I had seen the impressive white building with green tiled roofs from the outside, but never guessed I would ever go inside, mostly because as a non-muslim, I didn’t see any way I would be allowed inside.
One of my English language students suggested we go to the mosque for her last class, since we needed to find a different location than usual. As it turns out, there is a restaurant and cafe that are open to the public. She had been there several times before and loved it.
La Grande Mosquée de Paris is located in the 5th arrondissement next to the Jardin des Plantes. The structure is quite impressive from the outside, and the main entrance for religious activities is on the Western façade (rue Georges Desplas).
We met at the South-Eastern corner, at the intersections of rue Daubenton and rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, where there is an entrance into a courtyard that leads to a restaurant and a Hammam (a spa exclusively for women).
My student, a young woman about my age, told me she had been to the hammam several times and really enjoyed the experience. She said the experience has different stages, from a massage to baths to some extreme form of body-scrubbing. I’m not sure I completely understood the entire process. Being a little skittish of strangers touching my body, I may never try out the wonders of the hammam, but it comes highly recommended from my dear student!
The first space that you see is the terrace seating in the courtyard that leads inside. It’s filled with trees and tables and beautiful tiles.
Once you go up the stairs to the interior, the entrance to the hammam is on the left, next to the pastry station, and then there are two more spaces to choose from where you can sit and drink tea or eat. The first is straight back, and it’s another outdoor courtyard. The second is to the right, and it’s a luxurious space to sit and have tea. There are large comfortable benches and chairs with large round metal tables.
This space seems to wind around behind some booths and meander down a long corridor. It’s filled with more booths and comfortable seating. I imagine it would be a perfect space for a big wedding reception!
There were people in all of the different spaces when we arrived in the late afternoon, though the long (wedding reception) corridor was empty. I’m sure it fills up for dinner though!
Tea and Pastries
We bought our pastries at the pastry counter (2 euros each), and then sat in a booth in the indoor restaurant area. The waiter comes around with tea (there is only one flavor) every few minutes, and you might need to catch his eye. Each glass of tea is 2 euros as well.
The tea is a mint and honey flavor, and the pastries I chose were delicious. My student’s pastries were quite dry, so she didn’t enjoy them as much. My suggestion: if it looks like it might be dripping with honey, pick that one! haha!
The atmosphere was incredibly relaxed and quiet. It was a perfect place for our final English class!
I look forward to going back again and sitting out on the terrace in the beautiful summer weather.