LivingTravelThe best museums outside of Paris are wonderful surprises

The best museums outside of Paris are wonderful surprises

You might know the best museums in Paris to dominate any list, from the Louvre to the National Museum of Modern Art at the Pompidou Center. But the rest of France offers a treasure trove of museums. Here’s a list of the top ten museums outside of France’s most famous city. They are not in any significant order, but are geographically grouped from north to south

Centro Pompidou-Metz

Opened in May 2010, the Center Pompidou-Metz was the first of France’s ambitious multicultural decentralization projects. This successful project features major temporary exhibitions dating back to 1917 , and has been going on for a year as a way to explore the cultural, political and artistic paths that emerged, right up to the fantastic and imaginative creations of French designers.

Just 82 minutes by TGV from Paris and right next to the train station, it is possible to do the center in a day trip. But the gallery has also breathed new life into Metz, making it a very pleasant place to spend an evening or a weekend.

  • How to get from London, UK and Paris to Metz
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Tapiz de Bayeux, Bayeux, Normandía

All French and English schoolchildren learn about the Bayeux Tapestry, but it’s not until you see it that you realize how amazing and beautiful it is. It is located in the Guillaume le Conquérant Center in an 18th century building in the center of Bayeux.

In 58 different scenes, he recounts the events of 1066. It is a story of war and conquest, of double treatment by the English king and of an epic battle. It covers a long period, but the main sections show William the Conqueror setting off to defeat King Harold of England at the Battle of Hastings on October 14, 1066. He changed the face of English history forever.

The tapestry is not technically a woven tapestry, but rather a linen band embroidered with ten different colors during the Middle Ages. It’s huge: 19.7 inches (50 cm) tall and around 230 feet (70 meters) long.

It has been described as the world’s first comic strip, a wonderful and graphic account of history.

Museo Matisse in Le Cateau-Cambresis, North

While most people know the Matisse Museum in Nice, the Northern Matisse Museum at Le Cateau Cambresis, near Cambrai, has a charming, smaller but important collection of Matisse art.

Born in Le Cateau-Cambresis in 1868, Matisse delivered a certain amount of his works to the city, stipulating how he wanted them to be organized. The museum is housed in the renovated palace of the former Archbishop Fenelon, and takes you through his life from the earliest days in Picardy to his studio and the subsequent massive sculptures of his four backs . There are also books commissioned by writers like Jean-Paul Sartre and Gide, and artists from Matisse and Chagall to Picasso and Braque. Finally, it also contains the colorful, often bizarre ‘Monumental Objects’, relief works or cubist-style furniture.

El museo de l’Hospice Comtesse, Lille, North

On the shores of the old old port, the atmospheric Musée de l’Hospice Comtesse (Museum of the Countess’s Hospice) was established as a religious community to care for the sick and poor in the 13th century and continued its work until 1939. Today the buildings house the museum.

You enter a beautiful courtyard, then through a series of rooms that feel like balm to the soul as centuries of care seem to have infiltrated the building’s structure. You learn about the life of the nuns as they went about their business; you can see the kitchens, covered in glazed cobalt blue and white ceramic tiles inspired by the Dutch models of the 17th and 18th centuries; the refectory where they ate in silence, and the rooms where they cared for the sick and needy.

Memorial Charles de Gaulle, Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises, Champaña

With the imposing Cross of Lorraine on the hill above and the Frenchman’s grand country house in the village opposite, the museum tells a very moving story about De Gaulle. In a series of spectacular spaces, the story is based on your life, so as you traverse the history of France and Europe in the mid-20th century, you see it in a very different and fascinating way.

The monument is divided chronologically, taking the largest series of events in de Gaulle’s life and presenting them through films, multimedia, interactive interpretations, images, and words. The only artifacts are two Citroen DS cars used by de Gaulle, one showing the bullet holes made during a near-fatal attack in his life in 1962.

The story takes you from 1890 to 1946, then 1946 to 1970. You see the man as a young soldier captured by the Germans in World War I, a loving and grieving father, a war leader in World War II, a politician and family man.

Museo del encaje, Calais, Pas de Calais

Calais International Lace and Fashion Center tells not only the history of lace, but also takes you through the history of fashion. Weaving all of this together is the story of an industry that began with hand weaving and was later revolutionized by the invention of machines and the Industrial Revolution. Everything is very well told, with a lot of fashion, both in the past and in the present to keep the girls interested while the machines fascinate the children and the parents. The films explain the process from initial design to punch cards and the uses that international fashion designers today make of the web of this sexy and sinuous material.

La Coupole, cerca de St. Omer, Pas de Calais

La Coupole is a huge concrete dome that houses a vast 7-kilometer network of underground galleries near the northern coast of France, just 5 kilometers from St. Omer in Nord Pas-de-Calais. The sinister construction was intended as a launching pad for the V1 flying bomb and the V2 rocket attacks in London. In 1944, the Allies discovered its existence and undertook a massive and successful bombing campaign and the site was abandoned.

Through movies, interactive displays and objects, it takes you not only through the war but also into the subsequent Space Race and the Cold War. Once again, there is a great movie covering Soviet and American achievement in space. It is an extraordinary story, linking the past, the present and the future.

Museum of Art and Industry, La Piscine, Roubaix, Lille, North

In a splendid Art Deco building in Roubaix, now a suburb of Lille, you will come across an impressive collection of art from the 19th and 20th centuries. The museum covers fine and applied art (a more English than French concept), and displays painting, sculpture, textiles, ceramics, and glass by local artists and internationally known artists and names.

The building, La Piscine, is equally amazing. It was built as a swimming pool for the wealthy and the main bathhouse for the poor after Roubaix became one of the great textile centers of France. Workers flooded to work in factories and mills, living in houses without running water or electricity. La Piscine was designed by Albert Baert and built between 1927 and 1932, then turned into a museum in 2001.

Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations in Marseille

Opened in 2013, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations is an ambitious project. It is located in Fort Saint-Jean that once protected the old port from the sea and a contemporary steel and glass building on an old quay. It tells the history of the culture of the Mediterranean through different themes.

It is an important part of the regeneration of Marseille, a city that was previously not the best place to visit in France. And thanks to the new high-speed rail link which means you can get from London to Marseille in 6 hours and 27 minutes in one trip without changing trains, Marseille has become a short break destination from the UK.

Art museums around Nice, Côte d’Azur

This is an article about not one museum, but six museums in and around Nice associated with important artists. If you are staying on the Côte d’Azur, these are all worth a visit, from the charming Pierre-Auguste Renoir mansion in Haut-de-Cagnes, to the magnificent collection of modern art housed at the Maeght Foundation in St-Paul- de-Vence.

By staying in the area, you can easily see why so many artists over the years have been drawn to the clear light and bright colors of one of the most beautiful coastlines in France.

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