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 | Film

    This is a mecca for cinephiles brought up on Federico Fellini, Igmar Bergman, and Alain Resnais known for its superb, and exhaustive, retrospectives...Read More

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  • 2. Comédie Française

    Louvre | Theater

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

  • 3. L'Olympia

    Grands Boulevards | Concerts

    Paris's legendary music hall hosts an eclectic roster of performances that cover such far-flung genres as gospel, jazz, French chanson, and...Read More

  • 4. La Cigale

    Montmartre | Concerts

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

  • 5. Le Louxor

    Montmartre | Film

    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...Read More

  • 6. Opéra Comique

    Grands Boulevards | Opera

    Opéra Comique—France's third-oldest theatrical institution—is a gem of an opera house whose reputation was forged by its former director, enfant...Read More

  • 7. 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...Read More

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  • 8. 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...Read More

  • 9. Salle Cortot

    Grands Boulevards | Music

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

  • 10. Ateliers Berthier

    Grands Boulevards | Arts Centers

    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...Read More

  • 11. Café de la Gare

    Marais Quarter | Theater

    This spot offers a fun opportunity to experience a particularly Parisian form of entertainment, the café-théâtre —part satire, part variety...Read More

  • 12. Casino de Paris

    Grands Boulevards | Theater

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

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  • 13. 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...Read More

  • 14. Cinéma des Cinéastes

    Montmartre | Film

    Catch previews of feature films, as well as documentaries, shorts, children's movies, and rarely shown flicks at Cinéma des Cinéastes. It's...Read More

  • 15. Cirque d'Hiver Bouglione

    République | Circuses

    Cirque d'Hiver Bouglione brings together two famous circus institutions: the beautiful Cirque d'Hiver hall, constructed in 1852, and the Bouglione...Read More

  • 16. Cirque National Alexis Gruss

    Western Paris | Circuses

    Founded in 1854, Cirque National Alexis Gruss remains true to the Cirque à l'Ancienne philosophy, serving up a traditional circus with showy...Read More

  • 17. Comédie des Champs-Élysées

    Champs-Élysées | Theater

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

  • 18. Days Off Festival

    Eastern Paris | Music Festivals

    Held over 10 days in early July at the Philharmonie de Paris, this festival focuses on pop-rock, with some jazz and electro thrown in for good...Read More

  • 19. Espace Chapiteaux

    Eastern Paris | Circuses

    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...Read More

  • 20. Festival d'Automne à Paris

    Music Festivals

    Since 1972, the Paris Autumn Festival has featured a packed program that includes contemporary dance, theater, music, the visual arts, and film...Read More

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