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.
Paris is positively jumping the June, thanks to warm temperatures, a host of outdoor events and long daylight hours, with twilights lingering until late.
Paris Beer Week – Early June
Craft beer’s popularity in Paris peaks during Paris Beer Week ( www.laparisbeerweek.com ) held, despite the name, aver 10 days, when events take place across the city’s bars, pubs, breweries, specialist beer shops and other venues.
Fête de la Musique – 21 Jun
This national music festival ( www.fetedelamusique.fr ) welcomes in summer on the solstice with fabulous staged and impromptulive performances of jazz, reggae, classical and more all over the city.
Paris Jazz Festival – Late Jun/Mid July
Jazz concerts swing every Saturday and Sunday afternoon from late Jun to mid-July in the Bois de Vincennes’ Parc Floral de Paris Jazz Festival ( www.parisjazzfestival.fr )
Marche des Fiertés ( Pride ) – Late Jun
The colourful Saturday-afternoon Marche des Fiertés celebrates LGBT+ pride with a march that incorporates over-the-top floats and outrageous costumes, and crosses Paris via Le Marais.
During the Parisian Summer, ‘beaches’ lines the banks of the Seine, while shoppers hit the summer soldes (sales).
Bal des Pompiers – 13 & 14 July
Bookending the city’s Bastille Day celebrations, traditional Bals des Pompiers ( Firemen’s Balls ) see dancing at many Parisian fire stations from 9pm to 4am on 13 and 14 July.
Bastille Day – 14 July
The capital celebrates France’s national day on 14 Julywith a morning military parade along avenue des Champs-Elysées and fly-past of lighter aircraft and helicopters. Feux d’Artifice (fireworks) light up the sky above Champs de Mars by night.
Paris Plages – Mid-Jul/Early Sep
Paris Beaches – complete with sunbeds, umbrellas, atomisers, lounge chairs and palm trees – set up along Paris’riverbanks in two main zones, the Parc Rives de Seine, and the Bassin de la Villette ( with swimming pools in the canal ).
Tour de France - Late Jul
The last of the 21 stages of this legendary 3500km-long cycling event ( www.letour.com ) finishes with a dash up avenue des Champs Elysees on the third of four Sunday of July.
Parisians desert the city in droves during the summer swelter when, despite an influx of tourists, many restaurants and shops shut. It’s a prime time to cycle, far less traffic on the roads.
Cinéma en plein Air de la Villette - Mid-Jul/Mid-Aug
Free film screenings take place under the stars in Parc de la Villette.
Classique au Vert – Mid-Aug/Early Sep
In the Bois de Vincennes, the Parc Floral de Paris hosts classical-music concerts ( www.classiqueauvert.paris.fr ) amid the greenery on August and September weekends.
Rock en Seine – Late Aug
Headlining acts rock the Domaine National de Saint-Cloud, on the city’s southwestern edge, at this popular three-day music festival ( www.rockenseine.com )
Silhouette – Late Aug/Early Sep
Out-of-the-box short films by independent films-makers screen in competition along-side open-air concerts and workshops during this nine-day film festival ( www.association-silhouette.com )
Tourists leave and Parisians come home: la rentrée marks residents’ returnto work and study after the summer break. Cultural life shifts into top gear and the weather is often at its blue-skied best.
Jazz à la Villette – Early Sep
This 10-day jazz festival ( https://jazzalavillette.com ) in the first half of September has sessions in parc de la Villette, at the Cité de la Musique and at surrounding venues.
Festival d’Automne – Mid-Sep/Dec
The long-running Autumn Festival of arts ( www.festival-automne.com ) incorporates painting, music, dance and theatre at venues throughout the city.
Techno Parade – Mid-Sep
On one Saturday in mid-September, floats carrying musicians and DJs pump up the volume as they travel through the city’s streets during the Techno Parade ( www.technoparade.fr )
Journées Européennes du Patrimoine – 19/20 Sep
The third weekend in September sees Paris open the doors of otherwise off limits buildings – embassies, government ministries and so forth – during European Heritage Days ( www.journeesdupatrimoine.culturecommunication.gouv.fr )
Journée sans voiture – Mid-Sep
Pedestrians and cyclists reclaim Paris’ streets from mid-morning to early evening on one Sunday mid-September on this annual car-free day.
October heralds an autumnal kaleidoscope in the city’s parks and gardens., along with bright, crisp days, cool, clear nights and excellent cultural offerings; Daylight saving ends on the last Sunday morning of the month.
Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre – Mid-Oct
The five-day festival ( www.fetedesvendangesdemontmartre.com ) held on the second weekend in October celebrates Montmartre’s grape harvest with costumes, concerts, food events and a parade.
Foire internationale d’Art Contemporain – Mid-Oct
Scores of galleries are represented at this contemporary-art fair ( www.fiac.com ) held over four days.
Nuit Blanche – 5/6 Oct
From sundown until sunrise on the first Saturday and Sunday of October, museums stay open, along with bars and clubs, for one ‘White Night’.
Salon du Chocolat – Late Oct/Early Nov
Chocaholics won’t want to miss this five-day chocolate festival’s tatstings, workshops, demonstrations ands more at Paris Expo Porte de Versailles, 15e ( www.salonduchocolat.fr ) There are special activities for Kids.
Dark, chilly days and long, cold nights see Parisians take refuge indoors; the opera and ballet seasons are going strong and there are plenty of cosy bistros and bars.
Illuminations de Noël – Mid-Nov/Early Jan
For the holiday season, festive lights sparkle along the avenue des Champs-Elysées, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré and avenue Montaigne, all in the 8e, and others, while window displays enchant kids and adults alike at department stores including Galeries Lafayette and Le Printemps.
Beaujolais Nouveau – 21 Nov
At midnight on the third Thursday ( Wednesday night ) in November, as soon as French law permits – the opening of the first bottles of cherry-bright, six-week-old Beaujolais Nouveau is celebrated in Paris wine bars, with more celebrations on the Thursday itself.
Twinkling fairy lights, brightly decorated Christmas trees and shop windows, and outdoor ice-skating rinks make December a magical month to be in the City of Lights
Christmas Eve Mass
Mass is celebrated at midnight on Christmas Eve at many Paris churches – arrive early to find a place.
New Year’s Eve
Boulevard Saint-Michel, 5e, Place de la Bastille, 11e, The Eiffel Tower, 7e, and especially Avenue des Champs Elysées are the Parisian hotspots for welcoming in the New year.