Social Events and Festivals

With all that’s going on in Paris, festivals – in the traditional “popular” sense – are no big deal. But there is an impressive array of arts events and an inspired internationalist jamboree at the Fête de l’Humanité. The tourist office produces a biannual Saisons de Paris – Calendrier des Manifestations, which gives details of all the mainstream events; otherwise, check the Listings and other Paris magazines. Many Parisian quartiers like Belleville, Ménilmontant and Montmartre have portes ouvertes (open doors) weeks when artists’ studios are open to the public and some festivities are laid on – keep an eye open for posters and flyers.


La Grande Parade (January 1) New Year’s Day parade, with floats, dancers and bands, from Porte St-Martin to Madeleine (


Salon de l’Agriculture (end of February to beginning of March) The biggest agricultural show in the world at the Parc des Expositions, Porte de Versailles (

Chinese New Year Paris’s Chinese community bring in the New Year in the 13e around av d’Ivry.


Banlieues Bleues (early March to early April) International jazz festival in the towns of Seine-Saint-Denis (Blanc-Mesnil, Drancy, Aubervilliers, Pantin, St-Ouen, Bobigny); info on,

Festival Exit International festival of contemporary dance, performance and theatre at Créteil; information from Maison des Arts, place Salvador-Allende, 94000 Créteil (tel,

Festival de Films des Femmes (end of March/beginning of April) Women’s film festival at Créteil; information from Maison des Arts, place Salvador-Allende, 94000 Créteil (tel,

Festival du Film de Paris (end of March to beginning of April) Mostly mainstream films on preview at the Cinéma Gaumont Marignan, 27–33 av des Champs-Élysées, 8e (tel,


Poisson d’Avril (April 1) April Fools’ Day with spoofs in the media and kids sticking paper fishes on the backs of the unsuspecting.

Foire du Trône (April to May) Funfair located in the 12e, Pelouse de Reuilly and Bois de Vincennes (

Marathon International de Paris The Paris Marathon departs from Place de la Concorde and arrives at the Hippodrome de Vincennes 42km later. There’s also a half-marathon in March (

Foire de Paris (end April/beginning of May) Food, wine, house and home fair at the Parc des Expositions, Porte de Versailles (


Fête du Travail (May 1) May Day. Everything closes and there are marches and festivities in eastern Paris and around place de la Bastille. Lilies of the valley are sold everywhere.

Finale de la Coupe de France French football championships final at the Stade de France (tel

Internationaux de France de Tennis (last week of May and first week of June) The French Open tennis championships at Roland Garros (

Jazz in the Parc Floral (May to July) Big jazz names give free concerts in the Parc Floral at the Bois de Vincennes (entrance to park €1.50; tel,

Printemps des Rues (end of May) Free street performances in the areas of La Villette, Gambetta, Nation and République (


Journées de la maison Contemporaine More than 350 houses designed by modern architects are opened up to the public (

Festival Agora Contemporary theatre/dance/music festival organized by IRCAM and the Pompidou Centre (tel,

Festival de St-Denis (last two weeks in June) Classical and world music festival with opportunities to hear music in the Gothic St-Denis Basilica (tel,

Fête de la Musique (June 21) Live bands and free concerts throughout the city (tel,

Feux de la Saint-Jean (around June 21) Fireworks for St-Jean’s Day at the Parc de la Villette and quai St-Bernard.

Marche des Fiertés LGBT Lesbian and Gay Pride march tel,

Foire St-Germain (June to July) Concerts, antique fairs, poetry and exhibitions in the 6e (tel,

Festival de Chopin (mid-June to July) Chopin recitals by candlelight, held in the Orangerie de Bagatelle, in the Bois de Boulogne (


La Goutte d’Or en Fête (first week) Music festival of rap, reggae, raï with local and international performers (tel,

Bastille Day (July 14 and evening before) The 1789 surrender of the Bastille is celebrated in official pomp, with parades of tanks down the Champs-Élysées, firework displays and concerts. At night there is dancing in the streets around place de la Bastille to good French bands.

Arrivée du Tour de France Cycliste (third or fourth Sunday) The Tour de France cyclists cross the finishing line in the avenue des Champs-Élysées (

Paris Quartier d’Été Music, cinema, dance and theatre events around the city (tel,

Festival de Cinéma en Plein Air (mid-July to end Aug) Open-air cinema for free at Parc de la Villette (tel

Paris-Plage (mid July to mid-Aug) A popular initiative launched by the mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, in which the quais of the Seine are closed to traffic and transformed into mini-beaches, complete with imported sand and palm trees.


Cinéma au clair de lune Open-air screenings of films shot in Paris and shown near the location where they were filmed (tel,

Fête de l’Assomption (Aug 15) A procession from Notre-Dame around the Ile de la Cité.


Fête de l’Humanité (second weekend) Sponsored by the French Communist Party and L’Humanité newspaper, this annual three-day event just north of Paris at La Courneuve attracts people in their tens of thousands and of every political persuasion. Food and drink (all very cheap), and music and crafts from every corner of the globe, are the predominant features, rather than political platforms. Each French regional CP has a vast restaurant tent with its specialities; French and foreign bands play on an open-air stage; and the event ends on Sunday night with an impressive firework display. (M° La Courneuve, then bus #177 or special shuttle from RER). Info on,

Villette Jazz Festival (mid-Sept) One of the city’s best jazz festivals, held in the park and Grande Halle at la Villette (tel,

Journées du Patrimoine (third weekend) A France-wide event where normally off-limits buildings – like the Palais de l’Elysée where the President resides – are opened to a curious public. Details in local press and on

Festival d’Automne (end of September to end of December) Theatre and music festival including companies from Eastern Europe, America and Japan; multilingual productions; lots of avant-garde and multimedia stuff, most of it very exciting (tel,

Techno Parade (mid September) One of the highlights of the Rendez-vous Electroniques festival. Floats with sound systems parade from Place de la République to Pelouse de Reuilly, where a big party is held (tel,

Rendez-vous Electroniques (mid-Sept) A celebration of electronic music in the city’s clubs and other venues.


Fêtes des Vendanges (first or second Saturday) The grape harvest festival in the Montmartre vineyard, at the corner of rue des Saules and rue St-Vincent (tel

Nuit Blanche (early Oct) All-night cultural events at unusual venues (tel,

Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain (FIAC) International contemporary art fair held at Paris Expo, Porte de Versailles (tel,

Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe Horse flat racing with high stakes at Longchamp (tel,

Salon du Chocolat (Oct to Nov) Chocolatiers come to the Carrousel du Louvre from all over to show off their chocolate-making skills (


Festival d’Art Sacré de la Ville de Paris (end of November to mid-December) Concerts and recitals of church music in Paris’s churches and concert halls (tel

Mois de la Photo (biennial – even years) Photographic exhibitions held in museums, galleries and cultural centres throughout the city (tel

Festival FNAC-Inrockuptibles (early Nov) Dubbed Les Inrocks, a rock festival featuring lots of new names at various venues around town, put on by the book and record chain-store FNAC (

Le Beaujolais Nouveau (third Thurs in Nov) Cafés and wine bars celebrate the new vintage.

Lancement des Illuminations des Champs-Élysées (end of November) Jazz bands, the Republican Guard and an international star turning on the Christmas lights down the Champs-Élysées.


Le Nouvel An (December 31) New Year’s Eve means fireworks, drinking and kissing, notably on the Champs-Élysées.

Patinoire de l’Hôtel de Ville (mid-December to end of February) Ice-skating rink in front of the town hall. Free entry but you pay for rental of ice-skates (

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