I had a free day on Sunday in Paris and figured I make the best of it by spending the day walking from museum to museum to see specific things. I covered over 20 miles on foot this day and got to see some amazing sights as well as discovered my new favorite museum in Paris which is probably not what you might think.
The Louvre in the animated gif above was my last stop of the day that I’ll come back to that further down the post as my most favorite museum was the Galerie de paléontologie et d’anatomie comparée or the Gallery of Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy.
As you walk into the Gallery of Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy, you are greeted with an amazing display of skeletons of animals that are both existent and extinct. There are over 1000 skeletons in this museum from humans and non-human primates to whales on the main floor along with preserved brains of a variety of creatures.
If you walk up a poorly lit, creaky wooden staircase through a corner with peeling paint and a magnificent set of specimens from a giant ammonite and the rack of an Irish elk, and walk through a sample room with smaller ammonites and mollusks, you come to the Gallery of Paleontology.
Many of the specimens here took my breath away, most notably the dunkleosteus. I’d seen images of this skull in textbooks, but had never seen one in person until now. I got the same feeling seeing this specimen than I had when I saw the Mona Lisa or Van Gogh’s Starry Night. In addition to some excellent theropod specimens they also have a terrifying sample of sarcosuchus, an extinct form of crocodile that lived 112 million years ago and weighed up to 8 tonnes.
If you have any interest in biology, anatomy or paleontology, the Galerie de paléontologie et d’anatomie comparée should be a pilgrimage site.
Next up was perhaps one of the most phenomenal museum spaces I’ve ever seen in my life, the Muséum National d’historie Naturelle. It is an amazing dedication to biological life and has a rather well executed lighting system, programmable to show thunderstorms, sunrises, sunsets and rainbows. Truly spectacular. The cafe onsite however, could use some work with below par (for France) culinary offerings, though being France, you can get a glass of wine with lunch in a museum while people watching under the spectacle of an indoor lightning show which is pretty cool.
At the Musée de l’Armée, there was a wonderful photographic exhibit of 100 years of French Armed Forces as well as displays of various weaponry and armor associated with conflicts that France has been involved with going back to the late 1600’s, but the exhibit that absolutely blew my mind is a darkened area occupying the top floor, home to the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, a display of various scale models of fortified structures and cities of conflicts that France has been involved with. The models go back to 1668 when King Louis XIV started collecting them in the Louvre in 1700. Some of the models are absolutely huge and all of them are truly impressive. The Plans-Reliefs are also here on Twitter as @Plansreliefs.
The last time I was in Paris, I spent most of the day in the Louvre, so this trip I just wanted to see a couple of things including the Egyptian exhibits and something that I had somehow missed the time before, the Code of Hammurabi a black diorite stele resembling a pointing finger with Hammurabi depicted in the fingernail was crafted in 1754 B.C.. This was the first codified and documented set of laws in the history of the world which is pretty amazing.
That was it for Sunday… 23 miles on foot through Paris and Parisian museums. The next day was another work day and then it was a flight back home. Hopefully this was a little taste of just some of the museums in Paris that are well worth your time when visiting Paris.