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Best History Museums in Paris

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The Louvre Museum houses one of the largest collections of artworks and antiquities in the world. The museum is located inside the Louvre Palace, which was built in the 12th Century as a fortress by Philip II. After Louis XIV, he decided to move his court to Versailles, the palace was occupied by a variety of institutions related to the arts. The museum was first opened under the National Assembly in 1793. The establishment is divided into sections, including drawing, painting and sculpture, and houses antiquities from Egypt, Rome, Greece, and several other cultures. Visitors to the museum can explore its many wings and see some of the most famous works like the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and Liberty Leading the People.

The Château which today houses the National Museum of the Renaissance was built between 1538 and 1555 as commanded by Anne de Montmorency, an extremely wealthy and influential adviser to François the First, king of France, and Grandmaster of the King's estate and army. Today, as well as offering the opportunity to observe this impressive example of 16th-century architecture, the museum displays collections of artistic works including paintings, sculpture, textiles, furniture, and metalwork. Visitors can also peruse the bookshop, stroll through the museum's park, or enjoy organ concerts offered each Saturday afternoon. Open hours are slightly longer during summer months, throughout the year in the park, and in the bookshop.

This museum is supported by the Cultural Ministry of France and most of its collections come from the Jewish museum at Rue Des Saules and from the Culture Ministry who gave it the Isaac Strauss Collection. The museum has symbolic objects that give a glimpse of the ancient Jewish civilization. There are several audio-visual documentaries that reflect the various facets of Jewish life, beliefs, culture and religion. It also has an auditorium where lectures and discussions are held.

Be it scientific, cultural or educational, National Museum of Natural History has something for everyone! Located in the heart of the Jardin des Plantes botanical gardens, it has dinosaur and whale skeletons, a stuffed rhinoceros dated from Louis XVI's reign, minerals and giant crystals, numerous insects, and everything you could ever want to know about the history of the botanical world. The centerpiece, the Grande Galerie de l'Evolution, is a source of vital information about the evolution of different species, the relationship between man and nature and problems related to over-population and pollution. The Gallery of Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy and Gallery of Mineralogy and Geology are also very informative.

Hidden beneath "The City of Light" is a dark underworld, the final resting place of more than six million Parisians. The Catacombs of Paris are underground ossuaries formed of a network of tunnels, caves, and quarries filled with mortal remains, where the former citizens of Paris now form a part of its foundation. As Paris went on its way to becoming an important hub, thousands flocked to the city. This spurred justified concerns about the limited cemetery space, leading to the creation of the catacombs in 1810 at the site of the old Montrouge stone quarries. Although in use as an ossuary as early as the 1780s, it was not until this time that the catacombs were organized. The bones were arranged as per the cemeteries they were taken from, creating a subterranean skeletal world, where the last of the lot were brought down in 1860. During World War II, this network of galleries was used as a hideaway for the Résistance movement; its vastness and the discretion of its entrances were great assets indeed. These ossuaries, illustrated by texts, create a chilling atmosphere and describe some of the defining events in the history of Paris, giving visitors substance for meditation. It is also occasionally used as a macabre venue for concerts, parties and other events.

If you're curious about non-Western cultures, go to Musée du Quai Branly, which opened its doors in 2006. Its location alongside the Seine River and near the Eiffel Tower is exceptional. The permanent collection includes a selection of over 300,000 objects coming from various part of the world. The museum is divided into four sections, each related to a different area: America, Africa, Asia and Australasia. Admire the sculptures and masks from African or South-American civilizations. Among the 8000 music instruments, take a look at the flutes from New Guinea or tom-toms from Mali and Senegal. Extraordinary textile pieces like Chinese palanquin, shaman coats from Central-America or Asian tapestry will enchant you. If you have some time left, hang out in the garden before concluding your visit.

The Cluny National Museum of the Middle Ages is located near the famous Sorbonne University and is one of the best examples of 15th-century architecture. The museum showcases armor, chests, ivories, mirrors and hangings which were gathered by Alexandre du Sommerard to portray the Medieval ages and the Renaissance. There is a whole room depicting the most amazing pieces of art from the 16th Century, such as Dutch tapestries full of flowers and birds, a woman spinning while a cat plays with the end of the thread and a pretty woman in her bath, overflowing into a duck pond. But the best exhibit is that of 'The Lady with the Unicorn' tapestry, which features six inscrutable scenes of a beautiful woman flanked by a lion and a unicorn.

Located opposite the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, Crypte Archéologique du Parvis Notre-Dame is a treasure trove of important and priceless ruins from Gallo-Roman to the 19th Century. The crypt is made with the intention to preserve some of the masterpieces of an age and period, which will never return. The traces which were discovered during the excavation of 1965 were converted into a preservation space in 1980. As this place is open to the public, don't miss an opportunity to visit, when in Paris.

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