Want to do something quirky and offbeat in Paris? Need a rainy day activity that the kids will love? Does your parnter like tools, gadgets, and gizmos? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, then spend a few hours at Paris’ Museum of Arts and Trades (Musée des Arts et Métiers ). Unlike the name suggests, the museum’s collection focuses on inventions and technology across the ages. As you meander through the galleries you’ll come across curious scientific instruments and inventions from the past and ogle at gigantic machines that have been used to construct both old and modern structures. You’ll explore mechanisms that humans have designed to harness steam, gas, electric, and solar energy. There’s so much here that you can easily spend an entire day, but we limited our visit to a few hours.
This museum brings you face to face with technologies that you’ve only read about in books or seen on television. You’ll examine James Watt’s steam engine, Edison’s phonographs, models use to build the Statue of Liberty, Lavoisier’s entire laboratory, and the very first airplane built 13 years before the Wright brothers’ flight. My favorite part of the museum was located in the former Church of St. Martin. It has been transformed into a display area aptly named the “place of wonder”. In it, you’ll marvel at the actual working Foucault’s pendulum that swings back and forth to prove that the earth rotates on its axis. You’ll climb up a gigantic ramp/stairway that brings you up close to strange flying contraptions and airplanes of the past and to antique methods of transportation, from steam carriages to locomotives to Model T’s. Both kids and adults will be awed by the amazing collection of inventions featured at this most unusual of museums.
Not only is the Museum of Arts and Trades one of Paris’ best-kept secrets, it’s also extremely affordable. Children under 18 years of age are free, and adults are only 8 euros. If you have a Paris Museum Pass, it’s also free. While the museum is closed on Mondays, it is open until 6:00pm every other day and until 9:00pm on Thursdays.
The Museum of Arts and Trades (Musée des Arts et Métiers) is located at 60 Rue Réaumur in Paris. The closest metro station is Arts et Métiers, which is located right across the street from the museum. Click on the map for directions.