Paris

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

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

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  • 2. Comédie Française

    Louvre

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

  • 3. Folies Bergère

    Grands Boulevards

    Many an arts career was launched at this institution, where Josephine Baker charmed the city clad in nothing but a banana skirt and pearls, and...Read More

  • 4. L'Olympia

    Grands Boulevards

    Paris's legendary music hall hosts an eclectic roster of performances encompassing genres that range from gospel and jazz to French chanson to rock. Edith Piaf...Read More

  • 5. La Cigale

    Montmartre

    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...Read More

  • 6. La Comédie Italienne

    Montparnasse

    The Rue de la Gaîté has been a Left Bank entertainment hub since the late 18th century. Once dotted with dance halls and cabarets, this...Read More

  • 7. Le Grand Rex

    Grands Boulevards

    Since it opened in 1932, the Grand Rex—a designated historic landmark—has been Europe's largest cinema, with 2,800 seats in its main auditorium and Paris's largest...Read More

  • 8. Le Louxor

    Montmartre

    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 beauty is...Read More

  • 9. Opéra Comique

    Grands Boulevards

    France's third-oldest theatrical institution is a gem of an opera house whose reputation was forged by its former director, enfant terrible Jérôme Savary. In addition...Read More

  • 10. 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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  • 11. Opéra Royal de Versailles

    Dance

    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

  • 12. Salle Cortot

    Batignolles

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

  • 13. 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...Read More

  • 14. Théâtre Mogador

    Grands Boulevards

    One of Paris's most sumptuous theaters features musicals and other productions with a pronounced popular appeal (think The Lion King or Holiday on Ice). Many of...Read More

  • 15. Ateliers Berthier

    Batignolles

    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...Read More

  • 16. Café de la Gare

    Marais Quarter

    This spot offers an opportunity to experience a particularly Parisian form of entertainment, the café-théâtre—part satire, part variety revue—jazzed up with slapstick humor and performed...Read More

  • 17. Casino de Paris

    Grands Boulevards

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

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  • 18. Centre National de la Danse

    Occupying a former administrative center in the Paris suburb of Pantin, this space is dedicated to supporting professional dancers by offering classes, rehearsal studios, and...Read More

  • 19. Cinéma des Cinéastes

    Montmartre

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

  • 20. Cirque d'Hiver Bouglione

    République

    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...Read More

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