Don't feel surprised if you've never heard of the Museum of Counterfeits (Musée de la Contrefaçon), located in a gorgeous hôtel particulier (private mansion) half a block from Avenue Foch, one of Paris's grandest avenues in the posh 16th arrondissement.
Not only is this one of the city's smallest, quirkiest, and perhaps least-known museums, it's also one of the most discreet: you have to ring a doorbell to be let inside.
The Museum of Counterfeits is the creation of a French organization known as Unifab, short for Union des Fabricants (Manufacturers). Formed in the late 1800s by several pharmaceutical companies concerned about the counterfeiting of their products, Unifab opened the museum in 1951 as a way to educate the public about the prevalence, dangers, and economic costs of fake goods, currently thought to represent as much as 9% of world trade.
And that's exactly what the museum still does with side-by-side, authentic vs counterfeit displays of about 500 items in its five galleries.
Top photo: Elegant buildings along Avenue Foch, near the Museum of Counterfeits, (c) Paris Discovery Guide
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What Will You See & Learn at the Musée de la Contrefaçon?
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: Musée de la Contrefaçon
You can expect to spend about 45 minutes in the museum as you look at the displays and read the signs and posters.
Exhibits are designed to appeal to kids aged 8 and older, as well as adults. If you're traveling with kids or teens who want to visit a museum, this can be an interesting choice.
The museum receives about 10,000 visitors each year, including groups of students who typically visit during morning hours when the museum is closed to the general public.
Unless you happen to arrive during a rare afternoon student group visit, the museum will have few, if any, other visitors.
With so many other world-famous museums in Paris, is the Musée de la Contrefaçon worth visiting? Quite honestly, you probably wouldn't go out of your way to visit, but if you are in the vicinity, it's well-worth a stop.
More to See & Do near the Museum of Counterfeits
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
Musée de la Contrefaçon Visitor Information: Tickets, Hours, Location, & Map
To gain entry to the museum, ring the bell by the door.
Entry to the museum is 6€, with reduced price for visitors under 25, over 65, and students; children under 12 are free. You can easily and quickly buy your ticket as you enter.
Days and hours: Monday through Friday, 2pm - 5:30pm
Closed: Weekends, public holidays, December 24 and 25, and 3 weeks in August
Location & Public Transportation
Address: 16 Rue de la Faisanderie, 16th arrondissement
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 Musée de la Contrefaçon (Museum of Counterfeits) Location
Where to Stay in the Chaillot (Trocadéro) Neighborhood near the Museum of Counterfeits
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.
Find more hotels in Paris's 16th arrondissement
Find out more about things to do in the 16th arrondissement
Find More Paris Hotels & Apartments in the Chaillot Neighborhood
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Where to Eat near the Museum of Counterfeits
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.
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