Paris is known for its fashion and food, but have you heard about its many festivals? What about the annual concerts, celebrations and other events that take place every year in the city? Whether you’re a tourist visiting Paris for a few days during the summer, a study abroad student in town for the semester, or an expat spending all four seasons in the French capital, there are sure to be fun free events for you to discover. Here is a list of free annual events in Paris.
Chinese New Year
What: Did you know that the Chinatown in the 13th district of Paris is the biggest Chinatown in all of Europe? The area is also home to Laotian, Cambodian and Vietnamese communities and is the center of the annual Chinese New Year celebration. Each year, there are a variety of cultural events ranging from carnivals and parades, martial arts demonstrations, dance performances, art exhibits and more.
When: The events take place over several days. The exact start date varies according to the Chinese lunar calendar, but is typically between January 21st and February 20th.
La Grande Traversée de Paris (The Great Crossing of Paris)
What: Created in 1986, Vincennes en Anciennes is an association for antique car enthusiasts that organizes monthly gatherings on the esplanade of the Chateau de Vincennes during which between 250 and 400 antique cars are displayed. Since 2001, the association has also organized La Grande Traversée de Paris, an annual gathering, which takes place the first Sunday of January.
When: The winter event takes place the first Sunday of January and the summer version is held the first Sunday of August.
Graphic Arts Festival
What: Launched in 2014, the Graphic Arts Festival features the works of hundreds of graphic designers from different countries. More than 25,000 people participated in the event in its first year.
When: Exact dates are announced each year. In 2016, the festival took place from January 6th to February 16th.
Paris Déco Off
What: “The world of decoration is found at the Paris Déco Off.” So affirms the event’s creators, and with 90 premier brands opening their showrooms as part of Paris Déco Off 2016, they just might be right. Paris Déco Off isn’t reserved to industry professionals and includes a variety of activities and exhibitions for the general public.
When: Typically late January
Circulation(s) Festival of Young European Photography
What: The Circulations Festival celebrates the work of young photographers from throughout Europe. In 2015, the festival featured the work of 43 young European photographers at the Centquatre cultural center and in a number of metro stations in Paris.
When: Exact dates change from year-to-year, but usually between late January and mid- March
Carnival de Paris
What: Drawing on an annual celebration that can be traced back 900 years, the Paris Carnival as we currently know it has been organized each year since 1998. Expect masks, costumes and processions, but especially a lively crowd.
When: mid-February, after the Feast of Fools
International Environmental Film Festival (FIFE)
What: FIFE was created in 1982 to raise public awareness of environmental issues. The 2016 edition of the event featured 101 films and 20 documentaries.
When: Early February
Ici et Demain (Here and Tomorrow)
What: This festival was created in 2004 by the Mairie de Paris with the goal of featuring young artistic talent in the city. Every year more than 40 exhibits, concerts and performances are organized in Paris as part of the event, which attracts around 10,000 visitors annually.
When: roughly two weeks in mid-March
Festival 10 de Choeurs
What: This event features live choruses singing classical, gospel, jazz and even rock music in cathedrals, chapels, event halls and other locations throughout Paris. The event is organized by CRL10, a nonprofit based in the 10th district of Paris.
When: one week in late March
What: Created by the Conseil Général des Hauts-de- Seine, the festival celebrated its 28th year in 2016. The event highlights current music with concerts organized to appeal to an intergenerational audience. The most recent event had more than 51,000 spectators.
When: over several days in late March/early April
Festival Series Mania
What: Since 2009, this annual television festival has offered “a big-screen showcase for small-screen treasures” by showcasing the best international television series. The event includes about 50 screenings over several days.
When: late April
What: The digital revolution has signaled the death knell for the record industry, having an effect on artists, independent labels and record shop owners alike. For the French association CALIF (Club Action des Labels Indépendants Français), record stores are about more than commercial exchange, but represent the link between artists and their fans. This is why the association started Disquaire Day in 2011. The French version of Record Store Day, which has been organized in the US and UK since 2007, Disquaire Day features free concerts and activities in record stores throughout France.
When: third Saturday in April
Free Cone Day
What: On April 14th, Ben and Jerry’s shops worldwide will celebrate “Free Cone Day,” an event now in its 37th year. Be sure to get there early to avoid the lines!
When: April 14th
Comic Book Day
What: Comic book shops around the world give a free comic book to anyone who comes to their shop.
When: First Saturday in May
Click here to see participating shops in Paris
Tous à l’Opera (Everyone to the Opera!)
What: Hundreds of operas in 25 European countries participate in this annual event designed to make the opera accessible to the general public. Activities include free public rehearsals, concerts, costume and makeup workshops, backstage visits and more.
When: second weekend in May
Villette Street Festival
What: Two weeks dedicated to street culture that includes activities on themes like street art, fashion, music and more. While certain concerts and events require paid entry, a number of activities are free to the public.
When: Two Weeks in mid-May
What: In 2015, for the 11th edition of this free annual event, roughly 3,400 museums throughout Europe and 1,300 participating museums in France will open their doors to the general public.
When: May 16th, 2015
What: This event consists of five days of free activities designed to celebrate nature. Activities include exhibits, workshops, nature walks and more.
When: around May 22nd, International Biodiversity Day
More Info (in French)
The Chair and the Screen (La Chaise et l’Écran)
What: Since 2008, this annual neighborhood event has featured the projection of films in public places in the 11th district of Paris. Residents bring their own chairs from home to watch the films.
When: four Fridays in July and August
Fête de la Musique
What: This annual music celebration first began in 1986 and features free performances in venues throughout Paris.
When: June 21st, the first day of summer
Futur en Seine
What: The festival, created in 2009, is dedicated to showcasing the latest French and international digital innovations over several days. For the 2015 edition of the festival, 150 innovations will be presented and 160 events are planned.
When: June 11th-15th, 2015
Rendez-vous aux Jardins
What: As part of this annual event, the French Minister of Culture and Communication invites the public to participate in events held in one of the 2,300 participating parks and gardens throughout France.
When: first weekend in June
What: Now in its 14th year, the annual Tropical Carnival includes more than 400 participants and 200,000 spectators. Come to see the costumes and dances celebrating not only the French Antilles, but also Brazil, Vietnam, Columbia and more.
When: the first weekend in July
What: Bastille Day is France’s national day. To celebrate the occasion, a few events are organized in Paris around and on July 14th including military parades, fireworks shows and the annual firemen’s ball, which is held in fire stations around the city. While many balls require paid entry, some are free (donations are encouraged).
When: July 14th
What: If you’ll be in Paris for the summer, you may plan on soaking up the sun at a cafe terrace or one of the city’s many parks, but have you thought of heading over to the beach? The City of Paris created Paris-Plages (“plages” means beaches in French) in 2002 as a way of providing a local escape for those in Paris during the hot summer months. The beaches come complete with chairs for lounging, sand for building sandcastles and a variety of outdoor activities.
When: several weeks in July and August
Tour de France
What: Created in 1903, the Tour de France is now the most prestigious and famous annual bicycle race in the world. With routes through the Pyrenees and the Alps, the race concludes on the Champs Elysées in Paris.
When: every July
What: European Heritage Days provide the general public with a rare occasion to visit usually restricted famous institutional sites. This is your chance to visit a variety of museums, the National Assembly or even the Palais d’Elysée (the official residence of the French president) for free.
When: usually during the 3rd week of September
What: Techno Parade is your typical experience in a dance club that plays electronic music…except for the fact that it’s in the middle of the day in the streets of Paris and involves thousands of people. Even if you’re not a fan of electronic music, it’s definitely worth seeing the Techno Parade, if only for the surrealistic experience.
When: usually the second Saturday in September
Fete des Vendanges de Montmartre
What: Did you know that there is a vineyard in Paris? Tucked between rue Saint-Vincent and rue des Saules in the 18th district, the Clos Montmartre produces 1,500 half-liter bottles of wine per year. Each year since 1934, a celebration is organized in October to celebrate the latest harvest. The event includes parades, fireworks, cultural and food-related activities and more.
When: 5 day event in early October
La Nuit Blanche
What: Each year since 2002, Nuit Blanche (White Night) in Paris has been a night when museums, cultural centers and other institutions open their doors to the public. A number of free artistic performances and shows are organized for the event.
When: the first Saturday in October
What: On November, 11th, 1918 an agreement was signed that marked the end of World War I. Today, the day has become a moment to remember not only the soldiers who served during the first World War, but all wars. Each year on November 11th, a military parade begins on the Champs- Élysées and passes the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” at the Arc de Triomphe. A number of other memorial events are held throughout the city.
When: November, 11th, moment of silence at 11:00am
What: Every November since 1980, galleries and art institutions in Paris have opened their doors during the month of November to offer the public a variety of photography events and exhibitions, a number of which are free.
When: the entire month of November
What: Holiday decorations and window displays at major department stores Printemps Haussmann, Galeries Lafayette, BHV, Le Bon Marché, etc.
When: throughout the winter holiday season
Free Winter Sports
What: Ice skating and winter sports at various sites throughout Paris, including the Hotel de Ville
When: early/mid December-late February/ early March