The Art of Sound : la Cité de la Musique

20170318_142913The Musée de la Musique in Paris is 20 years old this year! My children were in primary school when we attended the opening. Nowadays, we only go for performances at the Amphitheatre or Salle des Concerts in the same building. I took my now adult son back to the museum recently to see how it has evolved in terms of accessibility.

In 1997, the Cité de la Musique was the latest architectural gem at the Parc de la Villette in the 19th arrondisement. Designed by Christian de Portzamparc, it now seems dwarfed next to the shiny new concert venue by the other French starchitect Jean Nouvel. The image below shows one of the entrances to the Cité de la Musique on the left.

visiting paris with autismWhether or not the two men are rivals, their buildings are married under the auspices of the Philharmonie de Paris. Attempts to change the names to Philharmonie 1 and 2 proved too confusing. Each venue has its own concert halls and exposition space, but they share the same administration and website. Click on any photo to enlarge the image and read the captions.

music museum in Paris visitors with disabilities

The Museum of Music boasts a permanent collection of 7000 instruments dating from the 17th century to the present. Around 1000 of them are on display over 5 levels (accessible by elevators or stairs) at any one time. A journey through the museum takes the visitor through different periods accompanied by models, paintings and sculptures. The history of music, (birth of the opera, music of the enlightenment etc.) and the development of instruments comes alive with musical extracts and videos. Thanks to audioguides in English, French and Spanish, one can visit at their  own pace by selecting a number that corresponds to the display. A leisurely tour may take around two hours. Younger audiences may choose the red option adapted for ages 7 and up along with an activity booklet.



Tactile display museums autismDue to sensitivities, my son refuses to wear headsets. I was concerned about how to engage him with the collection when we heard the sound of a clarinet playing an excerpt from his favorite Prokofiev. On a small stage, a live musician was demonstrating his instrument and we sat to listen. As we continued our visit, he stopped at each of the five interactive tactile displays. We were both intrigued by the peculiar instruments evoking animals. I particularly appreciated the models of famous theaters relevant to the period when the music was first performed. Despite several levels and staircases, we strolled through the elliptical shaped museum with ease. There is ample seating among the exhibits and signage to navigate the space. The 2017-18 season includes events to celebrate the 20th anniversary. Until then, we will definitely come back for one of the concert promenades in the museum.




Practical information

Musée de la Musique visiteurs avec handicapThe Musée de la Musique is located inside the Cité de la Musique at 221 Avenue Jean-Jaures Paris 75019. There are two entrances on opposite sides of the building. One on the plaza in front of the fountain, the other from the ramp that leads to the Philharmonie de Paris. Both are wheelchair accessible. Once inside the building, the museum entrance is clearly indicated just opposite the ticket counter. Warning: one does have to go through the museum shop then down a level by stairs or elevator. Click on the peacock  to see more photos on Google Arts.Screen Shot 2017-04-13 at 09.41.37

Accommodations: Admission is free for visitors with disabilities and one accompanying person. Concerts, workshops, guided tours, and other activities are reduced price but require reservatScreen Shot 2017-04-12 at 12.54.15ions. The Museum is wheelchair accessible and visitors with reduced-mobility may borrow wheelchairs or stick-seats. Guide dogs, by law are welcome. There are 5 tactile stations, French braille information sheets for each room, an audio-touch itinerary with tactile gallery maps, and an audio description in French, English and Spanish. Hearing loops are free for people with hearing-aids and the museum’s videos are sub-titled in French and English. While the museum welcomes all visitors, there are no support materials specifically for people with learning and developmental disabilities and those on the autism spectrum as of this writing. Click on the icon for further information or email

museum visitor with autismWhen to visit: Open Tuesday to Friday noon to 6pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am to 6pm  Closed on Mondays. Live musicians play every afternoon 2-5pm (3-4:30pm in July and August) demonstrate instruments and answer questions. Check the events calendar online for details as well as live concert-walks in the museum, workshops, or concerts in the Amphitheatre on level -3. Please note that the larger auditorium Salle des Concerts is also in the Cité de la Musique but separate from the museum.

2017-03-18 16.48.34Restrooms: There are accessible toilettes located on each level. Clearly indicated by the symbol on the left, they are conveniently located and not gender specific. This makes them very “family friendly” especially towards people who need assistance by a caretaker of the opposite sex.

How to get to the Musée de la Musique

Metro: Line 5 Porte de Pantin
museum visitors with disabilitiesTake the exit Parc de la Villette. Follow the paved path past the fountain to the Cité de la Musique entrance. After security, the museum entrance is on the left.
Tramway: Line 3b Porte de Pantin
Cross the street (avenue Jean-Jaurès) and take the concrete path that leads to the Philharmonie de Paris. The Cité de la Musique building’s entrance is the first on the left. After security, the museum entrance is on the right.
By Car:  221 avenue Jean-Jaurès 75019 Paris
There is some on street parking and a private parking, Q-Park, at 185 boulevard Sérrurier, 75019 Paris. Take the elevators “sortie SUD” to RDC (ground level) and follow the path to the same entrance as from the Tramway.  It is also possible to be dropped off at the taxi stand on Avenue Jean Jaures.


3 thoughts on “The Art of Sound : la Cité de la Musique

  1. C’est tellement beau un instrument de musique (les métronomes que montrent tes photos aussi). Je ne l’ai pas visité lorsque j’ai eu l’occasion, je le regrette. Ton article donne envie de voir… et d’entendre.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Non-verbal: The Sound of Charlie Chaplin | Frog & Ted

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