Paris has long served as a muse for the rest of the world, with an arts and culture scene that’s more vibrant than almost anywhere else on earth. But while it’s true that this diversity of cultural offerings has drawn travellers to Paris throughout history, it’s also true that the past two years have not been without their challenges for Paris tourism, with the recent terrorist attacks attributing to a dip in visitor numbers to the city. And so, for the first time in the city’s history the central government, the city and the Paris region have gathered together to curate an official cultural program, giving visitors more reasons than ever to head to the ”city of light”.
Here, we offer a hand-picked selection of this year’s hottest Parisian cultural events and destinations – from old favourites including the Louvre and Versailles, to the brand new Philharmonie music venue and cutting-edge 6B artistic community – from this year’s calendar. Because as French actor Sacha Guitry famously said, “It’s not to have been born in Paris, but to be reborn.”
THE GRAND PALAIS
Set on the famous Champs- Elysees, the Grand Palais is one of Paris’ most iconic monuments. Built for the 1900 World Fair, it now houses various exhibition spaces beneath its 8.5-tonne art nouveau glass roof. 3 Avenue du General Eisenhower; grandpalais.fr/en.
WHAT’S ON The much-anticipated Rodin exhibition marking the centenary of the sculptor’s death, until July 31. Also Jardins, an exhibition dedicated to gardens, including paintings, sculptures, photos and drawings from the likes of Klimt and Matisse, until July 24.
WHERE TO EAT Le Mini Palais, minipalais.com. Set inside the Grand Palais, this sprawling space has an artist’s studio vibe and a tiled, palmed terrace flanked by enormous columns. Expect fabulous concoctions like prawn bisque with ginger and lemongrass, and roast duck with spices and daikon confit.
Set in a converted 1970s office block in Saint Denis on Paris’ outskirts, le 6B is an alternative artistic community where you can watch 200 artists, musicians, photographers, filmmakers and other creatives as they work. 6-10 Quai de Seine; le6b.fr.
WHAT’S ON Regular exhibitions, plus free events including hip-hop concerts, festivals and debates. See website for updates.
WHERE TO EAT Septime, 80 rue de Charonne; septime-charonne.fr. Head back into town to this acclaimed rustic-contemporary restaurant for their carte blanche menu, which includes lots of delicious organic vegetables and natural wines. Reservations essential.
M– USEE D’ORSAY
This former railway station is an art-nouveau masterpiece in itself, that’s now home to France’s national collection from the impressionist, post-impressionist and art nouveau movements. Famous works include Toulouse-Lautrec’s cabaret dancers and Degas’ ballerinas. 1 rue de la Legion d’Honneur; musee-orsay.fr/en.
WHAT’S ON Portraits by Cezanne, showcasing themed selections of the almost 200 portraits the French painter created, until September 24.
WHERE TO EAT Sitting beneath the chandeliers and frescoed, gilded ceilings of the museum’s sumptuous first-floor dining room, dating back to 1900, is a dreamy step back in time. Their set-price menus are decent value, too.
Housed in a striking cubist Frank Gehry building in Parc de Bercy, this small, dimly-lit museum was created by film archivist Henri Langlois in 1936, and is filled with early film equipment, props, costumes, and clips of classic films dating back to the first silent films. 51 rue de Bercy; cinematheque.fr.
WHAT’S ON The on-site cinema screens up to ten films a day, including arthouse films and retrospectives. See website for details.
WHERE TO EAT Les 400 Coups, les400coupsalacinematheque.fr. Home-cooked, seasonal and local, the menu here changes daily but expect fresh soups, salads and ”Buddha bowls”, plus an organic wine list.
In a city filled with elegant dove-grey buildings, Centre Pompidou – Renzo Piano’s 1977 radical architectural statement covered in blue, green and red tubes – screams loud. It holds France’s modern art collection, plus special exhibitions on the sixth floor, from where you can get incredible views over the Paris rooftops. centrepompidou.fr/en.
WHAT’S ON A retrospective of Walker Evans, one of the most important 20th century American photographers, including his renowned photos from the 1930s Depression era, until August 14. Films, concerts, talks and debates also held regularly.
WHERE TO EAT Frenchie, 5 rue du Nil; frenchie-restaurant.com. It’s a 15-minute walk to one of Paris’ hottest restaurants, where Gregory Marchand’s inventive cooking is inspired by organic ingredients. Bookings essential.
The legendary Phantom of the Opera skulked about in this opulent 1860 opera house, which travellers can now explore on 90-minute guided tours. Don’t miss the grand marble staircase and gilded auditorium with its huge chandelier and Chagall ceiling mural. Corner Rue Scribe and Auber; operadeparis.fr/en.
WHAT’S ON Operas to suit all tastes, from Rigoletto to La Traviata and beyond.
WHERE TO EAT Buvette, 28 rue Henry Monnier, ilovebuvette.com. Take the 20-minute stroll to hip South Pigalle for a steak tartare or coq au vin and glass of France’s finest at this excellent Franco-American gastrotheque.
M– USEE BOURDELLE
The house, workshop and gardens of sculptor Antoine Bourdelle (1861–1929) are now filled with his vast bronze sculptures, a lovely counterpoint to the temporary exhibitions sitting alongside them. 18 rue Antoine Bourdelle; bourdelle.paris.fr/en.
WHAT’S ON Balenciaga L’oeuvre au noir, showcasing 60 of the fashion designer’s most impressive black creations; until July 16.
WHERE TO EAT Huitrerie Regis, 3 rue Montfaucon, huitrerieregis.com. A short Metro ride away you’ll find this elegant all-white nook, serving briny oysters driven up daily from the famous Marennes-Oleron oyster fields. Perfection with a crisp Chablis.
PHILHARMONIE DE PARIS
With its magnificent wave-like metal facade designed by Jean Nouvel, this is Paris’ newest cultural attraction – opened in 2015, and home to the Paris orchestra. 221 Avenue Jean Jaures; philharmoniedeparis.fr/en.
WHAT’S ON An eclectic line-up – from contemporary singers like Michael Kiwanuka and James Vincent McMorrow, to world musicians like Angélique Kidjo and Mulatu Astatke, to the Paris and London Symphony orchestras. Tours and workshops available.
WHERE TO EAT Le Balcon, restaurant-lebalcon.fr. Dining options in this corner of north-east Paris are limited; luckily the Philharmonie’s sixth-floor restaurant, with its dim lighting, shaggy chairs and sweeping views of Parc de la Villette, is delicious.
M– USEE DU LOUVRE
The world’s most visited museum showcasing 35,000 creative treasures, including da Vincis, Rembrandts and Michelangelos, Egyptian sarcophagi, and the iconic pyramids of the building itself. Since it would take nine months to see all of it, you must plan your visit well. Rue de Rivoli; louvre.fr/en.
WHAT’S ON Maurice Denis and Eugene Delacroix From Studio to Museum, until August 28.
WHERE TO EAT Clover Grill, 6 rue Bailleul, clover-grill.com. Typical Parisian brasserie, with a New York steak house twist. Try the truffle pizza souffle, and their fantastic cocktails.
LA COMEDIE FRANCAISE
Dating back to 1680, this stunning playhouse with its red velvet chairs and walls, gilded balconies and frescoed ceiling, is the oldest still-active theatre in the world. Moliere used to play here; during interval you can check out the famous armchair on which he performed his last play. 1 Place Colette; comedie-francaise.fr.
WHAT’S ON Works by classic French playwrights, including Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand, and Une Vie by Pascal Rambert. See website for details.
WHERE TO EAT Le Rubis, 10 Rue du Marche Saint-Honore. A ten-minute walk down rue Saint-Honore will see you at this cute bistro-cum-wine bar, for a charcuterie platter and good, affordable wines by the glass.
CHATEAU DE VERSAILLES
France’s most famous and grand palace 22 kilometres southwest of central Paris, this Baroque chateau was the country’s political capital and the seat of the royal court from 1682 until it was “off with their heads” in 1789. en.chateauversailles.fr.
WHAT’S ON Aside from the fascinating tours you’ll find special exhibitions – currently, looking at the history of Peter the Great’s 1717 stay at Versailles, until September 24.
WHERE TO EAT Multi-Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse opened Ore – the first ever restaurant inside Versailles – at the end of 2016. With a chic, modern design featuring gold lights and table tops, everyone from backpackers to the well-heeled can feel comfy here. alain-ducasse.com/en.
THEATRE NATIONAL DE CHAILLOT
One of France’s five national theatres, Chaillot primarily stages modern dance productions in its three auditoriums, and has great views of the Trocadero fountains from the lobby. 1 Place du Trocadero; theatre-chaillot.fr/en.
WHAT’S ON Solstice by choreographer Blanca Li, exploring the relationships between humans and nature (September 21 to October 13). Kata by hip-hop artist Anne Nguyen, which draws from break dance and martial arts (October 11 to 20).
WHERE TO EAT Restaurant le Jules Verne, second floor Eiffel Tower, lejulesverne-paris.com. For those who’ve always dreamt of eating in the Eiffel Tower just across the way, this is the way to do it.
Nina Karnikowski travelled courtesy of Atout France.
THIS STORY FIRST APPEARED ONLINE HERE AND IN PRINT BELOW
FIVE UNIQUE WAYS TO GET AROUND PARIS
1 BATEAUX PARISIENS
You can cruise down the famous River Seine by day or by night, but for maximum fun choose a dinner cruise, so you can eat three courses and drink wine as the city lights slip by. From $23; bateauxparisiens.com.
2 4 ROUES SOUS 1 PARAPLUIE
Whizzing through Paris in an iconic open-topped Citroen Deux Chevaux? Yes, please. Various tours and packages available; 4roues-sous-1parapluie.com.
There are 23,600 bikes for hire at stations set around Paris. Simply enter how much time you need, take a bike, then return it to any station. About $2.50 a day; en.velib.paris.fr.
4 UBER POOL
Sharing your Uber with one or two passengers means it takes a little longer, but costs up to 50 per cent less per trip, and is a feature we don’t yet have in Australia; uber.com.
5 PARIS GREETERS
Take a free walking tour with a local volunteer via this global network, which gives you an insider’s window into neighbourhoods; greeters.paris.