During winter with the temperature dropping to near freezing, we take out our long coats, wrap ourselves in big scarves, buy hot coffee several times per day…and go to museums with even greater pleasure.

In Paris, there are exactly 206 museums and 1016 art galleries, yet all of the tourists are seemingly congregated at only four of them: the Louvre, the Orsay, the Museum of the Impressionists and the Pompidou Center.  More recently the new Louis Vuitton Foundation has joined the itinerary of the average tourist. Beyond these classic must-see attractions few people have the time, energy or desire try any of the others.

But Paris Photo Story has made the trek to several unusual and overlooked museums (or musée as the French call them):  one underground, another popularizing a bad habit, and even a famous singer’s house museum.  We loved them all and would like to share our secret places with you:

Grand Musée du Parfum

Compared to the Parisian museums that have already established a worldwide reputation, the Grand Musée du Parfum is a newcomer to the cultural scene of the capital.  The museum opened in December 2016 and today is one of the most interactive as it indulges multiple senses:  here you can touch, smell and even challenge the intellect with quizzes…

What was the first perfume known to mankind?   How do perfume masters create fragrances?  Are the smell and emotions connected?  How does the olfactory work with the memory?  What raw materials are used in modern flavors? So many questions and the Grand Musée du Parfum has plenty of answers to satisfy one’s curiosity.

Visitors are immersed in a unique sensorial experience in a place that is part science museum and part learning museum organized around an interactive, didactic display.

73 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008 Paris

From Tuesday to Sunday from 10:30 am to 6:00 pm (10h30–18h00)

Closed on Monday

Musée Édith Piaf

It is worth the small effort to come as a guest in the apartment-museum of legendary French singer Édith Piaf.  First, you need to call and agree on the time, then come to the right house, go up to the apartment and call the bell.  Here you will be personally greeted by its owner – he lives in a neighboring apartment and is fully engaged in the museum.  He knew Édith personally, and if you speak with him then you have a chance to find out what is not said in the film “La Vie en Rose”, nor in numerous articles.

The museum consists of two rooms or, more precisely speaking, an entrance hall and a room.  Both are decorated with personal belongings of the singer, as well as a curated selection of her photographs, records and postcards from floor to ceiling.  Background music plays ‘La Vie en rose’ and ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’. It is strictly forbidden to take pictures, therefore the intrigue is preserved – to find out how the legend’s room looks is possible only if you come there personally.

5 Rue Crespin du Gast, 75011 Paris

+33 1 43 55 52 72

From Monday to Wednesday 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm (13h00–18h00)

Thursday from 10:00 am to 12:00 noon (10h00–12h00)

Closed on Friday, Saturday, Sunday

Musée du Fumeur

In Europe, the photos displayed on the packs of cigarettes to discourage smoking are becoming worse, but this does not stop the Musée du Fumeur (translated as the Museum of the Smoker) in Paris from celebrating the long history and vibrant culture of smoking.  At first glance, it looks like an ordinary shop for smoking appliances.  Simple store goods. But upon inquiry with the shopkeeper, he immediately takes you behind the counter, where there are several rooms telling the history of tobacco, cigarettes and shamans.  Behind the glass are the various pipes of the world and huge cigars.  The shopkeeper pulls out everything from the display cases.  Here, you can hold and smell the real tobacco leaves.

The last room features completely fanciful pictures and a book of about 100 reasons to start smoking.  Here you can sit in a chair, look at the bright colors and bizarre forms of creatures in the picture and reflect upon what exactly you would need to smoke before you too could draw such an imaginative masterpiece.

7 rue Pache, 75011 Paris

From Monday to Saturday 12:30 pm to 7:30 pm (12h30–19h30)

Closed on Sunday

Musée des Égouts de Paris

Unlike the previous museum, the Musée des Égouts de Paris (translated as the Paris Sewer Museum) wins in the category of the most not glamorous:) It is said that the French make a tourist attraction from everything and the Paris Sewer Museum is proof of that assertion, although it might be more accurately called a museum of water.

First you need to go underground and then journey through a labyrinth to reach the exhibition.  It is not only about the sewers of Paris but also located in a Parisian sewer.  Displays detail the history and current infrastructure of the city’s sewers.

Ever wonder such questions as: How does water gets into Parisian taps and where does it go after use?  How did the water system appear?  How is the water so clean that it is poured directly into the decanters, which are served in all cafes, from the tap?  Did you know that earlier water from the Seine was extracted with the help of pumps installed on bridges and the profession of a water carrier?

Do not forget to view surreal photos in which Paris could easily be confused with Venice – this is the documentation of the biggest flood in the history of the city.

Place de la Résistance, 75007 Paris

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday from 11:00 am to 5:00pm (11h00–17h00)

Closed on Thursday, Friday, Sunday

Musée Nissim de Camondo

Walking through Paris, our gaze often lingers on the facades of beautiful private houses.  They stand as luxurious villas and we are curious about what’s inside.  We would like to know who lives in such manoirs.  Fortunately, you have the opportunity to look inside one of these “hôtel particulier“—a Parisian townhouse of a grand sort occupied by one family—having come to the Musée Nissim de Camondo. Its facade is often compared with the Petit Trianon (the private palace of Marie Antoinette) in Versailles.

Imagine a Turkish family that moved to Paris in the early 20th century, leaving behind the Ottoman Empire and settling in an incredibly beautiful house with a view of the Parc Monceau, and the whole interior is furnished with original 18th century objects that the father of the family collected.

Today, the private residence of Moïse de Camondo, wife Irène and children Nissim and Béatrice is open to everyone. This is a very atmospheric place, where the passion for art and objects of the 18th century is combined with family comfort, good taste and luxury. After his visit to the residence of Camondo, Marcel Proust said that “only fantastically rich people can afford such a house with a view of the Parc Monceau.”  It is significant that the owner of the house donated upon his death the residence with the entire collection to the French government in honor of his son Nissim de Camondo who died in the military during the first World War.

Always quiet, cozy and with few people—it feels like you came to visit the Camondo family for dinner.  And should you choose to visit during the warmer months of the year, arranging a picnic in the adjacent Parc Monseau—one of the most beautiful parks in Paris and with no crowds of tourists—is highly recommended as a finishing touch. Parc Monceau is also as an excellent photogenic location for photographs .

63 Rue de Monceau, 75008 Paris

From Wednesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm (10h00–17h30)

Closed on Monday and Tuesday

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