It’s a Paris institution: each year, on July 3, any tourist to Paris is likely to see hordes of people wandering around the city, a flyer with printed instructions in hand, and a worried look on their faces. You might be forgiven for thinking that these were all lost tourists, trying their best to find their way to the Paris Opera or the Eiffel Tower or something. But look closely, you’ll see that they all have the same flyer, and the way they go about it, they could just be locals. In fact, that’s exactly what they are – locals (mostly), in search of treasure. It is all part of a distinctive project that the city has dreamed up – a new Paris attraction if you will – to lighten things up a bit.
The best part of this Paris attraction, called Treasures of Paris, is that it’s free. Treasures of Paris, the event, is made up of 10 separate games, all running together across Paris and its suburbs, on the appointed day each year. The game starts at 10 in the morning; all the participants get their information flyers (in French and English), and get themselves to their appointed starting points. Three hours later, the game officially starts, and everyone gets busy on their missions.
To the adventuresome participants, things can get pretty amusing. The instructions are written in a kind of mysterious way, and are full of inscrutable clues and directions. You are supposed to look for certain people on the street, speak to certain shopkeepers, street artists and so on for clues. Everyone who’s successful in seeing through all the riddles and the impenetrable instructions and who can follow them well enough to make it to the finishing point, gets a prize, and gets to attend the winners’ concert and party at an undisclosed location that night. If you can make it there in time for this Paris attraction, it should be quite an experience.
The whole idea was dreamed up by the deputy mayor of Paris five years ago, as a way to bring in tourist interest and plenty of social media buzz. The idea was to give people a way to discover the Paris that was out of the mainstream. It would help tourists go and speak to strangers, pay attention to things they wouldn’t otherwise, visit little offbeat locations that they would never dream of, and in general, feel a part of the city. In the beginning, this Paris attraction just started confined to one prefecture of Paris; it’s been such a massive hit that they’ve expanded it to cover the whole city and its suburbs, and it draws tourists from all around the world who want just such an interactive way to discover the city.
You learn little pieces of trivia about the city on your way, and you stumble onto secret passages, hidden finds and so on. They have real Paris experts on the job, designing the event each year; most of the time, even locals find that they have something to learn about their city. A Paris attraction for Parisians. Now if only they could come up with something like this for London, Boston, New York and L.A.