All about Paris

In the Musée Carnavalet, the history of the city is told in epic proportions and in sometimes bizarre details. Mademoiselle Lili is amused.

First of all: do not undertake too much when you visit. Paris cannot be discovered in a day. It is better to limit yourself to the epoch that seems most interesting to you. The Musée Carnavalet, which reopened in the summer after a five-year renovation period, was nothing more than the city's dusty cabinet of curiosities, a kind of museum attic, somewhat randomly crammed with works of art, furniture, historical signs and city models and lots of trinkets. Now the oldest museum in the city has rejuvenated: everything is presented in a fresher and more educational way and is arranged chronologically. And many exhibits hang extra low so that children can have fun too. The huge area, consisting of two city palaces from the 16th and 17th centuries and more recent additions, is located in the middle of the popular Marais and, according to Mayor Anne Hidalgo, it should now be a must for every Paris tourist.

The one and a half kilometer long march through 3,900 square meters and the history of Paris begins in the basement with prehistoric finds from the Stone Age and ends in the present with the yellow vest demos, the fire of Notre Dame and Corona.

You can not only examine the teeth and skulls of the first Parisians, but also highlights such as the declaration of human rights in connection with the French Revolution, Marcel Proust's original bedroom furniture, Voltaire's death chair or the Wendel ballroom, which has been faithfully rebuilt with its monumental wall paintings, an art deco masterpiece. Of the more than 600,000 objects in the museum's possession, “only” 3,800 are on display and they all have so much to tell that after a three-hour tour, my head was spinning.

So I almost overlooked the curious earrings in the room dedicated to the time after the French Revolution: small pieces of brass jewelry that simulate a guillotine - with dangling heads as pendants. When, fascinated, I whip out my smartphone to take a picture, the curator takes me aside and tells me about a previously completely unknown Parisian fashion: from 1795 the noble survivors celebrated their macabre “sacrificial ball”, soon an institution. The men wore mourning clothes, the women came in antique togas, barefoot and with short or pinned up hair, like the condemned before the execution. They wore a blood-red ribbon around their necks and to open the dance they nodded their heads vigorously to simulate the moment of the beheading. Mon Dieu, what a kind of trauma management!

Later, while I was spooning vegetarian delicacies from metal picnic bowls in the hip pop-up restaurant "Les Jardins d’Olympe" in the inner courtyard of the museum, I was wondering which party fashion Paris will be inventing in the future to say goodbye to a difficult time. I think the masked ball would have a good chance.

Musée Carnavalet,