Yes, there’s the Louvre. But Paris and its surrounding region have some 200 other museums, many of which cater happily to young travelers and their families.
Even the best behaved child may not be able to patiently wait in the long lines of the Louvre. Luckily, Paris and its surrounding region also have some 200 other museums, many of which cater happily to young travelers and their families.
At this selection of five museums, children and adults can ride antique carousels, attend musical performances and watch magic shows. With the benefit of being a bit off-the-beaten tourist path, more French will be heard and visitors might feel a sense of satisfaction knowing they have arrived at a place that native Parisians also enjoy.
Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle
Encircling the Jardin des Plantes. the galleries of Paris’s natural history museum include halls of geology and botany and greenhouses of plants from different climates. But the must-sees are the Gallery of Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy and Grand Gallery of Evolution.
In the paleontology building, a menagerie of articulated skeletons and fossils still sport their original, charmingly hand-lettered labelsfrom the end of the 19th century. Neither children nor their parents can touch, but they can ride the animals on the “dodo manège,” a carousel of extinct and endangered species, located just outside.
The Grand Gallery of Evolution occupies a beautiful iron and glass building dating to the 1880s. Originally the zoology building, it reopened to the public in 1994 after decades of neglect. The museum displays more than 9,000 preserved animals and insects, from a total collection of many tens of millions more. The exhibits tell the intertwined stories of the evolution of species and of human impacts on the planet, including a hall of extinct and endangered species where creatures seem to glow under low, preservation-sensitive lighting.
Musée de la Musique
This museum in the 19th Arrondissement adjoins the home of the Paris Philharmonic. Its collection spans centuries of European classical music and instruments, with intricately decorated pianos and hundreds of reeds, horns and string instruments, including a10-foot-tall octobass that is played with the hands and feet.
Live performances take place in the galleries of the museum every day, either on original instruments or replicas. The museum provides two versions of its English-language audio guide, one for children and one for adults, and visitors can hear the sounds of the instruments on display. Smaller sections of the museum feature electric guitars, 20th-century experimental instruments like the theremin and gmebaphone, as well as a selection of instruments from other continents.
At this museum, in whimsically arranged former wine warehouses, children and adults can hop on vintage carousels and compete on the antique fairground games. Guides recount the history of Europe’s traveling fairs and explain signs that identify the country of origin for a carousel horse. One hint: British horses face the opposite direction to horses made in continental Europe.
An unusual British carousel from the turn-of-the-20th century — one that had a cameo in the film “Midnight in Paris” — features a ring of bicycles. It turns on the pedal-power of its riders, and can reach speeds of up to 35 miles per hour.
Reservations must be made in advance on the museum’s website. Tours in French are offered several days a week year-round, and English-language tours are offered in the summer months.