Paris’ Palais de Tokyo/Site de Création Contemporaine is one of the craziest and best museums in all of Paris.
The Museum is housed in a beautiful but strangely cavernous building from 1937. It was originally built for the Internation Exhibition of Arts and Technology, but closed shortly after. After 25 years of being empty, the Museum revived the space. The original name Palais de Tokyo (the street in front of the building was once called Avenue de Tokio) stuck, and the art center opened in 2001.
The open courtyard area leads directly up from the Seine and is usually filled with skateboarding teenagers, graffiti-covered statues, and remnants of museum-goers picnics.
Inside and out, the museum is known for it’s unconventional installations. In three visits over the course of three years, I’ve seen a giant skeleton hanging from the ceiling; the body of a plane crushed into a cube; the entire floor of a large room completely covered in newspaper several feet deep; and the passageway from one room to another converted into a spinning door, necessary to climb through in order to continue through the exhibit. A few years ago, there was even a pop-up hotel room built on top of the roof.
The unconventional hours seem to match the museum’s cool vibe (noon to midnight, open everyday but Monday).
The museum has the best bookstore of any museum I’ve been to. The stores are split into two sections, on one side they sell books, postcards, magazines, and other paper ephemera, and on the other, there’s a design boutique that sells an assortment of incredibly cool objects by local and international designers, all displayed in a unique way. In the lobby between the two stores, there’s a retro black-and-white photobooth – far better than the new digital booths all over the rest of Paris.
Palais de Tokyo also has two restaurants, a self-service one which allows you to take your food and eat it outside, at courtyard that faces the Seine, and a fancier indoor restaurant.
A trip to the museum is worth it just for the views alone. The path from the Metro leading up to the museum has an incredible and nearly unobstructed view straight across the river to the Eiffel Tower.
With its ever-changing selection of fun and inventive exhibits (the museum doesn’t even have a permanent collection), incredible bookstore, and even better views, the Palais de Tokyo is always at the top of my Paris to-do list.
Palais de Tokyo
13 Avenue du Président Wilson