Tag Archives: Emmaus

Free Artistic Collaborations in Paris: Your New Wintertime Hangout

Last winter, I spent a lot of money on overpriced cappuccinos just to have an excuse to escape the frosty grayness of Paris and keep my hands warms. Had I known about La Gaîté Lyrique or LE CENTQUATRE, I could have saved money and found cool friends a lot quicker.

La Gaîté Lyrique

Located in the 3rd arrondissement, snug between the Marais, Republique and Grand Boulevards, La Gaîté Lyrique was originally built in 1862 under Baron Haussmann. For 120 years the building served as a popular theater, and even fell under the management of Offenbach for a short time. After a bout of bankruptcy and a few decades of abandonment, the renovated building, an interesting mélange of elegant 19th-century architecture contrasted by new-age décor, reopened in 2010 as a haven for artists to relax, explore, present and reside.

La Gaîté Lyrique offers a multitude of programs, workshops, demonstrations, performances and resources. Popular subjects include technology, digital art, video games, architecture, music, dance, urban culture, street art, graffiti and skating. For independent exploration, their resource center has a small library, free-access computers, study cubicles, comfy couches, and my favorite, a video game center with five stations, each with a large screen television and a game history overview.

On the weekends concerts are held in one of their three performance halls, though these events usually aren’t free. A boutique, three cafés and a bar include other pricier options (thought if you stick with a coffee you’ll be fine). While students may comprise the majority of the population, families, adults and even senior citizens frequent the La Gaîté Lyrique as well (the program Hype(r)Olds is held weekly for women over the age of 77, for example).



In the northeast of Paris, up near La Villete, LE CENTQUATRE encourages emerging art of all forms,

providing space for creation, presentation and residence. Though it served as the city’s main funeral parlor for over 120 years, the revamped glass, brick and iron building has an open layout flooded with natural light that is anything but dark and discouraging.

Temporary exhibitions and performances are hosted on nights and weekends, but anyone can assemble a gathering during the day. Sit on one of many lounge chairs to watch break-dancers, hoolahoopers, jugglers and yogis practicing, or join in yourself. A certified teacher holds free qi qong sessions every Saturday morning.

A high-end restaurant, a cozy café, a pizza truck and an epicerie will likely satisfy any food cravings you’d have. Similarly, an art-focused bookshop, free book exchange cabin and a very chic Emmaüs will feed your appetite for hip retro clothing, knick-knacks or coffee table literature.

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Affordable Shopping in Paris

Walking around Saint-Germain-des-Prés on a warm spring afternoon with barely 10€ in my wallet, dozens of boutiques tempt me with their superfluous indulgences: chocolates, wines, cheeses, spices, olive oils, shoes, books, hats, scarves, antiques…almost anything conceivable has a boutique dedicated to it in Paris. I swoon over a shop stacked with handcrafted teakettles, declaring to myself that I need to splurge and buy one…until I turn the pot over and realize its artisanal craftsmanship costs 150€. Sometimes in Paris even window-shopping seems too expensive.


While I appreciate the authenticity and excellence these boutiques provide, it’s hard not to miss the inexpensive (albeit mass-produced and unoriginal) items sold by Walmart or Target, more affordable to a post-college grad like myself. And although I can prevent myself from buying outrageously priced teapots, a 5€ chocolate pastry is more difficult to resist. So in order to keep my budget in check, when it comes to shopping for clothes, toiletries or home goods, I need to stay determinedly frugal and creative.

Here are the best bargains I’ve uncovered in Paris to date:


HEMA, a Dutch-based discount store, is one of the few places in France that sells a mixture of home goods, clothes,toiletries and food at affordable prices. The style is as chic as IKEA, though the inventory has slightly less quality. Still, it’s a great place for young adults buying their first apartment or students crammed into dormitories to find the same look at a reduced price. About a dozen are scattered throughout the city.

Clothes and Home Goods

Since it’s creation in 1985, the Emmaus organization and its boutiques have employed financially distressed or recovering individuals as one of their many tactics to fight against poverty. Items donated to the store are cleaned, fixed or upcycled if necessary, and sold at very low prices. Many locations exist, and each boutique is set up differently. This large variety causes the stores to lack consistency, but with enough time and patience a desired will turn up eventually. Emmaus often holds special events, dedicating a store solely to one type of item (shoes, books, kitchenware) for a day. I recommend getting there early—Emmaus is a local favorite. A list of my preferred locations is below. 

  • 5 Rue Curial – Metro Riquet – the best of the Emmaus Boutiques, located inside the interesting and artistic Cent-Quatre, is great for finding both vintage and brand-name items
  • 4 Passage de Flandre – Metro Riquet – across the street from the Cent-Quatre, this shop has a large selection of furniture, books and decorations
  • 54 Rue de Charonne– Metro Ledru-Rollin – great for shoe or book shopping
  • 191 Rue Alesia – Metro Plaisance – clothes only

Thrift Shops

Free ‘P’ Star – Metros Hotel de Ville and Saint Paul – three locations in the heart of Paris. Loved by hipsters and fashionistas alike, the clothes are quirky and trendy, the majority of which cost less than 20€. My favorite: bins overflowing with clothes and scarves for 1€ apiece. Sure, you may have to pass an hour or so digging for the perfect item, but isn’t it worth it?

By Flowers Vintage – Metro Pigalle – a haphazard mixture of clothing from the mid-1900’s through the 1990’s. The selection is a bit temperamental, with chic pieces and eclectic oddities ranging from cheap to expensive. The clientele is a busy mixture of tourists and regulars, so hitting the shop on a weekday morning would be best.

Guerrisol – Metro Place de Clichy – while often disorganized, Guerrisol offers a large variety of clothes in good shape and not at all expensive. Guerrisol offers clothes for all ages, so it may be more difficult to find a more fashionable piece when searching through the racks.


With nearly a hundred markets to choose from, it’s never hard to find fresh food in Paris.  Covered markets are open permanently, while the open-air markets usually set up several mornings a week. Bonus: markets usually have several stands selling eclectic merchandise and others hold mini flea markets. Find a complete list of markets by arrondissement here.

Feel free to post your own affordable discoveries in the comments!

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