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An A-Z of Paris in autumn

A seasonal cornucopia of things to do in the French capital

© Toptable
© Doro Tuch
© roadsmag.com
© La Cinémathèque Française
© Michael Franke
© Emmanuel Chirache
© DR
© Caveau des Oubliettes
© EP
© Steve Cook
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / Estate of Marcel Duchamp
'Nu descendant un escalier (No.2)', 1912

Matthias Contzen et de Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, 'Planet' / Photo : © Heinz Contzen

© © Jean-Christophe Godet
© Elliott Franks
© Al Seib
© Julie Ansiau
© Rmn - Grand Palais (musée Guimet, Paris) / Thierry Olivier
Hokusai, 'Choshi dans la province de Chiba' (série 'Mille images de la mer')
© Time Out
Pho Bo -
© Time Out Paris
'I love Paris in the winter, when it drizzles,' crooned Ella Fitzgerald. 'I love Paris in the summer, when it sizzles.' The First Lady of Jazz may have had a taste for the French capital in all seasons, but anyone truly acquainted with the city knows that autumn is when it comes into its own. Parisians, who abandon their city en masse during its long hot August, have always had a special relationship with September's la rentrée. In theory, it's the 'back to school' season of pressed uniforms and new pencils, but it also represents a wider reinvigoration of intellectual and artistic life – leaves might be falling, but the city blooms into a fantastic array of cultural events that continues for months. Our A-Z selection of the best things to be doing in Paris this season gives you 26 more reasons to enjoy the city in autumn...

The autumn alphabet

A is for • Africa

Food & Drink • The best African cuisine in Paris Fancy some spice and exoticism on your plate? Whether you’re hankering after a chicken tagine, a spicy merguez couscous, succulent strips of biltong or tangy Ethiopian pancakes, Paris delivers in spades. 'African food' isn't exactly a hard and fast concept – we've featured everything from the Middle Eastern aromas of the north to the cured meats of the south. But with the exception of the Maghreb, it's clear to us that these countries are unfairly overlooked in the melting pot that is the Parisian restaurant scene. Time to wise up, with our updated guide to the finest African meals the capital has to offer…

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B is for • Ballet

Stage • The Rite of Spring In 2013, Stravinsky's pulsating modernist ballet celebrated the centenary of its hugely controversial world première. A year later, the celebrations have yet to abate: this autumn sees not one but two new, and wildly different, productions. In October She She Pop, an all-female creative collective hailing from Berlin, will give us a typically cerebral staging as part of the Festival d'Automne. Two months later, the experimental Italian artist Roméo Castellucci will direct a spectacle that dispenses with dancers entirely, replacing them with a swirling cloud of ground animal bone (we kid you not). Stravinsky may be long dead, but his anarchic spirit continues to inspire.

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C is for • Cannes

Film • Heavyweights from Cannes 2014 are released In the film world, the end of summer means the beginning of awards season, which means a new load of hits from that year's Cannes. The 2014 programme was one of the strongest in years, and the coming months promise some quality cinema. Autumn releases to watch out for include precocious Xavier Dolan's über-hipster dysfunctional family romp 'Mommy'; Andrey Zvyagintsev's knockout political drama 'Leviathan'; the no-less-unpronouncable Abderrahmane Sissako's meditative study of West African jihadism 'Timbuktu'; and Naomi Kawase's love-it-or-hate-it coming-of-age tale 'Still the Water'. 

D is for • The Dark

Exhibition • Nuit Does the thought of stumbling around in the night, arms outstretched and ears pricked up to detect the smallest untoward sound, fill you with dread? If so, then you can take comfort in the fact that most animals are as useless in the dark as you are. Take the scutigera centipede, who will often resort to shedding some of its legs in order to continue moving through to the small hours. This is only one of the many absorbing revelations of this exhibition, which aims to shed some light on the mysteries of the dark. Its dial set firmly on 'family-friendly', 'Nuit' deftly interweaves sections on animals, outer space, and children's bedtime stories. Bonne nuit indeed…

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E is for • Episode

Shopping • Second-hand and vintage shops There's oodles of vintage to be found in Paris – if you know where to look. Dépôts-vente are second-hand stores where you can drop off your good, high-quality old clothes and, once some else buys them, recoup a percentage of the profit. Ressourceries are semi-permanent car boot sales where you can pick up everything from clothes to furniture and household items. Our fave vintage shop du jour is Episode, a branch of the Dutch chain, where you'll find some real bargains if you're willing to rummage. If your wallet is feeling the pinch after a summer of dissipation, you could do worse than shop here for a while.

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F is for • François Truffaut

Film • François Truffaut retrospective This mammoth retrospective, which commemorates the 30th anniversary of Truffaut's premature death from cancer, covers his output as director, screenwriter and producer. A parallel season looks at the New Wave filmmaker's immeasurable influence on subsequent generations of French directors, including current Cannes darlings Olivier Assayas and Leos Carax. And as if that isn't enough – though, frankly, it probably is – the Cinémathèque will also be curating an exhibition of the paraphernalia that Truffaut accumulated during his working life: letters, sketches, annotated scripts and the like.

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G is for • Gastronomy

Food & Drink • Fête de la Gastronomie In 2010, UNESCO classified France’s gastronomy as 'an intangible cultural heritage of humanity', but governing bodies have historically done very little to actively promote the survival of the country’s culinary traditions. Three years ago, however, a step was taken in the right direction with the inauguration of the Fête de la Gastronomie (which takes place this year on September 26–28). In Paris, this means a programme of events that bring together food professionals and the general public – from cooking demonstrations and recipe competitions to special lower-priced tasting menus in top restaurants. Better start working up an appetite…

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H is for • Homework

Food & Drink • Cafés for la rentrée For a city with a thriving population of students, academics, stressed freelancers and budding writers, Paris doesn't exactly abound in good public work spaces. Around the peak early-autumn period of la rentrée, the city's libraries tend to fill up quickly and sprout queues of frustrated scholars that snake around the block. Traditional cafés and brasseries don't exactly rise to the occasion, what with their lack of internet and unforgivingly small tables. So for the benefit of all those with a MacBook in hand, a deadline on the horizon and an urgent need for caffeine, we’ve rounded up the best cafés in Paris with free Wi-Fi and proper table space. Bring on the emails.

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I is for • IAM

Nightlife • IAM The fathers of French rap turn 30 this year, and celebrate with the release of what they claim will be their last album, followed by this one-off gig at the Olympia. If you've never heard of them, rest assured their stature in the homeland is akin to the Wu-Tang Clan's in the States (as if to cement the fact, they've collaborated extensively with the Clan). Their discography is a sprawling network of group and solo efforts, all united by smart production, savvy lyrics and a strong political thrust. Catch them in November – it may be your last chance.


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J is for • Jazz

Nightlife • Jazz à la Villette The Jazz à la Villette festival is one of the most hotly anticipated events of the back-to-school season for musically-minded Parisians. Every concert is unique, a meeting between different artists: jazz, funk, hip-hop, blues and world. The programme for this year's edition at Parc de la Villette features the usual blend of established masters and up-and-coming talent, boppers and fusion artists, swing bands and free jazz quartets, Western and Eastern traditions. Usual suspects Mulatu Astatke and Roberto Fonseca share the billing with newcomers like Melanie de Biasio and Laura Mvula. Appetite whetted? Click here for the full programme.

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