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Finding the Quirky Side of Paris

The Musee des Arts Forains is simply a good time! Walking into an old-timey carnival space, all the nostalagic rides and games are romantic and fun.


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; Paris has so many unique things to do that will keep you visiting for years. 

The entrance to the Musee des Arts Forains.
Get ready to be dazzled and amazed at Les Musee des Arts Forains, step right up!

We’ve visited Paris so many times that you’d think we’d run out of things to do, but on our last trip, it was all about fun and whimsy. We took a baking lesson and learned how to make the flakiest croissants. We wandered around some markets and even into Deyrolle, the city’s best taxidermy shop, and then of course a foray into the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, as well as eating our way through the city. Have I mentioned how much I love Paris?!

The Magical Musée des Arts Forains

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, a perfect activity for kids of all ages.

Just like you would expect, the Paris carnival museum doors are ostentatious and gaudy.
The grand entrance to museum – stepping back in time to the good old days.

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A look at the interior of the Musee des Arts Forains.
Go for a balloon ride without ever leaving the carnival.

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.

Musee des Arts Forains Carousel.
The art of the carnival includes carousel horses, of course!

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.

Taking a turn at all the great rides in the carnival arts museum of Paris.
There are several very old carnival rides that are lovingly maintained and displayed at the Musee des Arts Forains.

What to Do Inside the Musée des Arts Forains

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.

The rides, like this wagon, the games, and the showmanship in this Paris gem, are really worth experiencing.
The human powered velocipede, jump on a bike and start pedaling!

How to Get to the Musée des Arts Forains

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.

The Musee des Arts Forains has pieces collected from all over Europe.
The Musee des Arts Forains has pieces from all over Europe.
  • 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
http://www.arts-forains.com/

The best part of the Musee des Arts Forains is that it's all interactive.
Fun house art is on display, as well.

Conclusion

Everyone who visits the Musée des Arts Forains has a blast. It’s the perfect combination of history and whimsy, that brings out the nostalgia in you. As one of the most unusual things to do in Paris, you won’t want to miss it. There are many reasons to visit Paris, but this one is both romantic and quirky.

Of course you’ve been to Paris, what was the quirkiest museum you visited there?

Pin Musee des Arts Forains for later!

Ready for date night in Paris? the Musee des Arts Forains is the Museum of the Carnival Arts. Click here to find out more!

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Carolina Colborn

Tuesday 14th of March 2017

Not quirky for me! Fabulous!

Corinne Vail

Wednesday 15th of March 2017

Carol, It's a lot of fun!

Mary {The World Is A Book}

Tuesday 14th of March 2017

This looks like such a great and interesting museum to visit. I think my kids would really enjoy its uniqueness. We're going to be in Paris this summer for a few days. I'm going to see if there's availability then and if we can make it here. Thanks for the tip!

Corinne Vail

Tuesday 14th of March 2017

Mary, They really will love it. I think you'll be in luck!

Brian - EatWorkTravel

Tuesday 14th of March 2017

What a fun spot to explore! Such interesting pieces from different time periods of carnivals. Were any of the carousels operational?

Corinne Vail

Tuesday 14th of March 2017

Brian, They were and we were able to ride on them. They were a blast!

Elisa Subirats

Monday 13th of March 2017

So you made it to le Musée des Arts Forains! Not easy to visit, as you explain on the post . . . I have visited it a couple of times (being a local, I am always there when it opens to the public) without guide, I'd be curious to know what they explain about this place

Corinne Vail

Monday 13th of March 2017

Elisa, We have the transcript if you are interested. It's basically just dates of the items and a little trivia. It was much more fun just riding and playing.

Baskets Life Travel

Monday 13th of March 2017

I have been to Paris many times, but have never heard of this cool little place, we will have to check it out when we return. It looks really interesting and a little bit weird - we would love it!

Corinne Vail

Monday 13th of March 2017

Stacey, It's just a lot of fun! Go!