Musee des Arts Forains Fairground Museum
Traditional funfairs were very popular from the late 1800s and until just before World War II, and through the efforts of Jean Paul Favand who started to collect antique fairground rides and fun fair attractions, there is now a private museum in Paris called the Musee des Arts Forains.
About the Musee des Arts Forains
Known as the museum of fairground arts, this museum in Paris was created through the efforts of an actor and antique collector by the name of Jean Paul Favand, who has spent over thirty-five years collecting objects associated with fun fairs and fairground attractions. Yet this has also escalated into amusements from around Europe and it has now become one of the largest collections of fairground art and objects in the world.
Housed within the former wine cellars dating from the 19th century that are called the Pavillons de Bercy, Jean Paul Favand has collected more than 50,000 documents along with different objects, curiosities and antiques that relate to entertainment in Paris and throughout the world.
And from distorting mirrors to traditional carrousels and mechanical musical instruments through to games such as the race of waiters and a gondola ride to a merry-go-round, there is something to enthral anyone of any age, and these are not just here for show, as you can actually experience a ride on many of these, just like the wooden horses for example.
There are also over 50,000 documents now owned by the museum along with a collection of costumes, a bicycle merry-go-round, fair background photos where you put your head through a hole and much, much more to discover.
However, bearing in mind that many of these fabulous fairground attractions at the Musee des Arts Forains museum are well over 100 years old, there has been much restoration required in order to get them working again, or even look like they should have done when they were constructed.
And it is the workshops at the Pavillon de Bercy that organise the protection and restoration of this unique heritage, along with the organisation of private and corporate functions, which is what funds the project and the museum.
In fact there are approximately twenty professionals including sculptors, painters, mechanics, engineers, etc that all work supported by the extensive studies and documentation of postcards, catalogues from manufacturers, etc that have been accumulated from all over Europe.
And this means that the collection can be painstakingly, yet expertly restored to their former glory, and to give you an idea of what is involved, the Velocipede Carrousel from Caillebaut and Decanck required more than 20,000 working hours to get this back up to scratch both from an aesthetics point of view and mechanically.
Incredibly, sometimes an engineer has to make a mechanical part from scratch in order to get an engine working again, and a restorer can take up to three months on just one wooden horse with a scalpel to recover the initial polychrome of the decoration in all its original colours.
So, even though the Musee des Arts Forains is a fun place to visit, there is a lot more behind the scenes that even makes this possible, and one of the recent acquisitions was an Indian elephant from the Colonial Exhibition in 1931 that took over 300 hours to restore, yet illustrates the relationship between fairgrounds and international exhibition fairs.
Access to Musee des Arts Forains
You will find this Fairground museum located in the 12th Arrondissement of Paris within the Pavillons de Bercy in the Bercy area, that was the former wine market area of Paris, which has been redeveloped and transformed with the Parc de Bercy, the Coeur Saint Emilion cultural and shopping centre called Bercy Village along with the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy Stadium now called the AccorHotels Arena.
We would, however, like to point out that because the Musee des Arts Forains is also linked with the Venetian Rooms and the Theatre Merveilleux within the Bercy Pavilions, they have numerous corporate events and private functions that are held at different times throughout the year. Therefore, you can only get to visit this museum in Paris by booking prior.
As of 2018, the cost of entry to this museum is €16 for adults, but children under the age of 12 are only a cost of €8, yet those aged under 4 get free entry, and open most days of the week, the tour lasts 90 minutes and this includes the ability to even experience some of the fairground rides and fun fair games, which are run by the guide operators.
Bearing in mind this is a privately owned and run museum that has no funding bar from the entrance fee from its visitors, so throughout the year, the museum is only accessible by reservation with most of the tours being conducted in French, but there is handout leaflet in English that is provided, plus tours are scheduled in English during the summer months.
Mind you, at certain times of the year for the past few years, the Musee des Arts Forains has been open between Christmas and New Year without reservations from 10am through to 6pm, and the same goes for European Heritage Days, known as the Journees du Patrimoine, where you can also gain access without prior booking.
You may also be pleased to know that this fairground museum is accessible to the disabled and those with reduced mobility, although we would like to point out that experiencing certain historical rides such as the carrousel would not be possible, plus there are cobbled streets going between the pavilions, making a bumpy ride for wheelchair users.
Now, getting to the Bercy area and the Musee des Arts Forains museum is very easy with public transport in Paris and you can utilise the high speed Metro train called the Meteor, which is on line 14 and the station is the Cour Saint-Emilion stop.
Alternatively a little further walk and you have the Metro station called the Bercy stop, which serves lines 6 and 14. However, if you are travelling to or from Paris by train, there is the Gare de Bercy and on the opposite bank of the River Seine you have the RER train station called the Bibliotheque Francois-Mitterrand stop serving the RER C Line.
In addition to this, the Bus lines 24, 64, 87, 109, 111 and 325, along with the Noctilien Night Bus Service via lines N32, N35 and N130 will also get you within walking distance, although the lines 109 and 111 are the closest to Musee des Arts Forains and the Pavillons de Bercy.