If you are keen on learning more about the world’s cultures, head to the Musée départemental Albert Khan, where you can browse the ‘Archives de la Planète’, an amazing collection of 72,000 autochrome photographs (the forerunner of colour photos) and view over one hundred hours of film documenting everyday life in fifty-odd countries in the early 20th century (the museum is currently closed for renovation work and will re-open in September 2018).
Another must-see is the Musée du Quai Branly–Jacques Chirac, which showcases tribal art from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. And the Louvre has a special section devoted to masterpieces from ancient civilizations around the world.
A true crossroads of East and West, the Institut du Monde Arabe is internationally recognized for its work promoting the culture of the Arab world. The Institut des Cultures d’Islam also organizes a number of cultural events. The Musée de La Bible et Terre Sainte displays no fewer than 3,000 thousand-year-old artefacts from the Middle East.
Asian art also has a prominent place in Paris. The Musée Cernuschi, nestled within an opulent private mansion, has an outstanding collection of paintings from the Far East and ancient Chinese art. The Musée Guimet retraces five thousand years of history in Asian countries from India to Japan, and its temporary exhibitions are always well worth visiting. A superb collection of 19th-century Far Eastern art can be admired at the Musée Ennery, a townhouse owned by collectors with a passion for Chinese and Japanese art.
Those interested in contemporary history should plan a visit to the Musée de l’histoire de l’immigration, which tells the story of 200 years of immigration to France through fascinating documents that had never previously been displayed. At the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme, many of the exhibitions on the programme are devoted to the diversity of Jewish culture around the world.
With the family
At the Institut du Monde Arabe, the little ones will have plenty to keep them busy. Art and craft workshops for all the family are often organized, in line with the theme of whatever temporary exhibition is currently on. And when the Heure du conte (story time) rolls around, the children’s multimedia library comes alive with the fascinating legends of Arab and Islamic civilization.
The ‘folktale’ tours at the Musée du Quai Branly–Jacques Chirac give both children and adults a grasp of the oral traditions of the earliest civilizations. Guided tours, workshops and free activities for all the family are regularly organized here.You can admire Silk Road treasures in Paris at the Musée Guimet, which issues activity booklets packed with games (to pick up at the museum or download) that kids can use to lead their parents on a tour of the museum – a fun way to visit the collections.
At the Musée Cernuschi, families can sign up for drawing workshops and guided tours with activities, while adults can watch demonstrations of calligraphy and Chinese painting.
The Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme will be handing out ‘family backpacks’ from October 2018 to give added interest to tours for kids over 3 years old. Guided tours and workshops are also available.
At the Musée de l’histoire de l’immigration, children will enjoy the craft workshops, monthly movie for juniors and reading sessions.
The Louvre organizes activity trails for kids, and there are tours geared specially to children at the Cité de la Musique, the Musée de l’Homme and the Philharmonie de Paris.
Unusual places that are well worth visiting
Some places of worship have striking architecture or features, and bear witness to the diversity of religions practiced in Greater Paris, starting with the biggest Buddha in Europe – an entirely gilded statue inside the Grande Pagode de Vincennes. It is also worth making the trip out to Evry for a glimpse of the Pagode Khánh-Anh: a jewel of Vietnamese architecture and the biggest pagoda in Europe. The Pagode Chua Tinh Tam in Sèvres is an oasis of calm, with sacred relics housed in the uppermost terrace. The Linh Son temple in Joinville-le-Pont and the Buddhist temple in Vitry-sur-Seine are also worth a visit.
With three imposing domes, the Sikh gurudwara in Bobigny is the largest one of its kind in France, and is frequented by worshippers hailing from the Punjab in India. In Choisy-le-Roi, the Sri Ashtalakshmi temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Krishna, one of the most popular Indian divinities.
Paris also has a large number of Orthodox churches. The newly-built Cathédrale de la Sainte Trinité at the foot of the Pont de l’Alma is a Russian spiritual and cultural centre. The Alexandre-Nevsky Cathedral, an older Russian Orthodox church, was built in the neo-Byzantine style. In Boulogne, the Église Saint-Nicolas-le-Thaumaturge is a historical reminder of Russian immigration to Paris following the 1917 revolution.
In the 5th arrondissement, visitors step across the threshold of the Grande Mosquée de Paris and are transported into the Orient. With prayer halls built in the Hispanic-Moorish style of architecture, a tea room and a hammam, this is a slice of paradise in the heart of Paris.
The Armenian Church in Alfortville, the Saint Etienne Greek Orthodox Cathedral, the Serbian Orthodox Church of Saint-Sava, the American Cathedral … Paris is home to the churches of different Christian denominations, and they are well worth seeing.
Institutes, cultural centres and gardens
Go along and have a browse in the beautiful library at the Centre culturel suisse (Swiss Cultural Centre); explore the rich cultural heritage of Spanish-speaking countries at the Institut Cervantes; stroll through the gallery-cum-shop at the Institut Finlandais to discover promising new Finnish artists, and attend a jazz concert at the Centre Tchèque (Czech Centre): cultural institutes in Paris offer many interesting activities.
The Institut Suédois (Sweden), Institut Wallonie-Bruxelles (French-speaking Belgium), the Maison des cultures du Japon (Japan) and the Mona Bismarck American Center actively promote the contemporary art of the cultures they represent. The Maison de la culture arménienne in Alfortville is devoted to promoting the cultural heritage of the Armenian community.
Paris gardens also serve as a showcase for many international cultures. In Alfortville, the Chinagora hotel complex is set within a magnificent garden known as the ‘Jardin des Neuf Dragons’ (garden of the nine dragons). The Jardin du musée Albert-Khan, a listed monument, has 7 types of gardens featuring essences from around the world over a 4-hectare expanse (currently closed for renovation work: to re-open in September 2018). The grounds of the Cité Internationale Universitaire are an unusual place for a stroll amid 40 buildings, each representing a different country, with the added attraction of a charming Japanese garden.
The Japanese garden at the Musée Guimet’s Panthéon-bouddhique (Buddhist pantheon) building; the Jardin des serres d’Auteuil, a botanical garden planted with Mediterranean and Japanese plants; the Jardin d’Agronomie Tropicale with its lush vegetation nearly concealing the relics of the 1907 colonial exhibition, the imposing Siberian and Canadian trees at the Jardin de l’arboretum de Breuil and the tropical greenhouses at the Jardin des Plantes, where the luxuriant plant life of New Caledonia flourishes: Paris has no lack of places where you can admire plants from around the world!