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Hidden Paris: Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris

It is quite a mouthful to say – Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris – and CIUP would be yet another confusing acronym among the gazillions that every French(wo)man seems to know but elusive to most expats. It is easier and simpler to call it Cité U (“see-tay yu”).

Maison Internationale

Main entrance/exit of CIUP

The place I called home for my first nine months in Paris is a 34-hektar park with 40 residential houses and over 5,700 housing units which hosts not only students but also researchers and visiting academics. I have mentioned it a number of times in the past, but never really show it off properly. This is my chance to rectify that. Last weekend, after our wonderful picnic at Parc Montsouris, I went over for a photowalk as well as showing F around since he was not familiar with the campus.

Bust of Honnorat


I lived in Collège Franco-Britannique, on the third floor, overlooking the park within the campus. Not only that, I also get a pristine view of our own garden, which cherry blossom trees bloom beautifully every spring. Since spring had barely started, we didn’t quite get the view of pink petals covering the ground; nonetheless it was still magnificent.

Collège Franco-Britannique

Collège Franco-Britannique

There are many interesting houses which I called my neighbouring houses, and one of which that I find to be culturally fascinating is Maison du Japon. As far as I know, it is reserved for Japanese students (a Nipponophile friend applied to move in to the house but to no avail) but they have open house regularly as they host multiple cultural events throughout the year. They have their own zen garden surrounding the house, so it’s quite a little piece of Japan they have built on the campus.

Maison du Japon

Maison du Japon

Some houses boast styles of architecture that are culturally related to the countries they are named after, others less so. Certain houses are even decorated with original art pieces, notably the Collège d’Espagne which is surrounded by sculptures from the collection of Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.

Collège d'Espagne

Maison du Cambodge

Maison du Marac

Fondation Hellénique

Sculpture of horn blower

Some houses have strict nationality requirement (usually related to foundations which provide funding to build these houses), others are open to all nationalities. A couple others are nationality-blind but their residents are bound by particular host institutes, such as MINA that’s reserved for students and researchers of AgroParisTech.

Fondation Biermans-Lapôtre

Maison de la Suède

Fondation Deutsch de la Meurthe

Cite U

Maison des Provinces de France

As I mentioned earlier, Cité U is also park, one which I used to look out to everyday. This also means I used to have a running ground at my disposal as soon as I stepped out from my building. Now, how’s that for convenience? And if any ever get tired of jogging around this park, it’s very easy to cross Boulevard Jourdan to access Parc Montsouris for a change of scenary and jogging route. Park aside, there are also many smaller gardens peppered around the campus.

Maison Internationale

Rose garden

Maison des Etudiants Canadiens


There you go, a brief introduction to the Cité U and some photos from the photowalk last weekend. The full set of photos which I’ve taken can be found over a Flickr. Initially, I thought about documenting each building one by one, but to describe all 40 of them would also take me forever! If you do want to know more about it though, check out their official website (in English) and there’s even full descriptions of each house and their history.

Category: Paris

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17 scribbles & notes

  1. med says:

    very nice uni indeed lil….no wonder u miss it ne ;) lecturers good? heheheheh

    • Lil says:

      it’s not an uni – it’s just a housing campus. the residents are either students at uni or people working at uni ;)

  2. Janice says:

    Thank you for the tour, Lilian. Some beautiful buildings and architecture there. Love the Moroccan elements and tillings photo. One question, is the Cité open to public access?

    • Lil says:

      And these are just the exteriors. Some of the buildings which may look nondescript from the outside have unexpected interior details, but sadly the access to those is limited to residents (unless there’s an open day event).

      On the other hand, the grounds of Cité U is open to everyone, despite it being a private park.

  3. Sarah says:

    What a lovely place to stay! It looks really beautiful and full of atmosphere. Do you miss it?

    • Lil says:

      It’s a very interesting place to stay and yes, I do miss certain things, like a park I could jog in right outside my building, actually getting to know my neighbours, having cleaner that comes once a week, direct RER B to the airport, not having to deal with utility bills (all included with rent) etc.

      However, I do not miss the student housing feel, of restrictions and rules imposed by CIUP (including needing permission to have guests over), and buggy internet connection.

  4. Alexandra says:

    Hi Lilian! Your photos are beautiful.
    I’m going to do a master’s at Sciences Po next year, and I’m considering moving to the CIUP. It definitely looks wonderful, but I’m wondering how safe it is around the CIUP at night, including the RER B, and taking public transport to get to Sciences Po, especially since I’m a girl. Would you have any information about that?
    Thanks! Once again, lovely article

    • Lil says:

      Hi Alexandra – thanks, and congrats on your upcoming move to Paris and to be in Science Po! I never had any safety problem while living in Cite U and similarly, with taking public transports to/fro Cite U. The RER B is only annoying when it’s jammed pack during the peak periods, or there’s a strike in place.

      Besides, once you’re a little bit more familiar with the city, you’ll start experimenting with other ways to travel too. I like using the bus more than the metro/RER, for example, and I would also quite regularly cycle around on the Velib’. But of course, buses are often less predictable travel-time wise and in order to get anywhere on time, I’m more likely to hop on the metro.

      Maybe when you get in town, if you are concerned about certain things or have other questions, give me a buzz and we can grab coffee or something, and I’ll try to give you a quick orientation of the city :)

  5. PJ says:

    Hi Lilian,
    Next year I’m staying at the CIUP. I was admitted into the Belgian house, but I might get a ‘brassage’ to another one and I’m considering picking the Collège Franco-Britannique. I was wondering about the atmosphere there – how are the collective rooms (kitchens etc.) and do people frequent them a lot? In short, how is the social life in the house?
    Other houses I’m considering are the Maison des Provinces de France and the Canadian house. Do you happen to know anything about those?
    Thank you so much in advance!! :)

    • Lil says:

      Hi PJ – I have not been inside the Belgian House but it certainly looks very good from the outside. The CFB while nice, is a rather old building, and each floor has a kitchen that’s used by groups of people from time to time. I had my own kitchen in my studio, so I didn’t use it much. There’s also another common room that’s used for evening events from time to time. (Note: internet connection acted up quite often)

      When I was in CFB, there was an active building committee that organises a breakfast event once a month, and a couple more other activities such as trips away from Paris. Bear in mind though that the committee changes, so how active the social side would be, it’s up to them. You could always check if the Belgian house has similar committee. Also, people do meet in the laundry room and then starts hanging out together.

      Maison de Provinces is quite nice, but I am not familiar about their social events. I did know of friends complaining the lack of reception that can receive parcels. Luckily, the post office in Cite U is not too far either, so it’s a short walk to collect the parcel. In CFB, the reception will receive your parcel, leave a slip in your mailbox, and you reclaim it at the reception.

      I have not been to the Canadian house, nor do I have friends who lived there.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Hi Lilian
    I’m so happy finding your blog, lovely pics and especially for this Cité U story. I’m studying in Université Paris Decartes next year and I got a studio in Collège Franco-Britannique. I’ve been trying to browse but found only few dusty pics about it. Could you please share how’s it like? Is it convinient? Is it noisy neighbourhood? Thanks in advance :)

    • Lil says:

      Congratulations on your admission to Paris Descartes!

      Cite U in general is very convenient for access to the city, with RER B going through the centre, as well as providing connection to the main airports (CDG to the north, Orly to the south). Otherwise, bus no 21 is very convenient too, which does go to rue des Ecoles and from there a short walk to the university building on rue de l’Ecole de Médecine.

      There is a Franprix nearby for basic grocery shopping, but a short ride on the tram to Porte d’Ivry will also bring you to Geant Casino where there are a lot more options of products, as well as Tang Freres for Asian grocery. When I lived there, I also like going to the market on Auguste Blanqui on Sunday mornings for fresh fruits and vegetables at cheap prices, but a little bit closer on Saturday, there’s another market on rue de la Glaciere.

      There’s a post office in Cite U that opens late but if you have parcels, there’s no worry, as CFB reception will hold on to them for you. Also, BACE of Cite U organises free/cheap walking tours once a month, which I highly recommend so you get to know the city better.

      CFB itself is quite nice, even if the building is a little old and the internet connection a little buggy. There’s cleaner that comes once a week, and every fortnight the sheets are changed. You must strip the sheets and leave them outside your door, and the clean ones will be placed in your studio by the cleaner. To check the sheet changing dates, there’s a schedule in the common kitchen on your floor. There’s a laundrette at the basement with 3 washing machines and 2 tumble dryers. You need to pay for the washing but the drying is free. So start keeping a small pouch with coins to feed the machine.

      Cite U is quite calm as an area, and you are encircled by a park. If that’s not enough, then across the road, there’s also Park Montsouris. So plenty of green space and not many cars around really. A bit further east towards the Stade Charlety/Porte de Gentilly is where the traffic goes, so at CFB, you don’t hear them.

      Is there anything else you need to know?

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thanks very much Lilian, you are very helpful :)

    • Lil says:

      You’re welcome – glad to be of help :)

  7. Boram says:

    Hi I’m so glad to find your web.
    I’ve just got the chance to live in Maison du Portugal and my school is INALCO in 13th district. But the thing i am worrying about is that I also got the other house like flat sharing in Saint-Lazare. The rental fee of the house was very reasonable as well. But do you think as an international student which place will be better? I’m really confused now. And do you have any information about the Maison du Portugal? And my sister is coming to visit and I was planning to stay with her for couple of day in my dorm (single room) but written above you have mentioned that we need some permission to allow other people. Is it hard to get a permission and is there any rules (curfew) about when I need to come back to the dorm? For example do I need to come back to the dorm before 12 am or something like that?

    • Lil says:

      Hi Boram, I’m afraid I don’t know much about Maison du Portugal and its policies about having guests, but it shouldn’t be too difficult if you’re not forever hosting guest one after another. There is no curfew (at least not in CFB where I was), the only thing is if you return late, there’s a specific gate to go through as the main gate and other smaller ones too will be closed.

      As for choosing between between house sharing and Cité U, it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons. Location-wise, both places have convenient transportation to INALCO so that’s one less worry. Establish first that the house sharing is legal (esp if this is someone renting an apartment then subletting a room – the landlord’s permission is required, although understand that people bend the rules all the time too) and that the property is in a good condition, or at least your room is a comfortable one (e.g. some people won’t like it if the apartment is on the top floor and his/her room has slanting roof over because then he/she will have to be careful with the head all the time in that corner) etc. I don’t have enough information to make a judgement call.

      What I can say is the perks of Cité U: large green space around you (whereas around St Lazare is rarely green), no worry over electricity/gas/internet bills (since they’re included in the rent), building services (so any problem, someone will take care of it), no taxe d’habitation (if you live in a city apartment, unless previously agreed, you will have this additional tax to pay), facilities of kitchen and laundry (some people may have washing machine in apartments, but some don’t, so you may have to spend time at the laundrette), good international environment, very cheap/free walking tours organised by the CIUP (or at least they did monthly tour when I was living there), convenience to RER B to access the airports (important to me as I travel quite a lot).

      Good luck!

  8. Cranem says:

    Hi Lilian

    Thank you so much for posting this! What a useful post for those of us moving to Paris! I was wondering what the application process is like for CIUP? More specifically, when did you submit your application and how long did it take for them to get back to you? I am British so I was wondering if I would be allocated automatically to the Franco Britannique college if admitted.

    Thanks again!

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