For a relaxing afternoon in Paris, most people will head to the array of charming parks, either in the centre of the city, like Jardin du Luxembourg, or the larger ones, like Grand Bois, on the outskirts. However, I’d argue no park is as peaceful as the Grande Mosquée de Paris in the 5th arrondissement. Someone recommended I go because it was “beautiful,” but I don’t think that word does this remarkable site justice. It feels like Paradise.
The mosque is the oldest in Paris, having been built in the 1920s in memory of the estimated 100,000 Muslims that died fighting for France in the First World War. Visitors can, at their leisure, walk through the peaceful gardens – full of flowers, fountains, and channels of running water. With the only noises being the steady trickle of water droplets and the singing of birds, it is easy to think you are in a different country altogether. The tiled pathways are reminiscent of far-away lands, and everywhere seems to glitter in the sunlight. The Moorish architecture is stunning, and intricate detail abounds.
In addition to the surrounding gardens, you can wander through a few of the rooms, though of course not the areas reserved for prayer. One spot to note – the mosque hosts an old library.
Grande Mosquée de Paris
The nice thing about being here is that it feels like a community. There are gardeners quietly getting on with their daily work, women chatting and cooking in the kitchen, and of course people meeting here to come and pray. Strangers and old friends are greeted alike.
To end the trip, you should try the café, which is just around the corner from the mosque. Another beautifully tiled area laden with tables and chairs in the sun. Among old, twisted, trees there is a fantastic choice of pastries and of course, mint tea. You can also eat meals here, tajines and couscous being specialities. Buy a cake, and you will also make friends with the many sparrows flitting around in search of a crumb or two…
Address: 2 place du Puits-de-l’Ermite 75005
Métro: Place Monge or Censier-Daubenton
Hours: Open Saturday-Thursday 9am-12pm, 2pm-6pm (closed Fridays and Muslim holidays)
Admission: 3€ (2€ reduced entry)
Address: 39 rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire
Hours: Open daily 9am-midnight