Boasting 35 hectares of greenery and 3,000 m² of ecological gardens promoting biodiversity, the Parc de la Villette is one of the largest and loveliest green spaces in Paris. A multi-disciplinary arts and culture venue, it attracts more than 10 million visitors each year. It is a place to enjoy many forms of art and culture as well as scientific and educational activities, not to mention leisure and games.
With 26 bright red ‘follies’ – architectural structures designed by Bernard Tschumi – dotting the landscape (each devoted to a different cultural or leisure activity), the Parc de la Villette is one vast playground for Paris lovers. This vibrant spot is constantly being transformed, and it offers a packed programme of unexpected, innovative and often spectacular events. If you haven’t yet explored this public space open to all visitors, there’s no time like the present!
A one-of-a-kind music centre
Housing a number of concert venues, the Villette is a popular stop for major international artistes.
Inaugurated in 2015, the Philharmonie de Paris is an ode to music. This extravagant aluminium ‘mountain’ designed by Jean Nouvel comprises a 2,400-seater auditorium, 6 rehearsal rooms, 10 recording studios, workshops, exhibition spaces, a learning centre, VIP areas, a café, and a restaurant with a panoramic view. It is an architectural and artistic tour de force, devoted entirely to classical and chamber music, world music and jazz. Also located within this extraordinary building are the Cité de la Musique with its museum, providing further forays into the world of music and hosting pop concerts, headline exhibitions and educational activities.
Further inside the park is the legendary Zénith de Paris, one of the biggest concert halls in the city, which has hosted shows by top-name French and international bands like Radiohead, Bryan Adams, Chinese Man and The XX.
Then there is the Trabendo, a smaller, more laid-back venue with bold interior design and rock, electro and hip-hop programming, which also puts on club nights. It’s a good place to have a drink or a snack before or after a concert.
Dance, music, theatre and circus arts feature in the eclectic programming of the Cabaret Sauvage, a prime Paris nightlife spot for the past 20 years.
The Grande Halle de la Villette, a listed glass-and steel building, is an 18,000 m² entirely flexible exhibition space. Its numerous rooms are perfect for hosting cocktail parties and evening events, and each year the building resonates with the sound of two major festivals: Villette Sonique, a showcase for the Parisian and international underground music scenes, and the Pitchfork Festival, the European offshoot of Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival.
Learning and experimenting as a family
Boasting the ‘Destination pour tous’ label, which indicates it is an accessible venue, the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie promotes science and technology to diverse audiences. A highlight of a visit to the Villette, this establishment founded 30 years ago offers an interactive experience of a number of temporary and permanent exhibitions, turning ordinary visitors into research scientists during the tour! The Argonaute, a genuine 1950s submarine located in the basement, is definitely a must-see. Designed to appeal to tiny tots, the Cité des Enfants has two interactive ‘learn-through-play’ areas for 2-7-year-olds and 5-12-year-olds. The on-site cinema, La Géode, also puts the focus on science, showing spectacular, breath-taking documentaries on a giant hemispheric screen. The planetarium offers an immersive 360-degree journey into the universe thanks to a cutting-edge 8K laser high-definition projector, the only one of its kind in Europe. And the Louis Lumière cinema shows 3D science films, rounding off the comprehensive audio-visual programme at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie.
Also worth mentioning: the Espace Chapiteaux, which promotes contemporary circus; Little Villette, hosting workshops for children and families, Villette Makerz by WoMa, with a Fab Lab open to anyone interested in making things by hand, and music lessons for young learners at the Philharmonie.
A host of activities all year round
From January to December, the Parc de la Villette hosts a range of different events in its various spaces, from festivals and trade shows to exhibitions and concerts. Days Off, Jazz à la Villette, Comic Con Paris, Oktoberfest, the Salon du Fantastique, Vegan Pop Festival, 100%: many of the key events on the Paris calendar have made the Villette their home, with new events adding to the list every year!
In summer, the Villette is one of the capital’s cultural hotspots. Alongside its regular programme of concerts, it hosts an event that is hugely popular with Parisians: the Cinéma en Plein Air festival. Every year, outdoor screenings of films on a particular theme (in their original language, with French subtitles) are organized. Viewers gather on the expanses of lawn skirting the Grande Halle, sitting on the grass or in deck chairs to watch the movie. The festival is the perfect opportunity to admire this extraordinary complex on summer evenings under the Paris skies. Don’t miss out!
Another not-to-miss event is Paris Plages. As part of the city’s annual beach event, artificial beaches are installed around the Bassin de la Villette all summer long for kids and grown-ups alike to enjoy. You can sit back and work on your tan, or go water-skiing and/or swimming.
Shopping and high thrills: Eastern Paris is bursting with activities
There’s always something new and exciting happening at the Villette. Vill’up, the recently opened shopping centre at the complex, gives a whole new twist to shopping. A place full of happy vibes, it has great stores to discover and plenty of fun and thrills in store for visitors.
Chic, little-known labels rub shoulders with mainstream brands, while the many eateries specialize in ‘bistronomic’ food (affordable fine dining) to give you a quintessentially Parisian experience when you need a snack break during your shopping spree.
Activities include the world’s most stunning wind tunnel for indoor skydiving (iFLY PARIS), a 4DX cinema, and a space-themed virtual reality theme park (You Moov Stations) – so you can enjoy some truly extraordinary experiences right in the heart of Paris.
More ways to experience thrills and chills in Paris
The Villette is a site that’s permanently on the move; an experience no visitor should miss on a trip to Paris. There’s always something for kids and grown-ups alike to enjoy or learn about while exploring this complex, where Paris’s past and future collide.