Carnaval de Paris
Can’t get to Venice? No matter – Paris has been running its own masquerade party for 500 years. Impressionist painters Claude Monet and Edouard Manet captured the raucous event with Carnival boulevard des Capucines (1873) and Masked Ball at Opera (1873). Today, participants can revel in costumes, masks, and feathers galore, along with colorful street processions that bring together locals, musicians, performers, and more. This year’s theme is ‘The Fantastic Aquatic World’, and the parade starts at metro Gambetta and winds its way down to the Hotel de Ville.
Takes place: early February
Festival de la Jeune Photographie Européenne
The only photographic festival in Paris about contemporary photography, The Festival of Young European Photography (or Circulations Festival) is where young and aspiring photographers snap up a spot in the French and international photographic field. Zoom in on this festival where artistic and cutting edge creations are promoted; held from March 26 until June 26 2016, at Le Centquatre. Also, don’t miss Paris Photo, which takes place later in the year in November.
Takes place: late March through late June
In summertime, the beach comes to Paris! Each year, the City of Paris ships in 5,000 tons of sand to create a languorous beach along the river Seine. Complete with beach chairs, umbrellas, sandcastles, volleyball, and even climbing walls and tai chi, this is a fantastic spot to soak up the sun on a summer afternoon. Fun fact: Paris Plages started as a way of allowing the city’s poorer residents (who can’t afford to travel) a way to ‘escape the city’. You can find the beach from mid-July to mid-August on the river Seine’s banks at Voie Georges Pompidou, the forecourt of the Hotel de Ville and the canal side area in the Park de la Villette. Also to be enjoyed during this period: the FNAC Live Music Festival, a series of free concerts of hot bands hosted in front of the Hôtel de Ville.
Takes place: mid-July to mid-August
Fête de la Musique
On the summer solistice, music fills the streets of paris. La Fête de la Musique sees live music in the streets, parks, bars, train stations, museums, and churches – filling any and every bit of space the city has to offer. All music is performed for free: by big names, upcoming artists, and hobbyists alike. This is one of the largest public festivals in France, and certainly one of the most eagerly anticipated!
Takes place: late June
Paris Jazz Festival and Jazz à La Villette
Jazz is definitely not dead: in Paris, there are three festivals celebrating famous greats as well as aspiring jazz players. Catch Jazz A Saint-Germain-Des-Près in May, The Paris Jazz Festival in June/July and Jazz A La Villette in September. These festivals offer more than just concerts; a score of activities and events are organized around each festival, many showing off Paris’ crucial role in the development of jazz.
Takes place: May, June/July, and September
The Marais Film Festival
The Marais has been the center of LGBT culture since the 1980s, and what better way to celebrate gay pride than with a dedicated cinematic festival? The Marais Film Festival explores lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues in society over five days of screenings at Le Nouveau Latina Cinéma d’Art et d’Essai.
Takes place: March
Printemps des Rues
When the darling buds of May are in bloom, the banks of the Canal St Martin in Paris’ 10th district play host to Printemps des Rues, a street performance art festival. The program, free for all ages, consists of theater shows, clowns, puppet shows, singing, circus acts, dance, walks and magic shows. Before you can scream mayday (m’aidez, French for help), these Parisian street performers will bounce to your rescue. They have been doing so every May for almost 20 years.
Takes place: May
Cinéma En Plein Air
In mid-July through mid-August, grab a picnic basket, a blanket and picore à la Parisienne (nibble like a Parisian) on the sprawling green lawns of the Parc de la Villette, in the 19th district in the north east of Paris. In summertime at sunset, park dwellers are welcomed to the Cinéma en plein air – an open air cinema. French and international films are programmed, from current box office films to classics; all foreign films have French subtitles. Don’t forget to bring a jacket as it can get chilly during the cool midsummer night’s screenings. Entry is free of charge for all.
Takes place: mid-July through mid-August
Organized by French charity Solidarité Sida, the Solidays music festival is a massive event held over three days, dedicated to solidarity in the fight against AIDS. The profits go towards disease-prevention, charities fighting the disease and helping those affected. This is one of the largest musical festivals in Paris, featuring major rock, techno, rap and world music stars (performing for free). Headliners and notable performers include DJ David Guetta, Angus and Julia Stone, Vanessa Paradis, Caribous, and others. The festival paid tribute to Nelson Mandella in 2014 and 2015’s theme was ‘Sexy and Eclectic’.
Takes place: June
Rock En Seine
Rock en Seine Festival sees music lovers gather each year, as the hottest musicians making the European summer festival rounds descend on Parc National de Saint Cloud. Inspired by all sounds (punk, metal, pop-rock, new-wave, hip hop, and electro), major international bands headline alongside some of the more fresh-faced artists. Previous headliners include Beck, Massive Attack, the Pixies, Morrissey, Radiohead, R.E.M, and the Chemical Brothers. Speculations about whether English rock band Oasis disbanded here still linger like a guitar riff. The festival also offers an ‘Avant Seine’, a pre-festival, which invites avant-garde talents on the French Stage to rock their music.
Takes place: end of August
Paris Quartiers d’Été
In August, Paris and its surroundings empty almost entirely as the French make use of their ample holiday leave. Nevertheless the Paris Quartiers d’Été – Parisian Summer Quarters festival, draws thousands of spectators from tourists to Parisians who love to wander a semi-deserted Paris during summer. This festival brings shows to Parisians during a period when their metro (subway), boulot (work), dodo (sleep) routine grinds to a halt.The 26th edition of this festival plays host to performances by street theatre companies; in theatres, gardens, at monuments and so forth. Performances encompass dance, music and theatre; most of these shows are free of charge or accessible at reduced rates.
Takes place: July though August
L’Été du Canal – Festival de l’Ourcq
During the hottest summer months, freshen up by jumping in a boat and winding your way down the street-art festooned quays of the Canal de l’Ourcq. Visitors to the Festival de l’Ourcq can enjoy sailing, pétanque, beach volleyball, open-air swimming pools, beach soccer, and a myriad of delightful activities. Highlights include dance barges and free floating dance floors reminiscent of Parisian waterside guinguettes (dance venues) of the past.
Takes place: July and August
Journées du Patrimoine
Since 1984, France has celebrated its heritage by flinging open its doors for the Journées du Patrimoine, or Heritage Days. For two days in September, the public is given access to normally off-limits spaces, including monuments, museums, palaces, embassies, city halls, and more (like the official residence of the President of the French Republic, the Elysées Palace). Likewise it aims to widen access and foster care for natural, architectural, cultural and environmental heritage; all being of national importance to the history and future of France.
Takes place: mid-September
Techno Parade Paris
This Parisian love parade was conceived as a political demonstration for peace and international understanding through love and music. The Techno Parade Paris turns 18 years old in September 2016 with full-blown festivities. Feel the euphoria behind its furiously futurist embrace of technology and the possibility of sound, along with an astonishing high of more than 350,000 attendees each year. The merriment starts at 12 noon, and includes six hours of dancing from international djs and quixotic float parades zigzagging through Paris.
Takes place: September
Paris’ festival of contemporary arts, The Paris Autumn Festival, spans a whopping three months over the fall season. Cultural venues, ministries, town councils, associations, foundations, patrons, and artists rally around one collective goal – bringing together theatre, music, dance, film and the visual arts at the forefront of the cultural stage. So brace yourself for another kind of fall in the spirit of discovery, transmission and sharing.
Takes place: September through December
Sleepless in the City of Lights? During Les Nuits Blanches, the best of Parisian culture is on show all night long in the city’s monuments and around designated art hotspots (such as Belleville, Ménilmontant, Stalingrad, the Berges de Seine and Place de la République). So sack sleep as a true nighttime arts carnival atmosphere descends upon Paris; explore artistic creation at night through live art performances, interactive art displays, live music and more. A number of cities (including Rome, Melbourne, and Toronto) have emulated this open, free-of-charge event.
Takes place: early October
La Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre
Montmartre in Paris was home to many notable artists like Salvador Dalí, Amedeo Modigliani, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh. Since 1934 Montmartre has also stood out amongst competitors for its prestigious festival La Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre, the Montmartre Grape Harvest Festival. Catch traditional French music concerts and parades as well as guided visits of the vineyards, or tantalize your taste buds with thematic taste testing of authentic local products.
Takes place: October
Winter Camp Festival
To cut a long December short, those who dread cold, dark and dreary nights can warm up with this Parisian Winter Festival brimming with hot rock, folk and electro music. The heat is on during the Parisian Winter Camp Festival where temperatures are elevated in December over five days throughout numerous Parisian concert halls such as Le Trabendo, Le Divan du Monde and La Maroquinerie. The epicenter of this sonorous musical experiment fosters the emergence of a dynamic cultural awakening, which leaves the psyche bubbling in the aftermath.
Takes place: December
By Delene Di Vita