Fodor's Paris - Fodor's (2016)
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Updated by Nancy Heslin
The performing-arts scene in Paris runs the gamut from highbrow to lowbrow, cheap (or 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 theaters, like the Palais de Chaillot, are known for sold-out shows and decade-long production 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.
The music and theater season generally runs from September to June, but summer is packed with all sorts of performing arts festivals.
Days Off Festival.
Held over 10 days in early August at various Parc de la Villette venues, this festival focuses on pop-rock, with some folk and electro thrown in for good measure. Headliners like Rufus Wainwright and Blur frontman Damon Albarn lure Parisians away from their offices. Tickets can cost as much as €50, but some are gratis. | 221 av. Jean-Jaurès, 19e, La Villette | 01-44-84-44-84 | www.daysoff.fr | Station: Porte de Pantin.
Festival d’Automne à Paris.
Since 1972, the Paris Autumn Festival has featured a packed program that includes contemporary dance, theater, music, the visual arts, and film. From September to December, 100,000 fans attend 50 productions from more than a dozen countries. They’re staged in assorted venues in and around the city, and tickets cost €8 to €35. | | 01-53-45-17-00 | www.festival-automne.com.
Festival d’Ile de France.
In September and October, this fête takes you (and 25,000 other festival goers) to extraordinary venues in Paris and the surrounding region—among them churches, old warehouses, and historical sites. The 30-plus concerts on the program range from world to pop, and Baroque to classical. Tickets cost €8 to €26; they can be purchased online or, depending on availability, 45 minutes before showtime. | | 01-58-71-01-01 | www.festival-idf.fr.
Jazz à la Villette.
The annual Jazz à la Villette Festival is held on the Philharmonie de Paris campus in Parc de La Villette and at other venues around Paris over 12 days in early September. You’ll pay €22 to €35 for tickets; check the website for detailed information. | 211 av. Jean Jaurès, 19e, La Villette | 01-40-03-75-75 | www.jazzalavillette.com | Station: Porte de Pantin.
Orangerie du Parc de Bagatelle.
The Chopin Festival and the Solistes Festival strike musical high notes in the Orangerie du Parc de Bagatelle, one of Paris’s most beautiful gardens. The former runs from mid-June through mid-July; the latter is held on three consecutive weekends from late August to mid-September. Tickets will set you back €20 to €34. | Parc de Bagatelle, Allée de Longchamp, 16e, Bois de Boulogne | 01-53-64-53-80 | www.frederic-chopin.com; www.ars-mobilis.com | Station: Porte Maillot, then Bus 244.
Free outdoor classical concerts, staged Sundays at 4 pm from June to September, lure fans to the Parc Floral in Bois de Vincennes (entrance to the park is €5.50). This is also the spot that hosts the Paris Jazz Festival each weekend in June and July. | 12e, Bois de Vincennes | 01-43-28-41-59 | www.vincennes.fr; www.parisjazzfestival.fr | Station: Château de Vincennes.
Held throughout Paris from mid-July to mid-August, the Quartier d’Été festival attracts international stars of dance, classical music, and jazz. Prices for concert tickets typically range from €8 to €20, but check the progam listings for free performances. | 01-44-94-98-00 | www.quartierdete.com.
This rock festival,which runs each August on the outskirts of Paris, is one of the largest of its kind in France; past headliners include Lana Del Rey, Arcade Fire, and the Foo Fighters. A three-day pass is €119. | Domaine National de St-Cloud, Parc de St-Cloud, Outside Paris | www.rockenseine.com | Station: Boulogne-Pont de Saint-Cloud.
TICKET PRICES AND DISCOUNTS
As anywhere, it’s best to buy tickets in advance.
Events range in price from about €5 for standing room at the Opéra Bastille to upward of €180 for an elaborate National Ballet production. Most performances, however, are in the €10-€35 range. Discounts are often available for limited-visibility seats or for students and senior citizens. Movies cost €6.50-€13.50, but many cinemas have reduced rates for matinees or for people under a certain age (18 or 26, depending on the venue).
Le Kiosque Théâtre.
Half-price tickets for same-day theater performances are available at Le Kiosque Théâtre’s Madeleine location. See the website for information on outlets in Place Raoul Dautry (Montparnasse) and Place des Ternes. | Across from 15 pl. de la Madeleine, 7e, Opéra/Grands Boulevards | www.kiosquetheatre.com | Tues.-Sat. 12:30-7:45, Sun. 12:30-3:45 | Station: Madeleine.
Half-price tickets are also obtainable from many theaters during the first week of each new show’s run, and inexpensive tickets can often be bought last minute.
FNAC sells tickets online and in its 10 city stores, including one on the Champs-Élysées. | Galerie du Claridge, 74 av. des Champs-Elysées, 8e, Champs-Élysées | 08-25-02-00-20 €0.15 per min | www.fnactickets.com | Mon.-Sat. 10 am-11:45 pm, Sun. noon-11:45 | Station: George V.
WHERE TO GET INFO
Detailed entertainment listings in French can be found in the weekly magazines Pariscope and L’Officiel des Spectacles, available at newsstands and in bookstores; in the Wednesday entertainment insert Figaroscope, in the Figaro newspaper (scope.lefigaro.fr/theatres-spectacles); and in the weekly À Nous Paris, distributed free in the métro. The webzine Paris Voice (www.parisvoice.com) offers superb highlights in English. Most performing arts venues also have their own websites, and many include listings as well as other helpful information in English.
The website of the Paris Tourist Office (www.parisinfo.com) has theater and music listings in English.
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Arts Centers | Circus | Concerts | Dance | Film | Theater
Occupying an abandoned factory, Le Lucernaire wins a standing ovation as far as cultural centers are concerned. With two theaters staging a total of six performances per night, three movie screens, a bookstore, photography exhibitions, a lively restaurant-bar, and the equally lively surrounding neighborhood of Vavin, it caters to young intellectuals. | 53 rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, 6e, Montparnasse | 01-45-44-57-34 | www.lucernaire.fr | Station: Notre-Dame-des-Champs.
Fodor’s Choice | Opéra Garnier.
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. Gorgeous and intimate though the Garnier is, its tiara-shape theater means that many seats have limited visibility, so it’s best to ask specifically what the sight lines are when booking (partial view in French is visibilité partielle). The cheaper seats are often those with partial views. Seats 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 11:30-6:30 Monday to Saturday and one hour before curtain call; however, you should get in line up to two hours in advance. Venue visits (€10) and guided tours in English (€14.50) are available and can be reserved online; check the website for details. | Pl. de l’Opéra, 9e, Opéra/Grands Boulevards | 08-92-89-90-90 €0.34 per min, 01-71-25-24-23 from outside France | www.operadeparis.fr | Box office closed July 17-Aug. 24 | Station: Opéra.
Fodor’s Choice | Opéra Royal de Versailles.
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 structure 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. There are no bad seats at the Royal Opéra, so instead of spending upward of €100 on a ticket, you can get away with something a bit less pricey. For the Hall of Mirrors, you may not see much in the cheap seats, but the sound will still be glorious. (See Chapter 19, Side Trips from Paris.) | Place d’Armes | By commuter train (SNCF) from Paris Gare Montparnasse or Paris Gare Saint Lazare to Gare Versailles Chantiers or Rive Droite | 01-30-83-78-89 | www.chateauversailles-spectacles.fr | Station: RER C, Gare Versailles Rive Gauche.
Philharmonie de Paris.
After a postponement of nearly two decades and an outlay of more than €380 million, the Philharmonie de Paris symphonic concert hall opened in January 2015. Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, this is one of the world’s finest and most expensive auditoriums. It can accommodate 2,400 music lovers, and the adjustable modular seating means you’ll be able to see the stage no matter where you sit. Since the hall is home to the Orchestre de Paris, concerts are mostly classical; however, programming includes guest artists and, on weekends, pop, jazz, and world music performances appeal to patrons with more diverse tastes—and smaller budgets. Part of the same complex (formerly known as the Cité de la Musique), Philharmonie 2 features a 1,000-seat concert hall and a 250-seat amphitheater. Designed by Christian de Portzamparc, they opened in 1995 and present an eclectic range of concerts (some of which are free) in a postmodern setting. The Philharmonie de Paris is a 45-minute métro ride from downtown. If you’re driving, there are 600 parking spaces available. | 221 av. Jean Jaurès, 19e, La Villette | 01-44-84-44-84 | www.philharmoniedeparis.fr | Station: Porte de Pantin.
Théâtre des Champs-Élysées.
This was the scene of 1913’s infamous Battle of the Rite of Spring, when police had to be called in after the audience ripped up seats in outrage at Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps and Nijinsky’s choreography. Today Théâtre des Champs-Élysées is elegantly restored and worthy of a visit if only for the architecture (it’s one of Paris’s most striking examples of Art Deco). The theater also hosts first-rate opera and dance performances, along with orchestral, chamber, and Sunday morning concerts. | 15 av. Montaigne, 8e, Champs-Élysées | 01-49-52-50-50 | www.theatrechampselysees.fr | Station: Alma-Marceau.
Italian Antonio Franconi helped launch the first Cirque Olympique (considered the start of the modern circus) in Paris in 1783, and the French have been hooked ever since. Circus acts are cherished as high art for all ages here. The city boasts a 19th-century permanent circus theater and sprouts tents in every major park to present spectacles from the sublime to the quirky.
Cirque d’Hiver Bouglione.
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, 11e, République | 01-47-00-28-81 | www.cirquedhiver.com | Station: Filles du Calvaire.
Cirque National Alexis Gruss.
Founded in 1854, Cirque National Alexis Gruss remains true to the Cirque à l’Ancienne philosophy, serving up a traditional circus with showy horseback riders, trapeze artists, and clowns. The large-scale production runs mid-October through early January, with performances on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8 pm, and on Sunday at 4 pm. Tickets cost €20-€75. | Carrefour des cascades, Porte de Passy, 16e,Bois de Boulogne | 01-45-01-71-26 | www.alexis-gruss.com | Station: Ranelagh.
Parc de la Villette is home to Espace Chapiteaux: a circus-tent complex that hosts guest troupes several times a year, as well as students from the National Circus Arts Center. | 211 av. Jean-Jaurès, 19e, La Villette | 01-40-03-75-75 | www.villette.com | Station: Porte de Pantin.
Fodor’s Choice | 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 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 Gypsy 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. Shrouded in mystery, Bartabas has taken his inspiration from eclectic sources (including Japanese Butoh dance, shamanism, Gypsy music, Baroque liturgy, and the Mexican Day of the Dead). The results are utterly original. 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 show there on weekends (Saturday at 6 pm, Sunday at 3 pm) and on certain weekdays during school holidays. Expect to pay €21-€42 for tickets. | 176 av. Jean Jaurès | 01-39-02-62-75 | www.bartabas.fr | Station: Fort d’Aubervilliers.
There’s something majestic about listening to classical music under the airy roof of a medieval church, where many free or almost-free lunchtime and evening concerts are performed. Check weekly listings and flyers posted at the churches for information.
Many museums also host concerts; tickets, affordably priced, are usually sold separately from admission. The Auditorium du Louvre, for instance, presents chamber music or piano solos on Wednesday evening, performances by promising new musicians on Thursday afternoon, and either classic pieces or specially commissioned contemporary ones on Friday evening. The Musée de Cluny stages medieval music concerts between September and June, including the l’Heure Musicale on Sunday at 4 and Monday at 12:30; the Musée d’Orsay, meanwhile, often offers small-scale concerts in its lower-level auditorium.
Fodor’s Choice | L’Olympia.
Paris’s legendary music hall hosts an eclectic roster of performances that covers such far-flung genres as gospel, jazz, French chanson, and rock. Edith Piaf rose to fame after a series of Olympia concerts and Jeff Buckley’s famous Live at the Olympia was recorded here. Now everyone from Leonard Cohen to Lady Gaga is in on the action. | 28 bd. des Capucines, 9e, Opéra | 08-92-68-33-68 €0.34 per min | en.olympiahall.com | Station: Madeleine, Opéra.
Fodor’s Choice | La Cigale.
What these walls have seen! 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, featuring such acts as Adele and Coldplay. Woody Allen even filmed scenes for Midnight in Paris here. | 120 bd. de Rochechouart, 18e, Pigalle | 01-49-25-89-99 | www.lacigale.fr | Station: Pigalle, Anvers.
Fodor’s Choice | Salle Cortot.
This acoustic jewel was built in 1929 by Auguste Perret, who promised to construct “a concert hall that sounds like a Stradivarius.” Tickets for the jazz and classical concerts held here can only be bought from the box office 30 minutes beforehand, otherwise go online to www.FNAC.com or www.concertclassic.com. Free student recitals are offered at 12:30 on Tuesday and Thursday from October to May, and some Wednesday afternoons from January to May. | 78 rue Cardinet, 17e, Parc Monceau | 01-47-63-47-48 | www.sallecortot.com | Station: Malesherbes.
The 1,020-seat Salle Gaveau is a perfectly appointed gold-and-white hall with remarkable acoustics and a distinctly Parisian allure. It hosts chamber music, orchestral, piano, and vocal recitals. | 45-47 rue la Boétie, 8e, Champs-Élysées | 01-49-53-05-07 | www.sallegaveau.com | Station: Miromesnil.
This mammoth ultramodern facility, designed by architect Carlos Ott and inaugurated in 1989, long ago took over the role of Paris’s main opera house from the Opéra Garnier (although both operate under the same Opéra de Paris umbrella). Like the building, performances tend to be on the avant-garde side—you’re as likely to see a contemporary adaptation of La Bohème as you are to hear Kafka set to music. Tickets for Opéra de Paris productions range from €10 to €230 and generally go on sale at the box office a month before shows, earlier by phone and online. Once the doors open, “standing places” can be purchased for €5 from vending machines in the lobby, but you’ll need coins or a credit card (no bills) and patience to snag one, as the lines are long. The opera season usually runs September through July; the box office is open Monday-Saturday 2:30-6:30 and one hour before curtain call. If you just want to look around inside, you can also buy tickets for a 75-minute guided tour (€12). | Pl. de la Bastille, 12e, Bastille/Nation | 08-92-89-90-90 €0.34 per minute, 01-71-25-24-23 from outside France, 01-40-01-19-70 Tours | www.operadeparis.fr | Box office closed July 17 to August 24. | Station: Bastille.
Théâtre du Châtelet.
Also known as Théâtre Musical de Paris, this venue stages some of the finest opera productions in the city and regularly attracts international divas like Cecilia Bartoli and Anne-Sofie von Otter. It also hosts classical concerts, dance performances, Broadway musicals, and the occasional play. | Pl. du Châtelet, 2 rue Edouard Colonne, 1er, Beaubourg/Les Halles | 01-40-28-28-40 | www.chatelet-theatre.com | Station: Châtelet.
Classical ballet takes the stage in Paris in places as varied as the historic Opéra Garnier and the Grand Palais. More avant-garde or up-and-coming choreographers tend to show their works off in the smaller performance spaces of the Bastille and the Marais, and in theaters in nearby suburbs. And of course there’s the Centre National de Danse.
Centre National de la Danse.
Occupying a former administrative center in the 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 also open to the public from October to July. | 1 rue Victor Hugo | 01-41-83-98-98 | www.cnd.fr | Station:Hoche or RER: Pantin.
Maison des Arts de Créteil.
This popular dance venue just outside Paris often attracts top-notch international and French companies, such as Blanca Li and Bill T. Jones; it also hosts the cutting-edge EXIT Festival, which runs over 10 days from the end of March. | 1 Pl. Salvador Allende | 01-45-13-19-19 | www.maccreteil.com | Station: Créteil-Préfecture.
Théâtre de la Bastille.
An example of the innovative activity in the Bastille area, Théâtre de la Bastille has an enviable record as a launch pad for tomorrow’s modern-dance stars. | 76 rue de la Roquette, 11e, Bastille/Nation | 01-43-57-42-14 | www.theatre-bastille.com | Station: Bastille.
Théâtre de la Cité Internationale.
In the heart of the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris, this complex includes three theaters, an international student residence community, and a park. It hosts young, avant-garde companies. Tickets cost €7 to €22. | 17 bd. Jourdan, 14e, Parc Montsouris | 01-43-13-50-50 | www.theatredelacite.com | Station: RER: Cité Universitaire.
Théâtre de la Ville.
At the top spot for contemporary dance, you’ll find French and international troupes choreographed by the world’s best—like William Forsythe and Anne-Teresa de Keersmaeker’s Rosas company. Concerts and theatrical performances are also part of the season. Book early; shows sell out quickly. | 2 pl. du Châtelet, 4e, Beaubourg/Les Halles | 01-42-74-22-77 | www.theatredelaville-paris.com | Station: Châtelet.
The French call films the septième art (seventh art) and discuss the latest releases with the same intensity as they do gallery openings or theatrical debuts. Most theaters run English-language films undubbed, with subtitles, which are indicated with v.o., meaning version originale; films that are dubbed are v.f. (version française). First-run cinemas are clustered around the principal tourist areas, such as the Champs-Élysées, Boulevard des Italiens near the Opéra, Bastille, Châtelet, and Odéon. For listings online check www.allocine.fr or | www.offi.fr/cinema.
Cinéma des Cinéastes.
Catch previews of feature films, as well as documentaries, shorts, children’s movies, and rarely shown flicks at Cinéma des Cinéastes. It’s an old cabaret transformed into a movie house and wine bar. Tickets for matinées are only €7. | 7 av. de Clichy, 17e, Montmartre | 08-92-68-97-17 €0.34 per min | www.cinema-des-cineastes.fr | Station: Place de Clichy.
Fodor’s Choice | Cinémathèque Française.
This is a mecca for cinephiles brought up on Federico Fellini, Igmar Bergman, and Alain Resnais. Its spectacular home—in the former American Center, designed by Frank Gehry—includes elaborate museum exhibitions plus three cinemas and a video library. | 51 rue de Bercy, 12e, Bercy | 01-71-19-33-33 | www.cinematheque.fr | Closed Tues. | Station: Bercy.
It’s hard to miss La Géode—a steel globe with a 118-foot diameter in Parc de La Villette. The theater screens wide-angle Omnimax films—including kid-friendly documentaries—on a gigantic spherical surface. | At Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, Parc de La Villette, 26 av. Corentin Cariou, 19e, La Villette | 01-40-05-79-99 | www.lageode.fr | Station: Porte de La Villette.
Fodor’s Choice | La Pagode.
Where else but Paris would you find movies shown in an antique pagoda? A Far Eastern fantasy, La Pagode was built in 1896 as a ballroom for the wife of the owner of Le Bon Marché department store. In the 1970s it was slated for demolition but saved by a grassroots wave of support spearheaded by director Louis Malle; in 1990 it was listed as a Historic Monument. Though the fare is standard, the surroundings are enchanting. Come early for tea in the garden (summer only). | 57 bis, rue de Babylone, 7e, Invalides | 01-45-55-48-48 | Station: St-François Xavier.
Le Balzac often presents directors’ talks before film screenings and features live music for silent classics. Every Saturday night, in partnership with the National Conservatory of Music, it hosts a free 20-minute concert before the movie in main cinema. | 1 rue Balzac, 8e, Champs-Élysées | 01-45-61-10-60 | www.cinemabalzac.com | Station: George V.
You can watch version originale American classics and cult films for €8 on Le Desperado’s two screens. | 23 rue des Écoles, 5e, Latin Quarter | 01-43-25-72-07 | Station: Maubert-Mutualité.
Le Forum des Images.
The Forum organizes thematic viewings in five state-of-the-art screening rooms, often presenting discussions with directors or film experts beforehand. Archival films and videos, workshops, and lectures are also on the schedule here. Movies cost €6, but roundtables and discussions are free; you can download the Forum app for smartphones. | Forum des Halles, 2 rue du Cinéma, Beaubourg/Les Halles | 01-44-76-63-00 | www.forumdesimages.fr | Weekdays 12:30-11:30, weekends 2-11:30 | Station: Les Halles (St-Eustache exit), Chatelet.
Fodor’s Choice | Le Louxor.
First opened in 1921, Le Luxour reopened in 2013 following a lavish restoration that returned it 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, 10e, Invalides | 01-44-63-96-96 | www.cinemalouxor.fr | Station: Barbès-Rochechouart.
This slick, 20- salle cineplex in the shadow of Mitterrand’s National Library has trademark scarlet-red chairs—they fit two people without a divider, so the experience is sort of like watching a movie at home on your couch. MK2 Bibliothèque also contains two restaurants, plus shops selling gifts and DVDs. | 128-162 av. de France, 13e, Bibliothèque | 08-92-69-84-84 €0.34 per min | www.mk2.com | Station: Quai de la Gare, Bibliothèque.
Parc de La Villette.
In July and August, Parc de La Villette shows free open-air movies. Most people pack a picnic; you can also rent deck chairs and blankets for €7 by the entrance. | In Prairie du Triangle at Parc de La Villette, 221 av. Jean-Jaurès, 19e, La Villette | 01-40-03-75-75 | www.villette.com | Station: Porte de Pantin, Porte de La Villette.
Saint-André des Arts.
One of a number of popular cinemas near the Sorbonne, Saint-André des Arts is also one of the best cinemas in Paris. It hosts an annual festival devoted to a single director (like Bergman or Tarkovski), and every day at 1 pm you can see the work of young filmmakers as part of “Les Découvertes de Saint-André” series. | 30 rue St-André des Arts, 6e, Latin Quarter | 01-43-26-48-18 | cinesaintandre.fr | Station: St-Michel.
UGC Ciné-Cité Bercy.
This mammoth 18-screen complex is in the Bercy Village shopping area. For sound and seating, it’s one of the best. | 2 cour Saint Emilion, 12e, Bercy | 08-92-70-00-00 €0.34 per min | www.ugc.fr | Station:Cour Saint Emilion.
A number of theaters line the Grands Boulevards between the Opéra and République, but there is no Paris equivalent of Broadway or the West End. Shows are mostly in French, with a few notable exceptions listed here. English-language theater groups playing in various venues throughout Paris and its suburbs include the International Players (www.internationalplayers.co.uk). Broadway-scale singing-and-dancing musicals are generally staged at either the Palais des Sports or the Palais des Congrès.
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, 17e, Parc Monceau | Corner of Bd. Berthier | 01-44-85-40-00 | www.theatre-odeon.eu | Station: Porte de Clichy.
Café de la Gare.
This spot offers a fun 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.Tickets cost €24, and there’s no reserved seating; doors open 15 minutes before showtime. | 41 rue du Temple, 4e, Marais | 01-42-78-52-51 | www.cdlg.org | Station: Hôtel de Ville.
Casino de Paris.
Once a favorite of the immortal Serge Gainsbourg, Casino de Paris has a horseshoe balcony, a cramped but cozy music-hall feel, and performances by everyone from Dora the Explorer to the Scissor Sisters. This is where Josephine Baker performed in the early ‘30s with her leopard, Chiquita. | 16 rue de Clichy, 9e, Opéra/Grands Boulevards | 08-92-69-89-26 €0.34 per min | www.casinodeparis.fr | Station: Trinité.
Comédie des Champs-Élysées.
Comédie des Champs-Élysées offers intriguing productions in its small theater, next door to the larger Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. Expect to pay about €25 for tickets. | 15 av. Montaigne, 8e, Champs-Élysées | 01-53-23-99-19 | www.comediedeschampselysees.com | Station: Alma-Marceau.
Fodor’s Choice | Comédie Française.
Founded in 1680, 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 the performance. | Salle Richelieu, Pl. Colette, 1er, Louvre | 08-25-10-16-80€0.15 per min | www.comedie-francaise.fr | Station: Palais-Royal-Musée du Louvre.
This multitheater complex in a former munitions factory lures cast and spectators into an intimate theatrical world. Go early for a simple meal; actors often help serve “in character.” Detailed information for each venue is available at the website. | In Bois de Vincennes, Rte. du Champ de Manoeuvre, 12e, Bois de Vincennes | 01-43-74-24-08 Théâtre du Soleil, 01-43-74-99-61 Théâtre de l’Aquarium, 01-43-28-36-36Théâtre de la Tempête, 01-48-08-39-74 Théâtre de l’Epée de Bois | www.cartoucherie.fr | Station: Château de Vincennes, then shuttle bus or Bus 112.
Le Manoir de Paris.
Let yourself be enchanted (and frightened) as 35 talented performers bring Paris legends to life. When you walk through this mansion, the history of the Bloody Baker, the Phantom of the Opera, and Catherine de Medici’s hired assassin are acted out—on you! If you’re in Paris during Halloween, this is just about the best game in town. On holiday weekends, you could wait hours to get in, but the tour-style performance itself lasts less than 60 minutes. | 18 rue de Paradis, 10e, Eastern Paris | 06-70-89-35-87 | www.lemanoirdeparis.fr | Open Fri., Sat., and Sun. | Station: Poissonniere, Gare de l’Est.
Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe.
The former home of the Comédie Françaisenow focuses on pan-European theater, offering a variety of European-language productions for no more than €38. | Pl. de l’Odéon, 6e, St-Germain-des-Prés | 01-44-85-40-00 | www.theatre-odeon.eu | Station: Odéon.
Théâtre Darius Milhaud.
Théâtre Darius Milhaud stages classics by Camus and Baudelaire, as well as occasional productions in English and shows for children. | 80 allée Darius Milhaud, 19e, La Villette | 01-42-01-92-26 | www.theatredariusmilhaud.fr | Station: Porte de Pantin.
Théâtre de la Huchette.
This tiny Rive Gauche venue has been staging the titanic Romanian-French writer Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano and The Lesson since 1957: it holds the world record for a nonstop theater run with 17,920 performances viewed by more than 2 million people. Other productions are also mounted, and for €36 you can see two shows in one day (single tickets cost €24). | 23 rue de la Huchette, 5e, Latin Quarter | 01-43-26-38-99 | www.theatre-huchette.com | Station: St-Michel.
Théâtre de la Renaissance.
Belle Époque superstar Sarah Bernhardt (who was the manager from 1893 to 1899) put Théâtre de la Renaissance on the map. Big French stars often perform here. Note that the theater is on the second floor and there’s no elevator. | 20 bd. Saint-Martin, 10e, Opéra/Grands Boulevards | 01-42-02-47-35 | www.theatredelarenaissance.com | Station: Strasbourg Saint Denis.
Théâtre des Abbesses.
Part of the Théâtre de la Ville, Théâtre des Abbesses is a 400-seat venue in Montmartre. It features lesser-known theater acts, musicians, and up-and-coming choreographers, who often make it onto the program in the Théâtre de la Ville the following year. | 31 rue des Abbesses, 18e, Montmartre | 01-42-74-22-77 | www.theatredelaville-paris.com/aux-abbesses | Station: Abbesses.
Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord.
Welcome to the wonderfully atmospheric, slightly decrepit home of Peter Brook. The renowned British director regularly delights with his quirky experimental productions in French and, sometimes, English. | 37 bis, bd. de la Chapelle, 10e, Stalingrad/La Chapelle | 01-46-07-34-50 | www.bouffesdunord.com | Station: La Chapelle.
Théâtre du Palais-Royal.
Located in the former residence of Cardinal Richelieu, this plush 716-seat, Italian-style theater is bedecked in gold and purple. It specializes in lighter fare, like comedies and theaterical productions aimed at the under-12 set. | 38 rue de Montpensier, 1er, Louvre | 01-42-97-40-00 | theatrepalaisroyal.com | Station: Palais-Royal.
One of Paris’s most sumptuous theaters features musicals and other productions with a pronounced popular appeal (think Mamma Mia! or Holiday on Ice). | 25 rue de Mogador, 9e, Opéra/Grands Boulevards | 01-53-32-32-32 | www.stage-entertainment.fr | Station: Trinité.
Théâtre National de Chaillot.
Housed in an imposing neoclassic building overlooking the Eiffel Tower, Théâtre National de Chaillot has a trio of theaters and a total of 1,600 seats. It’s dedicated to experimental, world, and avant-garde drama, dance, and music or a mix of all three. Major names in dance—like the Ballet Royal de Suède and William Forsythe’s company—visit regularly. There are programs for children, too. | 1 pl. du Trocadéro, 16e,Trocadéro/Tour Eiffel | 01-53-65-30-00 | theatre-chaillot.fr | Station: Trocadéro.