When François Hollande's culture minister described London as a 'suburb of Paris', she didn't mean it as a compliment to either. Her point was that London is an uglier, more dangerous version of the French capital; at a stroke, she'd denigrated her Anglo-Saxon neighbours and encapsulated Parisians' often contemptuous view of their own suburbs. We're going to turn the comparison on its head: the much maligned banlieue of the French capital is effectively a major city in its own right, in terms of both population – roughly ten million to central Paris's two – and the cultural activity that such a large bulk of people entails.
Brutally severed from the tourist's mental map of Paris by the Boulevard Périphérique, the sprawling suburbs have since been cemented in the popular imagination as a terra incognita of gangs and grey buildings. This is unfair. While it's true that vast swathes of the banlieue have nothing to offer to anyone who doesn't live there, and some areas are crime hotspots, a bit of exploring yields delights: parks too big to fit within the Périph', clubs edgier than anything the mainstream central neighbourhoods have to offer, and scores of weird 'n' wonderful theatres and bars. The area is well served by the winding tentacles of the RER and outer Métro lines, and the residents, far from the pariahs the media often portray them to be, constitute some of the most vibrant of Paris's many communities. Clearly, it's somewhere worth knowing.
So read on for our guide to the best entertainment and attractions the banlieue has to offer. Crossing the Périph' may be one small step for man, but it's a giant leap for touristkind.
Those who don't believe that contemporary art (think 'pretentious, highbrow, trendy, urban') and the suburbs ('rough, dodgy, uncultured, rude') could ever go hand in hand should pop over to the other side of the périphérique from time to time. In the last 20-odd years, between the narrow belt covered by the underground and the oh-so-distant terminuses of the RER lines, contemporary arts centres and galleries have been cropping up all over the place...Read more
Théâtre Jean Vilar Created in the 1970s in grey, suburban Vitry-sur-Seine, the Théâtre Jean Vilar isn’t pretty. But what it lacks in aesthetics it makes up for ten-fold on the stage, with top-class, wide-ranging programmes of contemporary dance, classical music, theatre, stand-up comedy and pop concerts - so you don’t necessarily need to speak French, to enjoy a night out or a matinee performance here. Théâtre Gérard Philipe This town hall has quite a history...Read more
Le Mange Disc Now there’s another reason to head to Montreuil apart from the Marché aux Puces, in the form of great new neighbourhood bar Le Mange Disc. One major draw is the sun terrace, while the main attraction is the old-fashioned and charming rock’n’roll ambiance that harks back to the 1980s rockabilly revival. At the bar, a record player blasts out doo-wop, teen rock and rhythm and blues, while a bartender with slicked-back hair asks warmly, ‘What can I serve you, pet?’...Read more
St-Denis and the north Stade de France Football- and rugby-crazy kids (and grown-ups) will absolutely love the behind-the-scenes tours of France's handsome national sports stadium. After a quick scan of the museum (photos, football shirts, electric guitars from the rock stars who also play here), the tour begins by sitting in the stands and ends with a runout through the tunnel to the sound of applause. On the way, you can visit the changing and shower rooms and learn about...Read more
If you have time to spare...
Welcome to the definitive guide to getting the most out of Paris. Read our list of the 101 best things to do in the capital put together by Time Out’s troop of expert writers and editors.For the full 101, click here. The list by category Culture Discover our selection of the capital’s unmissable museums, art galleries, visitor attractions and landmarks. Read more Attractions Keep the whole family entertained, with Paris' vast range of things to do for all ages. Read more Things to do outdoors Stunning gardens, green parks and pretty avenues – make the most of Paris outside.Read more Restaurants Gorge on patisseries, classic afternoon tea, classy cocktails and the best steak in the capital.Read more Shopping Enjoy the capital's roster of boutiques, department stores and markets.Read more Nights out Go clubbing, head to the opera, listen to live music or try something completely different.Read more Buy the Paris for Visitors guide, the perfect partner for a weekend breakRead more
With two parks to explore (Parc Disneyland and the special effects-oriented Parc Walt Disney Studios), as well as the Disney Entertainment Village (restaurants, bars and nightclubs), numerous hotels, and restaurants, the whole adventure can seem daunting. Here, we pick out some of the best bits for kids of all ages, as well as rides, restaurants and hotels for the whole family.For young childrenLittle ones get a kick out of Fantasyland, in the main Parc Disneyland, where the Cheshire Cat and the wicked Queen of Hearts await in Alice's Curious Labyrinth. It's a Small World takes you on a musical adventure past automated toy soldiers and animals. Meanwhile, over in Discoveryland, kids love helping Buzz save the world from little green men in the delightfully noisy Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast.For older children (and daredevils of all ages)Disney's latest adrenalin ride, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (Walt Disney Studios, Production Courtyard) takes the brave to the top of an old Hollywood hotel, before sending them plummeting down a 13-storey lift shaft; and the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster in the Back Lot takes off at mega speed, before hurtling round hairpin turns and loops to the funky rhythm of Aerosmith.For all the familyWithout doubt, the best family ride is the Pirates of the Caribbean in Parc Disneyland's Adventureland, where you will experience a ghostly pirate attack. Also fun is Star Tours, a Star Wars adventure in Discoveryland that sees you dodginRead more