In the depths of winter, as the mercury drops sharply in the French capital, lovers’ hearts are ablaze on 14 February, Valentine’s Day. Throughout the month, Paris has any number of things for couples to do: exhibitions, concerts, shows, fairs and more. Take your pick!
Paris is the capital of love – the ideal destination for a romantic getaway. The City of Lights really is the perfect setting for a Valentine’s Day stroll, with its cobblestone streets, secret passages, charming little squares and pretty gardens. The cold weather provides the perfect excuse to snuggle up to each other as you explore the French capital!
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Here are some enjoyable things for couples to do this month!
February is a good month to browse the literary museums of the City of Paris and take a peek into the personal world of some of France’s most famous writers. Featuring a hushed atmosphere, characterful decor and collections of personal items, these places filled with history can be the perfect spot for an intimate outing away from the crowds.
Located on the romantic Place des Vosges, the Maison de Victor-Hugo is paying tribute to the great French writer by bringing one of his poems to life in an exhibition with the same title: La Pente de la rêverie (The Slope of Reverie), on until 30 April. A good place to wander around dreamily, hand in hand, as you admire works by Giovanni Battista Piranesi, John Martin, François de Nomé and the poet himself.
The picturesque Maison de Balzac is to be found in the heart of the Passy district in the 16th arrondissement. Until April, it is showing paintings inspired by Balzac’s short story A Passion in the Desert. Recounting an unusual love story between a soldier and a panther, the text inspired many artists producing figurative compositions, such as Gilles Aillaud, Eduardo Arroyo and Antonio Recalcati. This exhibition transforms Balzac’s words into visual depictions.
Set off on a journey
Or you could set off on a journey to one of the most romantic cities in the world: Venice. An exhibition titled Sérénissime ! Venise en fête, de Tiepolo à Guardi at the Musée Cognacq-Jay (until 25 June) depicts sumptuous festivities in the Italian city in times past through around 60 works by great masters of the Venetian school of art.
Love has always been a source of inspiration for poets, musicians and painters. The art world has produced its share of famous couples in the course of history: Camille Claudel and Rodin, for example, or Sonia and Robert Delaunay. And have you heard of Eva & Adele, the best-known couple on the current-day art scene? To find out more about their work, check out the exhibition devoted to them at the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris. Titled Eva & Adele, You Are My Biggest Inspiration, the display includes photographs, videos and installations by this unusual duo. It is open until 26 February.
Another must-see exhibition to visit with your loved one features the magnificent paintings of the Chinese-American artist Walasse Ting. Until 26 February, the Musée Cernuschi is hosting Walasse Ting, Le voleur de fleurs. This exhibition showcases 70 of the painter’s large compositions featuring female nudes and flowers: a bright, colourful retrospective shot through with a vein of eroticism.
For many people, Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to say it with flowers. In the language of flowers, orchids symbolize seduction and sensuality. Orchid lovers in love are in for a treat: you can admire a dazzling variety of these beautiful flowers at the hothouses of the Jardin des Plantes, which is hosting the Mille et une orchidées display, and revel in their exotic beauty!
Step into sensory heaven as you breathe in heady fragrances at the Grand Musée du Parfum, which opened last December in a private mansion on Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré. This truly unique olfactory experience is a fascinating and emotionally charged journey into the universe of scent.
Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, to quote the 17th-century playwright William Congreve, and this particular set of concerts is certainly not lacking in charm. Romantique-Authentique, a four-concert series, starts at the Musée d’Orsay on 21 February. The musicians will play compositions from the Romantic music repertoire on period instruments.
A wonderfully romantic experience
An evening out at the Palais Garnier is a wonderfully romantic experience to try at least once in your life. The opera house boasts magnificent Second Empire neo-Baroque decor, complete with crystal chandeliers and majestic staircases… On 14 February, the programme features Tree of Codes, a contemporary ballet by Wayne McGregor, with dazzling art design by the Danish artist Olafur Eliasson and electro-pop music by Jamie xx. If you’d like to take a backstage tour of this immersive production, the agency Cultival is organizing visits behind the scenes for small groups.
Here’s a great money-saving idea for Valentine’s Day. Bercy Village will be decked out in pink decorations on 14 February, and offer couples free beauty sessions (for men and women). The perfect way to make sure you’re looking your best before going out to spend the evening with your loved one!
February is the perfect month to get a culture fix while staying nice and warm indoors. Several of the exhibitions in town are well worth a visit this month.
The Louvre is kicking off the 2017 cultural season with an exhibition titled Vermeer et les maîtres de la peinture de genre. This is the first time a major retrospective of the Dutch painter’s work has been held in France. It spotlights the connections between the work of Vermeer, often nicknamed the ‘Sphinx of Delft’, and his contemporaries. Several of his most famous paintings, including The Milkmaid, will be on display alongside works by other representatives of the Dutch Golden Age of Painting.
And to learn more about Dutch painting, take a detour to the Louvre’s Sully wing, where Dutch Golden Age masterpieces from the Leiden collection are on display at the exhibition Chefs-d'œuvre de la collection Leiden, Le Siècle d’or hollandaise.
While you’re at the Louvre, why not take the opportunity to visit the first solo retrospective of the French painter most influenced by Caravaggio: Valentin de Boulogne. Réinventer Caravage. All three exhibitions are on from 22 February to 22 May.
Exhibitions in Paris are also a wonderful opportunity to learn more about art history and major art movements.
The Musée Marmottan Monet takes visitors back to the 19th century with its focus on the Impressionists and an exhibition devoted to one of the movement’s best known representatives. Camille Pissarro. Le premier des impressionnistes (23 February to 2 July) provides an in-depth look at the work of this painter, displaying 75 of his masterpieces.
The Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris is hosting an exhibition focusing on the Dutch painter and sculptor Karel Appel, one of the founders of the avant-garde movement CoBrA (until 31 August).
The choice of the Monnaie de Paris as the venue for the exhibition François Morellet, le retour! sets off a real clash of eras. The venerable 18th-century building – and its façade – will be displaying the work of the French master of geometrical abstract art, who passed away in May 2016. The display of his artworks will also extend to some nearby bridges, and the quay across from the Monnaie de Paris. The exhibition will be on from 24 February to 21 May.
La Maison Rouge, for its part, will be the venue for a thought-provoking exploration of the way different forms of protest art have influenced the French way of thinking, via an exhibition titled L’Esprit français, contre-cultures en France, 1969-1989 (from 24 February to 21 May). This collective exhibition displays a series of strikingly diverse elements representing forms of protest over these two decades.
There’s also plenty in store for photography enthusiasts
The Maison Européenne de la Photographie is inaugurating its Saison#1 programme on 8 February, with displays of work by a varied line-up of photographers past and present, including Bernard Plossu, Vincent Perez and Gao Bo.
And the Jeu de Paume is staging a retrospective of the Romanian-born French artist Eli Lotar, best known for his ‘Slaughterhouses of La Villette’ series. This photographic reportage fascinated the Surrealists in particular. The museum will simultaneously host the exhibition Video ergo sum, which retraces the career of Peter Campus, a pioneer of video art. Both exhibitions will be open from 14 February to 28 May.
Last chance to see
In February there’s still time to catch up with some of the top 2016 exhibitions, after which it will be too late: Picasso-Giacometti at the Musée Picasso (until 5 February), Fantin-Latour. À fleur de peau at the Musée du Luxembourg (until 12 February), Icônes de l’art moderne. La collection Chtchoukine at the Fondation Louis-Vuitton (until 20 February) and Bernard Buffet at the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris (until 26 February).
February is also carnival month. Head for Place Gambetta on 26 February to enjoy the Carnaval de Paris. This colourful costume parade complete with floats provides a welcome touch of gaiety and warmth to those cold, grey winter days!
Fairs and festivals
As the new year unfolds, the Maison de la Radio will be filled with the music of our time at Présences, Radio France’s festival honouring young musical composers. The 26th edition of the festival will take place from 10 to 19 February.
Meanwhile, vintage car enthusiasts will be flocking to Rétromobile, the international classic car show, from 8 to 12 February.
Art is on show too. From 15 to 19 February, Art Capital will invite visitors to admire the work of 2,500 artists in the soaring nave of the Grand Palais. And if the event sparks a desire to go on an art-buying spree, you’ll find artworks to suit all pockets at the Grand Salon d’art abordable, i.e. the affordable art fair, at the Bellevilloise (from 17 to 19 February), where you can browse 400-odd artworks with price tags ranging from 50 to 5,000 euros.
And for something completely different, visit France’s biggest agricultural show. This year’s Salon international de l’agriculture will be held from 25 February to 5 March.
Parisians enjoy singing and listening to songs and, in February, there are three big musicals to look forward to. Saturday Night Fever opens at the Palais des Sports on 9 February. From 23 February, you can sing along with Les Choristes at the Folies Bergère, or enjoy Priscilla, folle du désert (the French version of ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’) at the Casino de Paris from 25 February.
Opera fans should note that two of Mozart’s masterpieces are being performed in February – ‘The Magic Flute’ at the Opéra Bastille (until 23 February) and ‘Cosi fan tutte’ at the Palais Garnier (until 19 February).
Music fans have a strong line-up of big-name concerts to choose from this month: Green Day at AccorHotels Arena (3 February), Art Garfunkel at the Olympia (8 February), The xx (14 February) and Sum 41 (22 February) at the Zénith. Later in the month, the famous Britpop duo the Pet Shop Boys will be back in Paris, at the Olympia, for a concert on 28 February.
Rugby fans, mark your calendars: February marks the kick-off of the legendary 6 Nations Tournament 2017. Head to the Stade de France on Sunday 12 February for the second fixture of the tournament. This face-off between France and Scotland promises to be an exciting match.
On 12 February, runners will be on their marks for the 2nd edition of the Odlo Crystal Run, a 10-km winter run through the heart of the French capital. The route takes in iconic landmarks such as the Hôtel de Ville, the Seine quays and the Eiffel Tower, so there’s plenty to see while powering your way to the finish line!
Children in Ile-de-France look forward to February, because they have a two-week break from school. If you’re wondering how to keep them entertained, don’t worry: there’s no shortage of ideas for things to do in Paris and around!
If your kids love animals, here are two not-to-miss exhibitions, focusing on baby animals and bears respectively: Bébés animaux at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie (until 20 August) and Espèces d’ours ! at the Muséum d’histoire Naturelle (until 19 June). The latter is a good way to mark International Polar Bear Day on 27 February.
If they like cartoons then they will enjoy a visit to the Art ludique museum, which is hosting a major exhibition devoted to ‘Uncle Walt’, arguably the greatest figure in the history of American animated films: L’Art des Studios d’Animation Walt Disney, Le Mouvement par Nature (until 5 March).
For circus fans, there is the new show Surprise at the Cirque d’hiver Bouglione (until 26 February). Contemporary circus arts are on the programme at the La Villette en cirques event (until 19 February), with many shows for children as young as two years old. While you’re at La Villette, take your kids on a tour of a space designed especially for them, Little Villette, which organizes all kinds of games, activities and workshops. Happy February break in Paris!