Prehistoric & Ancient Paris: 6 Must-See Places

Paris has some of the most internationally renowned museums and art galleries, representing spectacular art and material culture from all over the World, past and present. But what of the history of Paris itself? Most of us at some stage or other have learned about the French Revolution and know of the storming of the Bastille. Archaeological sites and museums relating to the prehistoric and ancient past, however, feature less on lists of must-see places to visit in Paris. If archaeology and the more distant past is your thing, here are my recommendations for six places you should not miss.

Musée Carnavalet – History of Paris

Neolithic Canoe Carnavalet Museum Paris
One of the Neolithic wooden canoes found in Bercy on the left bank of the Seine in 1991, some 6,600 years old.

Cluny Museum - Museum of the Middles Ages

Iron Age Artefacts Cluny Museum
Celtic gold artefacts from various locations in France, on display in the paris museum.

Les Arènes De Lutèce – Roman Amphitheatre

Roman Amphitheatre Paris
Looking into the arena of the Roman amphitheatre.

Thermes De Cluny – Roman Public Bath House

Lip Reading Tour Musee De Cluny
The substantial, above-ground remains of what was a public bath house in Roman Lutetia.

The Catacombs of Paris

Paris Catacombs Passage
Although the ossuary is medieval, the tunnels used to store the bones were initially dug by the Romans.

Crypte Archéologique Du Parvis Notre-dame – Roman Port on the Île De La Cité

Crypte Archeologique Notre Dame Roman Bath House
Remains of the bath house are greatly enhanced by multimedia displays in the archaeological crypt beneath the Notre Dame Cathedral.

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Roman Bath House – Les Thermes Antiques de Cluny

The Thermes de Cluny are the relatively well preserved ruins of what was a massive public bathhouse constructed by the Romans during the 3rd century AD. Given that the ancient buildings have been in constant use since the Middle Ages the preservation of these ruins is quite remarkable. In fact they are amongst the most substantial surviving Roman remains in all of northern Europe. A number of architectural elements typical of Roman bathhouses are still intact, including the frigidarium (cold water baths), the caldarium (hot water room), the tepidarium (warm water room) and the gymnasium. The bath house is part of the Cluny Museum, and some of the halls are used to display Roman and prehistoric artefacts. Parts of the bath house can be viewed from the street.

Archaeology Travel Writer

Thomas Dowson

With a professional background in archaeology and a passion for travel, I founded Archaeology Travel to help more people explore our world’s fascinating pasts. Born in Zambia, I trained as an archaeologist at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa) and taught archaeology at the universities of Southampton and Manchester (England). Read More

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