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Bastille Day 2016
Photograph: Yann Caradec

The 16 best annual events in Paris

Want to coincide your visit with a hot-ticket expo or festival? These are the annual events in Paris you must get down to

By Sam Bradpiece

Steeped in history, style and culture, the City of Light has more than enough to draw visitors all year around – and that’s before we even get started on the food and wine. But there are certain times of year when a trip to Paris can be extra-special. For music fans, the calendar teems with festivals for all tastes, from leftfield jazz to alternative rock to mainstream pop. There’s also a huge number of restaurant conventions that aim to showcase France’s rich culinary heritage. The French capital’s Pride celebrations, too, are matchless. Not even to mention a whole host of other hot-ticket film, fashion and sporting events that take place throughout the year. Looking to coincide your visit with a blowout expo or festival? This is our pick of the best annual events in Paris. 

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Paris

Best annual events in Paris

Fashion week
Photograph: Time Out

1. Paris Fashion Week

Where? Locations throughout Paris
When? Men and haute couture January and June/July; women March and September/October

In 1943 the world’s first ‘fashion week’ took place in New York. The idea? To offer the Big Apple’s fashion buyers alternatives to the French frocks they were missing out on during the war. Today Paris can still claim to be the world’s style capital, with aficionados flocking en masse to its annual fashion weeks. For celeb spotting, head to runway sites like the Grand Palais or the Espace Eiffel. Wear your best vintage around the Tuileries and a street-style photographer may even stop you for a snap.

Fête de la Gastronomie
Photograph: Michael Franke

2. Fête de la Gastronomie

Where? Restaurants, markets and ateliers throughout Paris
When? March

French cuisine is good. Very good. In fact, in 2010, Unesco enshrined it as part of the ‘intangible cultural heritage of humanity’. Since then, this three-day festival has celebrated all things French food, with hundreds of banquets, tastings, workshops and special market days taking place across Paris (and the rest of the country). Check the website for the full events calendar.

Roland Garros in Paris
Photograph: pxhere

3. Roland Garros

Where? Stade Roland Garros
When? May/June

One of the world’s four grand slam tennis tournaments, Roland Garros is always in high demand. The highest-profile matches take place on the Philippe Chatrier court, although you can also catch some thrilling encounters, with a better view, on the Suzanne Lenglen and Simonne Mathieu courts. Tickets normally go on sale in mid-March.

Fête de la Musique 2016
Photograph: Fête de la Musique

4. Fête de la Musique

Where? Street parties and concerts throughout Paris
When? June

The streets of Paris come alive with the sound of music every June as free parties and concerts ring in the summer solstice throughout the city. The Institut du Monde Arabe, the Louvre and Place Denfert-Rochereau are among the best party spots – though we recommend simply wandering. Expect surprises around every corner.

Paris Pride
Photograph: Wikimedia Commons / Jeanne Menjoulet

5. Paris Pride

Where? Locations throughout Paris
When? June

Paris Pride, or the Marche des Fiertés, is one of the world’s biggest and best celebrations of its sort. The carnival procession is joyous, there’s an ace concert line-up, and hundreds and hundreds of thousands turn up to march in defence of equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community each year. As the evening draws in, the party continues at clubs and bars throughout the capital.

The Galerie des Glaces at the Château de Versailles
Photograph: Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons

6. Versailles Masquerade Ball

Where? Palace of Versailles
When? June

Aiming to recreate the decadent grandeur of one of Louis XIV’s great banquets, the Versailles Masquerade Ball is truly unforgettable (and, frankly, your wallet won’t forget it either). Held in the magnificent Palace of Versailles grounds, the ball’s dress code is full baroque costume – including masks. Marie Antoinette-style dresses and 18th-century gentlemen’s attire are available for rent or purchase from specialist outlets throughout Versailles.

Bastille Day 2016
Photograph: Yann Caradec

7. Bastille Day

Where? Locations throughout Paris
When? July

You all know this one. On July 14 France marks the storming of the Bastille prison – a turning point in the French Revolution. In the morning crowds gather to watch a military parade along the Champs-Élysées. Come evening, the Champ de Mars throngs with up to a million spectators as fireworks are set off from the base of the Eiffel Tower. Our favourite vantage point? The top of the Parc de Belleville. Get down early and bring a picnic chair.

Cinéma en plein air à la Villette
Photograph: Cinéma en Plein Air à la Villette

8. Cinéma en Plein Air à la Villette

Where? Parc de la Villette
When? July/August

Every summer this free open-air cinema series draws huge crowds to the vast Parc de la Villette in north-east Paris. The programme takes in both French and foreign films, and both old and new releases. It’s a top-notch spot for a picnic and glass of wine, and screenings are accessible for the hard of hearing and visually impaired.

Rock en Seine
Photograph: Christophe Crénel

9. Rock en Seine

Where? Parc de Saint-Cloud
When? August

It’s all in the name. Radiohead, Foo Fighters, System of a Down, Nine Inch Nails… this festival does rock music and it does it loud. These days, however, the heavyweight rock acts brush shoulders with an array of hip-hop and electronic acts from France and further afield. The festival’s five stages are set in the beautiful surrounds of the Parc de Saint-Cloud.

Jazz à la Villette in Paris
Photograph: Flickr / Gael Varoquaux

10. Jazz à la Villette

Where? Locations around la Villette
When? August/September

Outside of the States, Paris must be the jazz capital of the world. During the city’s golden era, of course, legends like Duke Ellington and Django Reinhardt took up residence in this marvellous city, and these days the storied clubs they frequented are still going strong. But if you’re after more up-to-date sounds, the Jazz à la Villette festival showcases the best of contemporary jazz around the world alongside a range of big names in hip-hop and world music. Think Nas supported by Saul Williams with a live jazz ensemble.

Arc de Triomphe horse race at the Hippodrome de Longchamp
Photograph: Wikimedia Commons / Copyleft

11. Arc de Triomphe Horse Race

Where? Hippodrome de Longchamp
When? October

Held at the Hippodrome de Longchamp to the west of Paris, the Arc de Triomphe Horse Race is one of the most prestigious racing events in Europe. With €5million in prize money, the event has been a holy grail for the world’s premier jockeys since its inauguration in 1920. Don’t fancy dolling up? Fortunately for you, the dress code is ‘laissez-faire’.

Nuit Blanche
Photograph: Maxime Duffour

12. Nuit Blanche

Where? Locations throughout Paris
When? October

All-night-long art party Nuit Blanche sees landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, Louvre and Pompidou stay open super-late, while artists from around the world set up temporary exhibits and installations across the city. Recent highlights include a giant karaoke held at the Opéra Comique, a grand bal at the Hôtel de Ville, and the transformation of a slice of Paris’s ring road into a giant velodrome.

Fête des Vendanges butte Bergeyre vignes Paris vue Montmartre jardin
Photograph: Time Out

13. Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre

Where? Montmartre
When? October

You’ve probably ticked off the Sacré-Coeur. You may have even have dropped by the Espace Dali or the Musée de Montmartre. But what about the private vineyard tucked around the back of Paris’s hilliest neighbourhood? Every year locals come together to celebrate the distinctive vintage produced here. There’s a charity wine auction, dance parties and, bien sûr, plenty of tasting.

Salon du Chocolat in Paris
Photograph: Wikimedia Commons / Tasaka Sama

14. Salon du Chocolat

Where? Paris Expo, Porte de Versailles
When? October

Chocoholics shouldn’t miss Paris’s Salon du Chocolat – the world’s largest event dedicated to all things cocoa. Hundreds of the world’s greatest chocolatiers, plus some of the biggest names in pastry, descend on a giant exhibition hall to show off their goods and take part in tastings, workshops, talks and exhibits. Bringing the kids along? A special children’s area will help quash the inevitable sugar rush.

Pitchfork Festival in Paris
Photograph: Pitchfork Festival

15. Pitchfork Festival

Where? Grande Halle de la Villette
When? November

Imported from Chicago, this eclectic music festival seems to get better every year. Spread over several stages and held in former slaughterhouse the Grande Halle, Pitchfork invites the cream of international pop, hip-hop and alternative rock to the French capital. Past headliners have included everyone from Skepta and the National to M.I.A. and the Knife. If it’s ‘Best New Music’, it’ll probably be here.

Photograph: Jérémie Bouillon / En Vrac

16. Fête du Beaujolais Nouveau

Where? Locations throughout Paris
When? November

With most wine, the longer you leave it, the better it is. Until you reach a certain point, of course. But Beaujolais Nouveau is different – it tastes best just weeks after harvesting. This partly explains why every year, parties are held up and down the country to celebrate its arrival on the shelves. This red is generally fruity and rather zingy, though the flavour varies slightly each year. It’ll be stocked in virtually every wine bar in town, but we particularly recommend pulling up a stool at L’Entrée des Artistes in Pigalle.

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A view of the city at night, including the Arc de Triomphe
Photograph: Cristiano Medeiros Dalbem

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