Don’t be scared! This intricately carved doorway fronts the former mansion of French opera singer Anna Judic. Built in 1883 by architect Jacques Drevet and sculptor Georges Trugard, this building hides in plain sight, at the end of of a quiet dead-end street. The carvings were inspired by the French Renaissance and include chimeras, sphinxes, snakes and plants. The stained glass window above the door was designed by Charles Champigneulle and inspired by the meeting of Anthony and Cleopatra. The original can be found at Palazzo Labia in Venice.
The squirrels here have been picking away at this fruit bowl since 1870! Burrow among the cell phone stores and fast food joints and you’ll find some more funky old doors on this street. This block is very close to the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette stop on Metro line 12. The church is beautiful, but it’s different than Paris’s top tourist destination, Notre Dame, also featured in this article (below).
Dating back to the 1880s, these ‘sister’ doors are located only a few meters away from each other on the understated Rue Condorcet in the 9th. In-between you can get your photography groove on at the local Leica store, Elle et Lui, or pick up some vintage designer duds at Chezel. So Parisian!
Cherubic angels and a stern-looking mother figure overlook this door in the 9th arrondissement. Were they being naughty? Built in 1858, this apartment building was home to the atelier of French painter Jean-Joseph Bellel. Surely that door inspired some of the works he presented to Napoleon III. Mere steps away, you can ‘eat dessert first’ at the only restaurant where the entire menu resembles classic French patisseries: Privé de Dessert. My, how the times have changed since the 1850s!
Just across the street from the Pigalle metro station, pay close attention and you will catch a glimpse of the beautiful, but private, Rue Alfred Stevens. Wander down the alley if you dare, past the back doors of the music stores that line it and you will be rewarded with a Beaux Arts-style fountain as well. All of this dates back to 1906 and was formerly owned by the Belgian artist Alfred Stevens. He was known for painting ‘elegant modern women’…of the 19th century, that is! Even today it houses an art gallery, ironically known as Galerie ART Aujourd’Hui.
This door with the scary mascaron on top is located on a side street in Montmartre, not far from where Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and Picasso used to hang out. And that’s not a typo. These architectural half-human, half-animal forms were traditionally used to ward off evil spirits and make sure they didn’t enter the home. Taking a page from ancient Greek history (Medusa, specifically), mascarons made it to Paris during the 16th century and have been giving people the ‘evil eye’ ever since!
Paris’s most visited landmark, Cathédral Notre Dame de Paris, boasts beautiful gothic architecture (don’t miss the funky gargoyles!) dating back to 1163. There were four major architectural periods during the ensuing centuries and it was officially completed in 1864. The last major restoration project was completed in the early 2000s. Notre Dame has stood the test of time and accommodates over 13 million visitors annually. While your friends are waiting on the long line to get in (it’s free, hence it’s #1 tourist status), run ahead and take a good look at the intricately detailed doors. Pictured here are scenes depicting ‘The Portal of the Last Judgement,’ as described in the Gospel of Saint Matthew.
Behind this beautifully carved door ‘hides’ the Hôtel de Chambon, otherwise known as the home of legendary French actor/restaurateur/wine-maker/fish-monger, Gérard Depardieu. Built in 1805 by Davia, the entire property is 1800 square meters, and boasts an indoor pool, large backyard garden/patio and 10 bedrooms! Monsieur Depardieu purchased the property in 2003 (for a cool 25 million!) and had the help of interior designer Jacques Garcia to ‘make it his own.’ The French artiste plasticien Bernard Quentin created the exterior door out of Corten (weather resistant) steel in an ‘homage to Confucius’ and used elements of his own ‘Babelweb’ language of pictorial symbols. The devil is in the details, and it’s now up for sale. If you’ve got 50 Million Euros hanging around, it could be all yours!
After admiring these naked angels, grab a cuppa at Palais Des Thés or shop for a new apartment at Paris Seine. It will only set you back a cool million Euros; chump change! Something a bit stiffer than tea may now be in order, so head on over to Le Vin En Bouche for a delightful glass of wine, or two. Around the corner is Le Bon Marché, if you’ve still got cash to burn!
It almost feels like Christopher Columbus is staring at those who pass by this former atelier (workshop) of the French painter Édouard Georges Mac’Avoy. He worked here from 1934 – 1991 and painted many celebrities in the early 20th century, including Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau. But his most famous work was of the controversial author Henry de Montherlant. Mac’Avoy had the dubious pleasure of being the last one to see Montherlant alive, just before his suicide in 1972. Who knew what kind of Pandora’s box this door would open?
According to Phil Rosenthal on his show ‘I’ll Have What Phil’s Having,’ the best croissants in Paris can be found at Blé Sucré. A confirmation of that assertion was definitely in order, so we went on a ‘pilgrimage’ to the 12th arrondissement. And….Phil was spot-on! After tasting these buttery bites of heaven-on-earth, it was necessary to walk them off, before the calories permanently settled onto the hip-thigh region. Fortunately, the surrounding neighborhood provided ample exercise opportunities and some beautiful architecture as well. The grapes over the door of this 1910 building will make you want to search for the best vin rouge next!
There is something very sad and haunting about the ‘Crying Angel’ that looks down over this doorway. It was just after photographing this door that the news of David Bowie’s death broke. Definitely cause for tears. Over a century of dirt has streamed down the angel’s face, making it look like she’s crying. Rumor has it that this door décor could actually represent a ‘funeral angel,’ as the building was commissioned in 1901 by the Fontaine widow. It was completed by the architect Henri Ragache in 1902 and constructed in the Art Nouveau style. More glorious details like the vines crawling down the side of the door make this door worthy of a visit!
This charming red brick building with the green door and plants in front is strikingly different from the rest of the buildings on Rue Pétel. It almost feels like you’re back in 1830s Paris, until you notice the plethora of motorcycles parked on the street! Conveniently, it’s right around the corner from the Mairie du 15ème (the Town Hall of the 15th arrondissement). If you’re lucky, you will see some brides walking down the street. Throw some confetti their way!
Located down a side street in the 14th arrondissement, this ‘hidden’ building, dating from the year 1900, is currently home to several young Parisian artists. Creativity knows no bounds!
Is it mermaids or genies coming out of their bottles? You decide! Designed by M. Rouillère in 1899, this Art Nouveau building has two beautiful (and half-naked!) women smiling coyly down on Rue d’Alesia. But it’s not just form over function here. These lovely ladies also act as caryatids, which is the architectural art of using female sculptures to replace columns to support a building. Teenage boys rejoice!
One might call this the most outrageously, over-the-top Art Nouveau building in all of Paris! Constructed in 1901 in by architect Jules Lavirotte and ceramist Alexandre Bigot, there are so many playful and overtly sexual themes throughout that Freud would have a field day here! It was quite the shocker back then and it won the ‘Prize of Façades of the City of Paris’ in 1903. Take a close look at the shape of the inside of the door. Yep, it’s exactly what you think it is. That’s also referenced by the bronze lizard ‘handle’ and evidently by the design of the corridor and the courtyard (can you finagle an invite inside to see them?). Don’t forget about ‘Adam and Eve.’ Eve’s definitely smirking, while Adam’s looking down, trying to figure out what’s ‘up,’ pun intended! If you are lucky enough to visit in person, definitely look above the door. This seven-story building is covered with colorful ceramic bulls, beetles and flowers. Even the architect’s wife made the grade.
The École Militaire is just what it sounds like: a French military school. However, this one was commissioned in 1750 by Louis XV, as a place to train impoverished young nobles. The École Militaire displays elements of Neoclassical and Beaux-Arts architecture, especially that funky mascaron and dragons over the door! The most famous student? Napoleon Bonaparte, of course. You can find his tomb at the Invalides right down the street. Today the École de Guerre (War School) and the Institute des Hautes Études de Défense Nationale (IHEDN) are housed here. And if you turn around, you will have an amazing view of La Tour Eiffel and the Champ de Mars!
Fortunately, you won’t turn to stone when you look at the Medusa heads on this door! On a stroll through the hipster Marais, you can find this tricked out doorway, leading to the Hôtel Amelot Bisseuil. It’s decorated with Medusa heads, Goddesses of Love and even the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. Built in 1660 by the architect Pierre Cottard, the intricate door décor is courtesy of Thomas Regnaudin. A buddy of Louis XIV, Regnaudin is also famous for his statues in the Appollo Gallery at the Louvre and at Châteaux de Versailles. Fortunately, you won’t have to wait in any lines to see his work here!
Located in the both ancient and youthful Latin Quarter, this door features a boy and girl huddling together as part of the ‘Street Children’ series by street artist Seth (aka Julien Malland). It certainly is eye catching! Drop by the Saint-Étienne-du-Mont church at Place Saint-Geneviève afterwards to see the door from Midnight in Paris!
This door was featured in the movie Midnight in Paris. When Owen Wilson, as Gil, received an invitation from the mysterious Peugeot to go back in time, he was sitting on the steps in front church Saint-Étienne-du-Mont. Visit and go on your own version of time travel with the Lost Generation through the historic Latin Quarter!
If you’re still hanging out in the Latin Quarter after visiting Rue Moueffetard and Saint-Étienne-du-Mont at Place Saint-Geneviève, make sure to head down the street and visit The Panthéon. This Neoclassical building, formerly a church, was constructed during the mid-late 18th century, on the orders of King Louis XV. Let’s just say this: there’s a reason it reminds everyone of The Panthéon in Rome…because that was the inspiration! Just like in Rome, there are domed ceilings on the inside and Roman columns outside. Before entering the crypts (famous authors such as Alexandre Dumas, Émile Zola and Victor Hugo are buried there) you will descend into narrow, high-ceilinged walkway. On a sunny day, the doors cast long and lazy shadows on the floor, creating their own kind of art.
Debauchery and decadence ensued behind this behind this Italian Renaissance styled-door along the Champs-Élysées! The famous courtesan La Païva (née Esther Lachman) moved up in the world by marrying royalty multiple times. One of her marriages, to the Portuguese Marquis de la Païva, afforded her the opportunity to build this mansion in 1865. Over the years, she, as well as other ‘high class ladies of the night’ entertained wealthy aristocrats and businessmen here. Evidently the bathrooms are quite erotic (the bathtubs were filled with milk and champagne) and there is also a famous hand-carved staircase made out of yellow onyx. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall! Since 1903, it has been home to the Travelers Club, an elite private members only club.
Before the development of electronic entrance systems, many fine Parisian homes used large iron, bronze and brass door knockers. Back in ancient Greece, they used to have slaves chained to doors with short iron bars. Rapping on the bar let the homeowner know they had visitors. Door knockers evolved into a more handle-like form over time (sans slaves!) and gave artisans all over the world creative carte blanche to amuse and entertain visitors. This lion’s head door from 1860 is no different and symbolizes strength, power and guardianship. Would you want to mess with this guy?!
Built in 1900, this prestigious door is located in the heart of the 17th arrondissement. This stretch of Avenue de Wagram is lined with Haussmanian architecture in a neighborhood that just screams ‘old money.’ Even though there aren’t any monuments or museums here, it’s only about a 10-minute walk to the Arc de Triomphe. Or, you can shop like a French celebrity at the nearby Marché Poncelet. There, you will find some of the freshest produce, meats, fishes and cheeses in all of Paris. You just need to nab one of those celebs to cook it for you!
This beautiful square in the 17th arrondissement was named after world-renowned French Pianist Marguerite Long. Back in the day, she was buddies with Debussy and Ravel. However, she is best-known for establishing a music school and international competition for violinists and pianists, along with Jacques Thibuad. Of historical significance is the green statue peeking through the gates, which commemorates members of the French Resistance, killed by the Nazis during World War II.
By Ami B. Cadugan
Ami is a transplanted New Yorker who loves discovering the daily quirks of Parisian living. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @amitakesonparis.