Talks open to all
Paris is a city of art and culture and there is no dearth of opportunities to broaden your cultural horizons. Many temples of learning, from the Sorbonne to the Collège de France, organize symposia, seminars and talks that anyone is free to attend.
Several cultural venues, museums, schools and associations also organize free talks on various subjects: science-related at the Cité des sciences et de l’industrie and the Institut d'astrophysique de Paris, art at the Ecole du Louvre and the Ecole nationale des beaux-arts, histoire and genealogy at the Archives de Paris, philosophy at the Université conventionnelle and so on.
If you’d like to watch a very unusual event, go along to the Conférence Berryer, held once a month at the Palais de justice de Paris (Paris Law Courts). Created in 1871, this public speaking contest for lawyers is open to members of the public, and well worth attending.
More information (in French) here: www.laconference.net
The ‘café philo’: philosophical discussions with a difference
Based on the concept of the 18th-century literary salon, the ‘café philo’ is a place to debate and discuss ideas. Open to one and all, these cafés encourage participants to think for themselves in the course of discussions in the presence of a philosopher.
The oldest philosophy café in Paris is the Café des Phares, set up in 1992, with discussions held every Sunday from 10.30am to 12.15pm. Other places to air and hear views on particular topics include the ‘café philo’ sessions at the bar-restaurant Chez Agnès. Entrance is free, but you have to buy a drink.
To gain insights into other cultures, head to the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris or the cultural centres of different countries. They organize several activities, including free events. There’s the Swedish Institute (Institut suédois), the Centre Wallonie-Bruxelles, the Maison de la culture du Japon, the Goethe Institut … you can take a tour of world cultures without ever stepping out of Paris.