Paris is an all-year-round kind of city, with great events in every season. No matter when you visit, you will have something to see beyond the traditional sights, be it a sports match, a cycle of museum concerts, or a movie festival. Here is a non-exhaustive list of the best events to look out for month by month. The Tourist Office (www.parisinfo.com) is also a good resource; click “Going Out”, then “Celebrations and Festivals in Paris”.
January Sales. Over 1,000 shops, from boutiques to grands magasins, participate in the January sales, offering discounts as high as 70 percent. Sales are standardized in France, meaning shops can only open to bargain-hunters on authorized days, so if you want to grab the goods before anybody else, be there when the doors open (usually 10am). Sales begin around January 11 and last until mid-February.
International Circus Festival of Tomorrow. The annual International Circus Festival of Tomorrow at Paris's Pelouse de Reuilly (Métro: Liberté) offers the chance to catch the world's finest circuses under one roof. Young artists from such diverse schools as the Beijing Circus, the Moscow Circus, and France's own Ecole Fratellini compete at the festival in a bid to discover the stars of the future. Four days at the end of January. www.cirquededemain.paris. tel. 08-92-68-36-22 (.40€/min).
International Agricultural Show. Every February, the terroir (France's countryside) comes to Paris for the International Agricultural Show at the Porte de Versailles. It's a real institution (even the French president makes an official call) with exhibits featuring the top models of the animal world, meaty gastronomic delicacies from 22 French regions, leisure, hunting, and fishing displays. Mid-February. www.salon-agriculture.com. tel. 01-49-20-45-12.
Six Nations Rugby. France faces its European rivals (England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and Italy) in the Six Nations rugby union internationals at the humongous Stade de France. The championship is the oldest rugby tournament in the world, having existed in one form or another for 120 years. Since the advent of the Six Nations, France has been the most successful country, so come along and see whether they can be beaten on home territory. February and March. www.stadefrance.com or www.sixnationsrugby.com.
Chinese New Year. Paris celebrates this lively annual event in two main areas, the 13th arrond. and Belleville in the 20th, the city’s Chinese Quarters. Most of the action is in the 13th, however, where concerts and screenings are shown alongside the traditional dragon parade, which swirls through avenues such as d’Ivry and Choisy in a flurry of color and sparkle. 1 day in February.
Paris Carnival. The annual Carnaval de Paris goes by many names, including the Pantruche Carnaval, the Saint-Fargeau, and the Promenade du Boeuf Gras (Fat Cow Parade). Led by the Fat Cow herself (yes, an actual cow), it revives an age-old tradition begun in 1274. Cheerful Parisians, trumpeters, and other musicians parade through the capital's streets to the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall). Carnival buildup usually begins 1:30pm at Place Gambetta, and leaves at 3pm, arriving at the town hall at 7pm. First Sunday of March. www.carnavaldeparis.org.
Banlieues Blues. This annual music festival, in Paris's northern suburb of Pantin, brings top-notch jazz and blues names to the traditionally culture-hungry suburbs. It's a fine way to discover lesser-known theaters as your feet swing to the sound of top-notch international musicians. Mid-March to mid-April. www.banlieuesbleues.org.
Festival Chorus. Paris's Festival Chorus brings rock, pop, and French chanson to dozens of venues across the western Hauts-de-Seine suburb with some 120 artists taking part in more than 80 different concerts. The main stage is the Magic Mirror, an old-fashioned, circus-style big-top set on the esplanade between La Defense's modern towers. Six days in early April. http://chorus.hauts-de-seine.fr/. tel. 01-47-74-64-64.
Paris Marathon. The Paris Marathon offers runners (some 55,000 of them) the chance to take in some of the city's most famous landmarks (cheered on by thousands of spectators), including the Champs-Élysées, the Tuileries garden, and Place de la Bastille. If you'd like to get your older kids involved, the 5km (3 mile) breakfast run is for anyone aged over 12, La Course du P'tit Déj, held the day before the marathon. One Sunday in April. www.schneiderelectricparismarathon.com.
Foire du Trône. Europe's largest temporary carnival, the Foire du Trône at the Pelouse de Reuilly attracts around 5 million visitors every year. Though it has roots stretching back to the 12th century, since the 1950s the event has grown to epic proportions: Every year, visitors down enough beer to fill an Olympic swimming pool. With its flashing lights, pumping music, freak shows, and greasy aromas, the Foire du Trône is a world away from the cultural clichés of the French capital, and sometimes that is the best thing about it. Early April to the end of May. www.foiredutrone.com.
Nuit des Musées. During the Nuit des Musées (Museum Night), the city's museums stay open until 1am, offering you a chance to see the Louvre, and hundreds more, for free. One Saturday mid-May. http://nuitdesmusees.culturecommunication.gouv.fr.
St-Germain-des-Prés Jazz Festival. The Rive Gauche, Paris's traditional jazz quarter, swings as local and international musicians perform at this jazz festival. Playing everything from boogie-woogie to blues, free concerts are held in St-Germain square with ticketed concerts taking place in local libraries, cafes, concerts halls, and bars. Two weeks in May. www.festivaljazzsaintgermainparis.com.
The French Open. For 2 weeks the world's best tennis players battle it out on Roland Garros's clay courts. The event is one of France's biggest sports competitions; book in advance for a decent seat. The main matches are the most expensive, so if you want to save money, watch the unseeded players on the smaller courts and you could be watching the tennis stars of the future. Mid-May to early June. www.rolandgarros.com.
Paris Wine Fair. Paris's Palais Brongniart (the city's beautiful neoclassical, former stock-exchange building) is the setting for the annual Salon de la Revue du Vin de France (French Wine Fair). Professionals and enthusiasts gather over 2 days to sample the country's best wines and some 200 winemakers attend. It's the perfect opportunity for you to learn how to tell your Bordeaux from your Bourgogne and build up your own dream cellar (Note: Most countries only allow a small amount of wine to be brought back). Early May. www.larvf.com.
Villette Sonique. Pack a picnic, and head to Parc de la Villette’s sprawling lawns for six days of free rock and electro concerts, plus numerous big-name shows held in Villette’s major concert venues, like the Philharmonie, Le Trabendo, and the Grande Halle (15€–35€). A party atmosphere reigns as music fans gyrate, drink beer, and generally have fun. Kids can attend workshops too, to learn activities like DJing or making music posters. End of May. www.villettesonique.com.
Jardin Shakespeare. Every year the Jardin Shakespeare in Paris's Bois de Boulogne hosts an open-air theater festival. Plays by the bard are performed in French and English, as well as works by other playwrights and the occasional concert or opera. The Jardin Shakespeare is so-called because of its five miniature gardens, each named after a Shakespearean work: “Macbeth,” “Hamlet,” “The Tempest,” “As You Like It,” and “A Midsummer Night's Dream.” You won't find a more charming spot for a summer night's entertainment. June to September. www.jardinshakespeare.com. tel. 06-12-39-30-69.
Paris Jazz Festival. This annual summer event presents a program of free jazz concerts in the beautiful surroundings of the Parc Floral. Gigs take place every Saturday and Sunday throughout June and July. The concerts begin at 3pm or 4pm and are free to all those who have paid the standard park entry fee. Arrive early to ensure that you get one of the 1,500 seats available or pack a picnic and bask by the park's miniature lake. June to July. www.parisjazzfestival.fr.
Fête de la Musique. In Paris for the Fête de la Musique? Everywhere you go you'll hear music, from opera and jazz to techno and rock. The Fête unites big names at major venues with accordionists on street corners and choirs in church halls. All concerts are free; the website publishes a list of participating venues. June 21. https://fetedelamusique.culturecommunication.gouv.fr.
Solidays. Solidarité SIDA is France's main charity promoting the cause of those with HIV. Its annual festival, Solidays, held at Paris's Hippodrome de Longchamp, has fast become one of the city's hippest cultural events attracting more than 100,000 visitors for a weekend of music and arts. Circus performers, fairground stalls, mime artists, and bungee jumpers create a festive atmosphere, but the real stars of the show are the big names from the international pop and rock scene. Late June. www.solidays.org.
Gay Pride (Marche des Fiertés). The flamboyant Paris Gay Pride parade traditionally goes from République to Beaubourg via the Marais, but final confirmation of the route is not usually given until the last minute. Paris has a large gay and lesbian population, with consequently one of the most liberal attitudes in France. Over the last few years the march has grown into a huge carnival, and the big day itself is the culmination of a series of events, including debates and masked balls. Late June. www.accueil.gaypride.fr.
We Love Green. In the Bois de Vincennes, this is one of the best open-air music festivals of the year: Not only are the stages jam-packed with both international and French stars, performing anything from pop and rock to electro and rap, but there are workshops and concerts just for kids (led by qualified babysitters, so parents can go off and watch a show); the festival is also eco-responsible, being partly powered by solar panels, and offering programming and workshops that promote the environment. Food-wise, 50 of the city’s best restaurants set up food trucks and temporary dining areas, including a huge banquet area, where three times a day, 200 lucky people can have a proper sit-down 3-course meal made by top chefs (reserve in advance). Early June. www.welovegreen.fr.
Download Festival. Britain’s legendary rock festival, is now an annual Paris fixture, where huge rock bands—think Guns N’ Roses, Foofighters, and Marilyn Manson—take the stage for 4 days in AIRBASE 217 in the southern suburb of Bretigny-sur-Orge (RER C, then a free shuttle to the site). For rock fans it’s a must, with around 77 bands playing. The festival is also broadcasted live on web radio Heavy 1 (www.heavy1.radio, and apps for Android and iPhone) so you can listen in, even if you can’t cover all 4 days. Mid-June. www.downloadfestival.fr.
Fête des Tuileries. Every summer, the Jardin des Tuileries west of the Louvre turns its northern edge into a good old fashioned fun fair, with a big Ferris wheel, bumper cars, and a rather cheesy ghost train. For smaller kids a 1900s-era carousel of wooden horses steals the show. The best bit? No tacky pop blasting through speakers. In fact, the fair is entirely music free, so the relaxing atmosphere of the gardens stays intact. End June to end August.
Paris Dance Festival. Les Etés de la Danse provides a series of breathtaking ballet performances at the new La Seine Musicale (p. ###) on an island in the nearby suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt. A different world-renowned company is invited to perform every year. Expect everything from traditional ballet to contemporary modern dance. Late June. www.lesetesdeladanse.com. tel. 01-42-68-22-15.
Bastille Day. France's national holiday commemorates the 1789 storming of the Bastille at the start of the French Revolution. Crowds line the Champs-Élysées for a military parade led by the president, during which jets fly in formation as top military brass bands march from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde. Later, Parisians party until dawn as fireworks explode over the Trocadéro. July 14.
Paris Plage. Every summer, long, pedestrianized stretches of the Seine (from Sully Morland to Pont Neuf, on the Right Bank, and now also at Port de Solférino on the Left Bank ) are turned into Paris Plage, a beach complete with golden sand and tanning beds. There's free sports, such as volleyball, and entertainment, from comedy to hip-hop. A second stretch of beach, along the Canal de l'Ourcq, also draws crowds with yet more concerts, outdoor games, canoeing, and sand. July to August. http://quefaire.paris.fr/parisplages.
Open-air Cinema at La Villette. Each summer, film fans converge on Paris's Parc de la Villette for its 4-week Open-Air Cinema. Pack a picnic and watch movies with the locals. Some movies are dubbed or subtitled and are some "VO" (original language). Mid-July to mid-August. www.villette.com.
Lollapalooza. The great US music festival has taken root in Paris too, at the Longchamp Racetrack in the Bois de Boulogne. Line-ups are systematically excellent—previous headliners have included Depeche Mode, Gorillaz, and The Killers— and the atmosphere is laid-back and good humored. Music aside, the focus is on the nosh, with contemporary street food designed by some of the city’s best chefs, many of them taking their signature dishes and adapting them for the festival’s take-out system. Mid to end-July. www.lollaparis.com.
Classique au Vert. World-class classical musicians gather to serenade around 1,500 tourists and Parisians in the leafy Parc Floral (Métro: Château de Vincennes). Pack a picnic for a spot on the lawn while the sound fills the air; if you want a spot under the bandstand, get there around an hour before the concert. Weekends in August and September. https://classiqueauvert.paris.fr/.
Rock en Seine. This music festival, held in the Saint Cloud park just outside Paris (Métro: Boulogne Pont Saint-Cloud), offers a consistently excellent line-up of internationally renowned pop and rock stars, and its chilled-out atmosphere makes it a definite highlight of the city's musical calendar. Kids are welcome too, with a special “minirock” stage set aside for 6- to 10-year-olds. If you buy a festival pass, you can camp at the festival campsite (just bring your own tent). Late August. www.rockenseine.com/en.
Techno Parade. The annual Techno Parade turns up the volume and quickens the pace on Paris's streets. Around 20 floats carrying 150 musicians, DJs, and performers turn out to dance their way along the 4.8km (3-mile) route. This huge event attracts 400,000 hardcore partygoers. Top DJs entertain the crowds with their mixing skills and decibel-defying sound systems. You can free your inner party animal afterwards too, in numerous bars and clubs across the capital. Mid-September. www.technoparade.fr.
Journées du Patrimoine (Heritage Days). France's Heritage Days give visitors the chance to peek behind the doors of around 14,000 buildings that are usually closed to the public. All over the country visitors can glimpse inside politicians' homes, private crypts and cellars, and the back-stage of theaters; many museums open their doors for free as well. Paris has so many wonderful buildings to discover that there are tremendous crowds, so expect to line up and be patient—the wait will be worth it. Late September. www.journeesdupatrimoine.culture.fr.
Paris-Versailles Walk. Walkers and runners have been taking part in the annual Paris-Versailles Walk, Grande Classique, for more than 30 years. It starts on the quay in front of the Eiffel Tower and ends 16km (10 miles) away at the Château de Versailles. Changing rooms and refreshments are available all along the route. Anyone over the age of 16 is invited to enter, but French regulations dictate that you need to send in a medical certificate to prove you're up to the challenge. You'll also need to enroll online beforehand at www.parisversailles.com. Late September.
Paris Autumn Festival. Encompassing opera, film, dance, and performing arts, Paris's Autumn Festival incorporates more high-powered contemporary arts events than some other cities see in a whole year. Dip into this festival at any point and you'll discover the best productions Paris has to offer. Languages range from Japanese and Russian to French, German, and English (subtitled where necessary in French), so choose your productions wisely. September to December. www.festival-automne.com.
Nuit Blanche. See Paris as you've never seen it before, when museums, monuments, cinemas, parks, and swimming pools stay open from dusk to dawn (for one night only) as thousands of revelers celebrate Nuit Blanche. The Métro stays open later, and night buses serve all the main arteries until dawn. Early October. www.paris.fr.
Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Paris's Hippodrome de Longchamp stages the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, the jewel in the crown of French horse racing, attended by around 48,000 onlookers. Part of the prestigious World Series Racing Championship, the Arc is popular with Brits, who cross the channel to watch the action. In addition to the excitement of the race, expect a wonderful display of horses, hats, and enough champagne to sink a ship. Early October. www.parislongchamp.com/fr/qatar-prix-de-larc-triomphe.
Montmartre Grape Harvest Fest. The 5-day Montmartre Grape Harvest Festival (Fête des Vendages de Montmartre) celebrates the new Cuvée Montmartre vintage wine (produced on Montmartre's very slopes). Each year, thousands of revelers come to see short film screenings, listen to concerts, and drink vin. Stalls selling regional produce set up shop on the Butte (Montmartre's hill), and a colorful parade in honor of Bacchus fills the cobbled streets. Early/Mid October. www.fetedesvendangesdemontmartre.com.
Salon du Chocolat. The Salon du Chocolat, at Paris's Porte de Versailles, is heaven for thousands of chocolate lovers who come to devour the international ambrosia and learn how it's made. You can also discover the latest in industry trends from a series of chocolate tastings, demonstrations, and symposiums while watching chocolatiers create their fineries. This is a popular event so buy your ticket online before you go at www.salon-du-chocolat.com. Late October.
Salon des Réalités Nouvelles. The Parc Floral brings abstract art to the fore at its annual Salon des Réalités Nouvelles. More than 400 French and international avant-garde artists reveal the latest trends in the abstract world through their striking creations, which range from paintings and photos to weird and wonderful sculptures and installations. Once you've had your fill, the colorful flower beds of the Parc Floral beckon. Late October. www.realitesnouvelles.org.
Orchestres en Fête. This annual classical music festival is celebrated nationwide, but as the capital city, Paris is the real center for classical music. Expect classics and lesser-known contemporary pieces played by 50-piece national orchestras as well as more intimate concerts by small Baroque ensembles in venues across the city. Mid- to late November. www.orchestresenfete.com.
Pitchfork Music Festival Paris. Paris’s fabulous, 3-day indie music festival takes place in the Grande Halle in Parc de la Villette, attracting thousands of music fans with the promise of edgy bands and after-show DJ parties (‘til 6am) in the Trabendo concert hall just opposite. Also, lookout for “off” Pitchfork concerts organized in other theaters across the city, usually around Bastille. Early November. https://pitchforkmusicfestival.fr/.
Ice-Skating. Get your skates on and get down to Paris's ice rinks, which pop up across the city over the winter months. You'll find a mix of tourists and locals cutting up the ice, and best of all: it's free (skate rentals cost around 5€). December to early March. www.paris.fr.
New Year’s Eve. The Champs-Elysées is the place to be (if you can stand the crowds) as the City of Lights lives up to its name with a great light and sound show at the Arc de Triomphe, starting about 11pm. Arrive by 9pm to grab a good spot. Alternatively, head to Montmartre, where the streets are full of partygoers, and watch midnight strike from the foot of the Sacré Coeur with Paris at your feet. You might even be lucky enough to spot a few fireworks on the horizon.
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.