Musee de l’Armee Museum in Paris
Located within the Hotel National des Invalides, the Musee de l’Armee was created back in 1905, when two separated museums called the Army museum and the Artillery museum merged, which has made this one of the most renowned and comprehensive military museums in the world.
Most people have heard of Napoleon, and it is also within Les Invalides that you can get to see the Eglise du Dome and the Tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte, which is also managed by the Musee de l’Armee, and when you look at the history of the Hotel des Invalides that was originally built back in 1670 to house wounded soldiers and war veterans too old to fight for France, this is definitely the most appropriate place for such a fantastic French museum.
But lets start with a bit of history..
Originally there were two prestigious collections of weapons like the one from the Prince Conde collection at the Cheateau de Chantilly installed in Les Invalides from 1852. The Artillery museum itself was created during the French Revolution, then located within the Hotel des Invalides in 1871.
It was during this period that the collections were enlarged considerably, by many other items from places like The Louvre museum, the artillery from the Chateau de Vincennes and the Chateau Pierrefonds, both on the outskirts of Paris, and many others including items that were bequeathed by private collectors.
The historical Army museum was then founded in 1896, with the society called La Sabretache, which is basically like a satchel that was worn by soldiers on horseback, and it was the president of the society, the painter Edouard Detaille, who wanted to create a national military museum from his own private collection.
In fact, he wanted the rooms within the museum to be set out like they were for the Universal Exposition of 1889, which was when the Eiffel Tower was inaugurated for this special occasion, and the site that was chosen for the army museum was of course the Hotel des Invalides at 129 Rue de Grenelle, Paris.
But as we mentioned earlier, the two museums were then merged together in 1905 and the collections have now increased even further and are far more comprehensive, which has made the Musee de l’Armee one of the best in the world, and is an ideal tourist attraction in Paris to visit when you are on holiday in Paris.
So yes, for those of you that love history, there are actually very few military museums that can offer such a large variety of exhibits from such a long period in history. Yet alone the fact that it is housed in such an historical monument in Paris in addition to the Tomb of Napoleon and also other French museums based upon war and military, which are the Musee des Plans Reliefs and the Musee de l’Orde de la Liberation.
The collections at Musee de l’Armee in Paris
There are several different sections of the Musee de l’Armee to experience and of course most people think about the Eglise du Dome and the Tomb of Napoleon, but there is much, much more to this incredible museum.
In fact, the Musee de l’Armee actually houses the third largest collection of antique armour and arms in the world and these are conveniently displayed by theme and in chronological order for its visitors.
To start with, you have the French cannons that are located in the Cour d’Honneur, which translates to the Court of Honour, and this is an extensive collection that spans over 200 hundred years of field artillery.
You have the Medieval Room that displays arms and armour from the 13th century right through to the 15th century and includes items such as medieval swords.
There is also a Royal Room located in the former refectory houses of the Hotel des Invalides that contains royal collections along with foreign and French Princely armour used by the royals. However, it is also within this part of the museum that you can also view the battle scenes that cover the walls, which were originally painted by Joseph Parrocel between the years of 1646 and 1706. Painstakingly restored in 2005, you can find more information along with a plan for where these are located on our dedicated how to get to Les Invalides page under the plans section, although please bear in mind that the various plans etc are unfortunately in French only.
Another room is dedicated to the wars of the Habsburg Empire and the wars of Religion in the 16th century along with the war of Italy and the wars at the start of the 17 century and you will find arms and armour that were utilised in battle right through from King Francois I through to King Louis XIII.
With well over 2000 pieces on display, the arsenal Gallery within the museum has an impressive and very unique collection that make you feel like you can experience what it was like with the arsenals.
The Salle des Lices is another exhibition called La Chasse that displays hunting weaponry and other armour from the late Middle Ages through to the middle of the 17th century that was used by nobility for hunting expeditions, jousting and tournaments.
There are also themed rooms for arms and armour from around the world that go back to 15th century and include warrior cultures like the Ottoman and Persian empires, along with three different sections that cover pieces from France, Germany and Italy from the 16th century and 17th century.
However there is yet another part to this incredible French museum in Paris and it is known as the World Wars department that dates from 1871 through to the end of World War II in 1945.
Spread over three floors, located on the upper floors of the west wing of the Cour d’Honneur, history and the events of the wars are laid out in different departments and there are over 1000 different exhibits including weapons, knives, uniforms and rifles. There are even objects on display that were crafted by soldiers in the trenches, postcards, maps, models and much more, which means that anyone interested in history or World War I and World War II, will be in their element.
This particular section of the Musee de l’Armee starts with the Alsace and Lorraine exhibition room, then goes through to the World War I section that is broken down into separate sections. The first section is the rise of the empire and the start of the war, the next being the years 1915 to 1917, and the third dedicated to 1918, the end of the war, the Treaty of Versailles and the lead up to World War II.
Following on from those exhibition rooms, you then have World War II, which starts with the Leclerc exhibition room depicting the black years from 1939 to 1942, and the Battle of Britain, etc.
Continuing on you get to see the June exhibition room for the grey years of 1942 to 1944 and last but not least is the Lattre exhibition room for the light years which depict things such as the D-Day Normandy landings, along with the uncovering and liberation of the concentration camps.
In addition to all of these different parts, there is a very unique section in this museum in Paris, although you will not see any objects on display! In fact, it is actually a completely interactive area called the Historical de Charles de Gaulle and you have to utilise a headset in order to experience this section, but there are over 400 different audio visual documents and around 20 hours of documentaries that you can choose what ones you wish to look at and listen to! You will be pleased to know that the audio guides and the commentaries are free and available in eight different languages plus there is an exceedingly helpful guide that helps you to get the most out of the interactive screens.
Visiting Musee de l’Armee in Paris
This French museum in Paris is open every day except for the first Monday of each month and on National French holidays like the 1st January, 1st May and the 25th December. However, we would like to point out that the Charles de Gaulle Interactive history section is closed every Monday.
But the rest of the time you can visit the Musee de l’Armee from 10am through to 5pm from the start of October to the end of March and from the beginning of April to the end of September, it is open from 10am through to 6pm.
We did mentioned earlier, but this museum is located in one of the famous monuments in Paris called the Hotel National des Invalides, and when it comes to getting here via Paris public transport, the closest Metro stations are the Invalides, Varenne, Ecole Militaire and Assemblee Nationale stops for lines 8, 12 and 13, yet if you are travelling on the RER then you would need the Invalides station serving the RER C line.
Additionally, you have Paris bus lines 28, 63, 69, 73, 80, 82, 83, 84, 86, 87 92, 93 and 94, not forgetting there are also the Noctilien night bus lines N01 and N02 that operate during the night time when other transport has finished for the day.
There are two different entrances and ticket offices, one being on the South side by the Place Vauban, which is where you can get a fabulous view of the golden dome on the royal church called the Eglise du Dome, which is now home to the Tomb of Napoleon along with other tombs and funerary monuments.
The other, being the main entrance, is located on the North side with its impressive facade and central pavilion, which is also where canons stand guard on the perimeter, and as of 2020, the cost of a ticket is €14, yet it is free for anyone under the age of 18 providing they are accompanied by an adult.
However, you will also be pleased to know that this entrance fee for Les Invalides does include access to the Musee de l’Armee with the audio guide along with access to the Tomb of Napoleon, the Musee des Plans Reliefs and the Musee de l’Ordre de la Liberation.
Paris Metro lines 8, 12, 13
Bus line 28
Bus lines 63, 69
Bus line 73
Bus lines 80, 82, 83, 84, 86, 87
Bus lines 92, 93, 94
Night bus lines N01, N02
RER Train line C