The Musée des Arts Forains is far from Paris’ most well-known attraction. But it certainly may be one if its most unusual thanks to its whimsical and moderately creepy tribute to old-time fairgrounds and carnivals.
Tucked in the southeast corner of Paris, just past the Parc de Bercy, the Pavillons de Bercy – Musée des Arts Forains includes four separate areas: The Musée des Arts Forains, The Théâtre du Merveilleux (marvels); The Salons Vénitiens; and The Théâtre de Verdure (greenery). Each celebrates some version of amusement by including old carnival games, merry-go-rounds, or artifacts preserved and carefully restored.
The space is the fever dream of one Jean Paul Favand, who had long been collecting such objects. The objects on display apparently represent only a fraction of his larger collection. His day job is designing exhibitions, and he designed and arranged the spaces at the Pavillons.
Generally, the space is rented to host various events. I happened go to twice for the annual tech gathering France Digitale Days. But you can visit if you book a tour well in advance. There are also sporadic events that are open the public.
If you’re looking for a different way to step back into the lives of 19th and 20th century Parisians, the Pavillons will certainly transport you and help you recapture just a bit of the frivolity and creativity of these eras.