Musee des Plans Reliefs Museum in Paris

If you like the idea of the history of France, then the Musee des Plans Reliefs museum in Paris is yet another ideal place to visit whilst you are on holiday in Paris, and is located within the Hotel National des Invalides.

Les Invalides is probably most well known for the Tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte I, however there is a rich history of Les Invalides in itself, yet alone the other museums and sections that you can visit like the Musee de l’Armee, the Museum of the Order of the Liberation and much more for all to enjoy at this one particular monument and tourist attraction in Paris.
Musee des Plans Reliefs Belle-Ile model

A bit of history behind Musee des Plans Reliefs

The construction of three-dimensional models to scale are known as plans reliefs and in particular these were originally designed for military purposes and were initially constructed in the field by military engineers, although not always as accurate as those constructed in a workshop.

Anyway, it all started back in the year 1668 when the minister of war to King Louis XIV and a couple of other renowned figures started the collection of these plans reliefs that paid particular attention to city fortifications and specific areas such as harbours or high ground.

In 1700 King Louis XIV started to put this collection of models into The Louvre and by 1743 there were two central workshops for these instead of trying to get them made out in the field.  Located at Bethune and Lille that are both towns in the Nord Pas de Calais region of France, there were quite a lot of different models built, many of which represented newly captured sites from military victories.
The collection of these plans reliefs scale models was updated in the year 1754 and the final models that were created were those of the town of Saint Omer and the Fort Saint-Philippe aux Baléares in 1759.

But in 1774 when The Louvre changed its focus to a gallery dedicated to paintings, with the collection nearly being destroyed, yet fortunately this did not happen to all of the plans reliefs and they were transferred to the Hotel des Invalides, which is where they still remain today.

However, Napoleon decided he also wanted some new models built and these included a model of Brest in the Brittany region and a model of Cherbourg in the Basse Normandie region of France, but any new models were completely discontinued after the year 1870.
Musee des Plans Reliefs Brest model
Musee des Plans Reliefs Blaye model
And even though there were originally around 250 plus plans reliefs created from 1668, unfortunately there are only around 100 of these unique models still in existence today, which are being preserved by the museum as they were declared a historical monument back in 1927.

Today there are some plans reliefs models held at the Musee des Beaux-Arts in Lille, and the remainder of these are still held at the Musee des Plans Reliefs at the Hotel National des Invalides in Paris.

About the Musee des Plans Reliefs

This museum in Paris has a very unique collection of historical relief-map models where you can explore over two centuries of military history that dates from 1668 right through to the last quarter of the 19th century.
Musee des Plans Reliefs Chateau-Trompette model
When you visit the Musee Plans des Reliefs museum in Paris you will be able to see around 28 of these large scale models on display that show fortifications along the English Channel, the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean coastline and also the Pyrenees in the Aquitaine region of France with these models being an exceptionally accurate to a 1/600th scale.

The museum also has a complete section dedicated to the history of these plans reliefs and how they were constructed, along with detailed presentations including facts like the watercolour paintings to depict the exact colour of the scenery and buildings that they represented at that time.

And yet these models mean so much more, as they provide aerial views of how a town and the fortified cities used to look, not just with its buildings, but also the surrounding landscapes, etc and these have become a major source of information about architectural history, town planning and how the landscapes in different areas have changed over the centuries.
Musee des Plans Reliefs Bayonne model
Musee des Plans Reliefs displays

Visiting Musee des Plans Relief in Paris

As mentioned earlier, this particular French museum is located within the Hotel des Invalides and the main entrance is located on the side of the Esplanade des Invalides, which is also the way you can get to the specialised bookshop.

As of 2012, the cost for entry is €9, however it is free to those under the age of 18 provided they are accompanied by an adult.  Yet this cost is not just for this museum, but it also includes entry to the other museums at Les Invalides along with the Tomb of Napoleon, the artillery and canons section of the Musee de l’Armee and the section dedicated to Charles de Gaulle.

From the 1st of October through to the 31st of March the Musee des Plans Relief is open from 10am to 5pm and then from 1st of April through to the 30th of September it is open from 10am to 6pm.
Musee des Plans Reliefs
And you can reach this historical building via Metro and stopping at either the Metro station Invalides or La Tour Maubourg on lines 8 and 13 or if you are travelling in Paris on the RER, it is line C via the Invalides stop.

However, as with many French museums in Paris, you will find it closed on all French national holidays such as 1st January,1st November and 25th December, plus it also closes on the first Monday of every month.