A cultural cornucopia awaits visitors to Paris this fall, especially for travelers looking for something a little off the beaten path. Two top-tier museums will reopen after multi-year renovations as part of an exciting new season of festivals, top-notch art exhibitions, and the city's leading food and wine events. There's plenty to inspire a last-minute trip if you haven't booked already!
Esteemed as much for research and scholarship as for its stupendous collections, the Musée de l'Homme—in the iconic Palais de Chaillot—reopens on October 17 after a six-year total overhaul. New state-of-the-art displays focus on the question, “What does it means to be human?” Exhibitions are filled with the museum's priceless artifacts, including everything from the 20,000-year-old Venus of Lespugue to Descartes' skull. There's something fascinating for all ages here, plus an enticing restaurant and a gift shop.
This beautiful new Musée de Parfum Paris (free admission) is dedicated to the art and history of perfume making. Opened by the Costa family, founders of the renowned Grasse-based perfumer Fragonard, the museum tells the story of French perfume through historic objects and the family's own vast collection of art objects, vials and bottles, distilleries, and more, many exhibited for the first time. You'll want to linger in the museum shop where knowledgeable guides offer samples to help you find the perfect fragrance.
A pioneer in surrealist art and a friend of Picasso and Braque, Wifredo Lam is considered one of the leading lights of modernist painting. He was influenced by surrealism, magical realism, modernism, postmodernism, and Afro-Cuban symbolism, and an exhibition of his work at the Centre Pompidou (September 30–February 15) takes a welcome new look at this artist who transcended cultural boundaries.
The Grand Palais is hosting the first retrospective (September 23–January 11 devoted to the extraordinary artist Elisabeth Louis Vigée le Brun, who began her career in the courts of Louis XV, where she painted his fashionable wife, Marie Antoinette, and his children. Vigée le Brun triumphed over the limitations of a modest background and the usual constraints of her gender to become one of the most accomplished and celebrated portraitists of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Paris.
It's an excellent time to discover, or rediscover, one of Paris's hidden gems. Now through February 14, the superb Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature features two extraordinary exhibitions. In one, there are twenty canvases by the American painter Walton Ford (created for the exhibition) that play on the tradition of academic zoological painting with irony, humor, and the artist's singular vision. In the other, wildlife photographer George Shiras presents a sublime and magical world of animal life at at night.
A hotly anticipated fall event, each year the Festival d'Automne assembles a world-class roster of performers in contemporary dance, theater, performance, art, cinema, and music in venues in and around Paris. There's everything from jazz performances by La Monte Young in the soaring Saint-Eustache church to the Trisha Brown dance company performing at the National Theatre de Chaillot. Find a detailed calendar of events and ticketing online.
Gathering all the top names in contemporary art, this year's FIAC (Foire Internationale d'Art Contemporaine) runs from October 21–25 at the Grand Palais and several other venues around town including the Tuilerie Gardens, Place Vendôme, and the Jardin des Plantes. The festival also features a schedule of performances, films, and lectures.
Each fall, Paris hosts a roster of irresistible events around food and wine. This city is the world epicenter of chocolate, and the Salon du Chocolat (October 28–November 1) presents and awards the world's greatest chocolatiers. The yearly Fêtes des Vendanges de Montmartre (November 7–11), a five-day blowout party celebrating the grape harvest at Paris's last producing vineyards on the heights of Montmartre, features music, dancing, children's events, beekeeping and winemaking classes, fireworks, tastings and the introduction of the 2014 cuvee. And then, for four glorious days, wine lovers can taste to their hearts content the great appellations from every corner of France, including bio and natural wines, at the Paris edition of the Salon des Vins des Vignerons Indépendents (November 26–30). A small admission price gets you a tasting glass and free reign of more than 325 winemakers, plus plenty of French regional delicacies for a delicious lunch or dinner break.
A Notable New Boutique
Indulge your inner shoe fetishist at Paris's chicest department store. Le Bon Marché's new L'Espace Souliers, a designer-shoe salon, is the latest mecca for the very best in women's French and European shoe design. The soaring, skylit space assembles hundreds of shoes, including pairs that are personalized and made-to-measure.
A Hot New Hotel
It took the newly opened Les Bains about a nanosecond to become the hottest spot in the Marais. With a chic bar, restaurant, spa, in-hotel fashion boutique, stylish rooms, and parties every night, you hardly need to leave the premises. Ask for a room with a terrace or an outdoor shower, a first in the city.
Speaking of the Marais, the wonderful new Maison Plisson is the place to go for a quick bite, take-home gourmet meal, or simply to see and be seen. A gourmet grocer on one side and a stylish café on the other, you'll find an excellent handpicked selection of the best French delicacies, from jams and chocolate to Champagne, foie gras, and fresh produce. The café, with its huge outdoor terrace, serves delicious warm dishes, cold salads, gourmet sandwiches, natural wines and juices, and desserts, all reasonably priced considering the neighborhood.
Nearby, the new gastropub Rosemary has all the best French-inflected, gourmet British comfort food. Everything is chic yet totally unpretentious, and the staff is friendly and eager to please. Order a Pimm's classic cocktail or a hand-pulled Siren craft brew to go with your house-pickled trout or beef Wellington. Great-value prix-fixe menus for lunch and dinner make this a bargain to boot.