Contrary to its magnificently preserved cityscapes, however, la Ville Lumière ( the City of Light ) has never stood still, but has constantly evolved, spearheading industrial, artistic; scientific and architectural endeavours. This innovative spirit continues today with pioneering green transport initiatives and dazzling new architectural projects that include skyscraping towers along the periphery and re-energised urban spaces, many as part of the city’s ambitious Grand Paris ( Greater Paris ) expansion. Creativity is evident everywhere, from Neobistro kitchens and cutting-edge bars to fashion ateliers and vibrant street art, plus a digital art museum in a former foundry and the 1920s former railway depot housing Station F., the world’s largest start-up bub. Paris’ grandeur is inspiring, but so is its intimacy. Its quartiers are like a patchwork of villages, each with its own evolving character, allowing constant discovery and rediscovery of hidden corners of the city. Art fairs, music festivals, open-air cinemas and epicurean events are just some of the highlights of Paris’ calendar in 2020, with many more in the works: check www.parisinfo.com for updates.
The frosty first month of the year isn’t the most festive in Paris but cocktails – as well as the winter soldes ( sales ) – brighten the mood.
Epiphany – 6 Jan 2020
On this Christian feast day ( aka Three Kings’day ), patisseries bake frangipane-filled puff-pastry galettes des rois ( kings’cakes ), which conceal a fève ( small trinket ). Whoever finds the fève is crowned ‘king’ for the day and wears the cardboard crown that comes with the cake.
Louis XVI Commemorative Mass – 21 Jan 2020
On the Sunday closed to 21 January, royalists attend a mass at the Chapelle Expiatoire ( www.monuments-nationaux.fr ) marking the execution by guillotine of King Louis XVI in 1793.
Paris Cocktail Week- Late Jan
Participating cocktail bars all over the city create signature cocktails for Paris Cocktail Week ( www.pariscocktailweek.fr ). There are also workshops, guest bartenders, masterclasses and food pairings.
Chinese New year – 25 Jan
Paris’largest lantern-lit festivities and dragon parades take place in the city’s main Chinatown in the 13e. Parades are also held in Belleville and Le Marais.
Festivities still aren’t in full swing in February, but couples descend on France’s romantic capital for Valentine’s Day, when virtually all restaurants offer special menus.
Retromobile – 5/9 Feb
Some 600 vintage cars are displayed over five days at the Parc des Expositions at Porte de Versailles, 15e during this motor enthusiasts’ showcase ( www.retromobile.com )
Le Rêveur de la Forêt – to 23 Feb
The dreamer in the forest exhibition at the Musée Zadkine ( from 27 September ) explores the metaphoric and literal ‘border’ with the wilderness, the ‘genesis’ of the forest ecosystem, and ‘holy woods’, encompassing the forest’ancient and contemporary myths and beliefs ( www.zadkine.paris.fr )
Salon International de l’Agriculture – 22 Feb/1 Mar
At this appetizing nine-day international agricultural fair ( www.salon-agriculture.com ), produce and animals from all over France are turned into delectable fare at the Parc des Expositions, 15e.
Outdoor Ice Skating
All winter, outdoor ice-skating rinks pop up around the city, including in some truly picturesque spots, such as the Grand Arche de la Défense rooftop. Skating is usually free, but you’ll need to pay for skate hire if you don’t have your own.
Blooms appear in Paris’parks and gardens, leaves start greening the city’s avenues and festivities begin to flourish. And days get longer – the last Sunday morning of the month ushers in daylight-saving time.
Livre Paris – 20/23 Mar
France’s largest international book fair takes place over four days at the Parc des Expositions at Porte de Versailles, 15e.
La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel – Mid-Mar
Elite athletes and amateur runners drawn from a lottery scale the stairs of the Eiffel Tower during this vertical race ( www.verticaletoureiffel.fr )
Foire de Chatou – Mid-Mar
Some 500 antique and secondhand dealers, jewelers and art galleries set up at this 10-day fair ( www.foiredechatou.com ) held on the Île des Impressionnistes.
Banlieues Bleues – Mid-Mar/Mid-Apr
Big-names acts perform during the Suburban Blues ( www.banlieuesbleues.org ) jazz, blues and R&B festival at venues in Paris’ northern suburbs.
Cinéma du Réel
Dozens of French and International documentary films screen both in and out of competition at this prestigious 10-day festival ( www.cinemadureel.org ) which takes place at venues including the Centre Pompidou.
Salon du Running – Early Apr
In the run-up to the Marathon International de Paris, the three-day Salon du Running ( www.salondurunning.fr ) draws over 80.000 visitors ( including competitors picking up their bibs ) and 200-plus professional exhibitors at the Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles, 15e.
Marathon International de Paris – Early Apr
On your marks… the Paris International Marathon, usually held on the second Sunday of April, starts on avenue des Champs-Elysées, 8e and finishes on Avenue Foch, 16e, attracting some 55.000 runners from around 145 countries.
Foire du Trône – Mid Apr/Late May/ Early Jun
Dating back over a millennium from 957 AD, this huge funfair ( www.foiredutrone.com ) is held on the Pelouse de Reuilly of the Bois de Vincennes from around Easter to late May/early June.
Foire de Paris – Late Apr/Early May
Gadgets, widgets, food and wine feature at this huge 12-day contemporary-living fair ( www.foiredeparis.fr ) held at the Parc des Expositions at Porte de Versailles, 15e.
The temporate month of May has more public holidays than any other in France. Watch out for widespread closures, particularly on May Day ( 1 May )
La Nuit Européenne des Musées – Mid May
Key museums across Paris stay open late for the European Museums Night ( www.nuitdesmusees.culturecommunication.gouv.fr ) on one Saturday in May, with free entry.
Taste Paris – Mid May
A highlight on foodies’calenders, the fourday gourmet Festival Taste Paris incorporates tastings, cooking classes and demonstrations by some of Paris’ most acclaimed chefs.
Portes Ouvertes des Ateliers d’Artistes de Belleville – Late May
More than 200 painters, sculptors and other artists at over 100 Belleville studios open their doors to visitors over four days ( Friday to Monday ) in late May ( www.ateliers-artistes-belleville.fr )
French Open – Late May/Early June
The glitzy Internationaux de France de Tennis Grand Slam ( www.rolandgarros.com ) hits up from Late May to Early June at Stade Roland Garros at the Bois de Boulogne.