Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Something for the holidays

Although I will be one of the hundreds of thousands of Parisians to leave the city over the holiday period, for others the holidays will be an opportunity to visit the city. Luckily for them, there are plenty of special events organised, many of which are aimed specifically at the international visitor.

If you are in Paris on Christmas or New Year's Day, you will note that the city doesn't stop like certain other cities (London..). It is possible to take a Metro, go to restaurants, the cinema or the theatre and even visit the Eiffel tower. However, most of the large museums are closed on both days.

Musée des Arts Forains
For what is now becoming a tradition, the fascinating - and fairly secret - musée des arts forains - will be exceptionally open to the public over the holidays. Inside you'll find a collection of 19th century fairground equipment, most of which you can actually play with and ride on.

Until Jan 2nd 53 Avenue des Terroirs de France, 75012, M° Bercy

Over the holiday period, the giant 104 arts centre in the North East of Paris is running a special magic festival. Alongside the large-scale shows of illusionists and magicians, you'll also find smaller installations that can be explored at any time of the day.

Full information on the festival and access to the centre can be found here:

Ice Skating (and other winter sports)
More and more ice rinks seem to be popping up around Paris over the winter period, although the main installation is still the rink situated in front of the Hotel de Ville. You'll find others on the Champs Elysées, at the Trocadero, at Montparnasse and even on the Eiffel Tower (see full list here (in French, but with clear indications on addresses, dates, times and prices)

Note also that
the Stade Charlety in the south of the city will be once again organising free 'winter sports' activities for the under 16s (

Keeping children amused
The Jardin des Plantes could be the place to head if you're looking for activities to keep children happy. The exhibition 'Au fil des araignées', shining a light on the hidden world of spiders, is in both English and French. On top of the interactive features that will delight creepy-crawly fans, there are also a series of special events being organised over the holiday period.

The Jardin is also home to the city's zoo, and several other museums and galleries, many of which are organising events currently. Full details can be found here:

Show Time
Each year, the Theatre de Chatelet produces a Broadway musical over the holiday period, which is generally performed in English. This year the show is kitsch classic 'The Sound of Music', which could offer the opportunity for the casual visitor to spend an evening in one of the city's most impressive theatres. More information here:

If you are in the city with children over the holiday period, you may also be interested to know that Dr Seuss's 'The Cat in the Hat' is being performed (in English and French it says, although I'm not too sure exactly how this works in the show) at the Theatre de la Ville in Montmartre.

Two exhibitions in the city offer the opportunity for family fun over the holiday period. The Grand Palais is marking the 40th birthday of video games (Pong first appeared in 1972) with an exhibition called Game Story.
Although the French like to focus on the wider aesthetic and cultural history of the industry, expect also to be able to play the games (if the crowds are not too large). See the official site for more details.

Also at the Grand Palais, 'Of Toys and Men' presents the history of toys in the Western world with over a thousand toys from ancient times to the present day. More information here.

Although much of Paris remains open over the holiday period, it can sometimes be tricky to find a restaurant, and it should be noted that most that are open offer special menus at very high prices on the principal holiday dates.

This list on the Paris by Mouth website provides a complete list of what will be open when in the city.

For those planning to be in Paris to see in the new year, note that the Champs Elysées is very crowded, and not a particularly pleasant to be on that evening (on most evenings in truth...), and that there will be no official firework displays in the city. If you're looking for a venue therefore to party on that particular evening, you'll find a full list here:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Something for the weekend (16th - 18th December)

The last full weekend in December, and the first weekend of the holidays in France. Shopping is still on everyone's minds, but the party season is now in full swing too!


Noel vintage
Vintage Christmas for brings to mind the songs of Phil Spector, but I'm not sure that that's what you'll get this weekend at the Bellevilleoise. What you will find is 50s and 60s style clothes, furniture, discs and jewellery, as well as concerts and performances by the Filles de Joie burlesque group.

More information can be found here.

Christmas market at la Rotonde
The Rotonde, one of the last remaining of Ledoux's 18th century tax collection offices in Paris, is fast becoming one of the most interesting spaces in the city. Recently renovated, it now hosts a smart restaurant and bar, with upstairs spaces that are being used for a number of different cultural events.

This weekend,
the Mampreneurs (an organisation of entrepreneurs who are also mothers!) are organising a Christmas market. Expect a mix of clothes, decorations, food and gifts, as well as massages and activities for kids.

More information, including dates, times and addresses, can be found here.

Noel en Auteuil
The chic quartier of Auteuil is also organising a Christmas market this weekend, but all for a good cause. Alongside the usual foods, gifts and clothing, there will also be a brocante and a series of concerts.


Les createurs ont du coeur
Twice a year, ARCAT, an organisation that works with HIV infected people, organises a weekend of sales of designer creations at exceptional prices. In the run up to Christmas, this weekend's event at the Bastille Design Centre could be the chance to find some bargains and support a good cause.

Full details here:


The Invention of the Savage

Earlier this year I organised a trip to the Jardin Tropical de Paris, site of one of the 'human zoos' organised in France and around Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. Certain traces of the 1907 colonial exhibition remain visible there, but the exhibition at the Musée du quai Branly looks beyond these specific events to tell the stories of the people who were exploited at them.

Through a wide range of exhibits, including film, photos, sculptures, postcards, posters and costumes, the visitor will get an insight into the scope of the phenomenon and the reasons behind its popularity as well as who the people were who were involved, and questions whether certain traces of the industry remain in existence today.

Musée du quai Branly
206-218 rue de l'Université, 75007
Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday : 11am - 7pm - Thursday, Friday, Saturday : 11am - 9pm


Bitter Sweet Xmas Party
For those interested in discovering French indie rock, this Friday will give you the ideal opportunity. Not only will you get to discover 10 bands on stage, but also food, drink, DJ sets and a few stands selling 'friandises sonores'! And all that for just €5.

La Fleche d'Or
Friday 16th, from 6pm
Click here for full information on the event.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Something for the Weekend (December 9th - 11th)

Another weekend in December, another mix of shopping and culture!


In the run up to Christmas, several special markets and salons are being organised each week. Here's a little selection of this weekend's events:

  • Salon Art Terrible: contemporary art fair held in the Espace Commines, a converted 19th century industrial warehouse.

  • Hotel Boheme: an 'ethical' craft fair, featuring the creations of around 50 Paris-based artists and creators. Situated just alongside the Grand Rex cinema in the 2nd arrondissement.

  • Noel en Bio: organic food and drink producers will be selling their goods on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Espace des Blancs-Manteaux in the Marais.

Sempé un peu de Paris et d’ailleurs
If you're shopping in the centre of Paris, make sure you pop in to the - free - exhibition at the Hotel de Ville celebrating the work of French cartoonist Jean-Jacques Sempé. Many of his humerous drawings feature Paris, but the 'elsewhere' is not forgotten, with scenes set across the world.

Until February 11th
Hotel de Ville
Every day except Sunday, 10am - 7pm

Little Paradis
For a perfect combination of shopping and culture, head out to the up-and-coming 'Rue de Paradis' district in the 10th for a weekend of visits and special events.Art, design and fashion will be featured in shops, galleries and workshops in the area throughout the weekend.

Full details here:

The Art of Maths
The Fondation Cartier hosts some of the most interesting exhibitions in Paris, often on specific - and unusual - themes. The centre is currently celebrating the power of mathematics to unravel and measure the world, with creations from an eclectic selection of artists including David Lynch and Raymond Depardon. Entitled 'Mathematics: A Beautiful Elsewhere', the exhibition was curated by a prestigious team of scientists and mathematicians, who worked with the artists to explore the themes.

Until 18th March
Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain
Bd Raspail, 75014, M°Raspail
Click here for full information about the exhibition.

Take a Break from Paris

The Fête des Lumières in Lyon

Lyon may be France's second city, but for much of the year it is a curiously discreet place. This all changes in the run up to Christmas with its world-famous light and sound spectacles held across the city over a weekend.

Full details here:

This year you can combine a visit to the event with a visit to the Biennale de Lyon, a gathering of over 70 artists from around the world who are exhibiting their creations at four different venues across the city.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Something for the Weekend (December 2nd - 4th)

Now it's December, the Christmas period can officially begin (I refuse to promote any 'seasonal' events before that date!). However, there are also plenty of other interesting (and non-commercial) things taking place. Here's my selection...


Free museums
It's the first Sunday of the month, so a number of national and municipal museums will be offering free entry. You can find a full list of these museums here.

On Ice
The first Friday of the month during winter months is synonymous with the Born Bad organised ice skating evenings at the Patinoire Pailleron! This month sees a live set (in the middle of the ice rink) from Judo, with DJ sets from Bertrand Burgalat and Christophe Lemaire. Entrance is €10 which includes the rental of the skates. There is also a bar at the venue, but it's strictly alcohol-free...which is probably a good thing!

Full information here

Sept Fois Plus à l'Ouest
A curiosity at the always interesting Espace Fondation EDF, but one that is definitely worth investigating. Artist Yann Kersalé creates mainly light installations in 'dark' places, and this exhibition is a recreation of seven of his works that were on display in Brittany this summer. The gallery is plunged into darkness, leaving the visitors to explore the creations and 'imagine' (with the help of the sounds of the wind, burning fires, crashing waves...) them in their natural environment.

Full information here

A 'real' Christmas market
Ok, there's always the lights on the Champs Elysées (and the rather tawdry market that accompanies it), or the shop windows of the Printemps and Galeries Lafayette stores and the large crowds around them, but there are also 130 other places in the capital which will be illuminated (a personal favourite of mine is the area around the Jourdain Metro).

There are also several Christmas markets, but according to those in the know, only one 'authentic' one - the marché de la Gare de l'Est. Spiritual home to the Alsacians in Paris, it's the best place to find traditional food and wine from their region. If you're around on December 6th (Saint Nicolas day), you'll also find a 4.5m high gingerbread man, and be able to listen to traditional stories from Alsace at his feet!

Shopping ideas
Christmas shopping is always stressful, so its best to find somewhere that also offers a place to relax and a little culture. Two events this weekend might fit the bill:

  • Le Marché de Noel au Point Ephémere: Young creators, cupcake classes for kids, hairdressers offering 'rock' hairstyling, live music...and all that in an interesting spot alongside the Canal Saint Martin.

  • Take Me Out: 'Shopping, Music & Art' it says on the website. Add drinks and a tapas bar, and you have the recipe for a relaxing event far from the madding crowds.