filled with the art work of the carnival itself. A dizzying assortment of carousel animals, midway games, automatons, gypsy fortune tellers, and fairground organs.
Getting in to the Musee des Arts Forains
Entrance to the Musée des Arts Forains can be challenging. Visits are by appointment only and can only be made with a guided tour. The good news is that the museum’s website is well designed and easily navigated. The bad news is there are only a few days each month when the museum is open for visitors and the website only shows the current month openings. You can call and check on later dates, but the best option is to book your tickets as early in the month of travel as possible.
Tours are only conducted in French, with an English pamphlet available for non French speakers. On the day of our tour, however, the operators divided the visitors into two groups, one of only French speakers, and the other a mixed group. In fact, our mixed group guide told her stories and provided all of the information in both French and English. The museum really does try to accommodate all visitors, so don’t let the “French Only” notice stop you from visiting this fabulous museum.
This is a hands on museum, and while you can’t just wander around on your own, you do get to ride on some of the rides and play some of the midway games. Treat yourself to the sounds and sights of the carnival with blaring mechanical organs, flashing lights, and automaton operas. Flash photography is prohibited but you can still take video and photographs, just be prepared for the dark conditions. Of course, there’s no eating or drinking allowed within the museum and there isn’t a museum cafe, so plan on lunch before or after your visit.
Getting to the museum:
Getting around Paris is a piece of cake. Make sure you have plenty of T+ tickets that will allow travel on metros, buses, or trams. Consider purchasing a day pass if you’ll be taking more than 8 trips in a day. Otherwise, buy packs of ten tickets at a time. I always recommend bus over metro getting around Paris You’ll get to see more of the city traveling above ground, and you’ll limit the walking and stair climbing needed to get from point A to point B. Just remember, when using tickets you can’t transfer between metro and bus on the same ticket.
- Bus 24, 109, or 111 to Terroirs de France
- Metro 14 to Cour Saint-Émilion
- Parking: Parking Indigo Bercy Saint-Emilion
12, Place des Vins de France, 75012 Paris
Les Pavillons de Bercy – Musée des Arts Forains
53 Avenue des Terroirs de France, 75012 Paris
+33 1 43 40 16 22
Of course you’ve been to Paris, what was the quirkiest museum you visited there?
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