Paris is a city that benefits significantly from its past. This will be clearly obvious on any free, narrated walking tour of the city. Although you can always rely on the locals to share their anecdotes about days gone by, nothing compares to experiencing Parisian history all under one roof.
The many must-see history museums in Paris cover a wide range of topics, including revolutions, wars, refugee movements, gentrification, and musical growth. A few are tiny enough to appreciate in a single afternoon. Others require hours of meandering.
It can be challenging to choose one or two museums in Paris that best fit your interests and schedule due to the city’s enormous number of museums. Here is my selection of the top 15 history museums in Paris that you simply must visit.
Top 15 Historical Museum in Paris
- Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle
- The Louvre
- Nissim de Camondo Museum
- La Conciergerie
- Musée National de la Marine
- Musée de la Poste
- Cluny – Musée National du Moyen Age
- Musée de la Monnaie de Paris
- The Army Museum
- Grevin Wax Museum
- Musée Carnavalet
- Arts et Metiers Museum
- La Vie Romantique
- Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme
- Catacombs of Paris
Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle
Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle is a research facility home to rare plant and animal species, dinosaur remains, and tropical greenhouses. Since its founding in the early 1600s, it has expanded to contain 67 million specimens. Exhibits in the museum’s main gallery will amaze visitors of all ages.
The Louvre, the most visited art museum on earth, is home to a sizable collection of artifacts from all around the globe. It is hardly surprising that the Louvre is so well-known, given its collection of famous works of art, including the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci and two Greek statues. The Louvre Museum has sections devoted to furniture, tapestries, and decorative antiques, so there is something for everyone.
Nissim de Camondo Museum
French furniture and decorative arts from the 18th century are displayed in the Musée Nissim de Camondo. Unique and scarce items from the era are featured in the collection, which draws inspiration from the Petit Trianon at Versailles. Anyone with a passion for French design will enjoy perusing the museum.
The Conciergerie has all the intimidating characteristics of a medieval castle. But when Marie-Antoinette, Danton, and Robespierre had been detained here for a considerable amount of time—the 1850s—a large portion of the façade was added. From the Capetian palace, the Bonbec tower from the 13th century, the César and Argent twin towers from the 14th century, and the Tour de l’Horloge still stand.
The tour takes you through the stunning Salle des Gens d’Armes, a magnificent vaulted Gothic Hall erected between 1301 and 1315 for Philippe “le Bel,” and the Salle des Gardes, the medieval kitchens with their four enormous chimneys.
The stronghold was turned into a jail by the Concierge after the royals relocated to the Louvre. The rich paid for separate cells with their own furniture; others slept in close quarters on straw beds. Not all victims of the Revolution were nobles, as evidenced by a list of Revolutionary captives that included a hairdresser. Marie-crucifix, Antoinette’s few paintings, and a guillotine blade are all kept in her cell, the Chapelle des Girondins.
Musée National de la Marine
Explore the 400-year history of French naval might. Highlights include a gilded barge created for Napoleon, the Océan, a 19th-century sailing ship with an incredible 120 cannons, and some great, larger-than-life figureheads, from serene-faced angels to leaping seahorses. Numerous model boats from the 18th to the 20th century are also present, along with a number of vintage diving suits.
Musée de la Poste
Snippets of history can be found among the uniforms, guns, carriages, orders, and fumigation tongs. For example, during the 1871 Siege of Paris, hot air balloons and carrier pigeons were used to transport mail out of the city, and boules de Moulins, balls filled with hundreds of letters, were floated down the Seine in exchange, most of which never arrived. French and international philately are covered in the second section.
Cluny – Musée National du Moyen Age
All things medieval, including art, architecture, and antiquities, are showcased in the stunningly immersive National Museum of the Middle Ages at Cluny. A whopping 10% of its 23,000 objects are always on exhibit at this museum, which was established at the Hotel des Abbes de Cluny in the fifteenth century and is connected to the remains of the old Gallo-Roman baths. This is a must-see location for anybody visiting Paris, regardless of your interest in history or medieval art.
Musée de la Monnaie de Paris
This cutting-edge museum, housed in the elegant neo-classical mint constructed in the 1770s, uses sophisticated displays and audio-visual presentations to trace the history of local and foreign money back to its pre-Roman origins. A whole history is given from the franc’s introduction during a conflict in 1360.
The Army Museum
A massive museum covering more than 200 years of French military history is called the Army Museum. The museum has a collection of equipment from numerous French military campaigns, including weapons, gear, and artifacts. The museum is located close to the well-known Alexandre III bridge at the lovely Hotel National des Invalides.
Grevin Wax Museum
Grévin Wax Museum is a kid-friendly wax attraction with lifelike replicas of historical and contemporary French figures that is situated on the banks of the Seine in Paris. Napoleon I the Emperor, Jeanne d’Arc, and Jean-Paul Marat are a few well-known figures you can visit there. Historical events, including the French Revolution and the assassination of political theorist Jean-Paul Marat are depicted at the museum.
In the Marais neighborhood of Paris, there is a history museum called the Carnavalet Museum that is devoted to the history of Paris. The museum’s organization and presentation have undergone a total change following the 2021 refurbishment, with sections on paleolithic origins, medieval life, and French Revolution items all now being brilliantly presented. Temporary exhibitions demand money, but admission is free.
Arts et Metiers Museum
The history of engineering and design is the focus of the small but significant Musée des Arts et Métiers (Museum of Arts and Crafts) in Paris. It is the best place to visit for anyone interested in business and technology because it features a wide variety of displays spanning anything from scientific instruments to transportation equipment.
La Vie Romantique
The museum is located inside a hotel that was built in 1830 and is located in the 9th arrondissement at the base of the Montmartre hill. The museum explores Paris’ romantic age, or the 19th century, and has a large collection of artwork, antiquities, and archived texts from that time.
Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme
It is appropriate that a museum dedicated to Judaism be housed in one of the greatest palaces in the Marais, which was, for many years, the center of Jewish life in the area. It originated from the holdings of a private organization set up in 1948 to protect Jewish heritage in the wake of the Holocaust.
A contemporary touch is added with photographic pictures of contemporary French Jews, each of whom shares their own tale on the soundtrack. From Zola’s J’Accuse, there are papers and artwork pertaining to the Dreyfus case and the emancipation of French Jewry following the Revolution.
To cartoons that mock Jews. The early 20th-century avant-garde produced paintings by El Lissitsky and Marc Chagall, among others. The stark illustrations by Boris Taslitzky from Buchenwald and the courtyard memorial by Christian Boltanski to the 13 Jews who resided in the building in 1939 and perished in the concentration camps serve as reminders of the Holocaust.
Catacombs of Paris
The 1800s saw the construction of the underground maze of skeleton patterns known as the Catacombs of Paris. It is advised to arrive early when lines are short because the attraction is not for the faint of heart.