Study Spaces in Paris… and Dakar!

November 15, 2022

by Madeline Liberman

One of the most interesting parts of studying abroad is getting to know a city as a student, which is so different from just being a tourist. Tourists don’t need a good working environment with WiFi for multiple hours on a regular basis! All of us have WiFi and space to study in our host families’ houses or apartments, but of course it’s very necessary to have a change of pace and get out of the house. Searching for places to study actually ended up adding so much to my experience as a traveler- I spent many delightful hours in beautiful study spaces and exploring the neighborhoods around them.

Centre Pompidou – 5/10

Bird's eye view of the cityscape of Paris.

The fabulous view from the top floor of the Centre Pompidou!

One of the first places I went to early on was the Centre Pompidou near my host family’s apartment in the 10th arrondissement. Not only does it host a world-class modern art museum, but there is also a public library on the second floor! It’s extremely popular with students, but my host sister gave me some tips on times to go that aren’t as crowded. Before and after studying I had the chance to take an escalator up to the top floor, which has a stunning view of Paris. While the WiFi and outlet access was solid and the view was a bonus, this library was not my favorite study spot- during the Paris university semester there could be a pretty decent line to get in, and the library itself is not the most beautiful of spaces.




Bibliothèque historique de la Ville de Paris – 6/10

Room with people studying, with a decorated wooden beam ceiling,

Working hard in the Bibliothèque de l’histoire de la Ville de Paris.

I discovered this hidden gem of the Paris public library network a week or two into my stay. It was very convenient for me as well, as it’s near the heart of the Marais, the area where I lived. You do have to sign up for a Paris public library card, but it’s a quick and free process. This library loses points for the fact that you have to put all your belongings except your laptop, notebooks, etc. in a little locker before entering the reading room- which can get quite frustrating. But once you enter, it’s a peaceful space with a very pretty ceiling. The building used to be a hôtel particulier, the residence of a noble family, and it dates to the 16th century!

Quartier Jeunes (QJ) – 7/10

You can’t beat the location of QJ- it’s literally steps from the Louvre. This space created by the city of Paris welcomes young people and provides many study rooms, comfy seating spots, and resources for events, professional development, and health and well-being in the city. Many of the rooms have gorgeous art pieces. I spent a very cozy rainy afternoon here!

BNF Richelieu – 8/10

High-ceilinged oval room lined with bookshelves, with round windows and a skylight

The iconic Salle Ovale in the BNF Richelieu

A few weeks into my time in Paris, I decided to try out the Richelieu branch of the Bibliothèque Nationale Française, which used to be the royal library. This particular building used to be the residence of Cardinal Mazarin. When you reach the library, you’ll first enter a lovely paved courtyard with plants and a fountain. There’s a delightful café as well, but the pièce de résistance is the famous Salle Ovale (Oval Room), which makes for a killer study spot. If you need an eye break, you can gaze around at the walls lined with bookshelves and the enormous skylight. Bonus of the BNF Richelieu- the WiFi reaches the courtyard!

I hope you enjoyed a taste of student life in Paris! In Rabat and in Dakar, where I’ve just arrived, the landscape of study spaces is very different. I’m still testing out my go-to spots in Dakar, but I’m currently typing this post from the adorable Mburu Cafe in Point E, while sipping one of their ginger juices! Happy studying from Dakar to the other students out there, and à bientôt!

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