True Parisians take time every year to attend at least one of the following social and cultural events.
Do you live in Paris?
Are you planning to visit the city of lights in the near future?
We’ve made a list of events that a huge number of Parisians cherish.
They might be of interest to you.
Let’s get started.
1. La nuit Blanche (Takes place in October)
The Nuit Blanche festival, held every year on the first Saturday in October, is the night when the city blossoms into a fantastic harvest of art, music and theatrical events. This night is a truly unmissable time to visit, or for Parisians and resident expats to shake off their post-summer sloth and get out and enjoy the city.
La Nuit Blanche is actually a free dusk ’til dawn carnival of arts and culture.
In Paris, the premise is really simple: for one night only, let art take over the city, and let the city be in its thrall. This is a riotously popular way to engage with cutting-edge artistry.
For more information on this year’s festivities, click here.
2. La Nuit des musées, (European Night Museum). Takes Place in May.
About 3000 events to be discovered everywhere in Paris, France and in Europe for the 13th edition (2017) of the European Night of museums.
The European Night of museums is opened to all the museums of France and the European museums.
The participating Parisian museums in the European Night museums are incited, for the opportunity (occasion), to propose original, night-and free animations.
3. Les Journées du Patrimoine (European Heritage Days), Takes Place in September.
Les Journées du Patrimoine is an opportunity to spend a weekend in September visiting an endless variety of well-known (but usually off-bounds) and outright unusual historical monuments.
The European Council instituted the EU-backed Heritage Days in 1991 on a French idea dating back to 1983 (when the Ministry of Culture held its first historical-monument open days).
The Palais de l’Elysée (the French President’s residence), Sénat, Assemblée Nationale, museums, and theatres are a few of the many historical hotspots that open their doors to the public one weekend a year.
The City of Paris and Parisians play an active role in this event. Paris maps out about 35 heritage trails for anyone who wants to explore the city on foot or by bicycle.
Find more here.
4. Le bal des pompiers. Takes place in July.
After the finale of the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower, Parisians usually head off to the traditional Bals des Pompiers (Fireman’s Ball).
These parties are organized at Paris fire stations on 13 and 14 July.
Sometimes there is an admission fee; if this is not the case then the traditional ‘barrel’ is at the disposal of Parisians for them to make donations.
The money collected is used to improve the working conditions of the staff.
5. Fête de la Gastronomie, (French Cuisine Festival). Takes place in September.
Since 2011, the Fête de la Gastronomie has been celebrated all over Paris, France and beyond. In just a few years, la Fête de la Gastronomie has become one of the main events of this sector in France.
In 2015, about two million visitors and 300 000 professionals gathered in 11 000 events.
Popular cuisines, the 2016 theme Each year, the Fête de la Gastronomie revolves around one specific theme to encourage thoughts and discovery of the French gastronomy.
6. La journée sans voiture. Takes place in September.
Just imagine the photo possibilities when, for one special day, the city of Paris will be free of cars.
On a Sunday in September, the City of Light closes itself to motorized vehicles, leaving room for pedestrians, unusual walks, and street programs - as well as for Parisians and visitors alike to experience the city without car pollution, noise and customary traffic jams.
Not to mention a dream come true for any photographer, amateur or professional.
La "Journée sans voitures" usually runs from 11 am to 6 pm and expand the area covered compared with previous years in order to include practically every arrondissement of Paris where only bicycles, delivery tricycles, non-motorized scooters, skateboards, and rollerblades are allowed, with a few exceptions like ambulances.
7. Free Museum Day-1st Sunday of every month.
Paris takes pride in its commitment to the arts and its availability to the people.
To that end, Paris boasts many free museums, free permanent collections, and even entire free days at some of the city’s biggest and most-renowned museums.
Institutions like the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and Musée Rodin are free every first Sunday of the month, and the Maison Européenne de la Photographie opens its doors to the masses for free each Wednesday evening.
8. Paris Plage. Takes place in July.
The summer transforms Paris.
The cityscape dons greenery and the riverside thoroughfares become car-free resorts.
The Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) operation kicks off on or around 20 July and lasts four weeks.
A Seine-side holiday that Parisians cherish.
That, in a nutshell, is what Paris Plages is all about – complete with sandy beaches, deckchairs, ubiquitous ice cream sellers, and concerts for French and foreign guests.
A lot more happens the other side of the Bassin de la Villette (Paris 19) where holiday-makers borrow books free of charge, play beach volley, take an aquagym class in a mini pool, or kayak around the lake – or, of course just chill and enjoy.
The Seine’s banks become pedestrian and the beaches are spread across three spots (Louvre/Pont de Sully, Port de la Gare and Bassin de la Villette).
9. La Marche des fiertés lesbiennes, gaies, bi et trans (Ex-Gaypride). Takes place in June or July.
Paris Gay Pride (or the "Marche des Fiertés" in French) has steadily grown in popularity over the years to become one of the city's most-anticipated annual festivals, drawing tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of people into the streets of Paris every June or July for a lively, colorful street party celebrating diversity.
More than just a carnival-like festival, this event served (and still does) as an important platform for supporting full civil rights for LGBT people, in France and around the world.
While the annual Pride Parade and associated events are an opportunity for LGBT organizations to draw attention to key issues affecting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, and celebrate newly acquired rights such as the right for same-sex couples to marry, Gay Pride is never a solemn or staid sort of march.
Parisians cherish this joyful, sometimes a touch rowdy, but never intimidating event that brings together Parisians of all stripes-- one that's not to be missed!
10. Festival d'Ile-de-France. Taking place from September to October.
For forty years, the Festival d’Ile de France has been brightening the Parisian fall by offering more than thirty concerts, including many commissioned works, all federated by a new theme each year.
The program usually includes world and pop music, but also ancient, baroque, classical and contemporary repertoires.
Every September and October, between 20,000 and 25,000 Parisians embark upon a great cultural treasure hunt throughout the Île-de-France Region and discover unusual heritage sites such as castles, churches, historic theaters, old warehouses or exquisite parks.
This specific match between music and venues provide a mutual enrichment and emotion and is a promise of unforgettable memories.
The Festival d'Ile de France has also developed over the years educational programs for all type of audience.
A hundred of lectures, workshops or masterclasses are held each year.
11. Festival Solidays. Takes place in June.
Every year, the music festival Solidays welcomes around 200,000 Parisians and their visiting friends and relatives who come to enjoy the concerts, entertainment, and activities.
This festival is about solidarity - hence the name - in the fight against Aids, the virus which still affects millions around the world.
Although the epidemic has stabilized in Western countries, Africa is still very much in the grip of this virus.
Each year, the festival invites major international stars to perform on stage for free or for a very much reduced fee.
12. Festival du cinéma en plein air de La Villette (Open Air Cinema). Takes Place from July to August.
Relax on the green lawns of the Parc de la Villette, in the 19th district in the northeast of Paris; as dusk falls the screenings begin at the Open Air Cinema Festival (Cinéma en plein air).
A cultural highlight every summer with a different theme each time, the festival welcomes thousands of Paris film fans with a programme of French and international films, both new releases and cult films of the past.
Lesser known films and short films are also screened.
Special events and activities are open to all.
Entry to the screenings at the Open Air Film Festival is free of charge for all.
You can hire deckchairs and blankets on site for a more comfortable screening, and audiences are invited to bring a picnic and enjoy it before the screening begins. All films are screened in their original language, foreign films are shown with French subtitles.
13. Rock en Seine. Takes place in August.
Rock en Seine happens on the outskirts of Paris and is chock full of top names.
Most importantly, the music: over three days there are some great headliners and brilliant bands from all over the world (Sigur Ros/Placebo/Bloc Party/Foster the People/The Shins) spread across different stages.
The festival has a neat set-up that runs right through the Domaine National de Saint-Cloud, a large park built by Louis XIII.
14. La Semaine du goût. Takes place in October.
Every year in October, since 1990, the Week of Taste –also known as la Semaine du goût – is held across Paris and France with the aim to ‘’fight’’ for taste.
The main goal of this festival is to teach all consumers – whatever their age, but especially the youngest- about taste.
For example, Parisian bakers, cooks or cheese producers visit schools to share their passion for taste with 4th and 5th graders.
The aim of this festival is also to teach students how to eat better.
The other objective of the week of taste is transmitting know skills and passion, promoting a healthy and balanced diet and of course always enjoying the taste.
15. Fête des Jardins à Paris (Paris Garden Festival). Takes place in September and October.
As autumn comes to Paris, the city's parks and gardens invite Parisians to celebrate the beauty of nature during the Fête des Jardins (Garden Festival).
For more than 20 years, this annual event has been bringing together thousands of nature-loving Parisians.
In total, over 200 places are open to the public - the Jardin des Plantes (5th), the Potager des Oiseaux (3rd), the Parc Monceau (8th), the Parc Georges Brassens (15th), the Parc de Bercy (12th)... -, offering a rich and varied programme of special events aimed at raising awareness among children and adults about the issues linked to the environment and ecology.
16. Techno Parade. Takes place in September.
Since it was founded by Jack Lang in 1998, the Techno parade in Paris has aimed to promote and celebrate electronic music culture.
For one day, this great gathering of music-lovers (over 400 000 festival-goers attend each year) is centered on a great parade through the streets of Paris.
Around 10 floats make their way slowly along the parade route, some representing a radio station, others a music label or collective, and all are pumping out electronic music mixed by DJs on the floats. Each float has a different style or music type, with everything from house to drum'n'base.
Every year the parade takes a different route.
Last year, it started at Place de la Nation.
17. Les Marchés de Noël. Start in November onwards.
Traditional and popular Christmas markets are a major shopping event and are held from November onwards.
Originating in Germany and the Alsace, Christmas markets have spread across the whole of Europe since the 1990s.
Christmas markets have gradually become an essential part of the festive season in Paris and can be found in all districts of the capital, with Christmas markets on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, at Montparnasse, La Défense …!
18. Nouvel An Chinois. Takes place in January.
In Paris, many neighborhoods take on a festive atmosphere, are decked out with decorations and organize special events for the occasion. Dragons, paper lanterns, dancing lions, firecrackers, illuminated Chinese lanterns… Make way for the parades!
Check out our upcoming Chinese New Year party below.
19. Mon premier festival. Takes place in October.
Mon Premier Festival (My first festival) gives Parisian children – from 2 years up – the opportunity to discover cinema and the diversity of films for young audiences, in a fun way.
Programme: original films, classics, contemporary works, cinema-concerts, cinema-snacks, workshops ...
The festival is held in a dozen arthouse cinemas in Paris, the Gaîté Lyrique, and the Forum des Images.
20. Fête de la musique. Takes place in June.
The Fête de la Musique, also known as World Music Day, is an annual music celebration taking place on 21 June.
The Fête de la Musique began in Paris in 1982 and was founded by the popular French cultural minister Jack Lang.
The festival originated in a humble burst of musical idealism and a few power connections, and yet, in only two decades has become a wildly popular global event.
Over to You!
What is your most favorite Parisian social and cultural event?
Please share down in the comments.
Do you want to receive some awesome articles about the joys, challenges, and lessons learned from expatriation adventures in Paris every week?
Don’t worry, you can unsubscribe at anytime.
Latest from Michael Bahati
- Paris-based Expat Influencers Reveal The Podcasts That Make Them Smarter
- Champs-Élysées Film Festival: 6 of the greatest cinematic works
- 30 Life Lessons Expats Learn But Keep Forgetting
- When renting an apartment in Paris becomes affordable and easier
- Foreign student accommodation: Here’s how you can afford a 1000 Euros furnished apartment rent in Paris.