Hôtel de Ville – a functional work of art
While this place is not a museum itself, it does offer some of the most amazing free-entry exhibitions in the city. The building is unlikely to be missed out on; once you enter the picturesque 4th arrondissement near the Seine River, you’ll surely notice a monumental edifice with a very ornamental façade – this is the spot. The 138 statues representing famous citizens of Paris and other French cities soar proudly above Place de Grève, the square in front of the building, where most of executions in Paris took place. Today, however, Hôtel de Ville is no longer associated with gallows or guillotine and functions as the office of the Mayor and the city council of Paris. Apart from that, it is a fantastic architectonic exhibit itself – the interiors are richly decorated and feature amazing painted ceilings and walls, large stained glass windows and a vast quantity of works by 19th century artists. Still, the ‘trademark’ of this architectonic wonder is the fact that it hosts a great number of astonishing free exhibitions (just to mention the recent two, devoted to Haute Couture or Nelson Mandela) and the combination of the setting and the content creates a wonderful experience, so you should definitely give it a go while you’re around. The theme of the exhibitions changes on a regular basis, so you can expect a good artistic diversity – free of charge, of course.
Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris – the essence of contemporariness
This fantastic museum is exactly what modern art is about. It’s located at 11, Avenue du Président Wilson in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, so apart from the obvious benefit of aesthetic impressions found inside the museum, you’ll be also able to enjoy the view of many great local landmarks of the surroundings. The museum itself was constructed for the International Exhibition of Arts and Technology of 1937 (and made available to the public in 1961) and occupies the other side of the magnificent Palais de Tokyo. As for what you can find inside, you’ll be really delighted if you’re a fan of the Cubists, Rouault, Fauves, the Delaunays or representatives of Ecole de Paris, Soutine and van Dongen. Another great thing about the collections on display is that the access to permanent exhibitions is free of charge. It’s important to add that most of the paintings are located quite at some distance from one another, but the impressive sight of the huge canvasses by Matisse is really worth the effort. Apart from paintings, you will be also able to enjoy many breathtaking examples of sculpture, installations, photography and video creations – just as you’d expect from a place dedicated to modern art. And if that’s not enough, there are also many amazing temporary exhibitions focusing on major art movements of recent times (soon to include the 21st century), but these can be accessed with a fee. Oh, and one more thing – once you’ll be exploring the halls of the museum, you might come across a nice vantage point to catch a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower.
Musée Galliera – clothes do make the man
Another fabulous place to visit while you’re in the 16th arrondissement of Paris. The museum was opened in 1977 in what was formerly a Renaissance-inspired 19th century palace built for Marie Brignole-Sale de Ferrari, the Duchesse de Galliera, who wanted to transform her abode into a museum upon her husband’s death. Today, the place is known to boast a mind-boggling quantity of fashion items both from the past and the present, including costumes, undergarments, accessories and graphic arts; indeed, with over 90,000 artifacts in the collection, it is the spot to go to if you wish to take a look at what Parisians used to wear throughout the last three centuries. The entrance fee is 7.5 euro, but due to the maintenance works carried out inside the place, the exhibitions are temporarily being held off-site, in locations like the Docks or the City Hall; the museum will be reopened in September 2013, but the premises are surrounded by a beautiful garden, so it’s really worth to go there just to catch a breath in an inspiring setting.
Musée Carnavalet – a trip down the Parisian memory lane
The Carnavalet Museum is found in the charming district of the Marais and spreads over two neighboring mansions: the Hôtel Carnavalet and the former Hôtel Le Peletier de Saint Fargeau. The museum focuses on the history of Paris and delivers an insight into many really fantastic artifacts and exhibits from the past. As you enter the courtyard, you’ll be greeted by a stately statue of Louis XIV. The rich permanent collection featuring around 2,500 paintings, 300,000 engravings, 150,000 photographs, 20,000 drawings, as well as about 2,000 contemporary sculptures, 800 pieces of furniture (including Proust’s cork-lined bedroom preserved in its original shape!) and thousands of decorations, ornaments, models, signs, coins, souvenirs, ceramics, etc. can be seen free of charge – how’s that for a treat? If you’re curious about how a small village of Lutèce transformed into the mighty metropolis with over two millions of inhabitants, then this place is for you.
Catacombes de Paris – dare to be scared
The Catacombs of Paris create an underground ossuary which can be found south of the former city gate, close to Saint-Jacques metro station. If you feel brave, spare 5 euro and explore the cave-like spooky passages holding the remains of about six million people. The place itself has been adapted to its ‘cemetery’ use after modification of the old limestone quarries, the traces of which can be found in the form of bells, pillars and supporting structures, and is now composed of lines of mysterious galleries and narrow corridors ‘decorated’ by bones forming a ‘romantic-macabre’ ornamentation pattern. The dim lighting accompanies the seemingly never-ending labyrinth interrupted at times by some remarkable sights, which makes the experience truly memorable.