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We visit the incredible History of Medicine Museum

OK, we get it – the History of Medicine Museum might not sound super sexy, but if you’re looking for a genuine Paris secret in a mind-blowing venue perfect for Instagram, then you should read on…

Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
photos: JasonW

Paris attracts more visitors every year, which is great of course, but it also means that finding anything off the beaten track is increasingly difficult. Everyone’s been there, done that and has the gorgeous Instagram photos to prove it.

However, there are still a few genuinely amazing places that not everyone knows about.

On the Left Bank, near our hotels we have the Musée d’Orsay, Rodin Museum, Luxembourg Museum, Cluny Museum (and many more) all of which offer great, successful exhibitions, but a truly curious visitor to our beautiful city will always look for something a little more unusual.

Indeed, sometimes the journey is as important as the destination, and finding the History of Medicine Museum is quite the journey! Hidden inside the Paris Descartes University with only minimal signage and opening hours that will drive you crazy (three hours in the afternoon, but not Thursdays, and perhaps not when it’s too hot – double check here) getting to the entrance will take you past sculpted busts of illustrious intellectuals, a magnificent staircase, bronze and marble statues…

But let’s start at the beginning. Once inside the university building you’ll need keen eyes to find the signs leading you to the museum. Have faith, keep an eye out, and enjoy the incredible surroundings that few visitors to the city ever see.

There aren’t many museums with this kind of hallway…

Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
It’s like travelling back in time…

At the end of this vast corridor is a huge, incredible stone staircase. Under it is a plaque listing all the doctors and medicine students that died fighting for France in the First World War, as well as those that died while deported, resistance fighters killed by the Germans… There are hundreds and hundreds of names.

While going up, you can admire another statue (“Nature revealing herself to science”) and a huge painting showing medical aid being given at the Comédie Française around 1870. Other medically-themed paintings are to come…

Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris

We are no upstairs, but not yet at the entrance to the museum. The museum’s library is here (but closed to the public) and a long corridor leads to another staircase, a statue plonked in a corner (Georges Cuvier probably deserves better), an intriguing ornate door, a beautifully-crafted piece of ironwork, other paintings (fancy a blood transfusion from a goat?) and – finally – the entrance to the museum!

Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
FM for ‘Faculté de Médecine‘?
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris

Push the door and your efforts are instantly rewarded. The museum may only have one room, but what a room it is! It’s like stepping back into the 19th century (the room actually dates from 1905) as nothing much has changed here in many a decade.

It’s partly for places like this that our love of Paris never diminishes…

Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris

Before arriving, we were worried the place would be filled with bottles with body parts, conjoined twins, that sort of thing. It isn’t.

The display cases are full of instruments used by various branches of medicine until the end of the 19th century. There’s nothing gory, but imagining some of the objects being used on people did give us goose bumps from time to time!

There are lots of different things to see – utensils for operations, drawings, plaques celebrating certain doctors or surgeons, models…

And while the pieces on display are fascinating, the room itself has a lot to offer too (carved wood, painted portraits…).

Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
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Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
Le Musée d’Histoire de la médecine, Paris
There are very few women amongst the busts, so initially we were pleased to come across this one. However, it turned out to be of male doctor Joseph-Marie-Jules Parrot who died in 1883

As you can probably see from our photos, this museum is definitely out-of-the-ordinary, and worth seeing as much for the venue as the exhibits. Additionally, entrance is super cheap (3.5€ !) and it’s not far from our hotels.

If you are looking for something authentic, unusual and unknown in Paris, this should be on your list.

And if you want to see some more of our photos, simply click here!

The Musée d’Histoire de la médecine (here) is open Monday to Saturday (but not Thursday) from 2-5.30pm. Last entrance at 5pm

May be closed if there’s a heatwave (we’re not even joking). Might be closed Saturdays during the summer (best check here)

Admission: 3.50€ / 2.50€

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