Strange Places in Paris
March 5, 2008 1:41 PM   Subscribe

What odd things are there to do in Paris?

I will (hopefully) be in Paris for a few days in the beginning of May and I am looking for something truly odd to do there.

Is there anything in Paris similar to The Museum of Jurassic Technology ? That place was a highlight of my trip to Los Angeles.

I looked into the sewer tour and the catacombs, but they just weren’t doing it for me. Thanks for any suggestions.
posted by Julnyes to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (19 answers total) 62 users marked this as a favorite
The Paris Sewer Museum is my all time favorite tourist attraction in the world. The museum is actually in the sewer.
posted by Uncle Jimmy at 1:51 PM on March 5, 2008 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Tourists don't normally visit cemeteries, but you can't miss Père-Lachaise.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:56 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

i was going to recommend the musee fragonard, but sadly, it is closed until september. boo.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 1:57 PM on March 5, 2008

Best answer: I feel like I've said this before on Mefi, but can't find it now... so go to a shop called Deyrolle on Rue du Bac. It's a tiny place, a taxidermy shop, but really it's so much more. The place is an adventure, it's really worth the effort it takes to find it. When I looked it up online I found this: "The shop was founded in 1831 by Emile Deyrolle, and it moved to its current location-the former home of Louis XIV's banker-in 1881. At Deyrolle, no animal is too exotic, or too ordinary, to be stuffed. You'll walk past a zebra, lions, tigers, and a giraffe, not to mention a polar bear, a warthog, a chimpanzee, and a kangaroo. But you'll also find every imaginable barnyard animal, as well as birds, deer, rabbits, and - most surprising of all - quite a few dogs and cats. The animals are scattered throughout the store as though they were customers, and they are for the most part extremely lifelike, sometimes eerily so. Some of the more exotic animals are for display only, but most are available for sale or for rent. That's right: you can rent a dead zebra, elephant, or bear for your next party."
posted by you're a kitty! at 1:58 PM on March 5, 2008

Best answer: Theres's Musee Dupuytren.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 2:07 PM on March 5, 2008

it would really help if you defined what you mean by "odd" because in Europe it could vary wildly from what a USian considers odd.

Some USians consider eating snails odd, so you could eat snails, drive a stick-shift, shag a man/woman, make a milkshake with a dildo..... the possibilities are endless.

Did you mean places that the normal USian would not see in the guidebook?

If so Le blanc Mesnil may suit?
posted by Wilder at 2:08 PM on March 5, 2008

Also the catacombs/Denfert-Rochereau Ossuary.
posted by Challahtronix at 2:29 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding Père-Lachaise.
posted by timeistight at 2:48 PM on March 5, 2008

Here's an answer I gave back in '05 in this thread about outsider art in Paris.

I can't read the website well enough to tell you if it is still open.. Cool place though - around six floors of artist space that you could wander through at your leisure.
posted by davey_darling at 3:01 PM on March 5, 2008

Not nearly as strange as the Museum of Jurassic Technology, but my fondest memory of Paris is of sitting on a bench next to a Wallace Fountain on Ile de la Cite and watching people's reactions to it. Some people just re-filled their water bottles from it, like you're supposed to, but others spent several minutes looking at it and trying to figure it out, while still others spotted it but then studiously ignored it (I assume because they couldn't figure out how to use it). It was also one of the calmest and most peaceful places in Paris. I ended up spending about a half hour just sitting there enjoying the view and the people-watching.
posted by katemonster at 3:02 PM on March 5, 2008

In the northeast, you might want to check out le Parc des Buttes Chaumont. It is said that many people with no previous inclination for suicide found themselves compelled to leap from the overlook here. The nearby neighborhoods (Belleville and Menilmontant) are some of my favorites in Paris- very diverse with nice bars and cafes, not very touristy. These were also some of the last holdouts during the Commune of 1871.

Heading north and west from the river, you will find various passages, the arcades made famous by Walter Benjamin. Many have been cleaned up and gentrified, but the further north you go, the less touristy and more specialized they get. There's one near Chateau d'Eau that is made up entirely of Indian restaurants.

If you visit the Pantheon, be sure to check out the places on the columns where they filled in the bullet holes following the suppression of the Commune. I think a version of Foucault's pendulum may also still be hanging inside, demonstrating the rotation of the earth. La Grande Mosquee de Paris is nearby. There is a very pleasant cafe in one of its courtyards (about the only cafe in Paris where dogs are not allowed).

La Musee Carnavalet in le Marais is a smaller museum with a fantastic collection concentrating on the history of the city (including Proust's cork-lined room). Le Marais is also a nice area for walking around- a part of the city Haussmann never got to.

Across the river is la Musee du Moyen Age, another small museum with interesting examples of medieval stained glass, tapestries and books of hours. Also a nice garden.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:06 PM on March 5, 2008

Deyrolle was gutted by fire recently and won't be open for a while. Shame, because it is certainly worth visiting.

It is possible for anyone to walk into the Paris sewers from street level without climbing or getting that dirty. A courtyard off the street (contains a well) and literally a nondescript paved gap between two buildings which, as you walk down, slowly descends until you are in the sewer. It's probably illegal, search around on google and you will find the details. Just a (fucking huge) sewer, but a thrillingly off the radar experience, and nothing like the official museum.

It's also possible to tour the closed lines and stations of the metro at night in a chartered metro carriage. The people who do it now have a website, but it used to be a far more clandestine oiperation whereby a phone number was called and availability requested. I have never done it but it sounds fantastic. Places are limited and you'll have to contact them, they don't post details on the site.

If you rollerblade then you could join the 15,000 others that career across Paris en masse on a Friday night.

Small, quirky museums -

Musee Edith Piaf (in someone's house)
Musee Zadkine (in the sculptor Zadkine's old house)
Musee Delacroix (in the painter's house)
Musee de Cluny (museum of medieval life - beautiful)

Strange eating -

Eat in the dark, served by blind waiters
Fondues and wine from baby bottles (for tax reasons)
A soup kitchen that has changed little since the 19th century

posted by fire&wings at 3:19 PM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've always wanted to try The Lock Museum
posted by mkb at 3:21 PM on March 5, 2008

So this may not be exactly what you had in mind but when I was in Paris I found just going to Parisian movies theaters was a surreal/odd experience. And if you like him, I would strongly suggest seeing a Woody Allen film. He is a god over there and it was so strange to see how those in the audience reacted to his movie. I went to see Small Time Crooks, which, imho, isn't anything special, but the theater was packed and I felt like I was in the middle of a Laugh Riot. It was out of control. Maybe it had something to do with all the sugar they put on their popcorn?
posted by rokabiri at 3:55 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

You could go piss on Jim Morrison's grave. That's always fun.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:24 PM on March 5, 2008

Seconding the sewer tour and musee Cluny.
posted by charlesv at 5:24 PM on March 5, 2008

Thirding the sewer tour - awesome if you're into underground stuff. When I took the tour they told us that if it rains, they've got 30 minutes to get everyone out before the tour area floods.
posted by zippy at 8:54 PM on March 5, 2008

Best answer: Bring money, go crazy at Deyrolle. Right up your (and mine) Jurassic technology alley would be the Musee Albert Kahn. I've never been there, but it should fit the bill. When in paris, pick up a copy of "musee insolites de Paris".

Damn, I wanna come too.
posted by ouke at 2:28 AM on March 6, 2008

If you are a science geek (or an Umberto Eco fan),check out the Musee des Arts & Metiers.
posted by anelsewhere at 8:15 AM on January 1, 2009

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