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Musée du Quai Branly, 7th Arr.

Champigny-sur-Marne, France, Europe: A sculpture in the Musée du Quai Branly flashes a Cheshire cat grin.
37 Quai Branly
France 75007
Tel: 33 1 56 61 70 00
Metro: Iéna, Alma-Marceau, Pont de l'Alma or Bir-Hakeim's insider take:

After a decade of dithering, Parisian star architect Jean Nouvel's $300 million Seine-side complex finally opened in June 2006. Built to embody President Jacques Chirac's politically correct dream of French multiculturalism, Quai Branly is a provocative architectural and cultural statement, and the city's latest must-see. Imagine a comic-strip cargo ship with rust-red and yellow containers jutting from one side, the rusty louvers of a tobacco-drying barn on the other, and a freeway underpass below. That's the main building. Plants cascade junglelike from adjacent twin office towers; behind high glass walls, sinuous garden paths coil toward the dark, tangled, Halloween nightmare within. Wild proliferations of artwork and objects (masks, totems, sculptures) from the non-European world are swirled, stacked, or hung with apparently methodless madness (though they're actually organized by geographical region and date). Many are gorgeous, others downright disturbing—a 19th-century Nigerian headdress made from a skull and human hair, for instance. Intense spotlights cast shadows everywhere, and multimedia pods add acoustic confusion. Of course, it's all intentional: By observing yourself and others struggling to make sense of it all, you become a player in Nouvel's neo-mannerist game. The final challenge is to find the one unqualified success here: glass-domed Les Ombres restaurant, where talented young chef Arno Busquet turns out innovative Franco-world meals made from fair-trade ingredients. (There's a separate, badly marked entrance at 220 Rue de l'Université; 33-1-47-53-68-00.) The indoor-outdoor café is also a good place to snack or lunch, and to watch others hunt for the entrance. Go clockwise; you'll find it eventually.

Open 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (until 9:30 p.m. on Thursdays). Closed Mondays.

P.S. Take a virtual spin around the museum in our "24 Hours in Paris" video.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.