It's impossible to picture France as anything other than the home of the Eiffel Tower and great wine. However, while famous for its beautiful structures, historical cities, and sprawling vineyards, France is also full of strange things that will leave any visitor reeling and double-taking.
From bizarre wax museums to castles for pigeons, France is full of the unexpected and will delight (or frighten) any visitor who happens upon these peculiarities.
10 Dodo Manège
Carousels are a common sight in amusement parks, zoos, and city centers. However, the Dodo Manège, also known as the Carousel of Extinct and Endangered Species, moves the lighthearted playfulness of a carousel to a new level as it is only populated by animals that can no longer be seen walking the earth (or those that may soon join that group).
The carousel is covered by extinct, hard-to-pronounce animals such as the sivatherium, thylacine, and the glyptodon, which are meant to stimulate an awareness of animal extinction as carousel-goers join them for a whimsical moment.
9 Museum of Vampires and Legendary Creatures
A scholar of the undead started this grisly museum with ancient texts, vampire toys, relics, and even a vampire killing kit.
All of the objects are accompanied by the stories that the scholar, Jacques Sirgent, will tell to all who enter to experience the museum. While not as grand as the history and art museums of Paris, the museum will entertain every visitor nonetheless.
8 Labyrinthe des Dragons
Designed by one of the most famous maze designers in the world, this grand maze, located 45 minutes south of Lyon, France, may leave visitors wandering for hours through its various twists and turns, all hidden behind angled mirrors. To further frustrate the wanderers, the designer included fish tanks, knowing that the movement of the fish would further confuse the ability to find a sense of direction.
This isn't the only maze by this designer. He has built mazes in over thirty countries. The maze in France, however, is one of the most famous and shouldn't be missed by those looking for a challenge.
7 59 Rivoli
This eclectic art space started as a group of artists turned squatters who began occupying an abandoned building on a main thoroughfare of Paris, earning it the nickname 'Aftersquat'. The gallery and studio space that now legally occupies the building is composed of a unique blend of doodle-covered walls, rooms converted into gallery spaces, and the counter-culture energy of Paris.
The building is positioned near stores such as H&M and McDonald's, but the space couldn't be farther from fitting in with its famous neighbors. It stands out in a beautifully unique way, calling attention to its strangeness and refusal to conform.
6 Pigeon Castles
In the Middle Ages, with a diet mainly formed by grain-based foods, wealthier families sought to incorporate meat into their meals by raising pigeons on their land. To house them, they built "pigeonniers," or pigeon castles as they're now commonly referred to. These mini-castles appear like doll houses from a fairy tale, but, of course, they served a much less romantic purpose.
Driving through the French countryside, visitors can now spot these little castles dotting the fields, adding a unique touch to the history and landscape of France.
5 La Tete Carrée Library
Walking past this 85-foot-tall sculpture, a huge block making up the upper part of a human face, one would never know that it actually houses a small library. In fact, inside the box there are three floors full of books.
The sculpture is titled "Thinking Inside the Box," and while its metaphor is quite obvious, observing the sculpture library will still cause one to ponder its deeper meaning.
4 Le Palais Idéal
Refusing to conform to any one architectural style or era, this building, the result of 33 years of work by Ferdinand Cheval, continues to amaze visitors and architects. It is a fascinating, strange thing to see, with elements of a Hindu temple, medieval castle, mosque, and Swiss chalet all combined into one relatively small palace--it is actually only 85 feet (26 meters) long and 46 feet (14 meters) wide.
However, its size does not detract from the fact that it is an amazing piece of architecture that all visitors will enjoy gazing upon.
3 Le Moulin Jaune
This yellow house (Le Moulin Jaune literally translates as the "Yellow Mill") doesn't look like much from the outside. It's not until you begin to walk around that you'll see just how strange Le Moulin Jaune really is. Created by a professional clown (unsurprisingly), the grounds offer constant surprises, from chandeliers hanging from trees, to giant, anatomically accurate skulls, to winged pianos. It is simply impossible for visitors to guess what they'll see next.
While wandering, visitors may run into other members of the clown troupe, who add a bit of excitement and laughter to the already amusing landscape. Unfortunately, the grounds are only open a few days a year, and few tickets are available, meaning a visit to this place is not only special but quite rare.
2 Le Musée Des Moulages
Both strange and grotesque, this museum houses two floors of "moulanges," wax models of diseased body parts. The museum holds over 3500 wax pieces and is widely considered the most important dermatological wax collection in the world.
This museum is not for those with a queasy stomach, however. If seeing skin covered in pus, boils, and rashes doesn't sound appetizing, maybe try the Louvre instead.
1 The Grotesques of the Chapelle de Bethléem
The Chapelle de Bethléem (Chapel of Bethlehem), originally built in the Gothic tradition, fell into ruin due to the poor weather conditions of the area. Seeking to restore the chapel, a stone carver was sought, and they happened upon Jean-Louis Boisel, who decided that the chapel needed a more modern makeover. Instead of the traditional medieval gargoyles as the grotesques of the chapel, he replaced them with figures from pop culture, including Gizmo from Gremlins and creatures from Alien.
Many of the traditional villagers didn't approve of the changes, but those of the younger generation were incredibly enthusiastic, supporting the project all the way to its completion.