The Musée des Arts Forains (Carnival Arts Museum)
This one takes full advantage of the sinister mystery of an old-time carnival. Think grimaces on the faces of carousel horses, ageing mechanical games and creepy organ music. But it’s also very interesting in that it documents a dying art and a tradition most people only know from movies. The museum is on the Avenue des Terroirs de France in the 12th arrondissement.
How could we not mention the Catacombs?! It’s a series of chilly underground chambers with low ceilings and the neatly stacked bones of some six million Parisians. There is an incredible explanation for this remarkably macabre sight. In the late 18th century Paris’s graveyards were gradually being closed because they presented a health risk to the living population, so the authorities ordered the remains transferred underground. You can find it on Avenue Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy in the 14th arrondissement.
The Sewer Museum (Musée des égouts)
Paris is so proud of its sewer system that the city has created a museum in its honour that is in an actual sewer tunnel. It doesn’t smell as bad as you’d think and it's actually pretty cool. One of the highlights is a display showing the brilliantly simple system engineers devised to clear blockages in the 19th century vintage system. It’s at the Pont d’Alma (Alma Bridge) on the left bank of the River Seine.
Musée de la Magie (Museum of Magic)
If the magic of the City of Light starts to wear off you can head underground to this spot for a bit of refuelling. This pleasantly creepy spot traces the history of magic and illusionists using antique props, old posters and magic paraphernalia. For a slightly more expensive entrance ticket you can also get into the wind-up toy museum around the corner, which is run by the same people. The Magic Museum in on Rue Saint Paul in the 4th arrondissement.
Photo: Musee de Magie
Paris’s top police authority, the Prefecture de Police, has its own museum filled with odd weapons, mementos from grisly crimes and lots of photos tracing the City of Light's best-known crimes and the growth of its police force. It’s not a large museum and it is entirely in French, but for crime and history buffs it’s got a great collection of odd antiques. You can find it on Rue de la Montagne Sainte Geneviève in the 5th arrondissement.
Musée de la Chasse et la Nature (The Museum of Hunting and Nature)
Set in the midst of Paris’s stylish Marais neighbourhood is a museum that might seem out of place among the fashion boutiques and chic eateries. But the Museum of Hunting and Nature has an aristocratic feel to its huge collection of mounted animals and bizarre hunting equipment like some rather severe-looking dog collars. There’s also the chair made of elk antlers. Find it on Rue des Archives in the 3rd arrondissement.
The Musée d’Histoire de la Médecine (Medical History Museum)
This is a reminder that no matter how much you may dislike going to the hospital, the profession has come a long way. The terrifying bone saws and velvet lined cases full of stained, sharp-edged metal tools you’ll see at the museum were at one point the latest technology. There’s also a table made with petrified human parts and liquids. It’s located on Rue de l’Ecole de Médecine in the 6th arrondissement.
The Vampire Museum: Musée des Vampires
There is something about Paris’s ancient stone buildings and museum-like preservation that makes the thought of a primeval race of blood-drinking creatures seem not totally ridiculous. Perhaps that feeling is what gave birth to the Vampire Museum in the town of Les Lilas, which borders the city. It’s a dense collection of old posters and books, cheesy Halloween props and spooky fine art objects. The museum on Rue Jules David is open by appointment only.
Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP
The Hôpital Saint-Louis – Musée des Moulages Dermatologiques (Dematalogical Museum) hosts four collections of nauseatingly realistic wax casts of different types of skin diseases.
The museum, which is located on Avenue Claude-Vellefaux in Paris's 10th arrondissement, has more than 4,800 casts.
Entry: By donation
The Musée de la Contrefaçon (Knockoff Museum)
This one is a bit of a reprieve from the ghoulish and creepy, however it still has an odd edge to it. The museum, which is run by a French trade association, notably puts brand name, everyday objects next to the fake ones churned out by forgers. Sometimes it's nearly impossible to tell the real from the ripoffs. The museum is on Rue de la Faisanderie in the 16th arrondissement.