Travel tales

A taste of Morocco at the Grande Mosquée de Paris

The Grand Mosquee de Paris

After spending last autumn in Paris, I’ve done most of the famous sights, so am always on the lookout for unusual and interesting things to see in the city. So when I came across some photos of a hidden Moroccan-style courtyard garden in the middle of Paris, I had to go and check it out on my last trip. Located in the 5th arrondissement, the Grande Mosquée de Paris is just across the street from the Jardin des Plantes. It’s one of Europe’s biggest mosques and was the first one ever built in France. It was constructed in the 1920s by the French Government as a sign of gratitude to the tirailleurs – over 100,000 Muslims from the North African French colonies who died fighting as infantry soldiers in the First World War. It was also later used as a refuge by Jews and resistance fighters during the Second World War.

Grand Mosque in Paris

The Grande Mosquée’s Minaret

The mosque’s designers took their inspiration from Morocco and Tunisia, with the design of the Minaret based on one in Fez. From outside you can’t see much other than the tower, with a lack of windows and doorways keeping the inside a mystery. But as soon as you go through the main arched doorway it feels like you’ve been magically transported from Paris to North Africa.

Paris mosque gardens

The hidden oasis in the Grande Mosquée de Paris

Every day but Friday, visitors can walk around the public areas and gardens of the mosque. The main courtyard is built of bright white marble, with arched walkways leading around the edges. The prayer hall leads off this courtyard, but is only accessible to Muslims. You can still take a closer look at the design details here though, like the wooden carvings and wrought iron which were brought over from Morocco, and the brightly coloured geometric patterned mosaics. There’s hardly any space on the walls which isn’t covered by some sort of intricate carving or decoration.

Geometric tiles

Some of the geometric patterned mosaics

But it’s the central garden that’s the star. After going through another doorway, you emerge into a green oasis full of trees and flowers. Even on an August day the gardens were almost empty, with only a few visitors sitting reading or soaking up the sun and the peaceful atmosphere. Two pools lie along one side and are surrounded by mosaics and terracotta pots, and the central fountains stand in a sea of bright turquoise floor tiles that almost look like a pool of water underneath your feet.

Paris mosque fountain

Fountains in the mosque’s gardens

Once you’ve seen enough of the mosque, you can keep the North African feeling going in their café. It’s also decorated with colourful tiles and has gleaming brass tables amongst fig trees. Waiters pour mint tea from up high in the true Moroccan style, and you can choose from piles of sticky honey and nut pastries.

Mosque pools

Pools in the mosque’s central gardens

The tearoom has been so popular with Parisians that the mosque has expanded it into a restaurant that serves up Moroccan specialities like fragrant tagines and steaming piles of couscous. So after eating, drinking and sightseeing North African-style, it feels strange to emerge back out onto the streets of Paris and realise that you’re still in France.

The Grand Mosquee de Paris

The central gardens of the mosque

The details

The Grande Mosquée de Paris is in Place du Puits de l’Ermite. You can tour the gardens and courtyards from 9am–12pm and 2pm–6pm (7pm in summer), except Fridays and Muslim holidays. Entry costs €3 per person. The restaurant and tea room are open every day, with the tea room open 9am–11.30pm and the restaurant open for lunch and dinner. There’s also a women-only hamman, open 10am–9pm except Tuesdays.

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A taste of Morocco at the Grande Mosquée de Paris – On the Luce travel blog

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29 Comments

  • Reply
    Browsing the Atlas
    August 24, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    This is so bizarre. Looking at your pictures, I’d never dream I was seeing shots taken in Paris. I definitely didn’t stumble upon that when I was there. Very pretty. Maybe next time.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      August 25, 2012 at 11:01 am

      Amazing isn’t it – I saw a blog post about this place a while back and knew I had to come and see it for myself, and it was just as lovely as I imagined.

  • Reply
    Madhu
    August 24, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    We meant to go, but ran short of time on our last vist. The institute Arab monde was another interesting building with a lovely cafe on the top floor with panoramic views!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      August 25, 2012 at 11:03 am

      I’ve been around the outside of the Institut du Monde Arabe with a friend who’s an architect and wanted to go check it out, but didn’t make it to the top – good to have a few things lined up for my next Paris trip!

  • Reply
    missmadaboutravel
    August 24, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    It’s beautiful! I’ll make sure to visit on my next trip to Paris 😉

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      August 25, 2012 at 11:04 am

      Thanks, it’s well worth the visit to see a really different side of Paris.

  • Reply
    Christina
    August 24, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Wow,this is pure magic! :)) I love mosques 🙂 and this one is more than loveable

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      August 25, 2012 at 11:05 am

      Me too, the mosaics and carvings are always so beautiful and they are such peaceful places.

  • Reply
    restlessjo
    August 24, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    I love that you find such interesting places, Lucy. Lovely pics, as usual.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      August 25, 2012 at 11:05 am

      Thanks Jo, I get most of my ideas from other blogs – always a good way to find out interesting things to see and do!

  • Reply
    Gerard
    August 24, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    Wow! I feel like I just took a nice trip. You’re a good reporter.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      August 25, 2012 at 11:06 am

      Thanks, it was a bit like visiting two different countries in one day, going from walking along the Seine to feeling like I was in Morocco!

  • Reply
    Math Education Concepts
    August 26, 2012 at 12:10 am

    Stunning!!!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      August 27, 2012 at 2:50 pm

      Thanks, it was such a beautiful and peaceful oasis in the middle of the city.

  • Reply
    Karen Johnson
    August 26, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    What a gorgeous place you found! Thank you for the tour.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      August 27, 2012 at 2:51 pm

      Thanks, I loved all the little details and colours.

  • Reply
    thefrida
    August 26, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Looks absolutley amazing!!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      August 27, 2012 at 2:51 pm

      Thanks, it’s well worth a visit if you’re ever in Paris.

  • Reply
    Diva
    August 26, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    It´s soooo beautifull, incredible, that it shall be in Paris and not in an oriental country!!!!!!! AMAZING!!!!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      August 27, 2012 at 2:52 pm

      Strange isn’t it, you really do feel like you’re abroad!

      • Reply
        Diva
        August 27, 2012 at 2:58 pm

        yes..it´s really strange and that makes it so spectacular! i think i will put it on lists of places to visit soon! 🙂

  • Reply
    marinachetner
    August 27, 2012 at 2:23 am

    Gorgeous! I feel like I know this place, but I don’t. It is so reminiscent to the Getty Villa in Malibu!. Love the tile work – so beautiful

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      August 27, 2012 at 2:45 pm

      Thanks, I never made it to the Getty Villa when I did my California road trip, looks beautiful though, I’ll just have to go back again!

  • Reply
    Jade
    August 27, 2012 at 9:02 am

    What a coincidence! This week-end was the bachelorette party of one of my friends and we took her to the Grande Mosquée’s hammam. We had a wonderful time in there, it’s so relaxing!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      August 27, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      How strange! Glad you enjoyed the hamman, I didn’t have chance to go in this time but will have to try it out when I’m next in Paris.

  • Reply
    Angela
    September 10, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Beautiful pictures, it gives an idea of peace and purity. Looks like the gardens are meant to reproducing the idea of heaven, with green and water.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      September 10, 2012 at 3:15 pm

      Thanks, it was a beautiful place and so peaceful, it’s easy to forget you’re still in the heart of such a busy city!

  • Reply
    anette eggen
    October 12, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    Oh, I wish i saw this the last time i was in paris! Well, i just have too see it the next time i go! After i have been to marrakech! 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      October 15, 2012 at 12:16 pm

      It’s been a few years since I was in Marrakech but this took me right back to Morocco!

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