An Enlightening Visit to Paris’ Science Museum
Whether you’re an inquisitive teen looking to expand their view on the world; a well educated individual who ca recall the periodic table by heart; or just a curious tourist looking for a mind-blowing way to spend an afternoon — you’re in the right place!
The Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in Paris is the largest science museum in all of Europe. I find it hard to categorize this space amongst the other museums in Paris as it is more of an educational complex as opposed to a single museum space.
The Paris Science Museum is comprised of multiple facilities that make up the institution on a whole. For this reason it is very unlikely that you’ll ever be able to see the entirety of the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in a single afternoon, or even day.
This can be frustrating — or it can just be more reason to return to the museum on multiple excursions to see something new each time. Besides, it’s always nice to have a reason to venture up to the 19th arrondissement.
“Enlightening” is a mild way to put an excursion to this eclectic museum space. Very often content-specific museums are a hit or miss upon arrival. If the space is not well curated, the experience is going to be dull — no matter how well intended the idea was.
At the Paris Science Museum everything just seems to come together effortlessly. It is easy to see why this space draws in millions of visitors each year from around both Europe and the rest of the world.
I’ve spent my fair share of hours in The Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in Paris and am pleased to inform you of exactly what you can expect from your visit.
First things first — comfortable walking shoes and a packed snack or two if you will be visiting the museum with children. The grounds are huge, it’s a long day and a lot of walking so don’t take this advice lightly (something I wish I’d known prior to my first visit).
Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie
30 Avenue Corentin Cariou, 75019 Paris
Metro: Corentin-Cariou or Porte de la Villette
Admission: €12 Concessions: €9
Tuesday to Saturday 10am – 6pm
Sunday 10am – 7pm
The History of Paris’ Science Museum
The museum facilities are situated on the grounds of the Parc de la Villette in the 19th. The park is found right on the north eastern boundary of Paris, where the city meets the freeway that takes you out into areas like Aubervilliers, Pantin and greater France.
Because of its location, the 19th can be a somewhat neglected part of Paris when it comes to exploring. Many people are surprised to learn of the many galleries and historic centers in the area — a guided walking tour is one way to see them all.
Not many people know that la Villette used to be the grounds of the old Paris slaughterhouses. It was only not long ago in 1980 that the slaughterhouse rehabilitation project was entrusted by the City of Paris.
The project sought to transform the former slaughterhouses and it’s grounds into a museum of science that would become one of the main tourist attractions of the city as we know it.
The grounds were divided up and handed over to a contracting company who would take the project forward. The goal was to create an inclusive space to relay the message of the science and technology of our existing world to both adults and children in the most understandable way possible.
For this reason, the buildings themselves had to be perfectly designed so that the flow of the museum was complementary to the main goal.
By 1986 the project was ready and the museum opened for business. Upon your visit here you’ll properly understand what I mean when I refer to the infrastructure as a thoughtful and inclusive space. The flow between buildings and exhibition rooms is perfectly coordinated to telling the story of science in a cohesive manner.
Exhibits at Paris’ Science Museum
The exhibition halls at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in Paris span over an incredible 20,000m2 surface area. Like I said, that is a whole lot of ground to cover in a short period of time. Bet you’re happy you wore your comfy shoes now!
The exhibits are comprised of a permanent collection and a temporary collection that rotates by season. All exhibits are centered somehow how around the core themes of science, technology or industry.
Aside from the exhibit halls, the grounds also hold venues for conventions, meeting spaces and research laboratories where extensive works in the afore mentioned fields take place year round. Scientists, technicians, journalists and engineers can make use of the facilities to better their understanding and craft.
The media library located in the children’s sector of the museum is one of the highlights of the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in Paris. It is a space that gives children the opportunity to stimulate their curiosity and awareness of the subjects either before or after visiting the main exhibits.
The permanent exhibits at the Paris Science Museum are centered around a few main areas of interest. One of the biggest focuses is around telling the story of how the universe came to be; the astronomic ways in which energy evolved and transformed to get us here today.
The human brain is a fascinating exhibition at the museum. I could (and sometimes do) spend hours divulging in the extensive array of research and theories available on the matter.
The evolution of transportation is another interesting exhibit to behold. Seeing mankind’s technological advancements all in one space really puts things into perspective.
Amongst other permanent exhibits at the Paris Science Museum are the exploration of mathematics and how we understand it, the phenomena of sounds and lastly, human genomes and the exploration of microorganisms.
Cité des Enfants at Pari’s Science Museum
As I mentioned earlier, the initial goal of the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in Paris was to formulate an inclusive space where both adults and children could find equal enjoyment within the museum.
The Cité des Enfants is the dedicated children’s section in the Paris Science Museum. It can be divided into two main sections. The first is targeted at children aged between 2 and 7; and the second for children aged 5 to 12.
Both sections aim to inspire learning through the act of playing.
The first section for children aged between 2 and 7 takes on information around the body and cognition. The themes look at way to promote self discovery and finding one’s way on the journey of life.
This section also incorporates group activities to promote healthy interactions with other children in ways that promote “togetherness” and inclusivity as opposed to just experiencing the museum on ones own.
It is a beautiful thing to witness as children from different ages, backgrounds and even countries come together in the name of science to learn, play and grow with one another. A fantastic initiative that is always well executed by the museum.
The second section that is aimed at the slightly older children (aged 5 to 12) is more theme specific and looks solely at science and technology from an angle that is understandable to them.
They will engage in a variety of exhibits including exploring things like anthills, robotics and even the inner workings of a television.
The human body is also a big focus in this section and is an absolute highlight for all who attend. For many children it is the first opportunity they’ve had to explore what goes on inside the vessel that carries them around their day to day — truly eye opening!
The space is safe enough for you to leave your children for a while as they work their way through the exhibits, however a lot of parents opt to stick around in the Cité des Enfants and enjoy it with their kids. It is entertaining enough for everyone to enjoy together.
The Geode at Paris’ Science Museum
The Geode Dome at Paris’ Science Museum is not to be missed upon your visit!
Visually, the sight is entirely unmissable. The Geode Dome is located right at the entrance to the museums main exhibition halls. The dome is a giant ball shaped structure made entirely out of reflective stainless steel. The ball reflects the Parisian sky in every direction around the structure that stands 36m above the ground.
Inside the Geode Dome is one of the biggest cinema screens in the world. At 1000 m2 you can only imagine what viewing a movie in this facility must be like.
Inside the dome is an IMAX-style theatre that screens films in 4D. For anyone who has never experienced this kind of cinema, the dome at the Paris Science Museum would be a very good place to start.
The Geode Dome cinema is a national attraction in itself, without the name of the museum behind it. People travel far and wide just to catch a film here, most are suitable for the whole family to view.
The films are screened hourly staring at 10:30am and generally only concern topics such as the cosmos, the oceans and the Earth. I’d recommend checking the schedule in advance as well as pre-booking tickets. The dome has the tendency to fill up at unexpected intervals so there is never a guarantee of getting in on arrival.
Parc de la Villette at Paris’ Science Museum
While the experience of the Cité des Sciences is wholly enlightening to say the least, adding the surrounding attractions of the grounds to the mix really takes the visit to the next level.
Since you’re making the journey up to the 19th you might as well take full advantage of the day and explore some of the surrounding facilities that share the Parc de la Villette with the museum.
Parc de la Villette is a massive land space, it covers most of the arrondissement on its own. It is split down the middle by the Saint-Denis canal, so a walk along the edge is really beautiful.
Something I love taking part in on the Saint-Denis canal is La Péniche Cinéma. This is an independent cinema that is housed on a boat on the canal. It offers screenings of old and new documentary films and is absolutely free to enter.
Usually after the films there is an open panel discussion with the audience and filmmakers who work together to promote growth within the indie film community in Paris. It’s a wonderful way to spend an evening on the water.
Crossing the canal from the Science Museum will bring you to the south side of the park. Here you’ll find the official home of the Paris Philharmonic concert hall.
It is a relatively new and beautiful structure. Even if you are not watching a performance here I suggest making your way up to the rooftop terrace of the concert hall just for the view over the park — belle!
All in all there are more public attractions in this park that we could count on both hands; there’s even a McDonald’s! Make your way by foot through the greenery and winding park pathways either before or after your experience in the Science Museum (Read more about Discover walking tours).
Restaurants and Cafes at the Paris’ Science Museum
Do you need to worry about food for the day trip to the museum? In short, no. There are several places to dine located within the centre itself, as well as in the surrounding neighborhoods of the 19th.
I love the Biosphere Cafe situated on the 1st floor; its perfect for a sit down meal in between exhibitions. If you’re visiting with kids you’ll probably prefer something quicker so the Burger King on level 2 may be more convenient.
Are you ready for this journey through science? Let’s go!