When Fun and Laugher are Taken Seriously…
Le Musée des Arts Forains, Paris, is dedicated to fairground arts, theater, and other curiosities. This unique museum in Paris is a step back in time to the funfairs of the Belle Époque, with objects from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Le Musée des Arts Forains is usually open for private events or guided tours (by reservation only). However, from time to time, the museum is open for individual visitors during special occasions like the European Heritage Days or Christmas in Paris.
If you are visiting Paris with kids or looking for hidden gems in Paris far from the crowds, don’t miss this museum when it’s open (there’s a video inside the museum below in this post).
About the Pavillons of Bercy – Museum of Fairground Arts
The Musée des Arts Forains – Museum of Fairground Arts recreates the funfairs in Europe from 1850 to 1950. The museum was imagined thirty years ago by Jean-Paul Favand, originally an actor and antique dealer, who gathered an extraordinary collection of objects rescued from old funfairs. The Musem des Arts Forains presents the only exhibition of private fairground elements open to the public in France.
The Pavillons of Bercy
The setting is as unique as the collection inside. The museum is located at the Pavillons of Bercy, historical pavilions in Paris 12 used for wine storage in the 19th and 20th centuries.
In the 19th century, Bercy was known as a festive area, nicknamed ‘Joyeux Bercy.’ At that time, Bercy was beyond the borders of Paris, so it did not have to pay the tax on wine.
Cheap wine soon attracted guinguettes (open-air cafés to drink and dance), wine traders, and Parisians willing to have fun without spending a fortune. The wine was thus actively sold and drunk and stored in the Pavillons of Bercy.
Back to the Musée des Arts Forains, the museum consists of two parts, the temporary exhibition and the permanent exhibition, hosting :
- 14 (fairground) rides and other fairground attractions
- 16 fairgrounds stalls (targets and shooting galleries, throwing games, games of chance, fortune-telling…)
- 18 sets of historical works,
- 1,522 independent works.
This museum is ideal for families visiting Paris with kids, but adults alone will also find it entertaining.
Why Visit Le Musée des Arts Forains in Paris
Do you fancy an entertaining afternoon in one of the unique museums in Paris and France? Here’s why you should visit Le Musée des Arts Forains during your stay in Paris:
1. Le Musée des Arts Forains is a Lively Museum
Unlike other museums, the objects and artifacts of the Musée des Arts Forains are not behind a display cabinet or a security cord: all the fairground artifacts are working and ready to use. Indeed, the Musée des Arts Forains offers the possibility of testing the rides and attractions – according to the principles of active museology – during visits led by a lecturer or a magician.
What is more, the entrance ticket of this museum includes a couple of rides or games, plus you can purchase extra rides in case you may want to try everything!
2. One of the Most Beautiful Fairground Collections in the World
Jean-Paul Favand is the owner and collector of one of the most beautiful collections of ancient fairground attractions. Stage designer, he created in this museum four different spaces using light, mirrors, music, and paper-maché: la Rue Jardin, les Salons Vénitiens, le Théâtre du Merveilleux and le Musée des Arts Forains.
Apart from the objects and artifacts, there are performances every 30 minutes.
Welcome to another world, a timeless and mesmerizing world where beautiful carousels, forgotten fairground artifacts, and automatons singing opera will bewitch children and adults. This Paris attraction has nothing to see with Disneyland Paris or Parc Astérix; this fascinating museum is a superb show!
3. It has the Oldest Carousel in the World!
The Musée des Arts Forains owns the oldest carousel in the world: a carousel formed by velocipedes dating from 1860! This carousel is 100% eco-friendly because it only needs our legs to move.
I decided to use my entrance ticket to try the carousel. People were very motivated, and the carousel started running so fast that I could not follow on my velocipede. In the end, I had to raise my legs and let others do the job. Big fail, I guess, haha.
4. ‘Le Festival du Merveilleux’ is a Must of Christmas in Paris
If you visit Paris in December, from 27 December 2023 to 7 January 2024, don’t miss the museum’s Festival du Merveilleux (The Festival of Wonder).
Here’s a foretaste:
The place is adorned with Christmas lights and decorations and becomes the theatre of a beautiful array of festive shows and performances. Storytellers, magicians, aerial silk dancers, funambulists, musicians, puppeteers, tap dancers, and other artists create dreamlike stories. At the same time, mechanized music performances, automated figure shows, and optical illusions succeed one another all day long.
Musée des Arts Forains – Museum of Fairground Arts: Practical Info
Le Musée des Arts Forains is in 53 Avenue des Terroirs de France, in Paris 12. The nearest metro station is Cour St. Emilion, line 14; If you want to go by bike, the nearest Vélib Stations are #12034 or #12110.
The museum usually openens to the public during Les Journées Européennes du Patrimoine (next time in September 2022) and for Le Festival du Merveilleux, this year from 26 December 2021 to 2 January 2022. No reservation is required.
Tickets: Full price 18€, children 12€. Each ticket includes two attraction tickets, with the possibility to buy extra tickets on-site.
Book through this link if you want to join one of the museum’s guided tours (in French). Guided visits are not available during the last weekend of November and the weekends in December.
Do you like carousels and fairground artifacts? Have you seen any similar museums around the world?