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The Museum of Fairground Arts: immersive and interactive Parisian museum

The Museum of Fairground Arts in Paris houses performing arts and carnival objects from the 19th and 20th centuries. This atypical museum thrusts visitors back in time to a magical world of carnivals and funfairs.

During the Belle Epoque, fun fairs were a prominent part of society as a place for entertainment and innovation.

Arts like music and theater flourished. In addition, fairgoers could marvel at new and exciting inventions like mechanical theaters, cinemas, and wax museums.

The Museum of Fairground Arts: An incredibly rare experience

Today, the Museum of Fairground arts allows visitors to experience the magic of Belle Epoque funfairs thanks to Jean Paul Favand. An actor and antique dealer, Favand turned his collection of curiosities into a museum in 1996.

Favand explains,

Laughter and parties did not have a museum, yet so many are dedicated to wars. I created a world of dreams that could not have existed without the visitors who brought it to life.

Typically, museums are places to admire rare and fine objects from afar. However, the Museum of Fairground Arts distorts this traditional model of a museum by creating a more contemporary and interactive exhibit. It’s an immersive museum that exudes energy and laughter.

‘MyFrenchLife™ ‘MyFrenchLife™ - museum of fairground arts - game

The museum is only available to visit through a guided tour which quickly becomes a theatrical show. Visitors become actors and are asked to participate in the exhibits by:

  • waltzing in the grand ballroom to music from an authentic antique pipe organ
  • competing with other visitors on 19th century fair games
  • riding the Manège de Vélos, a merry go round completely powered by bicycle

This niche museum is definitely worth visiting and guarantees a fantastical and unique museum experience.

Why located in Bercy?

The Bercy neighborhood of Paris is in the 12th arrondissement and is fitting for a museum that celebrates fun and festivities. During the 19th century, Bercy fell outside the city limits of Paris. The area become known as ‘Joyeux-Bercy’ where Parisians would go to party and drink because wine was cheaper and untaxed. 

The area became the center of wine trade in France at this time.

  • First, Bercy’s location on the Seine was a main transport route of wines from Burgundy.
  • The Halles de Bercy housed merchants who sold the wine that arrived by boat and rail.
  • Wine was stored in stone warehouses before being sold and shipped to other parts of the country and beyond.
‘MyFrenchLife™ ‘MyFrenchLife™ - museum of fairground arts - chais

With the abundant access to wine, bars and guinguettes along the Seine flourished. As a result, Bercy became famous for its festive and lively atmosphere.

Today, former wine chais are now the Bercy Pavillion. The six 19th century millstone buildings of Bercy Pavillion house the Museum of Fairground arts.

The Museum of Fairground Arts: Midnight in Paris

A truly magical setting, we can see the Museum of Fairground Arts in movies and TV including the 2020 series Emily in Paris. In addition, we even see the museum in the 2011 film Midnight in Paris.

In the movie, the main character, Gil, attends a party with 1920’s literary figures. We can see him dancing in a beautiful Belle Epoque carnival setting. 

‘MyFrenchLife™ ‘MyFrenchLife™ - museum of fairground arts - midnight in paris

The magical exhibits fit perfectly with this movie that centers on the idea of idealizing and romanticizing days of yore. 

Like the movie, the museum brings us back in time. For a brief moment we have a chance to forget about reality and immerse ourselves in a magical world.  


Had you heard of the Museum of Fairground Arts in Paris? What do you think of this unique museum? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below or on Twitter @maviefrancaise


Sources:
  1. arts-forains.com
  2. Paris Museums with ‘la muséophile’: Le Petit Palais via myfrenchlife.org
  3. Bercy District via secretsofparis.com
  4. 10 Amazing Locations From ‘Midnight in Paris’ via cheatsheet.com
  5. Midnight in Paris: Nostalgia for a golden age via myfrenchlife.org
Image credits:
  1. Musée des arts forains via @itsabrina on Instagram
  2. Quel plaisir de retourner au musee des arts forains ! via @luckysophied on Instagram
  3. Musee des Arts Forains via @clanomie on Instagram
  4. Chais et entrepôts de Bercy – Un coin de l’entrepôt – Paris 12 via Wikimedia Commons
  5. Midnight in Paris, 2011


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