Fondation Louis Vuitton's spectacular modern building rises up from the edge of Bois de Boulogne, Paris's largest park, like an immense glass boat propelled by billowing sails. At the "prow" end of the museum, cascading water and reflecting pools extend through the museum's lower level to mirror the building above.
But the real magic begins when you walk inside this art museum and cultural space
Top photo: Red Spider (Araignée Rouge) by Alexander Calder on La Defense Esplanade, (c) Paris Discovery Guide
What to See & Do at Fondation Louis Vuitton
The range of objects you'll see, along with their fake look-alikes, is astounding.
In addition to the luxury brands and items you might expect, such as designer clothing, Rolex watches and other jewelry, perfume, art, antique furniture, and pricey collectibles, you'll find plenty of every day items: toys, Nike sports shoes, small electrical appliances, books, and even household cleaning products.
The museum's focus is on education, so you'll learn what to check to determine if an item is counterfeit. As the museum's paired items demonstrate, some differences such as color, type of stitching, and surface finishes can be relatively easy to spot.
But in other cases, you'll look at two items that appear indistinguishable. So what, you may wonder, is the problem if a fraudulent item looks as good as the real one but costs much less? Is anyone really hurt by the deception?
The museum answers these questions by detailing how counterfeiting harms the economy, the intellectual property owners, innovation, the workers producing the fakes (often working in unsafe and badly paid conditions, including child labor), and you - imagine if you're being treated for cancer with a counterfeited pharmaceutical containing ineffective or even harmful ingredients.
So a visit to this museum can be fun and fascinating, but it is also sobering.
Visitor Tips: Fondation Louis Vuitton
1. Exhibition schedule: FLV usually mounts two major temporarary expositions each year, and typically has gaps in between exhibitions while the next one is being prepared. No permanent exhibits are in place in any of the galleries and usually no other art is displayed between exhibitions. If you happen to visit during these "gap" periods, you can walk around and admire the architecture, but you won't see art. Before reserving tickets, always check on the FLV website or PDG's museum exhibition schedule to see what's happening, if your goal is to see more than just the building.
2. Number of visitors: Especially during popular blockbuster exhibitions, Fondation Louis Vuitton can get very crowded. It's also often packed on weekends, when families come to take advantage of free admission to Jardin d'Acclimatation, which includes a popular amusement park. Under these conditions, seeing the art can be challenging. If at all possible, come on weekdays. The FLV website has a crowd-predictor function, but it does not always seem to be accurate.
3. The shuttle: The shuttle from Avenue de Friedland is convenient, but at times, it's standing-room-only and as packed as the proverbial can of sardines. If this concerns you, come by metro instead. The closest station, Les Sablons, is about a 10-minute walk (.5 mile) along a well-marked path to FLV's entrance. Since the shuttle runs on a 20-minute schedule, coming by metro and then walking may be a few minutes faster.
More to See & Do near the Fondation Louis Vuitton
Several of Paris's top attractions are just a 15-20 minute walk from the museum:
Arc de Triomphe - About three-quarters of a mile away, straight down Avenue Foch; check out the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Eternal Flame, and go up to the rooftop terrace for some of the best Paris skyline views
Eiffel Tower - Not quite a mile away; even closer is Trocadéro, where you'll get fantastic views of the Iron Lady
Fondation Louis Vuitton - Also just under a mile away, and easy to reach by walking along a road through Bois de Boulogne; Jardin d'Acclimatation, with its Korean garden and carnival rides, is even closer
Fondation Louis Vuitton Visitor Information: Tickets, Hours, Location, & Map
Tickets cost 16€, with family rates available, and reduced price tickets (with proof) for visitors under 26, students, French teachers, and a few other categories. If you want to take the electric shuttle from Avenue du Friedland (near the Arc de Triomphe), you can book a round-trip ticket for 2€ (they cannot be purchased on the shuttle).
Tickets give you access to all exhibitions, even though you usually have to select a specific exhibition as you book online. They also include free admission through the Fondation to the adjacent Jardin d'Acclimatation, where tickets normally cost 7€.
You can book your ticket online or buy it at the door. When booking online, you must select a specific date and time slot. Tickets are non-refundable and non-exchangeable.
When you arrive, you'll see three separate lines for 1) those with tickets, 2) those who need to buy tickets, and 3) those with a Foundation membership who get VIP priority access. Only the VIP line is assured of moving quickly. The other two tend to move slowly and can be quite long, with waits up to 30 minutes.
Days and hours: Wednesday - Monday, 11am - 8pm (open until 9pm on Thursdays)
Closed: Tuesdays and holidays
Location & Public Transportation
Address: 8 Avenue Mahatma Gandhi, 16th arrondissement
Metro: Les Sablons
Where to Board the Shuttle
The shuttle departs at more or less 20-minute intervals (Paris traffic makes the timing variable) during FLV's opening days/hours from a dedicated bus stop on the north side of Avenue de Friedland near the Eiffel Tower.
Metro: Charles de Gaulle/Etoile
Metro: Porte Dauphine
RER C: Avenue Foch station
Fun fact about the museum's building: Although the architecture of Hôtel Seton-Porter, the private mansion where the Museum of Counterfeits is located, appears to be from the 17th century, the building actually was constructed at the end of the 19th century for a wealthy antique dealer. He asked his architect to copy the facade of a mansion in the Marais which had been destroyed during Napoleon III's and Haussmann's urban renewal efforts.
Unifab's president, a grandson of Louis Vuitton, bought the property in 1950 and when the organization needed a space for their new museum, he donated it. The building has been classified by France as a Historical National Monument since 1972.
Map Showing Fondation Louis Vuitton Location
Where to Stay near Fondation Louis Vuitton
The museum is on the edge of the elegant, mostly residential Chaillot neighborhood in the 16th arrondissement, home to wealthy Parisians, a sizable expat community, and numerous embassies. If you want to stay away from the hustle and bustle of the more tourist-centric parts of Paris while being close to the Eiffel Tower, the specialty museums around Trocadéro, and designer showrooms and boutiques along Avenue Montaigne, consider these hotels:
- Saint James Paris - The only chateau-hotel in Paris, this luxurious 5-star property is designed to resemble a home surrounded by a private garden, but with a Michelin-starred restaurant and Guerlain spa on site
- Hôtel Raphael - Luxury 5-star hotel with antique furnishings, hand-carved wood paneling, and original wall murals with a fantastic rooftop terrace and elite Clefs d'Or concierges; family-owned and managed for 4 generations
- Hôtel Keppler - Excellent 4-star hotel with modern furnishings in an elegant 19th century Haussmannian building, just a short walk from Avenue Montaigne and George V.
Want more ideas? Check out:
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Where to Eat At & Near Fondation Louis Vuitton
Although the museum's immediate neighborhood is mostly residential with posh private mansions, luxury apartments, and embassies, you will spot a Franprix toward the Rue de la Faisanderie/Avenue Bugeaud intersection if you want fruit or a small snack.
For many more choices, walk down Rue des Belles Feuilles, turn left on Avenue Victor Hugo, and walk to Place Victor Hugo. You see a number of casual and more upscale restaurants scattered around the plaza and on nearby streets, especially along Avenue Raymond Poincaré going north.