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Planning my trip with a 8- and 5-year-old, I definitely want to spend a day in a science museum (I have fond memories of the London Science Museum - which seemed infinite to me as a child). I've heard of 'La Villette', and started looking up information, but I have discovered that there are two associated museums: the Cité des sciences and the Palais de la découverte.

From their (associated) websites, I'm having difficulty finding differentiators to help me work out exactly which might best suit the family, or even working out if there is a real difference.

I know that I could spend hours trawling through the websites trying to get to the heart of the matter, but I'd prefer to read the experience of someone who's been to both (or at least knows what they're talking about) and can give me a considered opinion.


UPDATE - just got back from the Cité des enfants 5-12 ans, which was great except for one BIG downside which really threw/annoyed me: they kick you out after 1 1/2 hours, whether you've finished or not. So I ended up paying twice, and waiting to get back in again.

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There is a 3 minute video on the Cité des sciences website about its section for 5-12 year olds. I have only seen the section for kids aged 2-7, but the respective video gives a very good impression of what one can do there. –  arne.b May 21 '13 at 9:33
    
@arne.b, Nice, I'd found the 2-7 video. –  Benjol May 21 '13 at 11:16
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the difference beetween is at "palais de la decouverte" it's pure science and at "cite des sciences" it's more applied science. for instance, if you are a teacher and go to paris with your class, you will go to the palais de la decouverte. –  francois Jul 29 '13 at 19:03

2 Answers 2

From someone from abroad, they are located at the same place: Paris. But one is at the north east of Paris (Cité des sciences) whereas the other is near the Champs-Élysées (Palais de la découverte).

I have visited both and I am fond of the Palais de la découverte. I feel there is much more humanity in the way science is displayed. This lies perhaps in how fundamental experiments are presented to the audience, in a way similar to how discoverers built them, and sometimes in a very lively and spectacular way. Going into a Faraday cage and harmlessly undergoing lightning strikes, or actually seeing how high is the water column equivalent to a 80cm mercury barometer are memories worth remembering. Displaying π on the circumference of a cupola is another one.

By contrast, Cité des Sciences looked cold and soulless to me.

A third museum worth visiting is the musée des arts et métiers, more like Palais de la découverte than Cité des sciences, with its famous Pendule de Foucault and Clément Ader's Éole, the first plane ever.

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Indeed at first it sounds like they are the same, but they are actually more complementary.

Checking the website, we can learn (it's in French though) that the Palais de la Découverte is more the science museum, kids-oriented with experiments to figure basic physics phenomena, so it is probably what you are looking for.

On the other hand, La Cité des Sciences is more directed at showing the interaction between the society and science. Even though they mention games and efforts to open up to all audiences, I suppose it is more for adults to get an idea of the world's major stakes regarding science.

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I have been to "La Cité des enfants 2-7 ans" and think "kids-oriented with experiments to figure basic physics phenomena" would describe this section pretty well. I have not been to the Palais de la découverte, though, and did not see much of the Cité des sciences beyond the kids section, so I cannot tell whether the rest of the description is accurate. –  arne.b May 21 '13 at 9:28

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