Louvre museum ceiling, Paris

5 tips for visiting museums in Paris

Pyramid at the Louvre Museum, Paris

With the Fashion Icons: Masterpieces from the collection of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris opening at the Art Gallery of South Australia today, Paris is the city on everyone’s lips here in Adelaide. I’m planning on visiting the exhibition as soon, but first I thought I’d take the opportunity to share my top tips for visiting museums in Paris.

This year I was lucky enough to head back to Europe for my birthday. Clearly visiting museums was going to feature heavily on the agenda! Paris is a city of culture, but unfortunately it’s also a place of giant museum queues. Here are my top five tips for visiting Paris like a pro:

1. Buy a Paris Museum Pass

This gives you entry to over 60 museums without having to queue. Score! This little pass was a god-send during my trip. We visited during peak Summer season and the length of the queues was enough to make any seasoned museum visitor want to cry. If you’re intending on blitzing a load of museums, this is an ideal way to save money too. It also allows you to fit more museums into your trip as you don’t waste time on queuing. Having a pass can also alters the way you choose to visit museums. By having paid up-front you have the opportunity to discover some hidden-gems you might have overlooked otherwise. Feel tired half way through your visit? No worries, just pop back the next day with no extra charge.

Full details about the Pass can be found on the official website. I’d recommend ordering your pass before your trip, or buying it from the airport when you arrive, as the queues in the shops near the museums were a little bit soul-destroying.

2. Visit at night

With the museums tending to be a lot less busy in the evenings it’s the perfect opportunity to see an exhibition and then stroll along the river banks at dusk. Many of the museums have extended opening hours on certain days of the week. For example, the Louvre opens until 9:45pm on Wednesdays and Fridays and the Musée d’Orsay opens late on Thursdays. You can find a full list of the evening opening times here.

Paris at sunset

3. Use the secret entrance

Maybe the Paris Museum Pass isn’t for you but you still don’t want to queue. Amongst museum pros it is well known there is an alternative entrance to the Louvre, which rarely has any queue. The entrance, called Porte des Lions is advertised on the museum’s website and maps, but is seldom spotted by tourists. I’ve circled the entrance in red on a map below, taken from the Museum’s website. You can thank me later!

Map of the Portes des Lions at Louvre Museum, Paris

4. Watch out for closed days

The issues with museums being closed, particularly the big ones, are two-fold. Obviously it’s rubbish turning up and realising poor planning has led you to arrive at the museum on the only day of the week when it’s closed. However, there is a second knock on effect which many people overlook. On Tuesdays when the Louvre is closed, other popular places, such as the Musée d’Orsay get really busy. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

5. Wear the right shoes

This is the part where I sound like your mum! Don’t be tempted to wear open-toed sandals. Or any nice shoes for that matter. As an experienced museum visitor, I already know that comfy shoes are a must. However, what caught me off guard in Paris was the awful gravel pathways in the parks, for example EVERYWHERE around the Louvre. What is the problem with these gravel paths, I hear you ask? Well I ended up with a million tiny little stones making there way into my sandals. To top that off the paths create a dust so you end up with dirty, grey feet and shoes. Not the chic Parisian style one aims for!

Visiting museums in Paris

I hope you find these tips useful and enjoy exploring the amazing cultural offerings in Paris. I’d love to hear any tips you have about visiting Paris or museums in general. Do you think there is a best time of day to go, or even a good day of the week? Do you find it helpful pre-booking tickets, or feel it takes away the freedom of your holiday? Just pop your comments below.

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Tea display at the Geffrye Museum Garden

The Geffrye: Museum of the Home

Outside the Geffrye Museum, LondonSince arriving back in the UK, I’ve been travelling the country seeing friends, family and museums. Visiting the Geffrye Museum, during my perfect weekend in London, has been one of the highlights so far. This museum has been on my ‘must visit’ list for a long time. During my museum studies Masters in 2008, I remember one of our lecturers remarking it was her favourite museum. She’s the kind of person with very good taste, so I knew it must be a gem!

As someone who only visits London a couple of times a year, it’s always hard to fit everything in. Especially when the nationals keep coming up with tempting sounding exhibitions. As soon as I entered the Geffrye, I was quickly wondering what had kept me away for so long!

The Geffrye Museum focuses on the homes and gardens of the urban middle classes in Britain. The displays track the tastes and fashions from the 1600s to the modern day. The museum is set in a beautiful old building, which was originally built as almshouse in 1714. Today, the building is surrounded by gardens with a perfect picnic lawn at the front.

Gardens at the Geffrye MuseumThe displays consist of a series of period rooms, guiding you through the ages. Each period room is complimented by an introductory display area, with objects, interpretation and furniture you can try out! I liked these displays because you can get a closer look at the collections and it allowed distracting interpretation to be kept to a minimum in the period rooms. It was interesting to learn about how the availability of raw goods was influencing tastes of the period. Of course one of the themes that caught my eye was TEA!

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All things related to tea!

I love thinking about a time when tea was a very expensive luxury. The adorable paintings of ladies taking tea, helped you imagine what it would have been like to drink from the dainty cups. I also admired the tea caddies where the lady of the house would have locked away the precious leaves. Heaven forbid one of the servants might try and steal some!

Interactive displays at the Geffrye MuseumAs you can imagine, one of the best parts of the museum was getting to sit on all the different chairs! Below are three of my favourite period rooms. What do you think? Do you have a favourite?

  1. Drawing room, 1830
  2. Drawing room, 1890
  3. Living room, 1965

Drawing room, 1830, at the Geffrye Museum

Aesthetic Movement room at the Geffrye Museum

Living room, 1965, Geffrye Museum

The 1960s living room got me pretty excited as it displayed lots of Danish Modern furniture. Having just bought a very similar dining table and chairs at an antiques shop in Adelaide, I was pleased to see this type of furniture in a museum!

The rooms are complemented by a series of gardens, which are a super part of the visit. As with the period rooms, they are organised in a timeline. There was even a tea garden inspired by beautiful tea set I’d seen on display earlier (pictured above).

Tea display at the Geffrye Museum Garden

Overall this museum has a V&A-like vibe (but not as annoyingly busy!). It was classy and a really fun afternoon out. I also spotted a pretty cafe with views over the gardens. I didn’t have time to test out on this occasion, but it’s a good excuse to visiting again!

So I’m back in London again, after visiting Galstonbury (you can read about my trip to the abbey here) and Scotland. I’ve got a couple of days free for visiting other museums. If anyone has suggestions for other less-obvious museums to visit, I’d love to hear about them. Just add a comment or tweet me @amyldale.

Bye for now…

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Vikings Live at a cinema near me!

Exhibitions and cinema – a match made in heaven?

The best museums are always challenging themselves to reach out to audiences in new ways. This involves breaking down barriers which prevent people from engaging. One of the main barriers is geographic. Potential visitors say they don’t come to the museum because it’s too far away. Borrowing an idea from theatre and opera, the British Museum has pioneered live cinema broadcasts to help overcome this barrier.

British Museum Vikings Live poster

Yesterday I was lucky enough to catch Vikings Live at my local Adelaide cinema. I was really interested in the concept of an exhibition being shown in a cinema and what sort of experience the audience would have. The British Museum describes it as an “exclusive private view of the exhibition”. It screened live in the UK on 24th April and is now being repeated for international audiences.

So was it any good?  

I’m going to say this up front. This wasn’t any better or any worse than going to see an exhibition in person; it’s just different. The screening lasted 90 minutes and had the feel of a high-quality BBC documentary. A bit like Springwatch, but in a museum! It was divided into themes such as ships, women and homelands, just like sections in an exhibition. Overall, I found the content very entertaining and got a lot from it. I thought it was brave of the British Museum to try something so far outside the comfort zone of a museum. Let’s face it, most curators aren’t great in front of a camera and don’t have a Scooby-Doo about producing content for cinemas. I can only imagine how much work went into it.

The best bits:

  • It made the British Museum look super cool. Anyone watching must have been thinking about how they can visit in person.
  • Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGegor giving the background to the exhibition. It really helped me place the exhibition in the landscape of current international research and partnerships.
  • The strong focus on the recent finds gave an up-to-date understanding of Viking culture.
  • I loved seeing the replica ship made by the National Maritime Museum Cornwall.

The not so good:

  • I felt my experience of the event was less enjoyable than those who got the chance to watch it live. The British Museum did a really good job on social media creating a bit of a ‘hype’ for the live-viewing. The audience felt as if they were part of something really special. For example, you could ask questions which were answered towards the end of the screening. Watching it several weeks later in Australia felt a bit lonely. There wasn’t that buzz on my twitter timeline making me feel as if I was part of something bigger.
  • I have some doubt about if audience expectations were met. The publicity described it as a “guided tour”, but it was really more of a documentary. There were lots of interviews with experts and not so much close-up focus on all the objects. Some special items were highlighted, but the comments on this British Museum blog post show that some people were expecting to see more of the objects. This didn’t bother me, but then again, unlike most people I’m lucky enough to be visiting the exhibition later this month.
  • Cringe moment – the curator of the exhibition dressing up as a sweaty Viking. Come on Gareth, I’ll admit you were good but while your armour may give a +3 defense, overall it was a -5 for the cool-factor.

Amy Dale wearing a viking helmet

 

Talking about dressing up as a Viking… there’s a great little bit on the website where you can ‘Viking Yourself’ by covering a photo in blingy objects from the exhibition. How could I resit?

 

 

In the eternal quest for museum understanding and knowledge, I’ll be visiting the Vikings exhibition in person (in actual London) at the end of June. Watch this space for my thoughts on how it compares with the cinema screening.

Bye for now…

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(Ironside)

 

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Museums Australia breakfast meeting, Adelaide, South Australia
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Museums Australia Breakfast

 

Museums Australia curators

Photo credit: East Terrace Continental Cafe 

Today I dropped in at the Museums Australia (MA) networking breakfast event. The South Australia branch of the MA organises these every month, at East Terrace Continental Cafe. This is the third time I’ve attended and found it a great way to meet other museum folk in Adelaide (as well as enjoying some tasty brekkie).

Today’s hot topic of conversation was the recent Museums Australia conference held in Launceston, Tasmania. Discussion was around if four days is just too long for a conference? Some people said four days is a pretty standard affair, others thought it just gets too tiring. Of course, MONA was also discussed in relation to the conference, and the impact the museum is having in Tasmania and beyond.

I won’t be able to attend the July event, as I’ll be back in the UK. However, I look forward to catching up with everyone, and hopefully meeting some new faces in August.

Bye for now…

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