The Musée De l’Armée in Paris is France’s largest military museum featuring weapons and armor collections from before the Middle Ages to the 20th century. It’s located at Les Invalides along with the tomb of Napoleon, which was our (as well as most other visitors’) primary reason for visiting. However, the military museum can certainly hold its own.
It was our third day in Paris and our second day in a row of intermittent clouds and rain. We needed something to do that was primarily indoors, and Les Invalides fit the bill. We started with Napoleon’s tomb, but spent the majority of our time at Les Invalides wandering through the many collection rooms inside the Musée De l’Armée before having lunch at the on-site cafe.
After purchasing our tickets (only €9.50 per adult and children are free), we entered into the main courtyard of the Musée De l’Armée. I think the wacky weather must have been keeping people away because the courtyard was practically deserted. Fine by me, because it’s a beautiful spot to take pictures with the chapel dome rising up from behind, and nobody likes a bunch of strangers getting in the way of their pictures!
The Musée De l’Armée is made up of seven different spaces: the main courtyard, the Cathedral of Saint-Louis des Invalides, the tomb of Napoleon, the Charles de Gaulle monument, the Old Department, the Modern Department, and the Contemporary Department. The weapon and armor photos above are from the Old Department spanning the time period from the 13th to 17th centuries. The Modern Department picks up from there and carries on until the mid 1800’s.
The section I enjoyed the most was the Contemporary Department covering the two world wars. This is an era I know a little more about, and since the US was involved, I got to see some of my own country’s history on display, too. (It’s funny what triggers an episode of homesickness. I walked out of this exhibit really missing my home country.)
See that notebook above with the swastika? That’s Hitler’s notepad. It gives me the heebie jeebies just looking at it. This was one of the items in the museum that had a ‘No Photos’ marker on it, but I couldn’t help myself. (I didn’t use flash, so we’re good.) Speaking of that – quite a lot of the exhibits in the museum prohibit photography, and they do have employees around making sure you adhere to the rules. It’s to protect the artifacts from degrading due to flash, but try explaining that you’re anti-flash to a Frenchman when you don’t speak French. It’s easier just to obey the rules.
So let’s face it, this is sort of a guy thing to see in Paris, right? It’s all guns and swords and guys in powdery wigs ordering everyone around. As a female, there are only so many suits of armor I can see before I’ve had enough. To make the Old and Modern Departments more enjoyable, Lex and I would stand in front of a case of swords or rifles or crossbows or any other deadly weapon and choose the one we thought was prettiest. (We are such girls.) Given that all the info plaques on the exhibits were in French, it helped us pass the time until we made it to the more interesting Contemporary section. Even Lexie enjoyed that section because there was a much wider variety of things to look at.
The Musée De l’Armée is a big museum with a lot to see, but it does get a bit repetitive. If you bring kids to the museum, they offer a kids audio guide that might help keep them entertained. And if you can’t read French, you should probably grab the adult version for yourself, too!
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