Paris lovers: you know the Eiffel Tower like the back of your hand, but did you know that it functions as a giant antenna for radio and television transmissions? You know that Louis Pasteur and Madame Curie were Parisians and made important contributions to science, but did you know that you can visit their homes and museums dedicated to their work? Paris is so much more than the Louvre and croissants. The “City of Lights” owes its nickname to its history as a center of education and ideas during the Age of Enlightenment, a reputation for fostering intellectuals and inventors that it still holds today.
The Paris Observatory, a center for astronomic research, is located on the Left Bank in the 14th Arrondissement. Although it’s no longer being used for astronomical observation due to the city’s light pollution, the Observatory is a graduate school where important research takes place. It was the original home of Focault’s Pendulum and sits atop the Paris Meridian as marked by the Arago Medallions, which Dan Brown readers will recognize.
Public visits of the Paris Observatory are available the first Sunday of the month by reservation only.
Ever wonder how the Statue of Liberty was built? How the first camera was invented? Or what came before radios and iPods? The Musée des Arts et Métiers is where you’ll find out. Located on the Right Bank, it houses an original version of Focault’s Pendulum and a vast collection of scientific objects and drawings, tracing the history of technology from the 18th century to modern times. With demonstrations, scale models, and activities for kids, this is an interactive museum that’s perfect for the inquisitive mind. Even the metro station— Arts et Métiers—is dedicated to the theme of invention and discovery.
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm and Thursday nights until 9:30pm.
Metro: Arts et Métiers
The Musée Curie, a historical museum focusing on radiological research, is set to reopen this summer following renovations. Housed in Marie Curie’s laboratory, it contains an exhibit on radioactivity and oncology as well as historical archives and documents for the Curie Institute.
Open to the public every weekday afternoon with guided visits.
Metro: Place Monge.
Explore Louis Pasteur’s home, laboratory, and crypt at the Pasteur Museum, which pays homage to the scientist who made some of the greatest breakthroughs in modern medicine at the time, including pasteurization and vaccines for anthrax bacillus and rabies virus. You can see the equipment and instruments he used; meanwhile, medical research carries on next door at the Pasteur Insitute.
Open Monday-Friday with guided visits at 2:00pm, 3:00pm, and 4:00pm. Closed in August.
Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie is the cream of the crop of science-themed Paris attractions. The largest science museum in Europe, it includes a planetarium, an aquarium, an IMAX theater, and three “bioclimatic” greenhouses. An enchanting place for science-minded kids and adults alike, the hands-on and interactive exhibits make it a wonderful way to spend a rainy afternoon in Paris.
Open Tuesday-Saturday from 10:00am to 6:00pm and Sundays from 10:00am to 7:00pm.
Metro: Porte de la Vilette
(Photo by SparklyKate, on Flickr)