This often overlooked attraction on the Ile de la Cite (close to Notre Dame) includes the oldest part of the former Palais de la Cite, the seat of the medieval kings of France.
The first part you enter is the ground floor of the palace, although because the land around it has been raised it is now semi-underground. It is an impressive space with attractive stone vaulting, which was once used for the palace servants and soldiers as a combined living / eating / sleeping area. A section of one of the medieval table tops is preserved on one wall. In the “Hall of the Guards” wall panels tell you more about the early royal families of France and their time at this Palace.
After the royal family moved out, part of the building was converted into a prison and it was still being used for this purposed during the French Revolution, at the time of the Reign of Terror. It was here that prisoners were held while awaiting trial and from here that those found guilty made their journey to the guillotine.
Most of the building is now a museum to this period of its history, telling the story of the Revolution and of some of the prisoners who were held here. Perhaps the most famous of these was Marie Antoinette, and you can visit the chapel which marks the location of her cell and a reproduction of the cell itself. You can also see the types of cell which would have been occupied by less wealthy prisoners, one of the courtyards in which they were allowed to walk daily, and the room in which they would have been prepared for the guillotine.
I only really visited this museum because it was open on a Monday (when a lot of Paris museums are closed) and it was a short walk from where we were staying. However I found it very poignant and was glad that I went. It is just a short walk from La Chapelle and you can buy a joint ticket for both attractions. A senior discount is available and disabled visitors and their escorts are admitted free of charge, although to be honest I couldn’t see how anyone in a wheelchair could get around as there are a few steps.
One “find” was the toilets, which were very clean and pleasant, unlike those at La Chapelle! Sadly there are no refreshments available, but this is a good gift / book shop.