Many cities have been nicknamed the Paris of their country or the surrounding area. Mondo picked six destinations that exude a charmingly Parisian atmosphere.
Riga, the Paris of the Baltic countries
Riga, the capital of Latvia, is oftentimes compared to Paris. And not without good reason – the mansard-roof houses and twisty alleys of the city create a similarly romantic atmosphere that many search for in Paris.
Outside the historic city center, visitors can find beautiful art nouveau buildings and neatly laid out, arrow-straight streets reminiscent of the great boulevards of the French capital.
The British author Graham Greene is considered to be the one who discovered the similarities between Riga and Paris first. In 1934, the writer stopped by in the city for a few hours due to a change of trains. However, he did not find the Parisian character of Riga to be beautiful or romantic, but rather worn out and sad.
Buenos Aires, the Paris of South America
Would you take a look at those baroque decorations – oh là là! And oh my, what a park! When visiting the capital of Argentina, you may at times truly feel like in Paris. The churches and palaces located within the city feature a wide range of European architectural styles from Baroque to Art Deco and Gothic Revival. The same, abundant visual characteristics can also be seen at the famous cemetery of La Recoleta (pictured).
Buenos Aires is especially characterized by its many beautiful parks and squares that were designed by the French-born architect Jules Charles Thays who moved to Argentine at the end of the 19th century.
Many also find the city especially charming due to its cosmopolitan nature and deep, rich history. Buenos Aires is a memorable urban experience, much like London, New York or Paris.
Montreal, the Paris of Canada
Beautiful cathedrals and atmospheric bistros. Trendy city dwellers who greet you with a cool bonjour as they drive by on the back of a scooter. All this you can find in Montreal, one of the most French-speaking cities in the world. More than half of the locals speak French as their first language.
The city’s unique appearance dates back to the 17th century, when the French colonial settlers began to take up residence in the area. Nowadays Montreal is a diverse, charming metropolis with a cultured and relaxed atmosphere. During the summer, the city is brought alive by a large jazz festival, and the locals can often be seen having picnics at the local parks. The beautiful Quebec City is only a couple hours’ drive away. It too has a distinctly European atmosphere, but it’s nowhere as undeniably Parisian as its big brother Montreal.
Turku, the Paris of Finland
With the popular totes reading Varför Paris, vi har ju Åbo (“Why go for Paris when we have Turku”), Turku has established itself as the Paris of Finland.
See for yourself if there is any truth to this claim and take an evening walk on Läntinen Rantakatu between the bridges of Auransilta and Tuomiokirkkosilta. This beach route, which is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and romantic ones on the shores of the river Aura, is definitely reminiscent of Paris. This is the closest you can get to strolling along the Seine without leaving Finland.
An evening walk on the shores of the river Aura is definitely reminiscent of Paris.
Especially during the summer, when the different restaurants’ outdoor terraces open along the beach promenade, the atmosphere is downright idyllic. Take a seat at one of the tables at Café Art and order a coffee made with beans from the local roastery. A good alternative for this is to get French-inspired snacks to go from the cheese shop located in the market hall and find a free bench by the riverside.
The opposite side of the river is not devoid of things worth seeing either, thanks to the charming courtyards and alleys along the Vanha suurtori (Old Great Square). While you are at it, stop by to see the Turku Cathedral, the local Notre Dame.
Shanghai, the Paris of China
Shanghai gained its nickname as the Paris of the Far East and Orient about a hundred years ago. At the time, the city gained a reputation as a metropolis filed with international glamour, shady business and European architecture. The name Shanghai was synonymous with pleasure and decadence – just like Paris.
The city was considered a world-famous center of trade. Companies and other representatives from Britain, France and many other countries erected large buildings in Shanghai, especially in the style of Beaux-Arts. This has left its mark especially on the downtown area along the Huangpu river known as The Bund or Waitan in Chinese (pictured).
The Bund is especially characterized by the classical buildings of international banks and large companies. A long section of the riverfront along with its pedestrian areas feels like someone dropped a piece of early 20th century Paris in the middle of a gigantic Chinese metropolis. On the other side of the river opposite to The Bund lie some of Shanghai’s most iconic modern high-rise buildings. In this area, the atmosphere of the city is crystallized. Here, if you’ve got it, you flaunt it – especially when it comes to wealth.
Shanghai is one of the richest and most international cities in China. Even though the classical European architecture within the city is restricted to a fairly small area, the many shopping streets, museums and restaurants of Shanghai feel both distinctly Chinese and reminiscent of the most modern Western culture at the same time.
Bucharest, the Paris of the East
Prague, Warsaw, Budapest, Istanbul... These are only some of the cities that have been called “the Paris of the East”. One of the most interesting candidates for this title is Bucharest, the capital of Romania.
The city gained its French nickname in the 19th century when numerous French-style buildings were erected in the city. Since then, many of them have been destroyed either by purpose or due to outside influences, and the general look of the city has become rather cold and Soviet. However, you can still see find of the elegant older houses along Calea Victoriei, for example. The city also has a French-style triumphal arch.
There’s another reason for Bucharest’s nickname: in the 19th century, all things French were wildly popular across the country, and the most cultured parts of the elite even traveled to Paris to seek inspiration. These influences can still be seen and heard today in many loan words originating from French, for example. So, when you open your mouth to say thank you, simply say mersi.
Text: Pekka Hiltunen and Valtteri Väkevä Photos: Getty Images
This story was published originally in Mondo's issue 3/22.