We can all agree that Paris isn’t lacking on the cultural offers.
You could easily spend a lifetime discovering different nooks and crannies, piecing together History and marveling at modern touches.
Although we’re all tempted to stick with the Belle Époque, Haussmannian architecture and Rococo romance – sometimes it’s nice to break with our traditional view and see the city through fresh eyes.
Now who better than the Scandis to give us a bright, fresh and clean take on the city of light?
Paris’ great strength is that of cultural mixity. As a city Paris is cosmopolitan in a way that no other French town or city can beat.
There have been waves of immigration and expatriates flocking to Paris.
Notably Artists, drawn into her orbit for inspiration and community. A famous example would be the American writers in Paris in the interwar years.
The Scandinavians have been represented from a few years back.
I find there are certain cultures the French tend to admire: The Franco-Japanese love affair being a prime example of this.
The Nordics are rated highly by the French for their love of design, aesthetics and food.
Hip thirty somethings with a nostalgia for nature and simpler times are also impressed by the way Scandi culture promotes a gentle and balanced approached to children, family and a healthy outdoor lifestyle.
The Institut Suédois is a well-hidden treasure in the heart of the Marais, tucked behind St Paul metro.
Stepping through the grand doorway, the courtyard greets you with the smell of honeysuckle and a calming ambiance.
You will find the institut itself housed in an impressive hotel particulier. The building, a 16th century mansion and listed building, was purchased by the Swedish State in 1965.
The painted ceilings were painstakingly cared for, after being discovered under plaster during the restoration of the property in the 60s. The sweeping staircase is another impressively grand feature.
Today the institut offers a wide range of exhibitions, both permanent and temporary, as well as platforms and collaboration projects for young artists.
The free to visit permanent exhibition focuses on the dialogue between Swedish and French artists, which were especially notable during the 18th century.
Here you’ll find works from famous Swedish Artists such as Gustaf Lundberg. His portrait of Marie Anne de Bourbon Condé is displayed above.
Turning right as you enter the courtyard, you’re welcomed into the scandi cocoon of their café space, resplendent with a sun trap terrace.
I adore taking a novel or a notebook out with me and setting up camp at one of the tables here, outside or inside depending on the weather.
In terms of eats – best bets are always the delicious homemade cakes, savoury tarts and soups.
Everything has that authentic ‘home cooking’ taste, and you feel really good for eating it. In a world of processed food, this offer at a reasonable price point is an absolute gem.
Note, their tea is brewed quite strong and is unlimited – the Swedes don’t mess around when it comes to Hygge and warming the hearth in the colder months of the year.
In an effort to balance the vibes and avoid an impromptu co-working takeover, laptops are limited to the large middle table.
La Gym Suédoise
Thousands of Parisiennes declare this their absolute favourite form of exercise in Paris.
So how has Swedish sport seduced French females in the capital?
The giveaway is in the name, la gym Suédoise does indeed hail from Sweden, giving it an exotic air.
Parisians are prone to admiring the Scandi savoir faire, so it’s almost a badge of sophistication to declare yourself a disciple of this physical activity imagined by Swedish doctors and physiotherapists.
The original activity was founded by Pehr Henrik Ling in the 19th century.
The classes are pretty simple: An hour long, practiced indoors or outdoors (this really depends on your neighbourhood and the season).
Every session starts with a stretching warm up. Leading onto cardio, (which is why Parisian fans credit la Gym Suédoise with weight loss).
Many moves are dance-inspired, set to music. The idea is to keep things fun and make sport enjoyable. This is largely helped by the fact that classes are very community based – you’ll see your neighbours, the group exercises together, led by a monitor.
Another considerable advantage is that in family friendly parts of town la Gym Suédoise are have crèche facilities, to take care of littles while Maman works on her ligne.
There you have it, the mystery behind the Swedish exercise craze explained! Try it for yourself here.
A Swedish private members club
The Swedes arrived in Paris early. Possibly one of the chicest expatriate groups Le Cercle Suedois has Headquarters overlooking the Tuileries, a stone’s throw away from Place de la Concorde.
This rather grand members club was founded in 1891 as the Svenska Klubben i Paris, making it the oldest Swedish institution abroad.
If you’re curious and fancy rubbing shoulders with the beautiful people, certain of the Cercle Suedois’ events are open to the public, such as Wednesday night’s ‘Rivoli Jazz’.
Their restaurant is open to the public, with a supplementary €10 couvert for non-members. Once that’s settled prices are reasonable, coming in at €30 for a starter, main course and dessert.
Their chef, Henrik Andersson, is also chef at le Fumoir. He enjoys combining French produce and Swedish recipes: Salmon tartare with crème fraîche, dill and capers (€14) and smoked Swedish sausage with marinated beetroot and potatoes in cream (€16), are two of his current offerings.
Here is there website (available in French or Swedish.)
Who says Scandinavian taste, says design.
Here, the Danes do seriously well.
There are several design boutiques beloved by Parisians and visitors.
I’ll list a few favourite finds. As some are quite pricey, you may need to mix and match with the best known bastion of Scandi design, Ikea!
Just this year in 2019 they opened a new flagship store at prestigious Madeleine.
La Boutique Danoise
La Boutique Danoise has shops located at two very smart Parisian addresses :
55 Quai des Grands Augustins, Paris 6
264, Boulevard Saint Germain, Paris 7
The chosen locations give good clues as to the elegance and quality of their stock.
A smart example of Danish Design at its best.
La Boutique Danoise was founded in 1954 by Peter Holm, this is another one with heritage dating back a few years.
I stumbled across their Quai des Grands Augustins address, quite by accident on an idle wander. Since then it has been an inspirational gallery to visit in the neighbourhood.
Why not drop in after a tour of the elegant left bank and Saint Germain?
This exquisite furniture store is however, more than just a shop. It was originally intended as a Danish cultural presence in Paris too.
The Boutique Danoise unites Artists, Artisans and Designers, as well as the Danish Community and Parisians.
As you can see, it’s a must if you’re decorating an apartment with furniture for every room of the home and some very stylish lighting options.
Great gift ideas available at different price points – for him, for her, children or Christmas.
This is hands down my best recommendation, if you love Danish decor but you’re on a budget.
It felt much like a little neighbourhood find when I first discovered this spot.
Overnight, it seemed to pop up on the main thoroughfare next to métro Saint Paul and Starbucks.
I have since learnt the story of a hugely successful brand with six small stores in central Paris, and a seventh out at la Défense.
Despite the numerous branches, the shop has a homely intimate feeling. The store manager in the Marais is Danish, in his forties and impeccably polite.
Classical music is played throughout the shop which favours Garden decor, neutral children’s toys – (including some little teepees I’ve got my eye on) and a great selection of kitchenware, spices and craft materials.
Søstrene Grene, translating to ‘the Grene Sisters’ in English was founded in 1973 in Aarhus, Denmark’s second largest city. The founding couple, Knud Cresten Vaupell Olsen and his wife Inger Grene, wanted to create a space where creative characters would feel at home.
La Maison du Danemark à Paris
By this point you could be forgiven for thinking that the Scandis have snapped up all the best real estate in Paris.
The House of Denmark is to be found at 142 avenue des Champs-Elysées.
This beautiful building houses a range of events and activities, all contribute to promoting Danish culture and savoir faire in Paris.
They want to display Danish excellence across the board – from the Arts to Industry.
Speakers are regularly invited to curate cultural evening events.
Here’s a link to a timetable of their cultural events.
A Danish Dish
In addition to design, the Danes are also rather well known for their food, Copenhagen being a culinary capital.
However, we’re in Paris and the restaurant business has quite some turnover and already boasts a load of local fare, as more exotic offerings.
There aren’t a tonne of Scandinavian restaurants in the French capital, but what the lack in widespread representation, the make up in quality.
This restaurant is exquisitely designed and situated on the Champs Élysées.
What they do, they do very well.
There is a lot of fish. Five of there listed mains include salmon. Their precision as to the provenance and different ways of cooking and presenting, would have the most demanding customer satisfied.
As one might expect, the menu does not shy away from beetroot dill and pickles.
Extra blinis, pickled cucumber, potatoes, and you guessed it more beetroot can be ordered as sides to accompany your salmon platter.
Herrings and tuna also make an appearance, and there are some meat-based mains for those veering away from the pescatarian.
Prices come in a little higher than your average bistrot, did I mention you’re on the Champs Élysées eating fresh fish in the most exquisitely designed setting?
Count about 24-35€ for a main course per person, which would probably come out at about 50 each, once you’ve added a drinks and side or a dessert.
The final forte of Flora Danica is an enviable terrace!
Smörgås at La Trésorie
When the concept furniture shop La Trésorie wanted to add a cafe, they looked at their range of beautiful objects for house and home and noticed a good lot of it came from Scandinavia.
It then transpired as a natural choice to open a Swedish café, specialising in Smörgås served with good artisanal coffee.
Throughout the day, Swedes prepare themselves Smörgås, an open sandwich made from Fresh ingredients. Here, the team go a step further and all the elements of their delicious heaped breads are organic.
In the winter this is accompanied by good coffee or a well brewed tea; in summer a fruit juice.
These healthy and substantial snacks, or light meals are perfect to enjoy whilst out shopping for your home in aesthetic and calming surroundings.
It was a Swedish chef, Svante Forstorp, who imagined and put in place the concept.
The Norwegians in Paris are a little harder to track down. They don’t go in for decor and dinky dishes of gravlax the way their fellow Scandis do.
It seems to me that the projects they found are on the serious side. Cruises, tourism and sustainable energy seem to be areas of interest.
This year the French-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce celebrates its 100 year anniversary this year, founded on August 19, 1919.
It’s the brainchild of a French-Norwegian group of businessmen keen to get things done well and improve commercial and industrial cooperation between their countries.
Nowadays they champion values such as sustainability, cooperation and transformation. Energy is a hot topic.
For more info regarding this Franco-Norwegian collaboration, it’s here.