Paris

The performing arts scene in Paris runs the gamut from highbrow to lowbrow, cheap (or even free) to break-the-bank expensive. Venues are indoors and outdoors, opulent or spartan, and dress codes vary accordingly. Regardless of the performance you choose, it's probably unlike anything you've seen before. Parisians have an audacious sense of artistic adventure and a stunning eye for scene and staging. An added bonus in this city of classic beauty is that many of the venues themselves—from the opulent interiors of the Opéra Garnier and the Opéra Royal de Versailles to the Art Deco splendor of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées—are a feast for the eyes.

One thing that sets Paris apart in the arts world is the active participation of the Ministry of Culture, which sponsors numerous concert halls and theaters, like the Comédie Française, that tend to present less commercial, though artistically captivating, productions. Other venues with broader appeal are known for sold-out shows and decade-long runs.

Most performances are in French, although you can find English theater productions. English-language movies are often presented undubbed, with subtitles. Of course, you don't need to speak the language to enjoy opera, classical music, dance, or the circus.

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  • 1. Cinémathèque Française

    Bastille

    This mecca for cinephiles brought up on Federico Fellini, Igmar Bergman, and Alain Resnais is known for its superb, and exhaustive, retrospectives of world cinema...

    This mecca for cinephiles brought up on Federico Fellini, Igmar Bergman, and Alain Resnais is known for its superb, and exhaustive, retrospectives of world cinema past and present. Its spectacular home—in the former American Center, designed by Frank Gehry—includes elaborate museum exhibitions plus three cinemas and a video library. British and American films are always screened in the original language with French subtitles.

    51 rue de Bercy, Paris, Île-de-France, 75012, France
    01–71–19–33–33
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  • 2. Comédie Française

    Louvre

    Founded in 1680, the Comédie Française is the most hallowed institution in French theater. It specializes in splendid classical French plays by the likes of...

    Founded in 1680, the Comédie Française is the most hallowed institution in French theater. It specializes in splendid classical French plays by the likes of Racine, Molière, and Marivaux. Buy tickets at the box office, by telephone, or online. If the theater is sold out, the Salle Richelieu offers steeply discounted last-minute tickets an hour before each performance.

    Pl. Colette, Paris, Île-de-France, 75001, France
    01–44–58–15–15
  • 3. Folies Bergère

    Grands Boulevards

    Many an arts career was launched at this institution, where Josephine Baker charmed the city clad in nothing but a banana skirt and pearls, and...

    Many an arts career was launched at this institution, where Josephine Baker charmed the city clad in nothing but a banana skirt and pearls, and icons such as Charlie Chaplin, Maurice Chevalier, and Mistinguett made their big Paris debuts. The 1926 Art Deco facade is a listed historic monument, but the opulent interiors hark back to its Belle Époque heyday as Paris's most daring cabaret. Nowadays, Dita Von Teese and other cabaret acts perform here regularly, but you'll also find more family-style shows, including dance, solo acts, and musicals.

    32 rue Richer, Paris, Île-de-France, 75009, France
    01–44–79–98–60
  • 4. L'Olympia

    Grands Boulevards

    Paris's legendary music hall hosts an eclectic roster of performances encompassing genres that range from gospel and jazz to French chanson to rock. Edith Piaf...

    Paris's legendary music hall hosts an eclectic roster of performances encompassing genres that range from gospel and jazz to French chanson to rock. Edith Piaf rose to fame after a series of Olympia concerts, and Jeff Buckley's famous Live at the Olympia was recorded here. Nowadays, you can see top acts ranging from Beach House to Lady Gaga to George Benson.

    28 bd. des Capucines, Paris, Île-de-France, 75009, France
    08–92–68–33–68
  • 5. La Cigale

    Montmartre

    Artists like Maurice Chevalier and Arletty were once a staple of this small concert hall in the storied Pigalle neighborhood before cabaret and vaudeville moved...

    Artists like Maurice Chevalier and Arletty were once a staple of this small concert hall in the storied Pigalle neighborhood before cabaret and vaudeville moved in. Today it's one of Paris's top pop and contemporary music venues; artists like Adele and Coldplay played here in their early days.

    120 bd. de Rochechouart, Paris, Île-de-France, 75018, France
    01–49–25–89–99
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  • 6. Le Grand Rex

    Grands Boulevards

    Since it opened in 1932, the Grand Rex—a designated historic landmark—has been Europe's largest cinema, with 2,800 seats in its main auditorium and Paris's largest...

    Since it opened in 1932, the Grand Rex—a designated historic landmark—has been Europe's largest cinema, with 2,800 seats in its main auditorium and Paris's largest screen. The cinema's history is almost as colorful as its superb Art Deco architecture, considered some of the finest in the city. Although some films are in French or are dubbed in French, many of the international films are in their original language (including many in English) with French subtitles.

    1 bd. Poissonnière, Paris, Île-de-France, 75002, France
    01–45–08–93–89
  • 7. Le Louxor

    Montmartre

    First opened in 1921, Le Louxor has since been returned to its original Egyptian-themed splendor. Now the city's grandest cinema, this Art Deco beauty is...

    First opened in 1921, Le Louxor has since been returned to its original Egyptian-themed splendor. Now the city's grandest cinema, this Art Deco beauty is gorgeously appointed—all in rich ocher with jewel-toned velvet seating—and shows a roster of contemporary international art films in three cinemas. Have a drink at the top-floor bar or balcony for spectacular views of the neighborhood and Sacré-Coeur.

    170 bd. Magenta, Paris, Île-de-France, 75010, France
    01–44–63–96–96

    Arts/Entertainment Details

    Rate Includes: €10
  • 8. Opéra Comique

    Grands Boulevards

    France's third-oldest theatrical institution is a gem of an opera house whose reputation was forged by its former director, enfant terrible Jérôme Savary. In addition...

    France's third-oldest theatrical institution is a gem of an opera house whose reputation was forged by its former director, enfant terrible Jérôme Savary. In addition to staging operettas, the hall hosts modern dance, classical concerts, and vocal recitals. Tickets range from €6 to €120 and can be purchased at the theater, online, or by phone.

    1 pl. Boieldieu, Paris, Île-de-France, 75002, France
    01–70–23–01–00
  • 9. Opéra Garnier

    Grands Boulevards | Opera

    The magnificent, magical former haunt of the Phantom of the Opera, painter Edgar Degas, and any number of legendary opera stars still hosts...

    The magnificent, magical former haunt of the Phantom of the Opera, painter Edgar Degas, and any number of legendary opera stars still hosts performances of the Opéra de Paris, along with a fuller calendar of dance performances (the theater is the official home of the Ballet de l'Opéra National de Paris). The grandest opera productions are usually mounted at the Opéra Bastille, whereas the Garnier now presents smaller-scale works such as Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito and Così Fan Tutte.Tickets generally go on sale at the box office a month before any given show, earlier by phone and online; you must appear in person to buy the cheapest tickets. Last-minute returned or unsold tickets, if available, are offered an hour prior to a performance. The box office is open Monday to Saturday 11:30–6:30 and one hour before curtain; however, you should get in line up to two hours in advance. You can also check the website at noon on certain Wednesdays for flash sales of sold-out shows. Venue visits (€12) and guided tours in English (€15.50) are available and can be reserved online; check the website for details.

    Pl. de l'Opéra, 9e, Paris, Île-de-France, 75002, France
    -08–92–89–90–90 -(€0.34 per min)

    Arts/Entertainment Details

    Rate Includes: Box office closed July 17–Aug. 24
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  • 10. Opéra Royal de Versailles

    Dance

    The most lavish opera house in France (and perhaps in all of Europe) hosts an impressive yearly calendar of major operas, ballets, recitals...

    The most lavish opera house in France (and perhaps in all of Europe) hosts an impressive yearly calendar of major operas, ballets, recitals, and musical theater by world-class French and international performers. The intimate 652-seat theater has excellent acoustics and provides an ideal setting for works by big-name composers, with an emphasis on the Baroque and classical periods. Finished in 1770—just in time for the marriage ceremonies of the young dauphin (later King Louis XVI) and 14-year-old Marie-Antoinette—the structure's stunning neoclassical decor is crafted entirely of gilded and faux-marbled wood. A regular program of smaller concerts is also held in the splendid Hall of Mirrors (Galerie des Glaces) and at the Royal Chapel, where recitals might feature a 300-year-old royal organ. Although it's recommended to buy tickets online one to two months in advance (up to six months ahead for star performers), they can be purchased at the box office on the evening of the performance depending on availability.

    Place d'Armes, Versailles, Île-de-France, 78000, France
    -01–30–83–78–89
  • 11. Salle Cortot

    Batignolles

    This acoustic jewel was built in 1929 by Auguste Perret, who promised to construct "a concert hall that sounds like a Stradivarius." You can buy...

    This acoustic jewel was built in 1929 by Auguste Perret, who promised to construct "a concert hall that sounds like a Stradivarius." You can buy tickets for jazz and classical concerts only at the box office 30 minutes before each show; check the website for information on advance purchases. Free student recitals are offered at 12:30 pm on Tuesday and Thursday from October to April, and on some Wednesday afternoons from January to May.

    78 rue Cardinet, Paris, Île-de-France, 75017, France
    01–47–63–47–48
  • 12. Théâtre Équestre Zingaro

    Ready for a variation on the circus theme? If you're lucky enough to be visiting during the two months Zingaro performs at home (usually in...

    Ready for a variation on the circus theme? If you're lucky enough to be visiting during the two months Zingaro performs at home (usually in late fall), you'll have the chance to witness a truly unique spectacle. Since 1985, France's foremost horse whisperer, who goes by the name of Bartabas, has created captivating equestrian shows that mix theater, dance, music, and poetry. The 500-seat theater-in-the-round on the outskirts of Paris is part of a caravan, where trainers and their families, 45 horses, and Bartabas himself live and work. The horses perform in close proximity to the audience in astonishing displays of choreography and acrobatic skill. If you can't make it for Zingaro, there is a consolation prize: in 2003, Bartabas created the Académie du Spectacle Équestre at the royal stables of Versailles (Grandes Écuries). Audiences can catch a decidedly more elegant show there on weekends (Saturday at 6 pm, Sunday at 3 pm) and on certain weekdays during school holidays. Expect to pay €34 to €57 for tickets.

    176 av. Jean Jaurès, Aubervilliers, Île-de-France, 93300, France
    01–48–39–18–03
  • 13. Théâtre Mogador

    Grands Boulevards

    One of Paris's most sumptuous theaters features musicals and other productions with a pronounced popular appeal (think The Lion King or Holiday on Ice). Many...

    One of Paris's most sumptuous theaters features musicals and other productions with a pronounced popular appeal (think The Lion King or Holiday on Ice). Many of the shows here are subtitled in English, thanks to Theatre in Paris.

    25 rue de Mogador, Paris, Île-de-France, 75009, France
    01–53–32–32–32
  • 14. Ateliers Berthier

    Batignolles

    The outlying atelier for the more illustrious Théâtre de l'Odéon is in the 17e, a bit off the beaten path; the upside is that on...

    The outlying atelier for the more illustrious Théâtre de l'Odéon is in the 17e, a bit off the beaten path; the upside is that on Sunday it often has a 3 pm matinee in addition to the evening show (usually at 8 pm).

    1 rue André Suarès, Paris, Île-de-France, 75017, France
    01–44–85–40–00
  • 15. Café de la Gare

    Marais Quarter

    This spot offers an opportunity to experience a particularly Parisian form of entertainment, the café-théâtre—part satire, part variety revue—jazzed up with slapstick humor and performed...

    This spot offers an opportunity to experience a particularly Parisian form of entertainment, the café-théâtre—part satire, part variety revue—jazzed up with slapstick humor and performed in a café salon. You'll need a good grasp of French slang and current events to keep up with the jokes. There's no reserved seating; doors open 15 minutes before showtime.

    41 rue du Temple, Paris, Île-de-France, 75004, France
    01–42–78–52–51
  • 16. Casino de Paris

    Grands Boulevards

    Once a favorite of the immortal Serge Gainsbourg, Casino de Paris has a horseshoe balcony and a cramped but cozy music-hall feel, and it presents...

    Once a favorite of the immortal Serge Gainsbourg, Casino de Paris has a horseshoe balcony and a cramped but cozy music-hall feel, and it presents everything from performances by touring musicals to Lorde and Belle & Sebastian concerts. This is where Josephine Baker performed in the early '30s with her leopard, Chiquita.

    16 rue de Clichy, Paris, Île-de-France, 75009, France
    08–92–69–89–26-€0.40 per min
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  • 17. Centre National de la Danse

    Occupying a former administrative center in the Paris suburb of Pantin, this space is dedicated to supporting professional dancers by offering classes, rehearsal studios, and...

    Occupying a former administrative center in the Paris suburb of Pantin, this space is dedicated to supporting professional dancers by offering classes, rehearsal studios, and a multimedia dance library. A regular program of free and reasonably priced performances, expositions, screenings, and conferences is open to the public from October to July.

    1 rue Victor Hugo, Paris, Île-de-France, 93507, France
    01–41–83–27–27
  • 18. Cinéma des Cinéastes

    Montmartre

    Catch previews of feature films, as well as documentaries, shorts, children's movies, and rarely shown flicks at Cinéma des Cinéastes. Near the Montmartre neighborhood, it's...

    Catch previews of feature films, as well as documentaries, shorts, children's movies, and rarely shown flicks at Cinéma des Cinéastes. Near the Montmartre neighborhood, it's an old cabaret transformed into a movie house and wine bar.

    7 av. de Clichy, Paris, Île-de-France, 75017, France
    01–53–42–40–20

    Arts/Entertainment Details

    Rate Includes: €10
  • 19. Cirque d'Hiver Bouglione

    République

    Cirque d'Hiver Bouglione brings together two famous circus institutions: the beautiful Cirque d'Hiver hall, constructed in 1852, and the Bouglione troupe, known for its rousing...

    Cirque d'Hiver Bouglione brings together two famous circus institutions: the beautiful Cirque d'Hiver hall, constructed in 1852, and the Bouglione troupe, known for its rousing assembly of acrobats, jugglers, clowns, trapeze artists, tigers, and house cats that leap through rings of fire. Shows run mid-October to March, with a new production each season.

    110 rue Amelot, Paris, Île-de-France, 75011, France
    01–47–00–28–81
  • 20. Comédie des Champs-Élysées

    Champs-Élysées

    Next door to the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, the Comédie des Champs-Élysées offers intriguing productions in its small theater....

    Next door to the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, the Comédie des Champs-Élysées offers intriguing productions in its small theater.

    15 av. Montaigne, Paris, Île-de-France, 75008, France
    01–53–23–99–19

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