Festivals from around the world
Some parts of Paris resemble a Chinese city during the Chinese New Year. The dragon dance, colourful processions of people dressed in red and orange, Chinese opera concerts … for two weeks in January-February, a festive atmosphere reigns in the streets of the 13th arrondissement, Belleville, Chinagora and the towns of Courbevoie and Noisy-Le-Grand.
Another celebration from the Asian continent, Ganesh Chaturthi, is held in August each year in the 18th arrondissement. It is the biggest Hindu celebration in Paris. Devotees of the elephant god throng the streets, singing and dancing alongside colourful floats filled with offerings and jasmine garlands. Another Hindu god, Krishna, is fêted in August in the town of Choisy-Le-Roi, with processions at which pictures of the god and imposing statues of other Hindu divinities are held aloft. And the Maison de l’Inde is transformed into a fairytale wonderland in October during Diwali, the festival of lights.
Many different cultures celebrate the arrival of springtime in Paris in their own way. The Japanese Koï Nobori festival is celebrated in May each year at the Espace Hattori. In the month of April, during Hanami, the cherry blossom festival, people enjoy a picnic meal under the cherry trees in full bloom at the Domaine départemental de Sceaux while watching a traditional performance of drum dancing.
Also in April, the Sikh community in Bobigny organizes a singing procession to mark the harvest festival Vaisakhi. Shows and wrestling matches are held in May on the Champ-de-Mars to celebrate the thousand-year-old Tatar festival Sabantuy. And people wearing flower crowns flock to the Institut Suédois and joyfully sing folk songs during the traditional Swedish celebration of Midsommar (midsummer).
Celebrations continue until all hours in Paris during some festivals, like the St Patrick’s Day festivities on 17 March at the Centre Culturel Irlandais and the city’s shamrock-adorned Irish pubs. During Oktoberfest, beer flows like water and people’s spirits run high at the Paris Event Center.
Another must-do event is the colourful Carnaval Tropical, when a procession made up of extravagantly decorated floats from around the world winds its way along the streets of Paris.
Paris is a place to enjoy music from around the globe, during events at cultural venues and the many festivals organized in the French capital.
Throughout the year, the Maison des Cultures du Monde in the 6th arrondissement puts on shows and concerts open to young people to initiate them into the melodies and rhythms of all the world’s cultures.
The Fête des Saint-Populaires in Créteil is the biggest celebration of Portuguese culture in France. As part of the festivities, a concert featuring the top Portuguese singers and musicians is held during the Festival Radio Alpha in mid-June.
Jazz and samba fans in Paris never miss the Festival de la bossa nova in Thiais: the biggest such festival in Europe. This event takes place in locations throughout the town, and unveils fabulous new talents. A joyous blend of different styles of music from African and Indian Ocean countries can be enjoyed during the Africolor festival, with a packed and eclectic programme of concerts over an entire month in various venues throughout the Ile-de-France region. Aurores Montréal gives the Parisian public an opportunity to catch up with the current Canadian music scene, while the Pølar festival brings modern Nordic music to the heart of Paris.
The Festival Métis in the town of Saint-Denis draws musicians from around the world. The Fil des voix event promises audiences ‘worlds of music’, and so does another world music event, Villes et musiques du monde. A more traditional twist is provided at the Parfums de musique festival at the Roseraie du Val-de-Marne rose garden in L’Hay-les-Roses: an evocative journey into roots and folk music from different countries.
Dance, shows and film
In Paris, you can watch dance performances, shows and films from every continent.
The Festival de l’imaginaire is an eclectic blend of music, dance, theatre and performing arts from many of the world’s countries. Heiva i Paris, a Tahitian dance festival and competition, puts French Polynesia in the spotlight. And leading circus companies like the Cirque Phénix draw inspiration from circus acts in many different parts of the world to put together shows that enchant both children and grown-ups. Another not-to-miss event is the Biennale internationale des Arts de la Marionnette. Held both in Paris and the town of Pantin, this popular puppet festival features highly inventive French and international shows with themes such as adventure and exile.
The annual Semaine des cultures étrangères (foreign culture week) is an opportunity to watch quality events at international cultural centres. Another excellent event is the Nuit de la Littérature (Literature Night). The Champs-Elysées Film Festival on the world-famous avenue of the same name pays tribute to French and American independent films, while the Forum des Instituts étrangers à Paris organizes the Semaine des cinémas étrangers (foreign film week): a chance to view many excellent international films you might otherwise never see.
In summertime, the Seine quaysides come alive with the participatory festival Danse sur les quais, which offers onlookers an opportunity to watch energetic salsa dancers and people dancing the tango and other ballroom dances – and to join in if they feel like it!
Trade fairs and shows
Japan Expo is Paris’s top event when it comes to mangas, video games and J-music. Fans of Japanimation and pop culture flock to the Paris Manga & Sci-fi Show and the Salon Ohayo, which showcases traditional Japanese culture alongside mangas and cosplay.
The Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain (FIAC) is a gathering of thousands of artists who come to Paris from around the world to be present at the fair – one of world’s leading art events. Other fairs narrow their focus to art from specific countries or continents: e.g. Asia Now and AKAA(Also Known as Africa). The Salon international des arts premiers in Saint-Germain-des-Prés draws a large number of international gallery owners specializing in art from Africa, Asia, the Americas and/or Oceania.
If you’re planning a traditional Middle Eastern ceremony or dreaming of an Arabian Nights fairytale wedding, don’t miss the Grand Salon du Mariage Oriental, where you’ll find plenty of advice and inspiration to help you organize your big day.