If you're obsessed with arts and culture but are an "artmivore" -- eg, you have no preferred genre-- May in the city of light is definitely for you. Next month marks the beginning of the high season for events and festivals (many of which are free) in Paris. From fine arts to music and sports, the city comes entirely alive in May.
Mark your calendars for Paris Museum Night on Saturday, May 17th, when dozens of museums around the city open their doors for no charge well into the night. Jazz fan? The St-Germain-des-Prés jazz festival will take the streets of the posh district known best for its existentialist thinkers and iconic cafes from May 15th to 25th. For the fans of clay court tennis among you, the 2014 French Open at Roland Garros opens the courts for an exciting set of competitions starting May 21st. And if you're interested in learning more about the city's vibrant arts scene, Open House Days at Belleville Artists' studios (pictured above) will give you a stimulating peek at the work and studios of less well-known artists.
Read More: May Events in Paris
Image credit: Nicole Smith/Licensed to About.com.
A lot of readers write to me asking whether they can realistically get a sense of the city in only 48 hours. I highly recommend staying longer, and to answer the feasibility question directly, feel that this approach will afford a rather superficial (and harried) version of Paris that certainly won't do it justice. Still, some of you won't have more time, and to address that case, I've put together a flexible program that covers a great deal of the "big stuff", as well as some important but often overlooked places and attractions.
The Paris in two days itinerary is a 48-hour whirlwind, self-guided tour of the places and attractions you should see if you want to get a first taste of the city. Day one covers the classic Paris you know from postcards and includes giants like the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. The second day sends you to the more contemporary right bank, where artists, young stylists, and immigrant communities generate the pulse of present-day Paris. On the program: a walking tour of the historic Marais quarter and strolls through several of Paris' most dynamic--yet still oh so charming-- neighborhoods. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner suggestions are provided, too.
The best part about the itinerary? It's designed to bend to your whims and tastes, and account for things taking less or more time than you expect. You're free to see as little or as much as you like, and in some cases you're given a choice between two great attractions or restaurants-- the choosing is part of the fun.
Like This? More Ideas for Short Trips to Paris:
- Top Paris Monuments and Historic Attractions
- Art Museums of Paris: The Top Ten
- Free Things to Do in Paris
- Paris Boat Tours: Cruises on the Seine and Paris Waterways
- Best Bus Tours of Paris
Image: The Hotel de Cluny in the Latin Quarter houses the National Medieval Museum. It also features a dazzling medieval-style herbal garden and the remnants of Roman thermal baths. ©2006 Courtney Traub. Licensed to About.com.
If you've seen the fantastic documentary, Man on Wire, you may have developed an unlikely fascination for tightrope-walkers. Earlier this week, a famous one named Denis Josselin made headlines when he walked across a tightrope to cross the Seine River, some 82 feet above the cold currents . Sure, it's not as precipitous and frightening as crossing the World Trade Center, as his compatriot Philippe Petit did in 1974, and as documented in the aforementioned documentary. Still, it made for an entertaining (if nerve-wracking) spectacle.
According to the Associated Press, it took Josselin half an hour to cross the 492-foot rope, and under the watchful gaze of hundreds of people. "I am the last tightrope walker that got the authorisation to cross the Seine river, it was ten years ago. So, these occasions are so rare that I am enjoying them as much as possible," he was quoted as saying. You can watch the video documenting Josselin's feat here-- and please, kids, don't try this on your own visit! Take a boat tour, or have a picnic on the banks, or tour the bridges of Paris instead.
Related Features on About.com Paris Travel:
At first glance, parents may wince at the idea of bringing kids-- especially the youngest ones-- to Paris, which can seem like a giant museum suited only for culturally savvy adults. But the city can be surprisingly kid-friendly if you know where to look, and plan accordingly. From an old-style amusement park confusingly called the "Jardin d'acclimation", to the Grevin wax museum (pictured) and a day of fun just outside the city limits at Disneyland Paris, there's no shortage of places certain to keep your young travelers happy and distracted. Consult our complete guide to the top things to do with kids in Paris to find out more. We've made it more comprehensive than ever by adding more family-oriented attractions to the list, so make sure to bookmark it ahead of your next trip. Also see our guide made specially for parents with picky eaters, and providing tons of useful advice on eating out with kids in Paris.
Image credit: A wax sculpture at the Musee Grevin. 2006 Tchitcha. Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons License.
From Breton-style savory buckwheat "galettes" to nutella-drenched sweet crepes served warm straight from triangular paper holders on the street, there's no denying the allure of the French crepe. About.com Paris Travel Contributor Colette Davidson weighs in on some of the very best spots in Paris to procure une bonne crêpe (of either variety).
Read More: Best Crepes and Creperies in Paris
Related Features on About.com Paris Travel:
- Best Fast Food and Street Food in Paris
- Best Falafel in Paris: Our Picks
- From Baguettes to Pastries: How to Order From a Boulangerie Like a Local
- Best Macarons in Paris
Image credit: Bing/Creative Commons.
T.S. Eliot may have deemed April "the cruellest month" in his celebrated poem,"The Wasteland", but for most, spending it in Paris proves him wrong. If you're in town next month, consider yourself cruelly lucky. Weather permitting-- and sudden gales and showers are very common, by the way-- you can look forward to taking in some bright skies and blooming flowers, while ambling the warm(ish) streets to your heart's content. Exhibits from the likes of American photographer Robert Adams make it a great time to enjoy some art, should a rainy day keep you sequestered warmly inside. Jazz fan? You're in luck. Through the 11th of April, the Banlieues Bleues Jazz Festival brings together some of the world's most exciting talent into just a few venues in Paris's northern suburb. It's definitely off the beaten track, and that's the point. I'm revising Eliot's quote to call April the jazziest month (at least in Paris).
A few years ago, Eric Hazan published a fascinating book called The Invention of Paris. What I especially liked about this book was that it traced how the city was forged, quartier by quartier, through centuries of ideological wrangling and battles over what Paris should be-- and who was worthy enough to allow inside the walls. The Carnavalet Museum succeeds as much as the book does in illustrating Paris' turbulent and exciting history. Housed within the walls of two Renaissance-era mansions, the Hotel de Carnavalet and the Hotel Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau (built in the 16th and 17th centuries, respectively), the Carnavalet Museum's permanent collection traces the history of Paris across 100 densely-packed rooms. The permanent exhibit arguably tops the list of Paris' free museums. Carnavalet also hosts a series of temporary exhibits highlighting various periods or aspects of Parisian heritage. In short, if you're interested in getting into the nitty-gritty of what made Paris what it is today, pay a visit to Carnavalet.
- Video: All About the Marais
- A Short History of Paris
- Free Paris Museums
- Paris Historical Maps Gallery
- History of the Louvre Museum
Image credit: Detail of a painting at the Musee Carnavalet in Paris. ©2007 Fredpanassac. Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons License.
While some of us may be content enough with just enjoying a good glass of wine with dinner, others are possessed by a true oenological curiosity: you want to know how a particular wine was made, where it came from, and distinguish between all those marvelous fruity and spicy notes hanging out on your palate. If you tend to belong in the second category of taster, consider paying a visit to the Musee du Vin (Paris Wine Museum)-- a rather underrated establishment in the posh, westerly 16th arrondissement . About.com Paris Travel Contributor Nicole Smith spent an afternoon in the museum's dense limestone cellars learning the history of French winemaking techniques, then enjoyed a tasting of wine from the museum's own vineyard (located in the South of France) to polish off a pleasant afternoon and sate her own curious palate. Read on.
Read More: Review of the Musée du Vin in Paris
Following an unusually mild winter, spring seems to be rearing its head a bit on the early side this year, and Parisians are starting to ease out of their notorious wintertime melancholy to take up every available inch of lawn at city parks, stage elaborate picnics and roam around the streets again. For a little seasonal inspiration, take a look at our winsome gallery of springtime scenes in Paris (yes, some people actually do get to live in cities this enchanting). Then, once you're sufficiently jealous, and sick and giddy with inspiration, check out our seasonal guides below to find out what to see and do in the coming months.
- All About Paris in the Springtime
- Top Paris Parks and Gardens
- Paris Street Markets (useful for stocking up on goodies for picnics)
- Romantic Paris Attractions
Image: The Ile St Louis is an ideal spot for picnics when spring comes around. Carnavent/Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons License
Jazz legends like Dizzy Gillespie, Django Reinhardt, Nina Simone or Duke Ellington have haunted many of Paris' traditional (intramural) jazz clubs with unforgettable performances, but much of the vibrancy of the present-day jazz scene in Paris can be found in the north banlieues, or suburbs. This week marks the kickoff of the Banlieues Bleues Jazz Festival, a heady, eclectic program bringing together both well-known and fresh artists from around the world. Around 20 venues clustered in the northern suburbs of St. Denis, Aubervilliers, Pantin and others are hosting this year's shows, with highlights including performances from artists such as American jazz multi-instrumentalist Kahlil El'Zabar, L'intuition Vincent Curtois and Michael Ackerman, Andre Minvielle, and Charles Tolliver Music Inc. Whether you're hooked on Afro-Caribbean, New Orleans, acid or folksy jazz styles, this year's festival should hit your sweet note.
Read More and Find Tickets: Guide to Banlieues Bleues 2014 (Paris Jazz Festival)
- March Events in Paris
- April 2014 Events in Paris
- Fete de la Musique in Paris
- Nearby: The Stunning St Denis Basilica, Cathedral, and Royal Necropolis
- Around the Corner: Paris Salon du Livre (Book Fair)
- Walking Tour Review: Black History Around Luxembourg Gardens
Image: Jazz group Sweetback performing at Paris jazz festival Banlieues Blues in 2009. Mateo de la Vega/Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons License.