Paris Travel Guide

Essential Guide to Paris Cultural Events Spring and Summer 2018

PHOTO: Teamlab

Calling all culture vultures!

From now until September, Paris is the place to be. Here’s a handpicked selection of the best spring and summer exhibitions, music, and cultural events in the city, both indoors and out.

1 OF 19

Artists & Robots

WHERE: Grand Palais

Through kinetic works, installations, video, and painting artists explore the creative potential of Artificial Intelligence. The product of human resourcefulness, intelligent machines have the potential to augment, revolutionize, subjugate and even destroy human life, lending new urgency to the questions: What does it mean to create? What does it mean to be human? (till July 9)

The Honor Café, set back in a tiny courtyard on nearby rue des Faubourg Saint-Honoré, is the city’s first all-outdoor cafe. In an area short on good, quick, and affordable bites, we appreciate its menu of gourmet sandwiches, quiches, bread, cakes, desserts, fabulous coffee, and charming laid-back atmosphere.

2 OF 19

Au Fil du Siècle, 1918-2018: Chefs-d'Oeuvre de la Tapisserie

WHERE: Manufacture des Gobelins

Who knew that one of France’s three legendary tapestry makers employed by the Kings of France also executed large-scale works by the likes of Picasso, Matisse, Delaunay Le Corbusier and Vasarely? Spanning 100 years, from 1918 to the present, these exquisite tapestries exemplify the versatility and possibility of this noble art form. Must sees include the monumental works commissioned in Paris during the occupation, exquisite woven “paintings” from artist Zao Wou-Ki and a voluptuous Sainte Sébastienne designed by Louise Bourgeois. (till Sept 23)

INSIDER TIPFlaneurs will find this an excellent neighborhood to explore, from the leafy cobbled streets of the Buttes aux Cailles to Paris’s largest Chinatown.

3 OF 19

Rodin et la Danse

WHERE: Musée Rodin

Rodin was fascinated by the body in movement and the great dancers of the day — Isadora Duncan, Loïe Fuller, Hanako, and dancers from the Cambodian Royal Ballet — inspired some of the sculptor’s most expressive sculptures and drawings. Plaster models and fragments, bronzes and the artist’s sublimely expressive watercolors capture his engagement with the life force as expressed in the human form. (till July 22)

INSIDER TIPYou don’t need to go far for a pick-me-up, as the museum’s own terrace café, set in the extensive museum gardens, is a shady place to dine, drink, or dream.

4 OF 19


WHERE: Musée Picasso

Commemorating the work’s 80th anniversary, the museum devoted to the 20th-century master takes a riveting look at the horror, power, and passion behind one of Picasso’s—and the century’s—greatest works. Though the painting itself appears only in reproduction, the climate surrounding the great work is evoked through studies and a compelling documentation of the political, cultural, social, and creative forces at work at a pivotal moment in history, plus Guernica’s monumental influence on artists to come. (till July 29)

5 OF 19

Jewelry by Artists

WHERE: Musée des Arts Décoratifs

Jewelry lovers and connoisseurs of 20th-century art and sculpture should not miss this rare glimpse into a lesser-known expression of many of our greatest 20th and 21st-century artists. Les Arts Décoratifs features private collector Diane Venet’s extraordinary collection of artists’ jewelry, with pieces by Dalí to Jeff Koons, by way of Calder, Picasso, Lucio Fontana, Jean Cocteau, and many more. (till July 8)

INSIDER TIPArts Décoratif’s gift shop is one of Paris’s top design stores, featuring books, furniture, decorative objects, clothing, jewelry and accessories by artists and designers, some created by the great manufacturers of Europe (Sevres, Nymphenburg, etc.)

6 OF 19

Corot: The Painter and His Models

WHERE: Musée Marmottan

Father of the moody landscape, this pre-impressionist’s influence reverberated through the younger artists of the day, influencing their artistic escapades en plein air. Though best known for his masterly and immediately recognizable landscapes, Corot’s figure studies were equally deft, mysterious, and influential. This monumental show — at one of Paris’s not-to-miss museums — assembles works from the great collections in Paris, Europe and the US. (till July 8)

On a beautiful day, stroll on over to the lush Jardins des Serres d’Auteuil, whose elegant walkways and newly restored greenhouses, containing rare collections of exotic plants, trees, and palms, enchant the locals. Check out the summer concert series!

7 OF 19

Mary Cassat: An American Impressionist in Paris

WHERE: Musée Jacquemart-Andrée

Tucked away in the intimate exhibition rooms of a typically Parisian 19th-century mansion, this small gem of a show highlights a brilliant painter’s sensitive renderings of women and children in oil, watercolor, pastel, and ink. Afterwards, get a load of this 19th-century power couple’s art-filled private apartments. (till July 23)

INSIDER TIPWith its generous dessert cart and spacious outdoor terrace, the museum’s tearoom is a favorite spot for lunch or teatime.


8 OF 19

Lafayette Anticipations

WHERE: Foundation Galeries Lafayette

Be among the first to explore this newly opened Rem Koolhaas-designed artists’ space that supports and exhibits the work of up-and-coming contemporary artists. Each year, the Foundation Galeries Lafayette will choose three to four artists to present their work over three months, enhanced by encounters and talks. The space also features an on-site café, with healthy snacks, fresh-pressed juices, and coffee drinks by Wild & the Moon and a boutique full of artist-made clothing, objects, and gifts. Around the corner on the rue des Archives, a 17th-century mansion houses the incomparable Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature. An innovative mix of traditional genre painting, antique weaponry, and contemporary art, there’s nothing like it in Paris—or anywhere.

9 OF 19

Margiela/Galliera, 1989–2009

WHERE: Palais Galliera

The first Paris retrospective of the elusive master of conceptual fashion is a jaunt through a totally unique and highly influential mind. In the decades when fashion and fame, glitz and glamour became the norm, Margiela questioned everything, from scale and construction to fashion’s inherent obsolescence. (till July 15)

A three-minute walk away, the new Musée Yves Saint Laurent takes you through the designer’s major collections and the very studio where he conceptualized his iconic styles.

10 OF 19

The Impressionists in London: Artists in Exile, 1870-1904

WHERE: Petit Palais

The Tate London and Paris’s museum of fine arts have teamed up for a show sure to be one of the city’s cultural blockbusters of the summer. “Impressionists in London” traces the influence on British tastes, and vice versa, of French artists seeking refuge in Britain from the economic and social upheavals of the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune. Works by Pissaro, Tissot, Monet, Daubigny, Sisley and many more span the years 1870 to 1904. (till Oct. 14)

INSIDER TIPLovers of Impressionism can hop across the Place de la Concorde to the Orangerie. Designed by Monet himself, this luminous building is home to Monet’s largest and most famous Waterlilies, as well as works by other masters of the day.

11 OF 19

Willy Ronis

WHERE: Pavillon Carré de Baudouin

A photojournalist and part of the “humanist” movement in photography, Willy Ronis was a major documentarian of Paris street life in every arrondissement, including the 20th, where he lived and worked. Featuring six of the photographer’s unreleased albums, this exhibition of an artist on par with Doisneau and others from the famous Rapho Agency, is an absolute must for both photography buffs and lovers of Paris. This superb exhibition celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Pavillon Carré de Baudouin, in the heart of the 20th. (Till Sept. 29)

Sabine Weiss, at the Centre Pompidou, will be a gem of a show, featuring the mid-century works of the last living representative of the humanist movement, who sensitively photographed the everyday lives of Parisians. (June 20 – Oct. 15)

PHOTO: Agence NC
12 OF 19


WHERE: Musée de l'Homme

This exhibit will forever disabuse us of the notion that our closest human relatives were boring or primitive. Wielding fire, creating sophisticated tools, performing rituals, and creating art are just some of the very human things they did. Set in the Trocadéro, this fascinating interactive museum is a treasure trove of discovery for all ages, asking the important and ever more relevant questions: Where did we come from and where are we going? (Till Jan. 7, 2019)

INSIDER TIPThis is the city’s best vantage point for views of the Eiffel Tower and the perfect spot to watch the tower explode into a million glittering stars for five minutes every hour on the hour after dark, or to view the Iron Lady at sunset.

13 OF 19

Nuit Européenne des Musées

WHERE: Fête de la Musique

Wonder what really happens at night in a museum? See for yourself on May 19, as Paris and other major cities around Europe celebrate the European Museum Night, when 1,000 Parisian cultural spaces stay open from dusk to dawn. This free event features scores of special performances and activities, including light shows, dance, tours, concerts, lectures, and unique viewings of rooms never open to the public, day or night. Go here for a complete a list of participating museums. (Sat., May 19)

If you can’t make it in May, there’s still time for the Fête de la Musique (June 21), held every June on the summer solstice, when musicians and music lovers throughout Paris can groove to the sounds of rock, jazz, classical, you name it major music venues and every Paris street corner, cafés, and arts centers from 7 p.m. till the wee hours.

14 OF 19


WHERE: Grande Halle de la Villette

Paris’s arts park par excellence will host the Japanese collective Teamlab, whose digital installations and conceptual spaces use the latest technologies to plunge viewers into a large-scale artwork, freeing the imagination from the physical constraints of traditional media. Encouraging people to “lose themselves in the artwork world” where you are no longer a viewer but a participant. (Till Sept. 9) La Villette hosts a range of popular summer festivals and events, including Villette Sonique (May 25-30), an outdoor music festival featuring 20 contemporary pop groups, and choreographer Angelin Preljocaj’s provocative Snow White.

15 OF 19

Atelier des Lumieres

After a crashing success in an old quarry in Les Baux-de-Provence, the French arts organization Culturespaces has just opened its second all-immersive light show in a former factory near the Père Lachaise cemetery. Hugely popular since opening in mid-April 2018, the show plunges visitors’ bodies and souls into the lush and colorful painting and music of the Vienna Succession in works by Klimt, Schiele and Hundertwasser. It’s great for adults and kids of all ages.

After the show head over to Le Servan, an insider’s favorite for the elegant, intimate dining room and superb Asian-inflected gastronomy. For cocktails, Le Perchoir‘s outdoor terrace with panoramic Paris views is a perennial hotspot in warm weather. (Warning: go on a weeknight; lines are horrific on weekends).

PHOTO: Audrey Poree / ABACA Press
16 OF 19

Jazz in the Park

Paris loves its jazz, and spring and summer is the time for aficionados to soak up the live sounds at these three major festivals: Jazz à Saint-Germain-des-Près (May 24–June 4) in venues all around the Left Bank; the Paris Jazz Festival (month of July) on weekends in the beautiful Parc Floral, just a 15-minute metro ride from central Paris (metro line 1, Chateau de Vincennes), where you can bring a picnic and lounge around on the grass; and Musicora (June 1–3) at the  Grande Halle de La Villette.

17 OF 19

Cinéma en Plein Air

WHERE: Parc de la Villette

Grab a picnic blanket, a bottle of wine, and a blanket (or nab a deck chair with your ticket, €7; €20 for five chairs) for the hotly anticipated 28th annual Cinéma en Plein Air at La Villette. Admission is free for a weekend of all your favorite classics plus recent releases screened on Paris’s largest open-air screen. This year’s lineup includes films by U.S. directors Tim Burton, Harmony Korine, Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach, and a host of French and international favorites, all in their original language. Get there early to stake a place, watch the sunset, and settle in with tout Paris.

After a spree at the Clignancourt flea market, head over to the chic new MOB Hotel, where films are screened in the garden courtyard at night, accompanied by grilled delights, gourmet pizzas, refreshing summer cocktails, and a social scene of its own.

PHOTO: Didier Doussin
18 OF 19

Music en Plein Air

Music is in the air—the open air, that is—at the beloved summer event Opéra en Plein Air, held in the most beautiful parks and chateaux in and around Paris: the Château de Vincennes, Domaine de Sceaux, Domaine National de Saint-Germain-en-Laye and the Hôtel des Invalides. This year’s event opens with Carmen at the Château de Vincennes.

At the beautiful 75-acre Parc Floral, behind the Château de Vincennes, Classique au Vert runs every weekend for the month of August, with a program of classical concerts that features notable musicians and ensembles from France and Europe.

19 OF 19

Get Outside

Paris City Hall’s efforts to minimize traffic and open up new green spaces around Paris is paying off, with sprawling areas from the Seine to the city’s suburbs offering plenty of cool gardens and walks in the heart of the city. Berges de Seine, Parc Rives de Seine, and the Paris Plages (along the Seine or the Basin de la Villette, where you can swim!) span several kilometers of walking, biking, and lounging along the river, with food trucks and cafés, yoga, dancing, and classes. Paris’s Petit Ceinture takes you on a shady walk through the city on an old railway line, and the elevated Promenade Plantée offers lovely gardens and views of the 12th arrondissement all the way to the Bois de Vincennes. And set on a barge on the Seine, at the Rosa Bonheur guinguette you can catch a concert or just watch the world go by from the deck or window seat over lunch or a drink.