Crazy architecture and a huge park – we visit the Paris ‘Cité universitaire’

If you arrive in Paris at Orly airport and take the direct train to our hotels, you’ll go through a station called Cité Universitaire.

But Cité Universitaire isn’t just a station, it’s an actual place with accommodation for 6,000 students, built between the 1920s and the 1960s. Each of the forty buildings is in the style of the country it represents, and sits in a leafy 34-hectare park. Some are now listed monuments!

It’s a place that not every visitor to the city knows. We decided to go down there and show you this extraordinary collection of incredible buildings.

La Cité internationale universitaire de Paris
photos : JasonW

The idea for Cité Universitaire came at the end of the 1920s, in a sprit of pacifism, hoping to bring together students of different nations after the First World War. At the time, Paris was severely lacking in student accommodation, and the first building for 350 students was finished in 1925, on a large site of green parkland.

Initially the buildings were limited to four floors, but this was soon raised to ten, and in less than fifteen years, nineteen ‘houses’ were constructed, often in styles showing the architectural exuberance that characterised the period between the two World Wars. Le Corbusier designed the Swiss pavilion and co-designed the Maison du Brésil. Both are now listed monuments, as are the Dutch College and the Fondation Émile et Louise Deutsch de la Meurthe.

You’ll be able to find all these buildings (and perhaps the one from your country!) with the clear on-site signage.

Upon arrival, the first building you’ll see is the Maison Internationale, built thanks to a donation from John Rockefeller Jr. The building houses a large swimming pool in the basement, and a generously sized library. The Cité also has a very active theatre.
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We advise you to go at the weekend and see each building from the exterior – already quite interesting – or wait for Open House Weekend in September, when more buildings are accessible and there are presentations on the history of each.

Whatever you decide, walking round the site is like an architectural trip around the world, with very different styles an sizes of buildings, dating from 1925 to 1969. A unique experience, and one that many visitors to Paris very probably miss.
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The Cité internationale universitaire de Paris (ici) is open every day from 8am-10pm

Admission: 6€ / 10€ (Sunday)

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To check out all our photos of the Cité Universitaire, simply click here.

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