Fortune teller machines, antique carousel horses, a Hall of Mirrors, a unicorn who plays piano, vintage games and masked Venetian singers…the Musée des Arts Forains, or Carnival Arts Museum, is a private collection of vintage and antique decor, games and rides from carnivals, country fairs, traveling shows, curiosity cabinets and exotic gardens.
Housed in the 19th-century Bercy Pavilions, the collection is arranged to transport you to another world. You may have seen it in the Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris. In the film the characters are at a party set in the 1920s, playing games of chance and going on rides. This wasn’t just for the film: the owner has painstakingly restored each antique, each ride, and each game, and allows people to use them! And even more unique, there are no descriptions or explanations that you’d find in a regular museum. The owner wants each person to be lost in their own fantasies. You feel like you’ve stepped into wonderland, not a museum.
Check out the official video here:
This private museum is only open to the general public twice annually: for the European Heritage Days(Journées du Patrimoine) and during the December holidays (usually December 26-January 6th). The only other way to visit it during a private event or private tour. Up until now these tours were only in French. But this summer there are now two English-language tours each week. On the tour you will get to discover the three pavilions, the leafy courtyard with its many sculptures, try the vintage carnival games, and even go on the antique rides. It’s a truly magical setting and shouldn’t be missed. Check out their website for much better photos than I could take with my little smartphone!
English tours are every Monday and Thursday at 11am, entrance is €16 (€8 for kids 4-11). The museum is in the Pavillons de Bercy, behind Bercy Village in the 12th (metro St-Emillion).
Read an earlier article I wrote about the museum here.