A hospital may seem like a strange place to visit, but the Hopital St Louis near the Canal Saint Martin offers an oasis of peace and quiet – and an unusual museum!
At its heart is a square – in many ways similar to the Place des Vosges – with centuries old trees and superb 17th century architecture. This miniature park is what rests of the original structure that was built just outside the ancient city walls to keep plague victims away from other inhabitants of Paris.
It was Henri IV who ordered the construction of the hospital, but he was assassinated by Ravaillac before the edifice was finished. It was finally opened in 1618 during another outbreak of the plague, with up to six patients per bed! For the next two centuries it dealt with many outbreaks of infectious diseases, slowly building up world-renown in the field of Dermatology. This has led to another curiosity in the hospital, perhaps the most unusual and secretive museum in Paris, the Musee des Moulages (Museum of wax moldings).
Throughout the 19th century, moulds were made of all known diseases that affected the skin, and over 4,000 of these have been put on display in one of the hospital’s 17th century buildings. It is a creepy, fascinating place, but unfortunately rarely open to visitors, and only when pre-arranged.
Note: the garden is not always open at weekends, but is generally open other days during the spring and summer.