It seems like there's almost always something happening in Paris, with the possible exceptions of the school holidays in August and February, when about half of Parisians are to be found not in Paris, but in the Alps or the South of France respectively. The busiest season is probably the fall, from a week or so after la rentrée scolaire or "back to school" to around Noël (Christmas) theatres, cinemas and concert halls book their fullest schedule of the year.
Even so, there are a couple of annual events in the winter, starting with a furniture and interior decorating trade fair called Maison & Object in January.
In February le nouvel an chinois (Chinese New Year) is celebrated in Paris as it is in every city with a significant Chinese population. There are parades in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements and especially in Chinatown in the 13th south of Place d'Italie. Also in February is the Six Nations Rugby Tournament which brings together France, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy.
The first of two Fashion weeks occurs in March: Spring Fashion Week, giving designers a platform to present women’s prêt-à-porter (ready to wear) collections for the following winter.
The French Tennis Open in which the world’s top players battle it out on a clay court runs during two weeks starting on the last Sunday in May. When it concludes in June, a whole range of festivities start up. Rendez-vous au Jardin is an open house for many Parisian gardens, giving you a chance to meet real Parisian gardeners and see their creations. The Fête de la Musique celebrates the summer solstice (21 June) with this city-wide free musical knees-up. Finally on the 26th of June is the Gay Pride parade, featuring probably the most sincere participation by the mayor's office of any such parade on the globe.
The French national holiday Bastille Day on the 14th of July celebrates the storming of the infamous Bastille during the French Revolution. Paris hosts several spectacular events that day of which the best known is the Bastille Parade which is held on the Champs-Élysées at 10:00 and broadcast to pretty much the rest of Europe by television. The entire street will be crowded with spectators so arrive early. The Bastille Day Fireworks is an exceptional treat for travellers lucky enough to be in town on Bastille Day. The Office du Tourisme et des Congress de Paris recommends gathering in or around the champ de Mars, the gardens of the Eiffel Tower.
Also in July, Cinema en Plein Air is the annual outdoor cinema event that takes place at the Parc de la Villette, in the 19th on Europe’s largest inflatable screen. For most of the months of July and August, parts of both banks of the Seine are converted from expressway into an artificial beach for Paris Plages. Also in July the cycling race le Tour de France has a route that varies annually, however it always finishes on the last Sunday of July under the Arc de Triomphe.
On the last full weekend in August, a world-class music festival Rock en Seine draws international rock and pop stars to the Domaine national de Saint-Cloud, just west of Paris.
During mid-September DJs and (usually young) fans from across Europe converge on Paris for five or six days of dancing etc. culminating in the Techno parade - a parade whose route traces roughly from Place de la Bastille to the Sorbonne, and around the same time the festival Jazz à la Villette brings some of the biggest names in contemporary jazz from around the world.
The Nuit Blanche transforms most of central Paris into a moonlit theme-park for an artsy all-nighter on the first Saturday of October, and Fashion Week returns shortly thereafter showing off Women’s Prêt-à-Porter collections for the following summer; as we've noted winter collections are presented in March.
The third Thursday in November marks the release of Le Beaujolais Nouveau and the beginning of the Christmas season. This evening, the Christmas lights are lit in a ceremony on the Champs-Élysées, often in the presence of hundreds (if not thousands) of people and many dignitaries, including the president of France.
Unfortunately, there are no comprehensive event guides covering concerts, clubs, movies or special events. For theatre, movies and exhibitions pick up the Pariscope and L'officiel du Spectacle, available at newsstands for €0.40. For (especially smaller, alternative) concerts pick up LYLO, a small, free booklet available in some bars and at FNAC. There is no user-friendly online version of these guides.
Paris is considered by many as the birthplace of photography, and while one may debate the correctness of this claim, there is no debate that Paris is today a photographer's dream. The French capital offers a spectacular array of photographic opportunities to the beginner and the pro alike. It has photogenic monuments (e.g., Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, the obelisk at Concorde, and countless others); architecture (the Louvre, Notre Dame and the Museum of the Arab World, to name just a few) and urban street scenes (e.g., in the Marais, Montmartre and Belleville). When you tire of taking your own photos, visit one of the many institutions dedicated to photography (e.g., European Museum of Photography, the Jeu de Paume Museum or the Henri Cartier Bresson Foundation). At these and other institutions, you can learn the about the rich history of Paris as the place of important developments in photography (e.g., the Daguerrotype) and as the home of many of the trade's great artists (e.g., Robert Doisneau, André Kertész, Eugene Atget and Henri Cartier Bresson).
The Cinémas of Paris are (or at least should be) the envy of the movie-going world. Of course, like anywhere else you can see big budget first-run films from France and elsewhere. That though, is just the start. During any given week there are at least half-a-dozen film festivals going on, at which you can see the entire works of a given actor or director. Meanwhile there are some older cult films like say, What's new Pussycat or Casino Royal which you can enjoy pretty much any day you wish.
Many non-French movies are subtitled (called "version originale" "VO" or "VOstfr" as opposed to "VF" for version francaise).
There are any number of ways to find out what's playing, but the most commonly used guide is Pariscope, which you can find at newsstands for €0.40. Meanwhile there are innumerable online guides which have information on "every" cinema in Paris.
The Paris Opera, as well as its associated ballet company, the Paris Opera Ballet, are considered to be among the premier classical performance companies in the world.
If you are under 26, there is a flat rate of €10 for every private theatre of the town every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday night. This fare does not apply to public theatres nor opera.
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