Le Musée des Vampires the Vampire Museum
The Musée des Vampires is a small private museum dedicated to vampires and the study of their place in folklore and modern culture. Located just on the outer edge of Paris, it can be a bit complicated to visit for non-French speakers, but it's totally do-able and absolutely worth the effort if you're a fan of vampires, mythology, and weird stuff in general!
By appointment only!
When I was initially researching the museum, all of the sources I found online, most of which are in French only, mention that the museum is open daily from 12:30pm to 8pm, but some sites don't make it perfectly clear that you must have an appointment to visit. So don't just show up unannounced (like I did my first time! Ha!).
Making an appointment is little complicated if you don't speak French, as the main phone number listed (01 43 62 80 76) just gives you a recorded message in French. This message lists the hours and also gives a cell phone number — 06 20 12 28 32 — which you can call to make an appointment. I'd been living in Paris for a few years at the time but my French still wasn't perfect, so it took a few listens for me to get all the info down.
Fortunately, I was able to make a successful visit to the museum with my best friend in Paris, About.com Paris travel writer Courtney Traub, a couple weeks after my first failed trip. Upon meeting the museum's curator, a wonderful, captivating fellow named Jacques Sirgent, I was relieved to learn that he speaks impeccable English. So if you do want to make an appointment and don't speak French, try calling the cell number and very politely asking, "Parlez vous anglais, s'il vous plait?" and I'm sure Monsieur Sirgent will be happy to help you.
You enter the museum through a small courtyard at the back of a private residence. The main room that was open to the public when I was there was a crowded, cluttered, and absolutely fascinating collection of every type of vampire-related item you can imagine: stacks and stacks (and stacks) of books, dozens of paintings and movie posters lining the walls, spooky fine art objects, Halloween-esque props, et cetera, et cetera even a mummified cat found in Père Lachaise Cemetery! The room is relatively small but I could've spent all day in there inspecting these treasures. One highlight I found very impressive: the autographs of every actor who's ever starred as Dracula in a Hollywood movie!
After briefly being shown around the place by Monsieur Sirgent, we sat down for a long chat about the history of vampires, their folkloric origins, and their place in French history and the modern human psyche. Monsieur Sirgent, or Jacques as he told us to call him, has written several books on the topic, and very clearly is an expert on all things vampiric. Beforehand, I was a little concerned we'd find the museum's director to be sort of overly goth or flaky or downright crazy, but I'm pleased to report Jacques is actually almost startlingly down to earth, and completely, well, normal! I made a joke about having worried that he'd be a serial killer, and he laughed and immediately pointed out a painting on a wall and told me it had been painted by famous French murderer Nicolas Claux, "le Vampire de Paris," with whom Jacques is acquainted. Wow.
We invited Jacques out for coffee in the neighborhood and continued our discussion there. He told us of his plans to move the museum soon the South of France, although as of this writing (latest update: October 2010) it's still there in the outskirts of Paris. I'm not sure if there are still plans to move it, but if you'd like to visit, don't delay!
As I mentioned, the Musée des Vampires is not technically in Paris! But it's very close and very easy to get to. The museum is located in Lilas, just on the edge of Paris, and is still accessible by the Paris Métro; it's just a 15-minute Métro ride from the center of town (I timed it!). However, if your map of Paris only includes Paris proper, you might arrive at your Métro stop and find that you have no idea how to locate the museum. Here are some simple directions...
The closest Métro station to the museum is Porte des Lilas, but I recommend going one station further, to Mairie des Lilas, as the walk from there to the museum is much simpler. So, exit the Métro at Mairie des Lilas, and turn around to face the opposite direction that the staircase was going. You'll see the Mairie that is, the town hall in front of you and on the left; it looks sort of like a small hotel. Walk past the Mairie and keep going straight; you'll be on the Rue de Paris. In a couple streets, turn left on Rue des Bruyères. Walk straight for a few streets and turn right on Rue Jules David, and the museum is number 14, on the right. Now, the entrance to the museum isn't here! It's around back in a sort of alley. Keep walking on Rue Jules David and take your first right, onto Rue Chassagnolle. Soon you'll see a small alley on the right, with an "M" and an arrow painted on the wall at the corner. The entrance to the museum is in this alley. Walk down the alley a bit, and you'll find a red door on the right side marked simply "Musée." You're there! Come, enter freely and of your own will... (If you have an appointment.)
Tickets and hours
Once again, the Musée des Vampires is open by appointment only. Appointments can be made for any day of the week between 12:30pm and 8pm. Tours (normally in French, but feel free to ask about English!) are available at 12:30pm, 3pm, 7:30pm.
Admission to the musée was €7 when I visited, but a reader recently told me it's now only €6.
Good luck and have fun!