Where does one go in Paris if all the cultural must-see places have been ticked off the list?
Here are 5 less known suggestions to help you see the French capital from a new side.
Pavillon de l’Arsenal
An elegant structure with high ceilings, whose past hides an era where it served a commercial purpose as part of a grand magasin. Today this building houses the second largest museum of architecture and urbanism in Paris. The frequently rotated exhibitions showcase the latest in the fields of urban development and design, attracting a varied crowd beyond architecture students and professionals. The capital’s town hall chooses this place to present various public projects, updating Parisians with the different city improvement initiatives. For example, last month the Pavilion housed the pre-selected entries for the new Montparnasse tower. Yes, the black monolith will be replaced with something less eye irritating.
Opening hours: 11 to 19, every day except Monday.
Best time to visit: a sunny evening.
At any time of any given week, you can spot the Georges Pompidou center from a distance. Its tube-laced walls, the long queues outside…but only a few are aware that on the very same square stands another notable culture hotspot, the Atelier Brancusi. Constantin Brancusi was a Romanian sculptor with a strong expressionist vision. It is hard to tell what is more inspiring: his minimalist works or his little studio. It is also hard to understand how such a small space holds so much light and air: from the outside it looks (and feels) very compact. The decor inside reminds one of the big impressionist paintings: the pristine nature of white walls is hit with highly contrasting bright red wood planks and golden heads, sculpted by the master. The notion of art here is translated not only in each individual work, but in the totality of the microcosm that is Brancusi’s studio. A close friend of Picasso and Modigliani, both of whom are exhibited inside Pompidou, Brancusi has always been close by.
Opening hours: 14 to 16, every day except Tuesday.
Best time to visit: any day!
École des Beaux-Arts (Malaquais Campus)
Hidden in the prestigious neighbourhood of Saint-Germain, it is here that many aspiring artists cry over their creations and frustrations. There are 3 options to get inside: open doors day (during the European Patrimony week-ends), a visit to an on-going exhibition, or pretending to be one of the school’s students by inserting yourself into a group rushing inside. The beauty of the ancient walls is breathtaking, a 17th century stone decorated with various elements from some of the French castles that date back to the Renaissance. The center part is a huge hall with a glass ceiling. In the past centuries, this space was used for large collective classes on sculpture and academy figure drawing. Today it is modern classes that are scattered around the perimeter of the central hall: industrial design workshops, photo studios, graphical design ateliers, and the like. Witnessing the process of creation is one of the best activities during a stroll through this monumental school of fine arts.
Opening hours: 08 to 22.
Best time to visit: during the working week.
French Communist Party Headquarters
The project of this building was thought up in 1965 by Oscar Niemeyer, a Brazilian modernist architect. Completed in 1972, this head office is a prime example of the modernist architectural style, which bloomed in the French capital in the later part of the 20th century. The simple shapes, the cold reflection of concrete, the intricate lights’ play. To get inside, there needs to be an ongoing exhibition for you to visit – that is the bad news. The good news? These are on frequently, which means you can find your moment to see the subterranean space and discover an awe-inspiring interior.
Opening hours: 09 to 16,but check in advance before leaving.
Best time to visit: any time!
Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé Foundation
The foundation was designed by the same man who brought us Pompidou – Renzo Piano. Here you can find the archives of French cinema: vintage movie posters, books, and elegant apparatus used in the industry back in the day. Located in the heart of the Parisian China town, the building is easily identified via the particular material that has been used on the outside. Perforated metallic plates form a scale-like texture, colour coordinating itself with the dark grey rooftops of the city. Shape-wise, the structure resembles a 5 storied water drop, whose outside originality translates into an organic match with the surrounding context. To enjoy the treasures of the fund, you’ll need to sign up for a 1 hour excursion that takes place on Saturdays. Being the ardent supporter of my profession, I urge you: add a little architecture to your week-ends!