However, there are no croissants or impressionists to be found; instead, you’ll find doughy cinnamon buns and glossy photographs of Borås, Västergötland in western Sweden. Bienvenue to the Centre Culturel Suédois or the Swedish Cultural Center.
The Centre Culturel Suédois occupies a three-story sixteenth-century house with a courtyard in the third arrondissement. Exterior architectural details like ornate banisters, ground bricks and lampposts are consistent with this building’s location in the historic heart of Paris.
The Centre uses minimalist interior design to convey the Swedish mentality, capitalizing on a great cultural clash. First stop for most visitors: the Centre’s café. The décor looks like a page torn from an Ikea catalogue, with picnic tables, striped tablecloths, curvy veneer chairs and paper lanterns. The white plaster walls and high ceiling created a calm atmosphere, setting the Café Suédois apart from the cluttered and squished cafés otherwise found in the area. On the weekends, a chatty and hip crowd fills every spot on the wooden benches and the bar stools lining the wall.
The short and reasonably-priced menu includes homemade soup, sandwiches and pastries prepared with fresh ingredients put together in the Swedish way. The thirsty passerby can purchase tea, coffee, hot chocolate and beer, and other seasonal treats. In the winter, guests sip on Glügg, hot red wine, served with nuts, raisins and gingerbread cookies, for three euros. The café also has a cookbook for sale for those who’d like to try their hands at some Swedish recipes.
The Swedish experience continues with two gallery spaces and a small permanent collection. The well-lit and clean galleries showcase the work of contemporary Nordic artists. The Institut Tessin, situated on the second floor of the building, contains pieces from the seventeenth to twentieth centuries, illustrating French-Swedish artistic relations throughout time.
The Centre Culturel Suédois holds language classes, well-attended concerts and book readings, as well. It’s the only Swedish cultural center abroad, so on your next Parisian vacation, forego the flight to Stockholm and pop into this perfect opposition of exterior and interior architecture.