While Paris isn’t a 24-hour town like some international capitals, and many neighborhoods may seem pretty quiet after sundown, there are still plenty of places to go if you are ready for a night out. So whether you’re planning to hit the most happening clubs or happy with a 3€ beer in a student bar in the Latin Quarter, we’re here to help you find your way. Below is a biased selection of some of the better ways to spend your Parisian evenings; the end of the chapter is dedicated to sports fans in search of a game/race/match.
Finding Out What’s On
Paper magazine listings are dwindling, but for up-to-the-minute dates and schedules for what’s happening in music, theater, dance, and film, you can still pick up the weekly l’Officiel des Spectacles (1€), a comprehensive listing of weekly events. also has a weekly pull-out listings guide, complete with reviews. Both come out on Wednesdays and are available at any newsstand.
Online, Pariscope has excellent listings (www.pariscope.fr), as does l’Officiel des Spectacles (www.offi.fr) and Télérama (www.telerama.fr). All three sites are in French only. By the way, if you see a sign at a theater or on an events website that says location, that means “box office,” not location.
GETTING TICKETS: Many hotels will help you get tickets, and most venues have a reservation link on their websites, but the easiest way to buy tickets is at Fnac, the giant bookstore/music chain that has one of the most comprehensive box offices in the city (follow the signs to the “Billeterie”). You can also order your tickets online in English at www.fnactickets.com or by phone at [tel] 08-92-68-36-22 (.40€ per min.). Ticketmaster.fr offers a similar service.
Discount hunters can stand in line at one of the city’s three half-price ticket booths, all run by Le Kiosque Théâtre (www.kiosquetheatre.com). There’s one in front of the Montparnasse train station, another on the west side of the Madeleine (facing 15 place de la Madeleine, exit rue Tronchet from the Madeleine Métro stop), and a third in the center of Place des Ternes (17th arrond.) The first two are open from Tuesday to Saturday (12:30–7.30pm), and Sun (12:30–3:45pm), while Ternes’ is open just Tuesday to Saturday (12:30–2:30pm, 3–7.30pm). Half-price tickets for same-day performances go on sale here at 12:30pm. Don’t dawdle—by noon the line is usually already long. Not up to the challenge? There are plenty of ticket discounts at BilletRéduc, www.billetreduc.com (in French).
Paris has hundreds of theaters, most of which have something going on almost every night. The obvious catch here is, almost all of it is in French. Even if you can’t spit out much more than bonjour and merci, fear not, you have options. There are a few English-language shows like the hit “How To Become a Parisian in One Hour” (see “Belly Laughs in English,” below), or you can opt for one of the many avant-garde offerings at theaters like Théâtre de Chaillot or Théâtre de la Ville, where shows that combine dance, theater, and images don’t really need translation. Ticket prices, particularly for the large, state-funded theaters, are remarkably low. For example, the most expensive seats are 41€ at the Odéon and 42€ at the Comédie-Française.
Belly Laughs in English
English-language shows are rare, and comics are even more so, but a couple of long-standing gigs in town are worth a detour. At press time, the best place to go for a good giggle was “How to Become a Parisian in One Hour” (playing at Théâtre des Nouveautés; info and reservations at www.oliviergiraud.com), a one-person show written by Olivier Giraud, a Frenchman who spent several years in the U.S. More humor is on tap at SoGymnase, Paris’s only English-language comedy club, on the fourth floor of the Théâtre du Gymnase Marie Bell (38 ave. Bonne Nouvelle, 10th arrond.; www.sogymnase.com; [tel] 01-42-46-79-79). Enjoy stand-up and one-person shows by local expat and visiting talent from U.S. and the U.K. The WTF PARIS? comedy night is on Fridays at 8pm; British-American Comedy Night is Saturdays at 9:30pm.
Paris is the nation’s dance capital, and most of the country’s best companies are based here, including the phenomenal Ballet de l’Opéra de Paris (see “Opéra de Paris,” below). Top French choreographers like Angelin Preljoçaj, Blanca Li, and José Montalvo produce here, as well as other European stars like Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Mats Ek. Two of the biggest dance venues are Théâtre de Chaillot or Théâtre de la Ville. For some reason, dance is often grouped with classical music in magazine and website listings.
Summer Rhythm & Blues
With few exceptions, the major concert halls and theaters are in action between September and June, taking off the summer months. Not only that, but since the city virtually empties out as Parisians storm the beaches during the annual vacation exodus, many smaller venues and dance clubs also close their doors. On the upside, Paris sees several wonderful summer music festivals, including Jazz à La Villette (www.jazzalavillette.com), an international jazz blowout that takes place in the Parc de la Villette in August and September, and the Festival Chopin (www.frederic-chopin.com), a tribute to the master at the Parc de la Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne in June and July. But if you have your heart set on opera or theater, you’re better off visiting during the colder weather.
Heaven-Sent Music Venues: Concerts in Churches
Many of Paris’s most beautiful churches and cathedrals, including Notre-Dame, St-Eustache, and Ste-Chapelle, host organ and other classical music concerts. Not only is the setting delightful, but the acoustics are generally otherworldly as well. While there is no ticket central for these artistic houses of God, concerts are usually listed in the weekly-listings magazines and websites (Pariscope, l’Officiel des Spectacles) under classical music. The churches generally print monthly music schedules, which they display near the entrance to the sanctuary (and sometimes post on their websites). Ticket prices are reasonable; you shouldn’t pay more than 25€.
At the end of the 19th century, cabarets and music halls opened in Montmartre, frequented by oddballs and artists, as well as bourgeois, aristocrats, and demi-mondaines looking for a good time. These nightclubs offered an offbeat reflection of the times, where singers like Aristide Bruand would sing about the life of the destitute and sharp political satire would share the stage with cheeky dancing girls dancing that new step, the can-can. Those days are long gone. Although some visitors feel they simply haven’t enjoyed the true Paris experience without seeing a show at the Moulin Rouge or the Lido, there is nothing particularly Parisian, or even French, about them anymore. Today’s audiences are more likely to arrive in tour buses than touring cars, and contemporary shows are more Vegas than Paris. What you will see here is a lot of scenic razzmatazz and many sublime female bodies, mostly torse nue (topless). If you still want to see one of these shows, do yourself a favor and have dinner somewhere else. The food in these establishments is expensive for the quality. (The following theaters have strict dress codes as well, so be sure to inquire about them when making reservations.)
Chanson: The Next Generation
You’ve all heard it, the tremulous voice, the monotonous tunes, the intense sincerity of it all—yes, that’s chanson, those peculiarly melody-challenged songs that Edith Piaf sang. If you don’t understand the words, it’s hard to understand why so many French people get all misty-eyed when they listen to it. But that’s just it; with chanson, it’s the words that count. Each song is a poem set to music, in fact some lyrics are the works of famous French authors. In recent years, a new generation of young singers/writers have been coming up with their own poetic versions of the trials and tribulations of life, and their heroes are not so much Piaf and Aznavour as Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. The biggest venue for chanson these days is the newly reborn Les Trois Baudets (64 bd. de Clichy, 18th arrond.; www.lestroisbaudets.com; [tel] 01-42-62-33-33), but the following two other venues also specialize in this quintessentially French style:
*Théâtre des 2 Anes (100 bd. de Clichy, 18th arrond.; www.2anes.com; [tel] 01-46-06-10-64; Métro: Blanche). Depending on the night, it could be humor or singing here, but it will always be with an ironic edge.
*Au Lapin Agile (48 bis rue Custine, 18th arrond.; www.au-lapin-agile.com; [tel] 01-46-06-85-87; Métro: Lamarck-Caulaincourt). This legendary spot was once the hangout of then unknown artists and poets like Picasso, Utrillo, and Apollonaire. Despite being a tourist destination, the shows here are nostalgic and heartfelt, with the audience often joining in.
LIVE ROCK, JAZZ & MORE
Paris has a wide range of places to go to hear live music, from tiny medieval basements to huge modern concert venues. Wherever your musical tastes lead you, you are bound to enjoy your outing: Not only do many of the world’s greatest musicians swing through the city on a regular basis, but you can’t beat the walk to the nightclub/bar/theater with the lights of Paris twinkling in the background.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.