If you’re looking to brush up on your French or Parisian history and have a passion for antique weaponry (who doesn’t?) then a trip to Paris’s Army Museum (Musée de l’Armée) is in order. France’s national military museum can be found in the 7th arrondissement within Les Invalides, a cluster of monuments and museums highlighting France’s past military glories.
The Army Museum first opened its doors in 1905 after the merging of the Museum of Artillery – a product of the 1789 French Revolution – and the Historical Museum of the Army.
Now, the impressive site encompasses seven main areas and some 500,000 pieces, including artillery, weapons, armor, uniforms and paintings from antiquity up until the 20th century.
Among the various artifacts housed here are some more predictable pieces for a military museum, like a box of pistols and gun used by Napoleon I or the small artillery model given to King Louis XIV by the Parliament of Franche-Comte in 1676. However, visitors may be surprised to find genuine artworks such as the Apotheosis of Saint Louis – an elaborate and colorful sketch of the fresco intended for the cupola at the Dome Church of Saint-Louis des Invalides in 1702. Emperor Napoleon I's tomb is also nearby on the site.
In short: even if you’re less than enthralled with weaponry and military history, there is plenty at the Army Museum for art and history lovers, and anyone appreciative of aesthetics, for that matter..
Location and Contact Details
The Army Museum is located in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, situated in an area rich with popular Paris tourist sites: the Eiffel Tower and the Musee d’Orsay are two such attractions only a few short blocks away.
- Address: 129 rue de Grenelle, 7th arrondissement
- Metro: Varennes on the line 13, or La Tour Maubourg or Invalides on the line 8.
- Tel: + 33 (0) 810 11 33 99
- Visit the official website in English
Is There Access for Visitors With Limited Mobility?
Yes. Elevators can be found throughout the museum to help visitors get around comfortably.
Nearby Sights and Attractions:
The museum is centrally located in the French capital and is a great starting point for a tour of the city. Famous sites and promenades are all within walking distance of the Invalides complex. After a few hours at the Army Museum, you’ll probably be itching for some fresh air.
A good place to start is on the Invalides lawns and gardens, which are manicured to perfection, in classic French style. Otherwise, sites such as these are just a hop, skip, and a jump away:
- Eiffel Tower and the Champ de Mars
- The Seine River and sightseeing boat tours of the Seine
- Quai Branly Museum
- Musée d’Orsay
Opening Hours and Purchasing Tickets:
The Army museum is open daily, but closing times depend on the season.
From April 1st to October 31st, the museum is open from 10am to 6pm, and from November 1st to March 31st, opening hours are from 10am to 5pm. Just a reminder – the ticketing desks close a half hour before closing times, so be sure to get there nice and early to give yourself plenty of time to see the collection.
Tickets: For a list of current ticket prices and purchasing information, visit this page at the official website.
Main Collections And Areas at the Museum
Visitors will find several key areas and thematic collections to explore. These are some of the highlights.
Main Courtyard, Artillery Collections
This is the central courtyard area of the Hotel National des Invalides, which puts much of the artillery collection on display. Delight in the collection's 60 bronze cannons, as well as a dozen mortars and howitzers. Visitors can discover how the equipment was manufactured and learn how these pieces factor into 200 years of France’s history in field artillery.
Old Armor and Weapons, 13th-17th centuries
This section holds one of Europe’s most significant collections of armor and weaponry, with pieces spanning from the 13th to the 17th centuries.
Works are separated into different rooms and galleries, with special spaces for rifles, weaponry from East Asia, and medieval armor, amongst others. Fantasy fans, medieval history buffs, and kids will especially love this section.
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Modern department, from Louis XIV to Napoleon III, 1643 – 1870
In this department, discover France’s military, political and social history through several thematic rooms. Relive battles from the French Revolution, admire paintings illustrating the War of Devolution and check out the collections paying tribute to Emperor Napoleon I's armies and marshals.
Dôme des Invalides and the Tomb of Napoleon I
If you only have a short time here, make sure you use it to check out this space. Inside the Dome is Napoleon I’s tomb, which arrived at the Hotel des Invalides in April 1861. The dome and royal chapel also shouldn’t be missed, which highlight the "Sun King" Louis XIV’s reign and armies.
Contemporary department and the Two World Wars: 1871-1945
Head to this room to get a better sense of two of the world’s grandest conflicts of the 20th century. Relics such as military uniforms, paintings, photos, maps and documentary films round out this dark, and momentous, time in French and world history.
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Charles de Gaulle Monument
Instead of using objects or paraphernalia to illustrate the life of the founding president of the Fifth Republic, this room uses audiovisual effects like posters, photos, films and maps. Take the self-guided tour, which allows you to build your own itinerary and listen to up to 20 hours of commentary.
Cathedral of Saint-Louis des Invalides
This cathedral for the French armies is central to the Hotel des Invalides. Marvel at the classical architecture of the veteran’s chapel, including the organ case from the late 17th century and the hundreds of trophies taken from the enemy between 1805 and the 19th century.