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Tasteful French Souvenirs from the Best Paris Museum You’ve Never Heard of

Yes I love the Musee D’Orsay, L’Orangerie and even the Louvre. But after several visits to Paris, I’ve covered all the must-see museums– each of which requires a hefty entrance fee and a substantial time commitment. Now on my return visits to Paris, I skip the big name museums and instead head for the Marais, to my favorite museum that hardly anyone seems to have heard of.

The musée Carnavalet is a small municipal museum tucked into a sweet Parisan neighborhood– it tells the story of Paris’ past and present through historical objects, maps, art and decor. Although special exhibits are extra, the main museum and its spectacular gardens are absolutely free. So it’s easy to visit for a brief stroll without feeling pressured to get your euro’s worth.

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The musée Carnavalet is also my secret source for Parisian photo opps, minus the crowds. And after you’re done touring the museum, the musée Carnavalet‘s gift shop is a fun browse for iconic but non-tacky Paris souvenirs.

1. Visit the Striking Gardens at musée Carnavalet

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2. Step Inside to Musée Carnavalet‘s Permanent Collection

The musée Carnavalet is a perfect choice for those weary of traditional art museums– you can walk through and check out different historical artifacts or simply soak up the Parisian feel of the elegant rooms.

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The many mirrored rooms are a great place for a Parisian selfie.

After strolling through the permanent collection, check and see what’s currently on exhibit. I once saw an incredible exhibit here featuring some of the first Louis Vuitton steamer trunks.

3.  Don’t miss the Musée Carnavalet’s Gift Shop for Classic Parisian Souvenirs

On the way out, spend the euros you would have put towards an admission fee elsewhere on a beautiful Parisian souvenir for yourself. You’ll find plenty of tasteful designs featuring iconic Parisian attractions.

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eiffel tower mug souvenir paris

I adored these Eiffel tower mugs– a perfect souvenir gift from Paris.

paris french paper dolls kids childrens toys souvenirs

Paper dolls were a childhood favorite of mine– this vintage-y looking set tempted me and would make a great gift for nieces back home.

paris france children's books in english

A nice selection of beautifully illustrated children’s books about Paris.

This cardboard Eiffel tower top is sold flat, making it easy to stash in your suitcase. Buy these children’s plates offering etiquette lessons in French for your favorite unruly child.

french cardboard buildings souvenir paris france best shopping

Buy an entire French block, collapsible and ready to pack.

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musee canarvalet gift shop books

The museum’s book collection is spectacular and offers titles in both French and English.

costume jewelry paris souvenir bracelet musee canarvalet

I loved the costume jewelry options here and regret not bringing home that coin cuff bracelet.

Paris boats souvenir classic French sailboat

Could anything say Paris more than these colorful wooden toy sailboats?

Paris souvenir makeup bag

Elegant makeup bags printed with classic Parisian attractions are a great souvenir.

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 Have you been to musée Carnavalet or other hidden gem Parisian spots? Tell us about your favorites!

Souvenir Finder Shopping Details
What to Buy:
Elegant Parisian souvenirs featuring iconic French designs, vintage-look children’s toys, books
Where to Get it:
Musée Carnavalet, 16, rue des Francs-Bourgeois 75003 Paris.
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 6pm
What to Know:Don’t miss the Place des Vosges nearby.

10 Responses to Tasteful French Souvenirs from the Best Paris Museum You’ve Never Heard of

  1. Amy 05/12/2015 at 11:13 pm #

    Visited the Carnavalet on our last trip to Paris. Such a fantastic museum! I regret not purchasing anything from the gift shop. Oh well, excuse to go back! This is a great post.

    • Kristin Francis 05/12/2015 at 11:40 pm #

      Thanks so much Amy! I agree, I adore the Carnavalet– and it’s even better on a second or third visit!

  2. Theresa Lapin 10/26/2015 at 10:38 am #

    Amy!!!! Thank you so much for this tip. I am taking a mom/daughter trip with my 19-year-old in May and we are staying steps away from Carnavalet. I collect plates and I love the ones you showed. We will definitely stop in! And, btw, we love NYC too!

  3. Mary Curvey 11/12/2015 at 4:58 pm #

    KrIstin, I would like to buy 2 boats (replicas of the ones the kids use at the Luxembourg Gardens). No response from the Tirot Company who makes the boats. How to order and ship from the Carnavalet (I don’t speak French). Thanks, Mary

  4. ruth ann siegler 02/29/2016 at 9:32 pm #

    I love the Carnavalet and the Musee Marmottan!!! You should do an article about it!

  5. Jaime Anzures 04/08/2016 at 6:04 pm #

    Yes, the Carnavalet is the only museum in Paris that I visit over and over! Fantastique! My favorite painting is there, Mme Recamier!

  6. Anonymous 01/17/2017 at 10:59 pm #

    Sadly, the museum is closed for renovation until 2019! Can you recommend a similar gift shop – I am devastated we cannot go shopping and also – to see the amazing gardens and museum collection…anything similar?
    Thank you…going to visit Paris in Sept. 2017. Kerry from Reno

  7. Kerry 01/17/2017 at 11:08 pm #

    Hello. Do you have any suggestions for a replacement gift shop? The Musee Carnavalet is closed for renovation until 2019! This little gift shop looks adorable though…though you might have a “second best?”. Thank you.
    Kerry from Reno – visiting Paris in Sept 2017

    • Kristin Francis 01/27/2017 at 6:19 pm #

      oh no! I’ll give it some thought…

    • Kristin Francis 02/16/2017 at 1:41 am #

      Oh this is a shame! Hmm I’m not sure…if I make it back to Paris before then I’ll do some checking…

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