10 curiosities in Paris to try and find

As you know, there is a lot to do in Paris. You’ve probably heard of many of them – great monuments, museums and former castles, art galleries and shopping, eating and drinking great food.

But what about trying to track down the little curiosities?

1. Le Palais de la Porte Dorée

In the east of Paris, you will find the Palais de la Porte Dorée, which has several interesting things to see. Most strikingly, from the outside, are the intricate sculptural stone reliefs that cover the facade from behind stone columns.

Inside, you’ll find the National Museum of Immigration History, as well as great aquarium that is definitely worth checking out.

A public art display of a red man swimming in a garden
Sculpture of a ‘garden swimmer’, outside le Palais de la Porte Dorée

2. Le Défenseur du Temps (The defender of time)

This is a big, out of order clock hanging on the wall in a small series of sidestreets called le Quartier l’Horloge. There is a warrior fighting a dragon, a rooster and a crab, which would take turns assaulting the clock, and defended by the warrior, in hourly automated weirdness, if it still ran.

In 1979 the massive, 1 ton clock was hung on the wall, albiet in a peculiar, out-of-the-way place. I had to really search for it, hiding in a quiet area now just full of old apartments and printing shops. It’s close to the George Pompidou Centre, but as for exact directions, I can’t really remember, but you should enjoy trying to find it for yourself!

A mechanical sculpture in paris showing a warrior battling animals
Le Défenseur du Temps, a mechanical sculpture
backstreet in paris with a sculpture on the wall
The silhouette of the Defender of Time, showing its size

3. Le Passe Muraille (Passer through the walls)

A great statue on Rue Norvins, 18th Arrondissment, Montmarte. Based on a character concept by author Marcel Ayme (the place is also named after him), the statue’s name is Dutilleul, and has the ability to walk through walls, as you can see, getting up to mischief. It’s actually quite a creepy statue, and being bigger than a real life person, is somewhat daunting. You can grab his gnarled, bony fingers and try and pull him out of the wall, but he’s well and truly stuck. In the end you just polish his bronze hand a little more.

statue of a man walking through a wall
La Passe Muraille emerges out of the bricks
statue of a man walking through a wall with a man interacting
Sorry – I can’t get you out of there!

4. Graffitied signposts

There’s a lot of cool public graffiti splashed across the signposts in Paris, particular in more modern, trendy areas, such as Chatelet, Les Halles, Montmarte and even in Saint-Germain. In the Marais, there is even a shop where you can buy imitation graffitied signs to put on your wall at home.

a stick figure added to a paris street sign
Squashed by the white bar
modified street sign showing a stick figure
The sneaky thief steals a white bar
a paris street sign graffiti with eiffel tower
Falling over, just like in all those disaster movies
modified street sign with a stick figure
Sawing the white bar
a modified street sign with penguins
Watch out for penguins?

5. Jim Morrison’s grave

This might be the most famous item on this list. But actually finding it requires a bit of time and effort, and is a lot of fun.

Jim’s final resting place after his mysterious inaugaration into the 27 club is in Pére Lachaise, a massive cemetery in Paris’s east, with over a million interrants.

The cemetery is a major tourist attraction (the most visited cemetery in the world, actually), and many bewildered map-wielding wanderers amble silently through the grounds, tracking down famous names. I neglected to take a map and found myself horrendously lost.

The grounds themselves are quite peaceful, and the beautifully carved tombs, tapestries of ochre leaf litter and gently swaying trees give a walk in this solemn place a certain serenity. Also buried here are Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Eugène Delacroix, Frédéric Chopin, and many many more.

tomb of jim morrison covered in flowers
Tucked away at the back, Jim Morrison’s grave

6. Video game mosaics

In 1979 the Space Invaders launched their first aerial assault, using sophisticated landing ships to invade and occupy earth. Now, on the street corners of Parisian streets, the attack has switched to a gritty guerilla war. These cool mosaics can be found in lots of places all around Paris, and I must have seen hundreds so far, and judging from the style, come from a range of different artists. The original artist named himself ‘Invader’, and has spawned many copycats. Some are simple pixelated reproductions of the Space Invaders, others more complex, but usually video game themed.

a cartoon artwork made of tiles in paris
A Space Invader on Rue Saint Martin
Leave us alone!
A pixelated video game character

7. A cannonball lodged in a wall

At the Hôtel de Sens, Rue du Figuier, near the Marais, there is a cannonball lodged in the wall. I love thinking about the day it was fired back in 1830. I imagine the almighty explosion when the cannon erupted, to break rock, or enter a window to kill the people inside. But when the well-dressed cannon crew opened their eyes to no effect and uncovered their ears to silence, they saw no destruction, just a ball that stuck in the wall like it was made of dough. They might even have laughed. A bit like when you swing to hit a tennis ball, then that moment of confusion, before you find it lodged in the gap above the handle.

a building in paris with a cannonball
Look carefully to the top right, there’s the little cannonball lodged securely in the brick. There was construction on the building, partially obscuring the little guy, so a closeup didn’t look so great…
a cannonball stuck in a brick wall
A closeup of the cannonwall, with an inscription

8. The fountain at Saint-Germain

Created by artist Guillaume Daudelin, the  l’Embâcle (Ice Jam) fits seamlessly into the pavement, as if it were real. Like a ruptured water pipe breaking loose with pent-up pressure, or a tiny volcano pushing forth, this fountain bursting out of the ground looks as if it is in motion. It’s near the Saint-Germain metro station, at Place du Québec and worth stopping to admire.

an interesting fountain in saint germain
The ‘exploding ground’ fountain in St Germain

9. The museum of comparative anatomy

Cindy and I stumbled across this museum near the Jardin des Plantes, and is something special. Immediately upon entry, we were set upon by a stampede of skeletons, a forest of bone in all shapes and sizes, facing toward the door. Every creature seems to be covered, a group of rhinos on the left flank, giraffes on the right, big cats and elephants in the centre, whales bringing up the rear. Tiny skeletons of mice, snakes and other forest floor dwellers pose in glass cabinets along the walls. Even extinct species like the Tasmanian Tiger are along for the walk of the undead. Upstairs; the dinosaurs and megafauna. The long wooden room creaks under your feet as we walked through it, a sound one might associate with a zombified, walking skeleton…

The stampede
Whale skeleton
Sarcosuchus, the massive prehistoric crocodile, and Cindy, thankful that the creature is long dead.
A dodo skeleton

10. Julian Aurouze pest control

This pest control store named Julian Aurouze can be found just above Chatelet metro station, on Rue des Halles.

The weird front window is filled with dead rat corpses; perhaps a deterrant to any critters brave enough to look in the window; maybe a grisly showcase of the pest control effectiveness, or perhaps a reminder of the longevity of this old fashioned store (opened in 1872, rats on display since 1925). The shop was animated for the Disney movie Ratatoullie, and there are posters inside to brag.

Hmmmm
The unlucky ones…
‘destruction of the noxious animals’

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