A modern museum of beautiful handmade tapestries and carpets, the Manufacture des Gobelins is also a fully functioning atelier where you can watch the artisans practice their craft as if the industrial revolution never occurred. The museum takes its name for the Gobelin family (from Reims), who established a dye shop in the Saint Marceau quarter in Paris. Henri IV soon installed two Flemish tapestry makers nearby to take advantage of the brilliant dyes being manufactured by the Gobelins, but the area really took off under Louis XIV, who in 1667 established the royal manufacture of furniture of the Crown. In much the same way, the French state today subsidizes this unique art form, commissioning modern artists to design tapestries for the ateliers, where workers weave in much the same way they did hundreds of years ago. In a triumph of craft over productivity, a weaver might expect to create one square meter of tapestry in a given year. Completed works become part of the artistic patrimony, eventually finding homes in government buildings around the country.
Direction: Several blocks north of the Place d’Italie (on avenue des Gobelins), this museum is probably out of walking range for all but the most hardy of American pedestrians. Consider walking southwest on rue Tolbiac to rue Patay, then taking the northwest bound #27 bus. Les Gobelins will be the 9th stop.