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Exposition Paris 1900

Paris 1900

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Why you will love it?

The exhibition Paris 1900, la Ville Spectacle (the entertainment city) is a gathering of 600 items (painting, objects, clothes, furniture…) illustrating what Paris was like at the dawn of the 20th century. Discover what 51 million people saw in Paris in 1900: the Universal Exhibition of course, but also everything else the city of lights had to offer, such as art, architecture, food and fashion. Enjoy! Parisianist.

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About this place

Petit Palais - Avenue Winston Churchill, Paris 75008
Line 1 / 13 - Champs-Elysées Clémenceau

Wednesday : 10:00 am - 18:00 pm
more less
Monday : Closed Tuesday : 10:00 am - 18:00 pm Wednesday : 10:00 am - 18:00 pm Thursday : 10:00 am - 20:00 pm Friday : 10:00 am - 18:00 pm Saturday : 10:00 am - 18:00 pm Sunday : 10:00 am - 18:00 pm

Our Insiders' Article


Paris… the name itself reflects magic and beauty. Today, millions of people come to Paris to discover its monuments, museums, history and that little je ne sais quoi that makes Paris the place where day and dreams unite.  Is this a statement that can only be made for the last 50 years? Certainly not! La Belle Époque (Beautiful Era), stretching from the end of the 19th century to the start of WWI was a great moment of optimism in France. Its art, innovative technologies and flourishing economy attracted many visitors worldwide. And what better way to showcase such optimism and power than by hosting the 1900 Universal Exposition?


Over 600 items have been gathered for this exhibition at the Petit Palais, a museum that was itself built for the 1900 Universal Exhibition. The exhibition is divided into 6 main themes, or pavilions, all retracing the beauty and power of France at that time: The Universal Exhibition, Art Nouveau, the art capital of the world, Fashion and the Women of Paris, Paris by night and Paris on stage. The paintings, sculptures, objects and furniture exposed will take you back to the 1900’s, in a time far away for the Paris of today, yet not so out of reach... There are kids’ activities (in French) every Wednesday at 2:30pm – mostly consisting of creating your own 1900 poster – which need prior reservations by email:

Stage Design

Everything about the stage design of the exhibition is created to transport you to the year 1900. After purchasing your ticket and entering the South Wing of the Petit Palais, small flagpoles will lead you to the start of the exhibition. These flagpoles are copies of those that lead the visitors to the main entrance of the Universal Exposition in 1900. Throughout the 6 main halls, colors and placement have been carefully designed to enhance the optimistic ambiance of the 1900’s, from metallic looking frameworks in the Universal Exposition hall to darker dim-lighted walls of Paris by night. Videos dating back to the early 1900s are projected here and there as a reference to the rise of cinematographic art.

1st Part

Truly the highlight of Paris in 1900, the Universal Exposition attracted 51 million visitors from all over the world. French and international pavilions were built to showcase the innovative and technological power of France at that time. Although most of them were destroyed once the expo was over, some of them still stand today (Petit Palais, Grand Palais, Musée d’Orsay, the Alexander III bridge…). The newly built Métro brought forth the French technological knowhow. Attractions replaced old-fashioned demonstrations, far less popular, and electricity became more of a means to amaze than proof of technological progress.

Parisianist Fun Fact: the 1900 Universal Expo’s entrance was on the Place de la Concorde, near the Seine River. The official entrance, a monument that was brought down at a later stage, was surprisingly dominated by a statue of a Parisian woman, une Parisienne, symbol of style and elegance.

2nd Part

France was living an artistic revolution at that time. Impressionism had just conquered the world, but already the artists were looking for something different, something new… Paris was already attracting wealthy and daring art collectors, so young artists arrived in the French capital to try their luck. This marked the dawn of Art Nouveau (New Art), doing away with rigid tradition and past influences and making way to asymmetrical, Japanese influenced art inspired by reality. In this hall, many objects, furniture and sculptures such as Alfons Mucha’s La Nature illustratethe Art Nouveau trend of the early 20th century. 

3rd Part

Paris in 1900 IS the capital of Art, which is something that is brought to everyone’s attention during the Universal Exposition as 2 monumental buildings are built in the name of art: The Petit Palais and the Grand Palais. Fast forwarding to today, the 3rd pavilion gathers some of the best artworks that represent the many different artistic trends of that time: traditional academic historical paintings, Impressionism, Realism and very lifelike sculptures.  Don’t miss the works by Monet, Cézanne or Renoir, and be sure to see Jules Desbois’ La Misère (Misery), a stunning wooden sculpture hidden in one of the corners of the pavilion.  

4th Part

Pass another dark tunnel with 1900 video footage and you will enter the fashion pavilion of the exhibition. La Parisienne (Parisian woman) was the symbol of the Universal Exhibition, a surprise when everyone was expecting a statue of Marianne, the symbol of the French Republic. The clothes and accessories displayed here show how la Parisienne was different from any other woman, with a subtle twist of modernism and allure that defines the word chic. From summer straw hats to beautiful evening dresses, including the one attributed to designer extraordinaire Charles Frederick Worth, Paris was truly the capital of Fashion.

5th Part

Electricity led the way and night never fell on Paris during the Belle Époque. The capital glowed vividly as the sun went down, and both visitors and Parisians headed out to the numerous bars and cabarets such as the famous Chat Noir (black cat) immortalized by Steinlen’s poster. Paris lived up to its reputation of being the party capital of the world, where temptation and corruption brought both shivers of sheer pleasure and excruciating pain. New furniture such as the Sensual Delight Seat (aka Love Seat) appeared, while soft pornography made its first steps in 1896 with the movie “Bedtime of the Bride”, a7mn film showing a woman stripping… 

6th Part

When visitors come to Paris today, they want to taste French cuisine and often want to get a glimpse of French Cancan. Food and entertainment has always characterized Paris, even back in 1900. Theaters were thriving, each having their own style, and actors such as Sarah Bernhardt and Constant Coquelin made it to the top. In this last pavilion, large paintings of Parisian restaurants or old objects and posters related to acting are nicely presented in an orange/yellow décor.

Parisianist Fun Fact: A well mannered person would not arrive on time in 1900. The Opera Garnier was only full during the second part of the show, after the break! You can now stop wondering why the French are not the most punctual people!


The exhibition at the Petit Palais truly shows the euphoria and optimism that flowed in Paris at the turn of the 20th century. The well designed décor and carefully selected items highlight the grandeur of France at that time, daring what would be unimaginable today. Yet we all know that World War One tragically put an end to the joy of the early 1900’s. Did the general euphoria and optimism caused by so much freedom, power and beauty hide the cracks leading to the Great War, or was it because of rising tensions that the people turned their heads and embraced a fleeting sense of extreme well being? Never mind the reasons! Taking a leap through time and absorbing today the joys felt in 1900 is truly something that should not be missed! A true feel good exhibition…

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