Looking for something a bit off the beaten path in Paris? Visiting with kids? If so, the sprawling Science and Industry Museum/Center in Paris (Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie) is a delightful place to spend a morning or afternoon in pursuit of fun, learning, and discovery. Designed for children aged 2 to 18, this vast center includes numerous thematic attractions and areas, including an impressive planetarium.
With permanent and temporary exhibition spaces organized by target age group, the museum explores topics as varied as physics, geography, geometry, media and technology, space exploration, engineering and amazing inventions, and human anatomy. There's even an enormous reflective geodesic dome housing a panoramic theatre in close proximity to the main center, lending the whole complex a futuristic feel-- if one that, ironically, is already starting to feel a tiny bit dated.
Whether you're a parent looking for great things to do with kids in Paris, or simply someone who enjoys a good science and industry exhibit, do reserve some time for this under-appreciated gem in the north of the city. It's part of the vast complex known as "La Villette". Here you'll find an array of fun thematic parks and gardens, an outdoor space for summer movie screenings, a new philharmonic music hall and museum, another concert venue for rock and pop called Le Zenith, and much more.
What to Do: Activities and Spaces at the Center
The Cité is organized into permanent exhibition spaces, temporary exhibits, and a dedicated space, the Cité des Enfants, designed for kids aged 2-12.
The permanent exhibits consist in thematic areas exploring topics such as the Human Brain, Transportation and Mankind, Energy, Astronomy ("The Great Story of the Universe"), mathematics, the phenomena of sounds, and human genomes. For more information and details on permanent exhibition areas, visit this page.
The Cité des Enfants offers a delightful environment for young children, and offering commentary in English and Spanish as well as in French.
Divided into two distinctive areas-- one for children between 2-7 years old and the other for 5-12 year olds-- the Cité des Enfants is a massive "adventure playground" allowing kids to engage their senses and innate scientific curiosity. Games, interactive exhibits, and experimental areas allow kids to really get their thinking caps on to explore. These exhibits were designed to be accessible to people with all kinds of disabilities, too. For more details on this area, visit this page.
The Famed Geodesic Dome
The enormous geodesic dome looming near the entrance to the Cité's main exhibition spaces is a commanding sight, bringing to mind the futuristic experiments of the 1960s and 1970s and people like Buckminster Fuller, a designer of many of the world's domes. Unveiled in 1985 and designed by architect Adrien Fainsilber and engineer Gérard Chamayou, the dome, called "La Geode" in French, stands 36 meters tall, and is so reflective that you can see the sky and surrounding objects in its polished, stainless steel surface.
The dome houses an IMAX-style theatre. For information on shows and times, visit this page.
Read Related: Top 10 Museums in Paris
Restaurants and Cafes at the Cité des Sciences
There are several dining areas at the Center, offering fare ranging from fast food to formal dining. A Burger King chain located on level -2 is one possibility for a quick snack; but if you'd prefer to avoid the siren call of fast-food, the "Biosphere" cafe on level 1 advertises itself as offering healthier quick options, or to find a sandwich or salad at the takeaway cafe on the ground floor.
Finally, a formal restaurant and tearoom on the underground level -2 is an option if you're looking for a longer, sit-down meal. Reservations aren't required, but are recommended for evening meals, especially in the spring and summer months.
Location, Getting There and Contact Details:
The Cité des Sciences is located in Paris' northeastern 19th arrondissement, easily accessible by metro or bus. It may feel like a bit of an effort to get there, but in reality it's only about a 20-minute train ride from the city center.
Is There Access for Visitors With Limited Mobility?
Yes, there is. There is ramp access directly from the Porte de la Villette Tramway and bus stops, as well as an elevator from the car park that will take you to the ground floor. Unfortunately, metro access is not fully adapted for disabled visitors with limited mobility at this time.
Nearby Sights and Attractions:
Although the Science and Industry center is situated in an area that most visitors rarely venture to explore-- particularly since it doesn't feature many of the city's more popular sights and attractions-- we nevertheless encourage you to take some time to get to know this interesting quartier better. Some of my favorite things to do and see around La Villette include:
Opening Hours and Purchasing Tickets:
The main science and industry center is open during the following days and times:
- Tuesday to Saturday: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
- Sunday: 10:00 am to 7:00 pm
- Closed: Mondays; January 1st; May 1st; Christmas Day (December 25th)
The geodesic dome is open from Tuesdays to Sundays from 10:30 am to 8:30 pm, and occasionally on Mondays.
To book tickets online and to see current and upcoming exhibits at the center, visit this page at the official website (page is in English).
Liked This? See These Related Features:
If you're interested in quirky, off-the-beaten track museums, check out our feature on the Strangest Museums in Paris, including the Paris Catacombs and the Musée des Arts et Métiers, an old-world science and industry museum more targeted to adults (but one that kids will also likely enjoy.)
To keep the kids happy, make sure to explore places like the zoo (menagerie) at the Jardin des Plantes, the old-fashioned amusement park known locally as the Jardin d'Acclimation, complete with train and old-style rides, and, of course, the Disneyland Paris Resort just an hour east of the city center.