Three Museums in Paris That Aren’t Overcrowded

When my husband and I went to Paris eight years ago, there were line-ups out the door and lengthy waiting times to enter the popular museums. The Louvre, Musee D’Orsay, and the Catacombs were especially busy and overcrowded. We assumed that all the museums would be the same this time around, and we were prepared for the worst. But as we discovered, that wasn’t the case. Here are a few of the museums we visited that didn’t have long lines to enter:

Les Invalides:

The full name of this museum is Hotel National des Invalides (The National Residence of the Invalids), located in the 7th arrondissement of Paris. It actually houses several museums, including the Musee de l’Armee (the military museum of the army of France), the Musee des Plans-Reliefs (military models), and the Musee d’Histoire Contemporaine (museum of contemporary history). There is also the Dome des Invalides, which contains the tombs of various war heroes of France, including that of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Les Invalides Museum

The museum is quite immense, so even if it gets really busy, there’s a lot of room for people to move around inside. We went in the middle of the day during a weekday, and while some exhibit spaces had more people than others, it wasn’t overwhelming. It only felt a bit crowded when school groups came in, but they moved through the museum fairly quickly.

There are some pretty cool things here to see, even if military uniforms and weaponry don’t interest you. Like this, for example; a Welbike folding motorcycle in a parachute drop container from WWII:

Welbike folding motorcycle

The WWI and WWII stuff was interesting enough, but not really up my alley. But the weaponry and armour section from the 13th-17th Centuries was more my speed:

medieval armour, les invalides

This was armour made for Francois I and his horse, circa 1539-1540. The medieval armour collection is so extensive, that only the best examples are on display. The rest is kept behind large glass windows looking into the storage area, which seemed to go on for miles.

I did also enjoy the current Napoleon exhibit, called Napoleon in St. Helena. Several of his personal effects were on display:

Napoleons' uniform They even had his bathtub, and the bed in which he died:

Napoleon's bathtub

And then, of course, there was Napoleon’s tomb. Only a little bit ostentatious:

Napoleons Tomb

Musée des Arts et Métiers:

The Museum of Arts and Crafts is located in the 3rd arrondissement. The museum is somewhat poorly named, as “arts and crafts” actually centers around technical and scientific inventions and innovations. We went to this museum on a Thursday evening (the night when most museums are open late in Paris.) There were hardly any visitors when we arrived. Even more importantly, the desk receptionist told us that it was free to enter after 6 pm! So this was a double-score in our books. It had some interesting things, if you’re into science and the history of various inventions. The subject matter isn’t for everyone and this could be why it wasn’t very busy. Case in point, a typography press from 1883:

Museum of Arts and Crafts

Or how about a Peugeot quadricycle, circa 1893?

Peugeot Quadricycle 1893

The most unique contraption, I thought, was this old flying machine dubbed the Avion 3, designed by a French inventor and engineer named Clement Ader:

Clement Ader airplane

Made of linen and wood, Ader based the design on bats. This is sort of the crowning glory of the museum, and it is pretty cool!

The Louvre:

No, you didn’t read that wrong. If you go at the right time, you can hit the Louvre when it’s less busy. In fact, some rooms will be downright empty!

The Louvre, Paris

Late night openings are Wednesdays and Fridays until 9:45 pm. Show up anytime after 6 pm and you’ll be able to avoid the crazy line-up that typically extends outside the big glass pyramid entrance during the day. We ended up attending on both late nights, showing up around 7 pm each time. There were still people milling about, don’t get me wrong, but there was no line-up. We were even able to go straight to a ticket booth without having to wait. This also meant getting to photograph some of the most exquisite workmanship in the world with unobstructed views. For example, the winged human-headed bull from Mesopotamia, Assyria, carved around 713 BC.

Winged human-headed bull, the Louvre

We avoided the Mona Lisa this time around, truth be told, because we saw her when we were in Paris eight years ago and I’m pretty sure she hasn’t changed. So we focused our attention on other great works, such as the Turkish Bath, painted by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres in 1862:

The Turkish Bath, Ingres, the Louvre

We were in the Salle des Caryatids fifteen minutes before closing, and other than the security guard, we were the only two people in the room:

Caryatids, the Louvre

So don’t be discouraged by the line-ups during the day at the Louvre. If you’re visiting on a Wednesday or Friday, take advantage of their late-night hours and see it without the insane crowds!

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