France has always had a love affair with cars, particularly vintage and veteran, so it’s not surprising that there are so many excellent car museums in France. Some are small, private museums, featuring vehicles lovingly collected over the years by the owner. Others are massive, telling the story of the automobile with gleaming, glistening beasts, beautifully restored and kept in immaculate condition.

Here are some of the top car museums in France.

Cité de l’Automobile, National Museum – Schlumpf Collection

Schlumpf Collection Daimler Coupe showing old blue car beside others in long line at historic car museum
Schlumpf Collection: Daimler Coupe © Jörgens.mi / CC BY-SA 3.0

Top of the list is the Cité de l’Automobile, National Museum – Schlumpf Collection, located in Mulhouse in Alsace, eastern France. The Schlumpf brothers made their considerable fortune in textiles and spent a lot of it buying cars. But not ordinary cars. Here you can admire every major name, from Benz to Rolls Royces; from De Dions to Delahayes.  Over 500 vehicles are housed in what is now the National Museum, founded in 1982.  Bugattis take pride of place; the Schlumpf brothers’ favourite car is represented by some real gems like a 1930 Bugatti Royale with a 12 litre engine (only six were made).

The Discovery area shows you the inner workings, and manufacture, of motor cars; there’s a mascot collection, and toy cars. The outside Autodrome has demonstrations, and there are restaurants and a very well-stocked shop.

The museum covers cars from 1878 to the present day and is housed in the former textile factory bought by the brothers in 1880.

Blue Bugatti showing inside of engine as bonnet removed in historic Schlumpf Collection
Bugatti Type 47 ©Arnaud 25; CC BY-SA 4.0

Cité de l’Automobile, National Museum – Schlumpf Collection
15 rue de l’épée
68200 Mulhouse
Tel: +33 (0)3 89 33 23 23
Open Jan-7 Nov: daily 10am-6pm; 8 Nov-31 Dec: daily 10am-5pm. Closed 25 Dec
Admission Adult €18; 4 to 17 years €10

L’Aventure Peugeot – Peugeot Museum

Peugeot Museum showing car at end of long passage with many Peugeot objects like sewing machines
L’Aventure Peugeot Museum © Olivier Tisserand

In 1988 Pierre Peugeot set up a new type of museum. His idea? To include all the products made by Peugeot since the company started in 1810. Despite an impressive number of saw blades and coffee grinders, sewing machines and radios, most visitors come here for the cars, first produced by Peugeot in 1889. There are 130 on them in this impressive museum (as well as 50 cycles and motorbikes), dating from 1891, the 1891 Vis-à-Vis. Other iconic cars are here: the Bébé Peugeot, little cars like the Quadrilette 161, and the illustrious Landaulet 184 of the 1920s. Motorsports gets its own special section, particularly featuring the 24-hour annual race at Le Mans that Peugeot has won in 1992, 1993 and 2009.

L’Aventure Peugeot
Carrefour de l’Europe
25600 Sochaux
Tel: +33 (0)3 81 99 42 03
Open 1 Sept-16 Jul: Tues-Sun 10am-6pm; 17 Jul-31 Aug: daily 10am-6pm. Closed 1 Jan, 25 Dec
Admission Adult €12; 7 to 18 years €6

Musée Automobile de Reims-Champagne – Reims-Champagne Car Museum

Old rusty venicle with parts missing in yard at Reims Car Museum waiting restoration
Old Vehicle awaiting restoration at the Reims Car Museum © AlfvanBeem/CC BY-SA 1.0

The Reims-Champagne Automobile Museum takes you from the early 1900s to today. 160 models include the Dauphine, a 1908 SCAR, built in Witry-lès-Reims by the Société de Construction Automobile de Reims, a SIMCA 1000, the Peugeot 403 Radowich, the Fort T, Porsche 356 and 928, the Fiat 500 and a whole lot more. Also here are old fire trucks, 70 old bicycles, 100 pedal cars and miniature cars that make you long to start your own collection.

1933 Citroen Rolsalie In Reims Car Museum showing old large saloon in pale brown and chocolate colours
1933 Citroen Rosalie In Reims Car Museum © AlfvanBeem/CC BY-SA 1.0

Musée Automobile de Reims-Champagne
84 avenue Georges Clémenceau
51100 Reims
Tel: +33 (0)3 26 82 83 84
Open May-Oct: Wed-Mon 10am-noon & 2-6pm; Nov-Apr: Tues-Sat 10am-noon & 2-5pm. Closed 25 Dec & 1 Jan
Admission Adult 8€, 11-18 years €6

L’Aventure Citroën – Conservatory Citroën DS

Citroën Conservatoire showing long line of 2CVs with Citroën sign hanging
Citroën Conservatoire

This historical Citroën museum is impressive with 300 vehicles on show from the Torpedo, (which you might see in old movies) to today. They’re all there – 2CVs (7 million produced between 1900 and 1980), Traction, DS, SM, Citroën half-tracks from the first desert crossing, and the 1990 victorious ZX Rally Raid won by the Finnish driver, Ari Vatanen (the Finns are some of the world’s greatest rally driver), in the famous Paris-Dakar race. Particularly popular is the presidential car, Général de Gaulle’s Citroën DS. Even today, the presidential car is a Citroën (Emmanuel Macron’s official car is a DS7 Crossback).

Small boy taking picture of large black citroen DS, the President's car
The Presidential Citroën DS

It’s in a huge building, close to the PSA Peugeot Citroën industrial site in Aulnay-sous-Bois. The downside is that it is open for groups throughout the year, but individuals can only go on the last Saturday in each month (2pm), and you must book in advance. Check the website for details.

L’Aventure Citroën – Conservatory Citroën DS
Bd André Citroën
93600 Aulnay-sous-Bois
Tel: +33 (0)1 56 50 80 20
Open Mon to Fri Guided Tours only at 9.30am & 1.30pm
Tour Price €10

24 Hours of Le Mans Museum – Le Musée des 24 Heures du Mans 

Old cars lined up in the Le Mans 24 hour car museum
Le Mans 24 Hour Museum © Alastair McKenzie

This fabulous museum is located just by the starting point of the great annual Le Mans 24-hour race. The museum has an outstanding collection, is well organized, with large sections for cars, motorbikes and models. The Hall of Fame features personalities like Bertha Benz who in 1888 took her sons in a Benz Model 111 from Mannheim to Pforzheim. It was a real adventure. There are stories about the great Bugattis, the Citroen 2CV (of course), and countless other names.

Here’s a whole article about the Le Mans 24 Hours Museum which you’ll find in the historic, medieval and surprising city of Le Mans (another great surprise).

24 Hours of Le Mans Museum
4 rue de la cour neuve
35550 Lohéac
Tel: +33 (0)2 99 34 02 32
Open Jul-Aug: daily 10am-7pm; Sep-Jun: Tues-Sun 10am-1pm & 2-7pm
Admission Adult €14, 10-16 years €10, under 10 years free

Street in medieval Le Mans showing narrow cobbled street with stone and wooden houses on each side and old lamp in front
Medieval Le Mans © Martpan/CC-BY-SA 4.0

Le Manoir de l’Automobile – The Manor of the Automobile and Old Trades of Lohéac

Poster for the annual autobrocante festival (where you can buy old cars and parts of them>
The Lohéac Car Museum’s Annual Market

The owner, Michael Hommell was just 18 years old when he began collecting cars. In 2002, he bought an old farm and converted it into a vast building today housing over 400 vehicles (the vast majority are cars).

Divided into sections, the Hall of Ancestors begins the story with a De Dion Bouton of 1899 and continues with classics like the Citroën 5HP, Dauphine and names I have never heard of (but a petrol head will certainly know). There are over 30 dioramas with models in period dress, a Formula 1 starting grid, a garage, restored old gas station, films, a guinguette from the 1930s (open air café originally for dancing)  and more.

Every year on the first weekend in October there’s a large autobrocante, a sale of cars, car parts, photos, books and more as well as demonstrations on a special track.

Musée Automobile de Vendée
Route des Sables d’Olonne
85440 Talmont-Saint-Hilaire
Tel: +33 (0)2 51 22 05 81
Open Jun-Aug: daily 10am-7pm; Sept, Apr, May: 10am-noon & 2-6.30pm
Admission Adult €16, 5-12 years €8, under 5 years free

Musée Automobile de Vendée

Vendee Car Museum with close up of front of Panhard 1914 showing headlight, and bonnet
Vendée Car Museum – 1914 Panhard

The family-run museum opened in 1976. It was the brainchild of Gaston Giron, an apprentice mechanic during World War I who became a Citroen specialist trader. The museum is today run by his son and the family who continue to buy and restore old cars, just as Gaston had done. Around 150 vehicles now fill the large site, starting with a steam-run De Dion Bouton of 1885 and going through Delahayes and other classic names to Chevrolets and to Boras. There’s a good shop, and even better…various classic cars for sale.

Le Manoir de l’Automobile
Route des Sables d’Olonne
85440 Talmont-Saint-Hilaire
Tel: +33 (0)2 51 22 05 81
Open Jun-Aug: daily 10am-7pm; Sept, Apr, May: 10am-noon & 2-6.30pm
Admission Adult €16, 5-12 years €8, under 5 years free

Aunis Automobile Museum – Musée Automobile de Ciré d’Aunis

Aunis Car Museum with large industrial style space full of old cars
Aunis Automobile Museum © Cdanews/CC BY-SA 4.0

Over 110 cars dating from 1912 to 1994, plus enamel plates, petrol pumps and more are on display in this private museum. They are from the collection of Gilles Gaudissard. Look out for the CGE Tudor de 1940; it’s one of the first electric cars. And check those headlights on the old cars, run by gas.

Musée automobile de Ciré d’Aunis
Rue des Franches
7290 Le Thou
Tel: +33 (0)6 64 86 81 08
Open Apr-mid Oct Thurs-Mon 2-7pm. 3rd Sun of the month 10am-7pm
Admission Adult €10, under 10 years free

Automobile Museum of Valençay

Delaunay Taxi in the Valencay Museum. It's a large red old taxi with yellow wheels and poster on the walls
Delaunay Taxi in the Valençay Museum

This private museum was built around an original collection from the Guignard brothers. The cars which cover 80 years from 1898 onwards have some gems like the 1996 Citroen driven by Pierre Lartique in the Paris-Dakar Rally.  There are also documents, photos, films, plus a new temporary exhibition each year. In 2023 it was the decade 1960 to 1970 demonstrating what the French were driving when we in the UK were at the wheel of an Austin/Morris 1100 or perhaps a Hillman Hunter.

Automobile Museum of Valençay
12 avenue de la Résistance
36600 Valençay
Tel: +33 (0)2 54 00 07 74
Open Apr-5 Nov; check website for opening days and times
Admission Adult €7, 7 to 17 years €5, under 7 years free

La Virée d’Antan Museum – Musée de la Locomotion – Antan Car Museum

This museum was started in 2015 by enthusiasts who formed the ACPM (which goes under the rather long name of the Association pour la Conservation du Patrimoine Mecanique de Locomotion). Today they have 80 vehicles, from 1900 to 1980, all displayed in a reconstructed village setting.

La Virée d’Antan Museum
56 rue Martin Bonjean
63570 Brassac les Mines
Tel: +33 (0)4 73 89 30 57/+33 (0)6 23 97 22 75
Open Easter Sun to last Sun in October, Sat, Sun and public holidays 2 to 6pm.
Admission Adult €6, under 12 years free

Brassac-les-Mines in the Auvergne with long view showing town in slight valley and volcanic montains behind
Brassac-les-Mines in the Auvergne © Elliott Sadournay

Musée de l’Automobile Henri Malartre

Old black and white photo of Henri Malartre in his Malartre black car
Henri Malartre © Malartre

Just north of Lyon on the banks of the Saône river, the Henri Malartre Car Museum is located in the Château Rochetaillée-sur-Saône. Here you’ll find 150 cars from 1890 to 1986, plus 40 motorbikes from 1903 to 1955, and 31 bicycles from 1818 to 1960. The Gordini Hall has racing cars; the Public Transport Hall has trams, trains and a “Ficelle” funicular from Fourvière in Lyons

Like many of the museums, this was originally a private collection, from a Lyon resident, Henri Malartre (1905-2005). At the age of 27 he bought an 1898 Rochet-Schneider. It was one of the many models built in Lyon which had over 130 motor car manufacturers at the beginning of the 20th century (at this time France produced over half the world’s motor cars). He restored the car and began collecting.

His was an interesting story. In 1939 he fought in the Battle for France. He joined the Resistance, was arrested, and deported to Buchenwald in 1944. After the war, he went back to restoring and collecting cars and opened the museum on May 31, 1960. He gave the museum to the City of Lyon in 1972.

Very large citroen DS car, belonging to Hitler at Malartre museum in Lyon. Huge black car with Nazi swastika sign on bonnet beside trams
Hitler’s Car ©Bertrand Stofleth

Don’t miss the extraordinary armoured car built for Hitler, delivered to him on March 17, 1944. One of 44 such vehicles built by Mercedes during the war, it’s a fearsome beast. It took 15 months and 2 million Reichmarks. It weighs 51 tonnes, has 400hp, can take 9 passengers, is 6 metres long, has bullet-proof wheels and windows, a mine-resistant floor, 18mm amour on the doors, and a self-destruct mechanism operated from the dashboard. In May 1945, French troops seized the car at Hitler’s personal residence at Berchtesgaden.

Musée de l’Automobile Henri Malartre
645 rue du Musée
63570 Brassac les Mines
Tel: +33 (0)4 78 22 18 80
Open Jan: Sat, Sun 10.30am-6pm; from Feb 1: Wed-Sun 10.30am-6pm; 3rd Friday of each month 1-6pm; closed Dec 25, Jan 1
Admission Adult €6, 18-25 years €4

Musée de Citroën – Citromuseum

Interior front of old 2CV with large steering wheel and gear and tartan style upholstery
Inside a 2CV at the Citromuseum

This small, privately owned museum houses around 50 post-war Citroëns from the 2CV to the SM and they are all in superb condition. There are a few treasures like the DS no. 32, sold in 1955 which is the oldest example of this DS still around. The workshop shows how the vehicles are restored.

Musée des Citroën
Route de la Palud
04129 Castellane
Tel: +33 (0)4 92 83 76 09
Open Mid-Apr-mid-Oct: daily 2-6pm; Jul, Aug daily 10am-6pm
Admission Adult €8, child €4

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