No, you’re not seeing things. This is one of the many faces this building wears every few months. This place is literally off the wall. The 59 Rivoli had its doors pried open by squatting artists on November 1, 1999 after the building sat abandoned for fifteen years. In the empty building on one of central Paris’ main thoroughfares, they created a place for artists to live and work as they pleased. The French government had some opinions about that and threatened to evict the artists that had set up camp there, but the media, political allies, and the sheer power of freaky-cool that was happening helped keep this artists’ safe-haven afloat. Today it is all on the legal up-and-up with 30 studios open to the public six days a week. They have as many as 4,000 visitors stop by per week for expos and other gatherings, and what’s stopping you from being among them? It’s within walking distance from the Louvre, making it the perfect counterculture answer to the gold standard. No reservations needed, come as you are. (But if the door is closed, please don’t use a crowbar to get in. That only works once… )
ADDRESS: 59 Rue de Rivoli (1st arr.)
MÉTRO: Châtelet (line 1, 4, 7, 11, 14)
Musée des Arts Forains in Bercy
On the far end of Paris, this unusual place definitely livens up the mood. What to expect: a bunch of antique, 19th century fairground paraphernalia organized in a very Parisian layout. Word of warning: It’s open to the public only between Christmas and New Years. Any other time you have to book an experience in advance with a tour guide. But don’t worry, the reason lies in having the full experience: actor-guides really add to the immersive escapade with scripted pantomimes and even operating some of these vintage rides for the visitors. It will really bring out the child in you.
ADDRESS: 53 Av. des Terroirs de France (12th arr.)
MÉTRO: Cour Saint-Émilion (line 14)
NUMBER: 01 43 40 16 22
NEIGHBORHOOD: Cour St. Emilion / Bercy
It’s not a spa, it’s not a beauty salon. There are spaces for relaxing and meditating but the real experience lies in their flotation cabins dedicated to disconnection and introspection (yeah…no idea what that means either). It is all Japanese-inspired, and the flotation device is there for you to tap into a completely different sensory adventure. For one hour, you can experience what it would be like to float around and feel weightless (no dieting required…woohoo!)
ADDRESS: 8 Rue Albert (13th arr.)
MÉTRO: Olympiades (line 14)
NUMBER: +33 6 52 79 45 61
NEIGHBORHOOD: Butte aux Cailles / Place d’Italie
Cabaret Silvano Jo
Silvano Jo performs one-man (one-drag queen?) shows in his atelier/living room (unless he is invited by other venues around the country, which happens more and more often these days). Accompanied by a master pianist, he takes his guests on a musical journey through time — over a century of French (and Parisian) music. Called « All the women in my life », his show is a maybe a bit niche, but it’s every bit as cabaret‑y in terms of costumes and talent as the previous ones we’ve mentioned. And here, you have dinner with the showman himself! And, there’s no sitting in the nosebleed section! VIP, indeed.
ADDRESS: Rue Legouvé (10th arr.)
NEIGHBORHOOD: Canal St. Martin
METRO: Jacques Borsengent (line 5)
HOW TO BOOK: through Airbnb
Papy Bio Macarons
If you’re coming to Paris to try something a little different, learning how to make macarons from an atelier could be the way to go. Learn from a former pastry chef in his at-home bakery. Let’s not beat around the bush, though: macarons are known to be extremely difficult to perfect so if you do decide to undergo this adventure, you better bring your A‑game (he is known for not cutting slack to an-y-bo-dy.) Oh, and you leave with a bag full of macarons so, ‘A’ for effort either way, right?
ADDRESS: 20 Rue Jean et Marie Moinon (10th arr.)
MÉTRO: Goncourt (line 11)
NUMBER: +33 6 45 74 17 13
NEIGHBORHOOD: St. Denis / St. Martin / Poissonnière / Paradis
HOW TO BOOK: online
Just embrace it, you know you want to. Whilst many people think that shaping a baked good into an intimate body part is crude, we think «Paris…you’ve done it again». They don’t call it the city of love for nothing. Paris can somehow turn taboo subjects into classy discussions and/or baked goods. La Quequetterie shows just that.
ADDRESS: 28 Rue d’Aboukir (2nd arr.)
MÉTRO: Etienne Marcel (line 4)
NUMBER: 01 71 20 23 22
NEIGHBORHOOD: Opéra Garnier / Grands Boulevards
Google describes this place as a «tiny bakery with artisan baguettes, Breton pastry, croissants & sandwiches to go.» We can assure you that it’s a little bit more than that. Just like La Quequetterie, they also manage to turn phallic shaped goods into, well…baked goods. Here is your chance to experiment 😉 You know what? Since it’s right next to that other type bakery, why not just go all out and go to bed with two separate people…if you catch our jizz…(oh, we did it again.)
ADDRESS: 33 Rue Rambuteau (4th arr.)
MÉTRO: Rambuteau (line 11)
NUMBER: 06 98 19 56 88
NEIGHBORHOOD: Le Marais
The Bunker under the Eiffel Tower
The obvious thing to do when you visit the Eiffel Tower is to go up it, not under it. However, this is one thing which doesn’t get mentioned enough in Paris Experience lists. Just feet away from the South pillar, there is a secret military bunker. It’s known as «secret» because it’s only open a few times during the week to small groups. However, if you ever have the chance to visit, do so: The bunker is full of Eiffel Tower history, myths and legends. NOTE: Normally a few guides are granted access in any given year (with your Editor having been one of them but not currently) and we cannot locate any tours running so the closest you’ll get is to go on a hunt on the Champs de Mars to see if you can find the secret doorway. Hint it is painted to blend in with the surrounding foliage…)
ADDRESS: Champ de Mars, 5 Av. Anatole (7th arr.)
MÉTRO: Ecole Militaire (line 8)
NEIGHBORHOOD: Eiffel Tower / Trocadéro
Ballon de Paris Generali
The Generali Paris Balloon is a tethered hot air balloon, meaning that you won’t drift away because it is attached to a cable, which is attached to the ground. Feeling safe, yet? Good. Now you can get some amazing 360 views of Paris in what is apparently the biggest ball in the world (La Quequetterie and LeGay Choc have some competition). If you’re not satisfied with your landscape photos from the Eiffel Tower, this giant ball may hold the answers.
ADDRESS: Parc André Citroën (15th arr.)
MÉTRO: Lourmel (line 8)
The Fake Buildings of Paris
Bet you’ve never realized that some of those oh-so-beautiful Parisian facades are fake. Deeply. Before you get mad because you feel «like you’ve been wronged», there is a good reason behind it: Would you rather see a fake facade with painted-on windows and railings, or an ugly ventilation system from the underground or electrical power stations? Now, it is true that some workers made the facades look more realistic and ‘blended’ with the classic Parisian architecture whilst others…did not. But, all in all, it’s a fun game to do if you’re bored and in Paris: Go see if you can spot some of these fake facades around the city.
One of the more famous ones is the « Specialists » fake storefront that popped up overnight in 2006 and leads to nobody whatsoever, specialist or not. It’s in the Marais, and the architecture conforms to Paris city spécifications, so it was left alone.
The Smallest Buildings in Paris
In our pocket here in Paris are hidden a few tiny buildings with bizzarro backstories. There’s the one in the 10th Arrondissement, that houses a shop that sells jeans — which makes sense, they can’t exactly sell mattresses in a building that is 1.1 meter in width (that’s 3 feet 7 inches) and 5 meters in height… if you are near the Canal St. Martin neighborhood pay them a visit as they are wedged in just across the street from the Mairie (mini City Hall) of the 10th arrondissement. This building is is so small that most people don’t even notice it when walking by (it actually just looks like a wall which is covering an otherwise useful passageway between two bigger buildings). History tells us that this house was actually birthed by a feud between neighbors. To settle the dispute on who owned that sliver of road, they decided to have no winners or losers and built a completely separate «building» covering the area which they were fighting over. Eventually, it was finally recognized as a building and given an official address. The next smallest, (pictured) is much more picturesque and a bit of a Paris cliché of being chic and slender…This one can be seen from the river Seine if you are cruising, just across from the spot where the Louvre and Tuileries Gardens meet…
ADDRESS: 39 Rue du Chateau d’Eau in the 10th arrondissement or 13 Quai Voltaire in the 7th arrondissement
Ah, that erotic-chic vibe Paris has gotten so good at broadcasting… Chez Lulu does not disappoint. With a restaurant, bar, and club sharing real estate in tandem, it’s a show all in one. If we could only pick a few words to describe it, they are: dim, sensual, boudoir, velvet, feathers and panache. Eat your food. Get a blow out (by this we mean there’s a hairdresser ready to style your hair for the night…so get your head out of the gutter), buy some naughty accessories and party to disco music. The experience is sensual, but never vulgar. That’s Paris for you.
ADDRESS: 66 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1st arr.)
MÉTRO: Les Halles (line 4)
NUMBER: +33 (0)1 42 36 91 15
NEIGHBORHOOD: Les Halles
HOW TO BOOK: online
Rocky Horror Picture Show, as per usual. But in Paris? This rock and roll musical classic has taken over the world’s theaters. This particular studio has been broadcasting the show every week since 1978…That’s a lot of cult film. It is actually the first cinema in the world to have showcased the film with no interruption. On Friday and Saturday every week, you can watch the classic movie with a shadow cast and animated sessions (you can even throw rice and water to the volunteers who recreate the movie right before your eyes).
ADDRESS: 42 Rue Galande (5th arr.)
MÉTRO: Cluny La Sorbonne (line 10)
NUMBER: 01 43 54 72 71
NEIGHBORHOOD: Latin Quarter
FACEBOOK: Studio Galande
Founded in 1831, this outlandish taxidermy shop is a Paris institution. Why go see reenactments in natural history museums when you can go see the same thing, in a smaller, comfortable setting, without the screaming children and pricey entry tickets? Go see this gem of a shop for yourself and prepare to be in awe. They know you aren’t buying a stuffed crocodile so no need to be shy.
ADDRESS: 46 Rue du Bac (7th arr.)
MÉTRO: Rue du Bac (line 12)
NUMBER: 01 42 22 30 07
A Most Suggestive Door
Hidden among the scene of nature and Art Nouveau beauty is a hidden hunk of, eh, ~fauna~.
Look closely on your promenade to La Tour Eiffel, as just in her shadows is a piece of architecture definitely worth the detour. Is that intricate carving a bird? Is it a plane? Is it an insect? If children are present, no problem: We simply are trying to keep them architecturally educated. Let’s say it’s some kind of curious scarab and then keep moving along.
In a world desensitized to subtle corporeal suggestions by Kardashianesque buttloads of surgical excess and the inescapable availability McDonald’s dollar menu meals in any city you may alight, the hidden pleasures of a phallus, artfully and vengefully (so the legend goes) carved into a door by an architect who had had it down to there with his client…is simply one of life’s little allotments of fun and surprise.
Take it all in from across the street to get the full monty as the building from rooftop to ween is one of the loveliest of all of Paris, which is a BFD in the most beautiful architectural city in the world.
But don’t let potential feelings of inferiority stop you from paying the dick door a visit — how many fellas can say that theirs nearly hits the ground?
ADDRESS: 29 Avenue Rapp (7th arr.)
MÉTRO: École Militaire (line 8)
NEIGHBORHOOD: Eiffel Tower
This place actually dates back to 1877 as the first Parisian cooperative. The initial project consisted of gathering working-class types (not what foreigners think of when they think, ‘Parisian’ nowadays, thanks to Laduree and glittery stuff, but France is actually pretty hardcore about social democracy so…) and presenting them with political education, booty-shaking, and culture, all in one place. Since then, La Bellevilloise has evolved into some one-stop shopping, in terms of going-out – cultural and social events, presentations, media coverage, concerts, shows, exhibitions, screenings, fashion shows, a café and last but certainly not least, a club. The entire building is divided into sections which include a loft area, the forum (aka the club), the olive hall (possibly the area where you can experience more of that live music/band scenario) and the terrace to just…chill. Either way, you’ll definitely find a place where you fit in.
ADDRESS: 19–21 Rue Boyer (20th arr.)
MÉTRO: Gambetta (line 3)
NUMBER: 01 46 36 07 07