5 Reasons to Visit le Musée de l’Armée in Paris
Le Musée de l’Armée, also known as the Army Museum, is a national military museum in the heart of Paris. The space was founded in 1905 and is a fascinating, inclusive collection of all things war related from the tumultuous military history that encompasses France.
The museum actually opened as a merging with a 1789 founded collection known as the Museum of Artillery as well as the Historical Museum of the Army.
The Musée de l’Armée is situated at Les Invalides in the 7th arrondissement. To get there you can take any of the metro’s to the Varenne or École Militaire stops. The museum is just a short walk from each.
Les Invalides is also sometimes known as Hôtel des Invalides. It is actually a Parisian complex that includes a chapel, catherdral, three museums and monuments all on the same property; all of which are in some way military concerned. There is also a small section still dedicated to health care for soldiers and veterans.
If you’ve viewed the Parisian skyline at all, you’ll recognize the museum’s distinct golden dome that tops the building. I’ll get into the marvel of the architecture in a bit, even without entering the interior the museum is a masterpiece.
In terms of operation, le Musée de l’Armée runs smoothly and efficiently. The staff are friendly and the guides are well informed. Once inside, digital guides can be purchased for €5 as an alternative. Due to the dense amount of information available within the space, I highly recommend either a personal or digital guide during your visit.
I’ll soon get into my list of five reasons to visit this eclectic space, for nowhere is all you need to know to plan your trip:
Le Musée de l’Armée
129 Rue de Grenelle, 75007 Paris
Hours: Daily from 10am – 5pm
Entrance fee: €12
Free entry to under 18s
Metro: Varennes on the line 13, or La Tour Maubourg or Invalides on the line 8
Tel: + 33 (0) 810 11 33 99
1. Over 500,000 artifacts at le Musée de l’Armée in Paris
The museums claim to fame is that it houses over 500,000 preserved artifacts gathered throughout the history of French warfare. While it absolutely irks me to leave museums unfinished, there is simply no way to view all of these pieces in one day — though it is fun to try.
Because of the amount of artifacts, the museum was divided into an array of sections and areas each with their own unique collections. This makes the experience of the day more manageable. Here isa breakdown of a few of the main parts:
Main Courtyard: Artillery Collections
This is the first area you will encounter as you initially enter the Hôtel des Invalides. The courtyard is home to a display of 60 military cannons throughout varies periods during 200 years of the French Revolution.
The informative part of this section will teach you how each of the artillery equipment was manufactured and made use of by the French artillerymen.
The Contemporary Department: The Two World Wars
The two most significant periods of conflict in human history are explored in this section. From uniforms and swords to photographs and maps, you’ll leave feeling like you’ve just aced your high school history quiz without lifting a finger.
This section is one of my favorites because of the documentary films it uses to relay the war stories. For the French, both of the World Wars were momentous events and it is interesting to see things from their perspective.
The Modern Department
This is a section dedicated to the smaller, less significant battles and wars that the French military entered into over the years. Through a series of rooms each of these tales are told and feature unique collections that are indicative of each.
This department focuses on all things French military between the years 1643 – 1870. Over two centuries of information crammed together for you to divulge in.
Old armor and weapons section — 13th to 17th centuries
The section of le Musée de l’Armée to visit if you have children! The old armor and weapons section of the museum features one of the largest known weaponry collections in all of Europe.
What’s great is that the weaponry is not limited to French artifacts; the museum boasts a collection of items originating from all over the planet including East Asia. Their medieval armor is enough to drive any fantasy fans wild.
There are 10 sections to the museum in total; the above are brief descriptions of what to expect from the main artifactual ones. You can probably already tell why exactly this is not a complete-in-one-day kind of space.
2. Incredible Architecture at le Musée de l’Armée in Paris
Witnessing the ornate golden dome poking into the Parisian skyline is etheric enough; actually visiting the vicinity of the Musée de l’Armée is another story.
The creamy concrete of the main building pairs perfectly with the archways and balconies that stretch through the vicinity. It is everything you’d imagine from traditional Baroque architecture.
This style of building is common in the neighborhood in which the museum exists. A free guided walking tour of the area will point out all of the ones still standing after years gone by.
I am an absolute sucker for the Baroque style and find an equal amount of enjoyment outside of the museum as I do on the inside. The intricacy and attention to detail in the construction of these properties is simply unmatched — we don’t see replica production of this kind of work today.
The Charles de Gaulle Monument is a section of the museum dedicated to telling the story of the founding president of the Fifth Republic. The ceilings seem to touch the sky, featuring biblical panels of painted artworks to top off the whimsical feel.
I enjoy this section a lot for its self-guided tour options in which you formulate your own schedule using over 20 hours of documentary based footage. It’s a great way to experience the museum without the help of a physical or digital guide.
3. Tomb of Napoleon at le Musée de l’Armée in Paris
Perhaps the biggest attraction at the Musée de l’Armée is that of the tomb of Napoleon himself. This is what lays deep beneath the golden dome (Dôme des Invalides) that we’ve come to know and love.
When he passed in 1821, his remains were originally buried on the island of Saint Helena. In 1840 it was decided by King Louis-Philippe that Napoleons remains should rather be moved to Paris where it should stay for eternity.
The tomb under the Dôme des Invalides wasn’t the first initial placement for the remains. When you’re at the museum you’ll learn the lengthy, tumultuous history behind the journey that Napoleons corpse did before it found its way here.
I’ll give you a bit of trivia to keep you on the edge of your seat in the meantime; the decision to bring the remains to Paris occurred in 1840… Napoleon was only laid in the tomb in 1861. Imagine what went on during those two decades!
The tomb within the dome that you will visit is e…x…quisite! This is putting it mildly. There is something about circular architecture that just flows — Napoleon lies right in the centre of the dome building surrounded by arches, statues and grand scale columns.
Often when inside of the tomb, the design of the surrounding space is so distracting that visitors forget to look at the floor. The casket lies in the centre of a giant sun and wreath made out of marble. Look down!
4. Nearby sights and attractions of le Musée de l’Armée in Paris
If the resting place of Napoleon, over 500,000 artifacts and astounding architecture aren’t enough reasons to visit the Musée de l’Armée — then some of the nearby sights and attractions may be what hooks you.
The 7th arrondissement is sometimes referred to as the heart of Paris. The Left Bank is where the Musée de l’Armée is situated. This part of town is overflowing with charm and endless things to see & do.
Before, or after, your time in Musée de l’Armée you’ll be able to take advantage of everything in the 7th via just a short walk .
To lighten the mood you could consider heading over to a space that is essentially the antithesis of a war museum. Musée d’Orsay is the most well known art museum in Paris after the Louvre. It’s collection includes many of the greatest French artists such as Monet and Renoir.
If shopping is your thing then there is no better place to do so than Le Bon Marché. It is over on Rue de Sèvres and is the oldest (and probably most stylish) department store in all of Paris. It was founded in 1838 — two years before Napoleons remains were moved to the city.
The Bon Marché food hall is a great spot to grab a bite to eat while out and about. Instead of typical food-court junk food you’ll gorge on sushi, oysters and patés — this is Paris, darling.
If you keep heading south from Musée de l’Armée, toward Rue Blomet, you’ll come to Piscine Blomet; a great public swimming space to make use of in the warmer months.
The pool is clean and it is only €2 to get in for the day. Spending all day in a museum, especially in the summer, calls for a refreshing dip in the neighborhood before heading on home.
Perhaps a bite to eat first? Les Cocottes is a cosy little spot not far from the museum and great to drop into for dinner. It is a casserole themed restaurant with a variety of flavors to choose from. Don’t leave without trying their caramel waffle — delish!
Average cost: Under €30
5. Cathedral of Saint-Louis des Invalides at le Musée de l’Armée in Paris
My fifth and final reason why everyone should visit le Musée de l’Armée is the showstopper of the bunch; the Cathedral of Saint-Louis.
This part of the museum is considered a separate section of its own. It was built in 1676 by Jules Hardon-Mansarat and is known as the veterans chapel with the royal flair. This is because the cathedral allowed the King to attend mass along with the soldiers.
The organ case is the original from the late 17th century. On some days in the museum you be able to watch the choir and organist during their practice. Luck of the day, I’m afraid!
The actual church and cathedral museum are separate. The church area is free to enter at all times, but the museum area will obviously require tickets for entry.
The church side of the Saint-Louis Cathedral is a great place to go and sit when you just need a break from the overwhelming nature of the museum as a whole. Take a few moments here and enjoy the silence (unless you’re one of the lucky ones who walks in on the choir).
This part of the Musée de l’Armée is wonderful because you don’t have to be interested in military history or world wars to enjoy it. It is art, in its own sense.
There you have it… five unarguable reasons to visit le Musée de l’Armée in Paris.
I’d like to make it clear that you need not be put off at the thought of visiting a military museum if that is not your preference. The Musée de l’Armée has a lot to offer everyone, even if canons and rifles bore you to death.
Make note to stop by this 7th arrondissement attraction in the heart and soul of Paris. Give it time! A full day if possible.
And above all, do not forget to look at the floors of Napoleons tomb!