About Secrets of Paris

American-born travel journalist and guidebook author Heather Stimmler-Hall created the Secrets of Paris in 1999 to share the hidden side of the City of Light. Discover what you've been missing:

* Custom Travel Content
* Travel Writing Workshops
* Calendar of interesting Paris events 
* Monthly Secrets of Paris newsletter
* Secrets of Paris Tours & Travel Planning

Read more about the Secrets of Paris here

 

 

 

Calendar of Paris Events

Through July 31
The 22nd annual Paris Jazz Festival: come enjoy traditional Parisian and international jazz music in the Bois de Vincennes's Parc Floral. Entrance to the park is 6 €.

Through August 21
The 30th annual Fête des Tuileries funfair with carnival rides at Tuileries Gardens starts today, free entry, rides with individual tickets. Plenty of food stands, too!

Through August 27
La Nuit aux Invalides is an impressive sound and light show in the courtyard of Invalides highlighting the monument's history (Louis XIV, Napoléon, Charles De Gaulle), in English on Monday and Thursday nights. Tickets €18 (adult price). See the teaser video.

Click here to see the full calendar of events...

Secrets of Paris gives 10% of all tour fees to the French food bank, Les Restos du Coeur

Entries in gardens (17)

Friday
Jun242016

Tour of the Great Mosque de Paris

Join the Secrets of Paris team for a FREE one-hour tour of the Paris Mosque this Wednesday July 20th at 11am. Contact us to sign up. 

Written by Secrets of Paris guide-in-training Philippe Maillet

Paris is not only a romantic city, it’s also a real melting pot of cultures. And nothing is stranger than when your steps lead you to an exotic architectural site right in its heart. That’s what happens in the 5th district, at the foot of the Saint Geneviève hill, where a white wall hides a mysterious building, flagged by a colorful tower and a massive wooden door. This monument is actually the Great Mosque of Paris, a little piece of Morocco hidden in the French capital.

This sanctuary built between 1922 and 1926 was built as a tribute to the Muslim soldiers who died during World War I fighting for the French Republic. One hundred thousand volunteers from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia perished during the war, far from their native lands. Afterwards, the French people wanted to give the Muslim community a place to commemorate this tragedy. Thus a project was launched, including a mosque, a Muslim Institute, several reception rooms, and a library. A restaurant and hammam (steam baths) completed this Moroccan haven in the heart of the Latin Quarter.

Nowadays, visitors and prayers go together in this quiet atmosphere of the Great Mosque. A peaceful garden welcomes you to this reconstituted paradise, with its fountains, palm trees and roses. Beyond that is the courtyard of the mosque, decorated in the tradition of Fez, the spiritual capital of Morocco. Ceramics, engraved plaster, sculpted wood, and calligraphy running all along the walls and beneath the arcades evocate the North African heritage. At the end of the corridors and terraces a huge door opens onto a majestic reception hall reminding us of the Tales of 1001 Arabian Nights.

But the mosque is above all a meeting with Islam. And it seems important in these troubled times to try to understand this religion, its rituals, and its differences. The mosque of Paris is a good place to lift the curtain on this often misunderstood culture, where we can find an open-minded aspect of Islam, welcoming to visitors. By learning about the history and cultural heritage of this religion we can better understand how it relates to our own heritage.

Free Tours of the Great Mosque and Islamic Culture in Paris

Philippe grew up in western France, in the area of Nantes. He came to Paris in 1999 to study art history at La Sorbonne. After specializing in Islamic architecture he went on to the Paris-Belleville School of Architecture where he acquired a diploma in traditional heritage restoration and in the Ecole du Louvre for a degree in museology. What characterizes Philippe’s background is a passion for North Africa, its arts, its history, its cultures. Eager to follow his family’s steps, he moved to Morocco where he worked on research projects for the Moroccan government concerning the conversion of traditional buildings into guest houses in the old city (medina) of Marrakech. After many stays in Morocco and Algeria, he is now an expert on North African architecture, from the Middle Ages up to now. Having embraced the Arabic culture in all its aspects, he knows not only history of art but also traditions, music and food. As a guide-in-training, he's offering free tours with a focus on Islamic architecture and culture in June and July 2016. Contact us for more information

Monday
Jun132016

Summer Food & Fun at Grand Train 

One of the most interesting Paris events of the summer is Grand Train. Opened within a disused SNCF train depot in late April, Grand Train features 2000m² of covered halls, courtyards and outdoor space filled with over a dozen bars and eateries, lounge chairs and picnic tables, pétanque courts, a food garden and chicken house, vintage locomotives and different exhibitions about the history of the SNCF (French National Railway, a partner of the event), fuss ball tables, big screens showing fils and even Euro matches, a children's playpen, and daily events such as live music, a craft market, epicerie, yoga sessions, tattoo and barber shop, kids' activities, massage booth, gardening courses, book readings, etc.

I went on one of the first dry nights of May and there was a pretty large crowd, but plenty of space to find a seat. Dining options include Italian (and pizzas), Korean Bibimbap, Argintinean BBQ, gluten-free tea room, Belgian waffels, burgers, and hot dogs. 

When you enter you'll see the outdoor lounge space and gardens overlooking the trains. 

These areas outside fill up quickly, getthere before 7pm for a good spot. 

The Italian eatery in one of the indoor halls.

Train decor throughout the Grand Train space.

I like the little lites strung up in the courtyards, although it's barely dark when Grand Train closes at 11pm in July!

You can bring your food into this dining car. Screens next to it have landscape whizzing by like you're moving. 

One of the indoor dining areas.

There are also a few model trains set up between the restaurants.

The epicerie and food shop.

Yet another courtyard...it feels like you're going in circles, but there are several of these. 

An exhibit of train worker uniforms over the years.

One of the dozen or so vintage trains (no touching allowed).

The kids' playpen.

Helmut Newcake Gluten-Free goodies.

 

The food garden (there are also honey bee hives).

Open until October 16th, check the Facebook page for the weekly schedule of special events. 

Grand Train 
26 ter rue Ordener, 18th
Metro Marcadet-Poissoniers. 
Open Wednesday-Sunday from 11am-11pm.
Free entry, consignment fee for the cups at the bars. 
Ends October 16th, 2016. 

Chickens!

Monday
Feb082016

The Pass' Marie Antoinette 

For all of you Marie-Antoinette aficionados out there, the Centre des Monuments Nationaux has quietly launched a special new Pass’ Marie Antoinette good for four lesser-known monuments in and around Paris that have a strong connection to the young French queen:

Château de Rambouillet: This charming royal residence between Versailles and Chartres (accessible via regional train from Montparnasse station) is known for its vast gardens, with a Rococco Shell Cottage and the Queen's Dairy House. Only part of the actual chateau is open in 2016 while it undergoes renovations. Open daily except Tuesdays. This is a nice little town to visit on a sunny day. 

La Conciergerie: The prison on the Ile de la Cité in central Paris where Marie-Antoinette spent her final months before her trial and death at the guillotine. Open daily 9:30am-6pm.

La Chapelle Expiatoire: This chapel stands in the park where the bodies of Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI were originally buried in a mass grave during the Revolution. Note that the inside of the chapel is currently only open May 2nd through September 30th on Thursday-Saturday from 11am-6pm (until 7pm in July and August).  

Saint-Denis Basilica: This basilica where Marie-Antoinette was finally laid to rest during the Restoration Monarchy is where all but three of the French monarchs are buried. It's in the suburb of St-Denis, accessible by metro line 13. Open April- September 10am-6:15 pm, Sundays noon to 6:15pm; October to March 10am to 5pm, Sundays noon to 5:15pm.

How it Works

You get the pass on request when paying the full rate at the first monument, allowing you the discounted rate at the remaining three monuments. It’s a nice alternative for everyone who has already “done” Versailles or anyone who wants to avoid crowds and save a few euros. 

Tuesday
Jun162015

Ticks in Paris

New signs have appeared in all of the parks and gardens of Paris warning visitors of ticks, or tiques. Paris isn't known for having ticks, but they have been found in its larger green spaces like the Bois de Vincennes and in the surrounding natural parks where Parisians go for their Sunday hikes, bike rides and picnics. As Lyme disease is a real risk with any tick bite, be sure to do a close inspection after any extended trips to the park with your family or pets, and if you do find one go to your nearest pharmacy to have it correctly removed (they sell the little tongs specially adapted for tick removal). If you see a round, red spot that might be a tick bite (it will look like a "target"), see your doctor. Lyme disease can be prevented if treated with antibiotics immediately. There is no reason to avoid going to the parks, but awareness is essential, so spread the word.  

Sunday
May172015

Secrets of Paris Photos of the Week

These photos were originally posted this week on my Instagram and Twitter accounts. Come follow me! 

On Wednesday I gave a tour of Paris to Crusoe the Celebrity Dachshund. Adorable!

La Défenseur du Temps, in the Quartier de l'Horloge (north of the Centre Pompidou). It used to move every hour, but has been awaiting restoration for almost a decade now. See it working here including the actual sound effects.  

At the end of Crusoe's tour we stopped at a café with the best view of the Eiffel Tower in Paris!

I love foxglove! See here in full bloom at the Jardin de l'Hôtel de Ville

The artists of Lézarts de la Bièvre decorate the neighborhood with street art to celebrate the annual artist atelier open doors the second week of June (this year coming June 13-14).

Pain du Tigre, or "tiger bread" at the Huré Boulangerie, Rue Rambuteau.

The first wild asparagus spotted at the Marché Aguste Blanqui (13th) on Tuesday.

Potatoes from La Noirmoutier at the Marché Auguste Blanqui (13th).

Tuesday
Jan062015

Christmas in France

A guest post by Sharon Autry (click on any photo to see the full size image).

Traveling to France is exciting anytime of the year, but going for Christmas is a vacation you won't soon forget. Paris and all of France dresses for the occasion with lights and decorations which transforms the cities and shopping areas into nothing short of a magical winter wonderland. Having just spent two weeks visiting Paris and Strasbourg, I can say my own decorating skills pale in comparison; the French know how to do it up big!

My Christmas journey began in Paris and took me through the decorated cobblestone streets where the shopkeepers put on their best look for the holiday. I visited several churches to see the Nativity scenes, and then strolled through Luxembourg Gardens. They’re sleeping until spring, but the Medici Fountain is a still beautiful even in the throes of winter.

I have been to Paris before and each time I stood UNDER the Eiffel Tower but never could convince myself to go up into it. This time I decided I would see what all the fuss was about. I highly recommend taking the elevator up because unless you carry an extra pair of legs with you, it will be a long way up and quite a muscle workout. The view from the tower – even just the second level -- cannot be beat: all of Paris is at your feet!

I took a daytrip one hour south of the city to the Chateau Vaux-Le-Vicomte, an absolute must see on your Christmas itinerary. There is nothing to compare the exquisite decorations in each and every room. If you're looking for inspirational holiday decorating ideas for your own home, this is the crème de la crème. The current owners live on the grounds in a different part of the château and as I toured the gardens and the rooms I couldn’t help but envy them for living in such a magical place.

There is a growing anticipation, I am told, every year when the private Musée des Arts Forains (aka Museum of Carnival Arts) opens to the public for the holidays. I was there when the doors opened and I can understand the enthusiastic crowds because this was one man's collection of antique carnival rides, memorabilia, statues and fun games of chance (which you can play).

The main draw of France for me was the idea of visiting the many Christmas markets that are everywhere, filled with regional foods, mulled wine, pastries and those coveted ornaments and decorations that you just can't find anywhere else. I browsed through quite a few in Paris, including the large one along the Champs Élyseés with its magical lights and people going about their gift shopping. But the ultimate destination was to Strasbourg for three days of shopping, sightseeing and soaking up the Christmas atmosphere.

Strasbourg is called the Capital of Christmas, and for good reason: the very first Christmas Market opened there in 1570. Today there are actually 11 markets spread out throughout the town, and in between them every single inch of the town is decorated with lights and ornaments, including the streets, alleyways and buildings. In the main square is the largest Christmas tree in all of Europe! Standing watch at the center of it all is the magnificent Strasbourg Cathedral. If you are a brave soul and want to experience the town and all the surrounding landscape, you can walk up the 333 steps to the top of the cathedral’s tower and enjoy the view.

While in Strasbourg, I visited the Strasbourg Historical Museum that told the story of the region from the Roman times through the Middle Ages and the French Revolution. A newly opened section highlights the struggle the Alsatians endured when they were annexed to Prussia in 1871 and then occupied in WWII by the German Army. I also visited the Alsatian Museum of Art and Folk Tradition, which shares the unique heritage of the Alsatian people. I highly recommend seeing both of these.

Even with the chilly, wet weather, both Paris and Strasbourg are worth a visit during the holidays when they’re full of Christmas cheer in every shop, restaurant, museum and outdoor market. Come with your warmest mittens and an appetite for mulled wine and foie gras!

Sharon Autry lives in Gettysburg, PA, where she takes photos of the historic battlefields for her website Gettysburg Beat